Mamahood + Business: Dr. Brene Brown

Aug 13, 2012 | Being A Mama, Life in Progress

This series shares brave, honest, sometimes hilarious stories of how we hold it all together in one breath and let it all go in another. I want to share stories of what mamahood + biz really looks like, and demystify the idea that we can’t do both well….because I believe that we can do both really well.

As a newish mom I created these questions as a way for me to sit and pause inside the wisdom of the mothers who are ahead of me. I’m deeply interested in hearing what they have to say about how they manage, how they cope, how they do their work in the world while also being fully present in the center of their motherhood journey. I need the examples, the stories, the truth.

(Brene + me, summer 2012)
I’m excited to share today’s conversation with Brene Brown. Since meeting and becoming friends with Brene about five years ago, I’ve watched how she has beautifully (even in the rough patches) navigated the demands of her exploding career while staying true and centered in her motherhood and family journey. 
I trust her explicitly and often consider what she would consider in any given mama dilemma, or business dilemma. She is one of the few people I call when I need solid, good, heart-centered advice. She speaks from a deep place that merges heart with logic, wisdom with texan feistiness, boldness with tenderness. I just adore her and excited to hear her thoughts in the conversation today.

Brene’s groundbreaking work on vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame has been featured on PBSNPRCNN, and has appeared in The Washington PostPsychology Today, and many other national media outlets. 

Her 2010 TEDxHouston talk on the power of vulnerability is one of most watched talks on, with millions views. She gave the closing talk, Listening to Shame,  at the 2012 TED Conference in Long Beach. 

Brené is the author of the forthcoming book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (Sept. 2012). She is also the author of The Gifts of Imperfection (2010), and I Thought It Was Just Me (2007).


What makes you come alive? 

1. Laughing or dancing around the house with Steve, Ellen, and Charlie.
2. Being in “the research connections zone” – when I’m thinking about work, what it means, and what language I can use to describe/define what I’m learning.
3. Those “thin places” moments of deep faith when I feel really connected to myself and God. 


How has being a mom changed your boundaries & priorities when it comes to your business? What do you find yourself saying NO to, when you used to say YES? 

I think the most serious strechmarks I have from motherhood stem from the pulling and pushing of boundaries. When I first became a mother I suffered from serious “half-ass” shame. I felt like I was mediocre at everything. I felt so stretched and so distracted (and exhausted). I said “Yes” way too often in an effort to prove that I could do it all. I’ve worked so hard over the past decade to move from “What will people think” to “I am enough.” It’s no mystery why I study vulnerability, shame, courage, and worthiness.

As my worthiness increased, my boundaries increased. I learned a lot from my research – especially the importance of choosing discomfort over resentment. I even bought myself a ring.
I think boundaries grow from self-worth.


How do you structure your day? When do you rest, when do you create, and how do you summon the energy to show up for your kids, while running a business? 

I don’t negotiate sleep, exercise, or healthy food. I can’t show up for my life when I’m tired, eating crappy, or not exercising.

My new approach for showing up is to not apologize for working and having things to do, but to be fully present with my kids when I’m home.


What kind of world are you trying to create for your child to grow up in? 

A Wholehearted word! I can answer this really specifically because I just wrote about it in Daring Greatly. Here’s what I want for my kids:

• Engage with the world from a place of worthiness.
• Embrace their vulnerabilities and imperfections.
• Feel a deep sense of love and compassion for themselves and others.
• Value hard work, perseverance, and respect.
• Carry a sense of authenticity and belonging with them, rather than searching for it in external places.
• Have the courage to be imperfect, vulnerable, and creative.
• Don’t fear feeling ashamed or unlovable if they are different or if they are struggling.
 • Move through our rapidly changing world with courage and a resilient spirit.


Have you ever had a full-on, grown-up-lady tantrum or puddle-of-mush meltdown?
(Be honest.) What triggered it? What was the lesson, for you? 

I’ve had lots of them. I think there are several things that almost all of my meltdowns had/have in common: Exhaustion, lack of boundaries, shame gremlins of “Never good enough” and anxiety.

I absolutely believe that we can’t give what we don’t have. We can’t take better care of our families than we take of ourselves. Meltdowns = me trying to do more for others.


What is the most rewarding thing about being a mom and an entrepreneur? 

My children get to watch me struggle, fail, succeed, and do what I love. They’re clear about the relationship between work and success. They also get to watch Steve and I deal with both failure and success. It’s vulnerability in action around our house. It’s daring greatly.


For you, is balance a myth or something you reach for – tell us your philosophy, your secrets, your ideas.

I’m done with balance. For years it just felt like one more thing I wasn’t doing well. Now my goal is values alignment and clarity of choice. I want to live fully grounded in my values and I want to be clear about the choices I’m making.

I also have an extremely supportive partner. My husband Steve is passionate and excited about my career and I feel the same way about his work. A long time ago someone told me that a good marriage is not 50-50. A good marriage is having a partner who’s willing to show up with 80% when you only have 20% and who can count on you to do the same. I could NOT have the career and family I have without Steve.


Is there a moment, a decision, a day, a week that you regret when it came to motherhood + business? Tell us about that. What did you learn? 

I’ve made several bad choices along the way. They’ve been painful learning moments. In almost every instance, scarcity seduced me into staying quiet when I should have spoke up or walked away. When I’m afraid of turning down opportunities or telling people, “I can’t do it this way” – I end up regretting it.

There’s always pushback when we begin to lead courageous, authentic lives. We’re going to piss off people, make people uncomfortable, and get criticized. I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable with disappointing people or being on the receiving end of mean-spirited criticism, but I know I can’t go back to pleasing, performing, and perfecting. Vulnerability is hard, but not as hard as regret.

::The BIZ-BRAIN, at HOME:: 

How has being an entrepreneur influenced your parenting style? Do you bring your
entrepreneurial spirit ‘home’ with you? 

I hope Charlie and Ellen are learning the value of hard work and perseverance. These are extremely important values to me and Steve. In this culture of “fun, fast, and easy” – we want our kids to understand the importance of grit and tenacity. We want them to know that failure and set-backs are part of the process.

::The MOM-BRAIN, at WORK:: 

How has being a mom influenced your business? Do you bring your mama ways to work with you? If so, how? 

Parenting has taught me that it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you are. We have to be the adults that we want our children to be. The same is true in business. We have to create the business culture that we want to be a part of. Just like with parenting and family culture, it’s about values and clarity of choices.


What’s one of your secret indulgences . . . something you love to do, when you’re unplugged from your work & nobody’s watching? 

Downton Abbey, The Newsroom, and The Good Wife.


If you kid was in charge of your business, what changes would he or she make — immediately?!

More speaking engagements at Disney and Harry Potter World.

Huge thanks to Brene for time, and for giving us a peek into her life.
You can connect with Brene through
Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Blog

Click here to see all the posts in the Motherhood + Business series.

Sending much love,

Show/Hide Comments (17 comments)
  1. Renee B.

    I'm a new mama with creative dreams and hoping, wishing, planning for a self-propelled future. I love these two posts – I would LOVE to read more!

  2. Anonymous

    thanks for sharing.

  3. Amanda@runninghood

    Love love love to have found this! I've had Brene's website linked from my blog for awhile and not too long ago I found a piece of your art that was sent to me from a blog reader saying it reminded them of me. Since then I've loved it but haven't seen your work until I came here to Asheville, NC from my home in Portland and found your work in a little shop. Love it!! So much of what you write about and create speaks to my heart of hearts. I do hope that someday I get a chance to meet you before I move away from Portland. thank you for sharing your spirit through your work. Such beauty comes when we follow our heart and use our gifts!

  4. Erin

    I love you both. Thanks so much for being willing to share about this subject of motherhood and biz in such an inspiring an authentic way. It was a huge gift for me this morning!
    I loved the part about not apologizing for having work and things to do but being fully present when with the kids. a Huge gift to soothe my working-mama guilt.
    Both of you -thanks for the beautiful work you do, and for how generously you show up in the world. You've blessed my life more than you know!

  5. Annie

    Love this- the perceptive questions & Brene Brown's answers. The conversation is so down to earth, yet inspiring. So much goodness to mull over here. It's a gift to have other moms and mentors in another stage of life sharing their hearts. Thanks for this.

  6. Christy/Tiddly Inks

    Ladies, you are both very inspiring. 🙂

    Thank you, Brene, for your ilife-changing talks and brave vulnerability. It is the hardest thing in the world to be (vulnerable, that is) and the most rewarding.


    PS: After watching your talk, I got a spinner ring for my 40th…it has gotten a lot of use. hehe

    • Terri Sinclair

      What company/jeweler made Brene’s ring and your ring?

  7. Amie

    The first time I watched Brene Brown speak was on a You Tube video of one her older Ted Talks, I just kept thinking to myself, "Wow, this is all so TRUE. I love this lady!". The first time I saw your work, Kelly Rae, I was drawn to every little last beautifully cut and pasted word on a card a dear friend had sent to me. I immediately put the card on my vision board, thinking to myself, "This is my TRUTH. I love this artist!" And today, I find out the two of you are friends…. of course you are!

    I adore your blog and didn't know of it until today. It speaks to me… knee deep in a business launch, typing this note with play dough on my fingers and doing daily work on my thoughts about not being a good enough mamahood and the biz.

  8. Ali


  9. Dena Crownover

    Thank you for sharing this interview! I too, loved the part about marriage 80/20 vs 50/50! It's so true!

    Her commitment to not compromise on rest, diet & exercise reinforces decisions that I've made in the last few months.

    Living life authentically, honoring yourself and others…that's the key!

    Love God, love others, love yourself!


  10. Joyelle @ An Artful Endeavor

    "I’m done with balance. For years it just felt like one more thing I wasn’t doing well. Now my goal is values alignment and clarity of choice. I want to live fully grounded in my values and I want to be clear about the choices I’m making."
    I love how Brene phrased this. It really sums up the philosophy that I have taken on since becoming a mother. I think that one of the greatest gifts of motherhood is that it forces you to really examine what your values and priorities are, because you don't have that time to waste that you used to have, and because you start to think about what values you want to pass onto your kids.

  11. LoriLynn Simms

    Great read. Good to know we are not alone in this balancing act. Love hearing from other women who are feeling just like you. It's like receiving a hug and letting you know you're not the only one <3 I'm going to look for her book. Thanks for introducing her to me <3

  12. MB

    Thank you for this. I needed to hear the 80/20. I had never heard that before… I need that to sink in and be part of who I am.

  13. Carolyn Bergen

    Thanx for this…its great to hear women talking about the challenge to pull off parenting and entrepreneurship…I love the idea of letting go of the pursuit of balance and rather pursuing a lifestyle and choices that aligns with my values. My kids are teens now, and help me with parts of my counselling practice around web stuff. Living vulnerably with my kids lets me acknowledge to them that while I pursue excellence, I fall short…and they learn something about life through that. Thanx for letting us in on your wisdom!

  14. Lisa

    Oh this was SO WONDERFUL!! I loved these insightful questions, Kelly…and Brene has such depth of wisdom and honesty in everything she does and shares.

    Thank you for this!!


  15. Lindsey

    I love this series, and I love Brene's work. My children are 9 and 7 and it has been quite a journey of figuring out how to show up to all the various aspects of my life with attention, heart, and energy. I too reject the term balance. I think the various demands shift over time and we can only be guided in those rapids by a strong sense of priorities. Furthermore I really agree with what Brene says about a supportive partner and how it is not 50/50 every day. I often tell people I think marriage is not 50/50 over the course of a week, month, or even a year. You just hope it averages out to near that in the long run. xox

  16. Ali

    I have to say I love, love, love this post! The 80:20, 20:80 marriage and the whole section on 'Lessons disguised' really resonate. More than anything I want a poster saying 'We have to be the adults that we want our children to be.' for my classroom! Just love the reminder!


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I’m Kelly Rae Roberts

Before I picked up my first paintbrush at the age of 30, I was a medical social worker. I followed my creative whispers, and today I’m an artist & Possibilitarian. I’m passionate about creating meaningful art and experiences that awaken and inspire our spirits.

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