Although some firms flatly denied her requests, she found a firm and a paycheck that worked for her.
“If I had gone out and said five days a week, could I have negotiated a higher salary? Probably. But I was willing to negotiate less to have the better quality of life,” she said.
Her advice to Congressional staffers looking to make the move downtown or to fellow lobbyists who want a reduced schedule: Don’t make apologies when making the ask. Even now, she doesn’t say she’s sorry when she has to skip a Friday conference call because that’s the day she’s at home. “I don’t feel bad about it,” she said. “I own my decision.”
Some mom lobbyists skip the negotiation process with potential employers altogether and launch their own businesses.
Melanie Nathanson, who left Glover Park Group last year to start Nathanson + Hauck with Megan Hauck, said she made the jump to have more control — control not only over her client relationships but her personal ones, too.
“There’s a huge amount of internal work just to make sure everyone’s on the same page in a bigger firm,” she said. “We can take that time and invest that in our clients and also with my son.”
Owning her own business, though, means having to fill out her own Lobbying Disclosure Act forms, finding IT help when the computers go haywire (which they did) and all the other underpinnings of operating a business. Even so, Nathanson said, it still works out that she has more time to directly work for her clients and to be with her son.
“This was as much about making sure I could be a good mother and wife and be the best for my clients,” she said.
Another K Street entrepreneur, Maura Colleton Corbett, who opened her own public affairs and issue advocacy firm, Glen Echo Group, last year after leaving Qorvis Communications, said the pace of manning the shop has been frenetic.
“I’m probably working more,” Corbett admitted. “But yesterday I was able to take an hour and do occupation day at school — which didn’t go very well. They just totally didn’t understand what I do.”
But her two daughters, ages 4 and 6, seem to get it.
“One kind of unexpected pleasure is showing two little girls that a mommy can do this,” Corbett said.
Owning her own business also makes her accountable only to her clients and family — not to business partners or colleagues who might think that if you’re not in the office “you’re getting your nails done,” she said. “Does it really matter if you’re on a conference call from your desk or a soccer field?”
But don’t expect all firms founded by working moms to allow for complete freedom.
Stephanie Silverman, who launched Venn Strategies 10 years ago when her daughters were 6 months and 4 years old, said her employees may work out individual schedules, but there are limits.