Leaning In to Help the Homeless: Q&A with Cara Pace

Cara Pace and Family

I recently talked about the possibility of me “leaning in” at my new job — based on the book Leaning In by Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg’s position is that women should maintain a balance between work and motherhood, and that this balance is not only possible but that women can be successful in both spheres, if they are assertive, ambitious and more self-confident.

One of those “Leaners” is Cara Pace.

Cara is a wife, mother and president of Housing Solutions USA, a nonprofit that provides safe, secure family emergency transitional shelters and housing along with supportive services in New York City.

I wanted to learn more about what Cara does in her work and home life, and more importantly, how she achieves a fit that works for her and her family. Check out this recent Q&A to see what she had to say:

Q: How did your own family upbringing influence your life as a working mom? Did your mom work?

A: Both of my parents worked, they always had a very strong, driven work ethic. They taught me a lot about responsibility.

Q: How far into your career did you start a family?

A: I had established my career before I had my children, I think that’s the best way to begin a family if possible.

Q: How old are your children? What is their childcare/school situation?

A: My sons are 1 and 2. The 2-year-old goes to a nursery school three mornings a week, and my mother cares for them during other times. We have a routine where I drop them off and my husband picks them up. My husband and I switch off when there are emergencies to not impact our work. We also have back-up plans for care.

Q: How has being a mom changed your outlook on your professional life? Personal life?

A: In terms of my professional life, it’s taught me to value the meaning in my work and the importance of efficiency. When it comes to my personal life, I now know every kids storybook on the market and have become an expert at building impressive block towers, only to have them knocked down by my sons within a few seconds, though. I also love to read to my sons. In fact, my husband and I have to take turns because we get sore throats from reading dozens of books aloud! I love to make my children happy starting the minute I walk in the door everything else can wait. It is a fantastic feeling when you children squeal with happiness when you arrive home from a tough day at work.

Q: What are some of your sanity-savers, i.e. activities or go-to moves that help you achieve a comfortable work-life fit for you and your family?

A: Having the support of my family is a definite sanity-saver. One trick I do have is a ‘go-bag’ that’s always stocked with diapers, a change of clothes, and anything else I might need when making a trip with my young sons. We also have things stored in the car. Being prepared like this allows us to be spontaneous…it’s a form of disaster planning.

cara-pace-workingQ: How many of the people Housing Solutions USA serves are moms?

A: Approximately 90% of the 1,900 head of households we serve are mothers. Housing Solutions serves nearly 7,000 homeless individuals yearly serving some of the largest families being served by the New York City Homeless system.

Q: Is there one person or situation in particular who touched you or opened your eyes about what it’s like for low-income working families in this country?

A: I’m honestly touched every single day on the job. Not many people can say that about their line of work.

Q: Do your kids ever come to work with you? What do you share with them about what you do for a living? (If they’re too young now, what are your plans for sharing your work with them as they get older?)

A: Right now, my sons are too young to really follow me into work. I want my sons to be involved in civic-minded activities and to be active volunteers when they’re older. They’re too young to understand the current charitable activities we do as a family, like wrapping Christmas presents to donate. I’m excited for them to reach the age where they can fully comprehend the benefits of these actions.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share with other working moms out there?

A: I think all moms need to stop striving for the cookie-cutter life that is typically marketed to women. We should all be happy with what’s in front of us no matter what. Bad days happen, and for me, my kids are always the ones to brighten them. Roll with the punches and laugh as much as you can along the way. Working Moms should feel proud of how they provide for their families. I don’t believe my children are being compromised in their development because I work full-time. Instead, I believe a strong foundation is being set for each of them to live a happy, healthy and prosperous life.

Are you or someone you know “leaning in”? I’d love to hear your story and share it on Working Moms Against Guilt. Shoot me an email and let’s talk!

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