Tell us about yourself and your current role.
I’m Rebekah Pagis, Managing Director at MullenLowe New York. I’m a California/Texas native, with the heart of an East Coaster. I’m mom to a five-year-old boy, an eight-year-old dog, and an 18-year-old cat (if I forget to mention the pets, my son gets upset!). I’m an advocate for and champion for those living with Williams syndrome, which our son was diagnosed with at six months.
What is the culture like at your agency?
Always changing, but always human. I was lucky enough to land in the MullenLowe Boston office about seven years ago and was impressed with the work-life balance they cultivated there—which was so different from what I had experienced in previous New York and San Francisco agencies.
How does that culture mesh with the juggling act that is being a working mother?
I find that the focus on the human side at MullenLowe (not just the work side) allows me to be the honest, real me. I don’t think twice about telling people if I have to leave early to go to a doctor’s appointment or take a few days off for surgery or tests for my son. They know that when I’m here, I’m working hard and smart.
In what ways has being a mother changed how you approach certain aspects of your job?
Wow. In pretty much every way. For me, it’s not just being a mother, but being the mother of a special needs child. The biggest change for me is that I now assume that EVERYONE is going through something, and I try to be kinder, show support, and empathize when things don’t go as planned, as often there are reasons behind the direct issue at hand.
What would you say are some of the most rewarding aspects of being a working mother?
Feeling like I am contributing to society overall. Feeling that I am making other peoples’ lives just a little easier. And honestly, feeling important and good about myself—it feels good to be good at something, and I think I’m good at my job!
What are the biggest challenges that you’ve dealt with?
Figuring out the best way to share responsibilities with my husband. Feeling confident enough in my abilities to say no to certain things at work and still know that I will be appreciated and valued for what I am able to do.
What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
I try to leave at 5:00 every day. It’s not always achievable, but I try to make the 6 to 8 p.m. time really sacred at home. It’s my only time during the week to be with my guy, and I put my phone down and am really present for that. I also try to work from home on Fridays. Having the ability to drop my son off at school and pick him up one day a week makes me feel really good about all the rest of it.
What professional achievement are you most proud of? Tell us a bit about it.
Winning the Grand Effie and Cannes Lions for American Greetings’ “World’s Toughest Job.” Only one Grand Effie is awarded each year, so to have the most effective campaign in the nation felt really awesome. And to couple that with winning several Cannes Lions for the creative quality of that same campaign is a feat that doesn’t often happen and one I am incredibly proud of!
Where do you see the possibility for change for future working parents?
I think there are two main things that—I am hopeful—will help make life better for working parents. First, more flexible work hours. Working from home is a big game changer. It just allows you to be more present in your child’s life. Second, more recognition of men’s importance in their children’s lives. Paternity leave, and the cultural shift to recognizing Dad’s role, and accepting that dads can also work from home certain days or take off for their child’s doctor’s appointments . . . that’s an important shift.
Who are some working mothers that you admire/look up to?
Sheryl Sandberg. Lean In has some really great lessons and pieces of advice. No “maternal gatekeeping” at home was a huge one for me!
My Mom. She worked. At a time when a lot of moms didn’t. That she was contributing to society and got dressed up every day and went to work really left an impression on me of a woman’s role in the world.
My all-girls high school best friends (“the Get Along Gang”). More than 20 years later, 10 of us are still fast friends. They live very different lives than I do: most of them are in South Texas, and their kids are a bit older than mine. But they provide a roadmap for me to follow with how they raise their kids, what they focus them on, and how they love and support them.
What is your favorite Mother’s Day campaign of all time?
Obviously, I am deeply biased, but “World’s Toughest Job” really is the gold standard for me. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the video (literally, almost every pitch), and I tear up EVERY SINGLE TIME the woman says, “My Mom is just awesome. She is awesome.”