Native of Forestville, CA and currently resides in Jersey City, NJ
PR Mommy: What is your current occupation/title?
Chanda Gibson: Executive Director, Council of Urban Professionals (CUP)
PRM: How would you say you impact your community?
CG: I have always ensured that my work affords me the opportunity to have an impact on my community. People are a definite passion of mine and I love it when I make authentic connections; it is the best feeling to be trusted with someone’s story and to feel like you are able to make a positive difference.
PRM: How do you balance work with parenting?
CG: Pretty much by the seat of my pants every day and not always very well! Managing the day-to-day is insanely hectic, but probably the hardest part is striking the right internal balance within myself because I value both being a mom and my own person – and as a perfectionist, of course, I want to be able to do it all flawlessly. It is often a guilt-ridden pursuit!
PRM: Would you want to incorporate different cultures into your children’s lives’?
CG: Absolutely. I love that my boys are a mix of so many cultures (Black, White, Vietnamese and Native American) and we very consciously make sure they are growing up in a diverse environment. The biggest struggle is finding the time and energy to expose them to all the culturally rich opportunities on offer.
PRM: What advice would you give other career driven women?
CG: Value all aspects of who you are and be gentle with yourself in those moments when you don’t get it all right. Stand in your strength through the exhaustion, guilt, and frustrations because the world needs us. We are the best moms when we are our best selves. It’s okay to want it all. We earn it and deserve it.
PRM: You worked in the legal, political, and finance industry which is are all known for being tough and cut throat. What advice would you give to a young woman just starting out in the industry?
CG: Put in the time to learn the game, but know yourself and stay true to who you are in the difficult moments. As time passes, life will only get more complicated – personally and professionally – so seize every opportunity to invest fully in your career early and take the risks you need to find out the person you truly want to be. Finding your voice and value while you’re young gives you the strength and respect you’ll need to rely on when life gets a whole lot more complicated down the road. Learning to lead in all aspects of your life is a definite journey - with no GPS but your instincts.
PRM: As moms, we struggle with leaving our child for the first time to get back to work, what was your first experience like leaving Cadeo to resume work? What advice would you give new moms struggling with the same dilemma?
CG: Ugh. It was so awful having to peel my crying child from me when I started back! The first few weeks I was emotionally drained and useless at work, but once I could see the love for him in the eyes of his caregivers and started to get back into the professional swing of things, it got much better. As a working mom, you never ever stop feeling bad, but it did feel good to get parts of the “adult me” back too. Introducing the struggle of balancing kids and your career is no joke. My only advice is to accept that your life is forever changed so be adaptable and know that who you were then is not who you are now – by necessity, some things have to give in order to manage it all.
PRM: As an Executive Director of CUP, you have to put in long hours, what personal sacrifices have you made as it relates to your home life, since you’re always at the beck and call of clients? Any regrets?
CG: There’s the obvious sacrifice of feeling like you never have enough time to dedicate to keeping everyone happy. I regret that I let the guilt of that weigh me down for so long. I realize that the people that truly know and love me (who are realistically the only people I have time for anyway) understand my heart and don’t judge me for the choices I make that may be different than their own. I love that my boys are a bit older now and are beginning to understand why Mommy works – Cadeo’s explanation is that “My Mommy works to help save the world”, which always makes me smile.
Eventhough the boys are being raised by a working mom and dad that live in two different cities with no family nearby, we ensure they are surrounded by love whenever we are together for “family time” and our friends are all their aunts, uncles, grandmas, etc. I love how open and adaptable our somewhat unconventional life is making them, but I do wish mom and dad lived closer to each other and our families.
PRM: What are your top 3 self-care experiences? (i.e. massage, manicure, new shoes etc.)
1. Girlfriend staycations and vacations
2. Long massages (and I mean long)
3. Escaping into a creative project.
PRM: What's your favorite quote?
CG: “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” ― Harriet Tubman
PRM: As a mom of two toddler boys, what are the 3 items that are always in your bag?
CG: My bag is always stocked with “Happy Day” mints, different snacks (Zane’s nickname is “Snack Attack,") and of course Band Aids because I have two boys and they're always getting into something.
PRM: You have made it your mission to advocate for diversity in the workplace, what adversities (if any) or unique experiences have you experienced and how have they impacted the way you raise your children?
CG: I grew up with all sorts of insecurities that never completely go away (e.g. my own cultural definition, feeling like I had to make a choice whether I was black or white). I also grew up in a small town to bar owners and had limited life experience before college, being the first generation in my family to finish college, not having the same socio-economic status or interests as the circles I’m often in, frequently being the only diverse voice in a room, etc.)
Because of my own personal experiences, to the extent it’s feasible to influence this, I want my boys to feel as comfortable as possible in their own skin and have the confidence not to limit themselves because they fear failure or being viewed as less than perfect. A lot of the time I find that people see more in me than I see in myself. I don’t want that for my boys.
PRM: What advice would you give your younger self?
CG: I would say: Embrace what makes you, you and don't be afraid to push some boundaries.
PRM: Who is your mom crush?
CG: I know it’s general and a bit trite, but honestly all the moms in my life. My mom passed away while I was pregnant with Zane. The fierce, unequivocal, unconditional love that she had for me and my sister and our kids is something I’ll always cherish. Though I miss her every day, it makes my heart happy to know that the circle of life and love continues through me and my sis.
PRM: Where do you get your inspiration from?
CG: Everywhere really. These days I am getting tons of inspiration from the amazing diverse professionals in the CUP family that I am meeting. Making so many authentic connections is such a gift!
PRM: What are you currently up to?
CG: I am currently under contract for a house in West Orange, NJ, trying desperately to get into a wellness routine, and I am super focused on developing a strategic plan to transform CUP. Fingers and toes crossed all goes well on all fronts!