What I learned from watching my mom work (and what I hope my kids are learning from me)

May 15, 2024 • 6 min

When I was growing up, I watched my mom work.

She was an elementary school teacher. I saw how hard she worked and how much she cared for her students.

Growing up, there was no question about it: my mother was fiercely dedicated to both her job and to our family. She was an organizational master who made running our home look easy, but I know now, as a mom and working woman myself, that she was a master of organization by necessity, like so many of us are. She wanted to create a home that was clean and consistent for us. So no matter how hard the work day was, she and my dad made sure dinner was on the table for my brother and me (miraculously) every single night they could. She tidied the kitchen before she went to bed, making sure to even wipe out the sink (because believe it or not, wiping out those little water droplets makes your kitchen feel magically pristine!?). Those are the kinds of details that didn’t escape her notice—she created systems of care that worked for her schedule and for our family. That was important to her, so she made time for it. I am so grateful she did.

My mom never hid her work from us. And if she had any guilt about being a career woman and a mom, I never noticed. When I watched her work, I saw a path for my own life stretching in front of me. Because in her I saw that a woman could be a dedicated worker and a passionate mother—both things could be true. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my brain was beginning to forge my own path.

Our newest collection for Simplified is about to launch and for Team Simplified, launch day gives Christmas Eve vibes. We’ve worked hard to get to this moment, and tomorrow is a huge celebration day for us. Our whole team gathers on Zoom for the day, watching the Simplified Sisterhood from all over the world shop for their new goodies. We love spending this time together, sending virtual high-fives and getting tickled by the products and patterns you guys are swooning over (because they’re almost always the ones we’re swooning over too!).

For this Launch Day, I think I’m going to do a little something different.

This time, I’m taking my kids with me to work.

I’m going to mirror my computer screen up to the TV, so they can be part of the team Zoom and watch our Shopify Live View stats. I want my kids to celebrate with us. And I want them to connect the dots of what their mom does for a living (and why she’s been so busy lately).

And I hope, like every other day, they see their mom coming alive through the work she does.

There are so many things I want my children to learn from me when they see me working, just as I learned from my mom when I watched her. 

These are a few things that come to mind:

1. I want my kids to know it’s entirely possible to build something from the ground up, even if the building is slow and steady.

My business and my family kind of started at the same time. Brady’s 13 now—he’s been around the business since he was born (he used to put those YAY! stickers on the boxes before I mailed them off). The twins arrived nine years ago, at a time when Simplified was starting to expand.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in running a business (and, similarly, in running a family) is that you can go at a pace that feels good to you. You can try something new, decide to press pause, and come back to it later. And you don’t have to be a giant company to make a big impact. Plus, you can value people as much as—or more than—you value the bottom line and thrive.

Above all I want my kids to remember, no matter where they work, that you get to define the values at work—and in your life—that make sense to you. You get to decide how you want to build it all from the ground up.

2. I want my kids to know that in this life, there are seasons when we need to work hard for what we want.

Not every season is a grind season—I know that now, after working for twenty years. But there are some seasons when grinding is what’s called for, especially if a big goal is in sight or you’re laying the foundation for something new.

It’s okay for your kids to see you work hard, to watch you make sacrifices in the short term for long-term gains. It’s a lesson that’ll stick with your children for years to come.

3. I want my kids to know that failure is all part of the game. And it’s so normal to fail. And even good sometimes, because failure teaches us.

Failure is your best teacher. It shows you the blind spots in your company or in your strategy. It tells you where you have room to grow. It may help you to pivot to an initiative that changes your company.

And sure, it sucks to have to learn through failure, especially if you’ve experienced a big loss. But when you’re ready to look for the silver lining, failure has so much to teach you. Don’t run away from it—lean into the discomfort of looking at failure to see what you can glean from it.

4. I want my kids to know that sometimes in life and business there are risks—but on the other side, sometimes there are rewards for the daring.

I remember the day I handed in my two-weeks’ notice at my last office job before I went full-time on Simplified. I was so nervous; a steady paycheck, after all, sounds pretty boring until your income for the next month isn’t exactly guaranteed.

But underneath the nerves lived another emotion: excitement. I was so excited to take a chance on myself and build something that aligned with the values and dreams I had for myself. I always dreamed of being be a mom, and I wanted a job that could support that dream with flexibility. A bonus would be working alongside a team of women who felt the same way I did, who wanted to create beautiful things with me to help other busy women build lives they love, too.

I am living my dream, both with a family and a job I love, a combination of hard work, privilege, and luck. And I want my kids to see their mom doing something she loves every single day. I want them to see her solve problems and struggle through tough questions, because I want them to know they can trust themselves (and ask for help!) to solve problems, too. I want them to watch their mom find joy in hard work, in building community with her teammates, and in dreaming up ways to help others find joy and calm in their own lives.

I want them to watch these things because I want them to have these things for themselves. I want them to see these things are possible for a person—a woman—who believes in herself, her teammates, and their hard work and creativity.

I want them to know it’s possible for them to build a life they love.

Caroline’s finally at an age where she thinks Mom’s products are cool. I will take this age for as long as it lasts. I have dreams for this girl of mine. But above all, I want her to know that it’s possible for her to reach for her dreams.

This article was adapted from Emily’s substack. There you will find  more thoughts on motherhood, work and simplifying you life.  And check out her new children’s book, You’ll Always Have a Friend

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About the Author:

Emily Ley

Emily Ley is the founder of Simplified®, a bestselling brand of planners and organizational tools for busy women found online and in Target, Walmart, Office Depot and Staples. She has spent nearly thirteen years empowering, inspiring, and equipping women in the areas of organization, planning, and simplicity. She is the host of The Simplified Podcast and author of national bestselling books Grace, Not Perfection; A Simplified Life; When Less Becomes More; and Growing Boldly. Her newest book, Near in The Night, is a collection of reflections on finding God’s peace and rest. Emily has been featured in Forbes, Glamour, and Good Housekeeping and was recently recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year by Studer Community Institute. She also serves on the board of advisors for the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research. Now, as an author, podcaster, entrepreneur, wife, and mother, Emily lives in Pensacola, Florida, with her husband, Bryan, and their son Brady, and twins, Tyler and Caroline. Learn more at

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