September 20, 2014

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Marielle Schmidt’s growth of ParentsWork



What are you working on—on the side?

I am on the board of ParentsWork, a grassroots Illinois parents’ network, dedicated to creating more family-friendly communities, schools and workplaces. Our primary online presence is currently Facebook, with a revamped website in the works.

It’s actually a funny story how I came about joining ParentsWork. I was a part-time working mother of three kids, under four, pursuing a new career in life coaching. I was getting some pastries at Bennison’s Bakery in Evanston and happened to overhear some grown-ups talking to a middle-school-aged girl, asking about her mother. The girl said, “Oh yeah, my mom is great, she’s doing this parents organization thing… it’s called ParentsWork.” At this time in my life, I also happened to be devouring every piece of literature on motherhood available—about the mask of motherhood, the zen of motherhood, the price of motherhood, the mojo of motherhood, the myth of motherhood, and the madness of it—so I was intrigued to hear that there was a local organization dedicated to working parents. I had also started a mommy blog where I shared my passion with the world.

At home I promptly googled ParentsWork, found the website, and then emailed the founder, Rhonda Present, to express my interest and admiration and pay my $10 membership dues to join. She personally wrote back the same day, and we met in person a few weeks later. She was seeking support in growing her organization, so she became my first official coaching client. After working together for a year, I switched gears and became a board member.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

Rhonda and I work closely together on our Facebook page, and other ongoing and budding efforts related to ParentsWork’s virtual and local presence. We communicate regularly via text, email and face-to-face, to keep the momentum going. I publish to our Facebook page, and help prioritize tactics for growing and forwarding the organization.

ParentsWork is a nonprofit organization currently sustained by volunteers like myself, and we are actively seeking funds to expand the organization’s reach and impact. We would love to grow our leadership group to include volunteers that can help with outreach, fundraising, advocacy and marketing. Please spread the word and visit our Facebook page for contact information.

Why have side projects?

Having a side project is not necessarily an intentional act, but an act of passion. As soon as I became a parent, I became passionate about the role of parenting in our modern society, and the choices parents have to make on a daily basis, while reconciling their work and home lives. I firmly believe in the economic value of caring labor—that parenthood is just as valuable a job as any other, if not more—and closely follow the debate around work, life and family balance. As a board member of ParentsWork, I have the chance to share my views, educate others and hopefully affect future policies through our grassroots organizing efforts. It is a hot topic in this country, and I’m optimistic that a seismic shift is upon us towards more family-friendly policies.

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Diptych courtesy of Marielle Schmidt.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with Chicago creative agency 50,000feet—dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


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