Working Momma Sharon Neal gives us some inspirational real life answers in this week's CC Interview!

Name: Sharon Neal 

3 Kids:

Youngest - Julia, 18, going to Boulder this upcoming fall for first year of undergrad!

Middle- Sarah 21, working with Produce Alliance! (loving every second) Will be a senior at University of Illinois in the fall

Oldest- Jessica, just turned 23 moving to Lincoln Park in a week!

Official work title and company: Assistant General Counsel, Environmental, Health and Safety,  Exelon Corporation

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Tell us more about the company you work for?

Exelon is a FORTUNE 100 company that works in every stage of the energy business: power generation, competitive energy sales, transmission and delivery. As the nation's leading competitive energy provider, Exelon does business in 48 states, D.C., and Canada. Exelon employs approximately 34,000 people nationwide.

I joined Exelon, ComEd’s parent company, about 22 years ago. I was hired as an environmental attorney, specifically in light of my experience handling air pollution issues for the State of Illinois. During my first years with Exelon, I worked part time in order to spend more time at home with my girls while they were young. As an attorney for Exelon, I help the company understand and comply with federal, state and local environmental requirements.  In light of this complex and ever changing area of law and Exelon’s wide range of operations, this work is always interesting and challenging!

What has been your biggest challenge as a working mom? Your biggest reward?

At both home and work, there are limitless things to do - some more important than others, of course.  Therefore, there is never enough time in any day or week… to do all of the things I’d like to do.  So the first challenge is and has always been prioritizing, deciding which things on which to focus in a given hour, day, etc.  The things that need to get done are not optional. I must find time and do find time to complete those – on time.  But then there are those many other home, work, personal activities and tasks that may not have a specific deadline but that I think are important to do, or that I’d like to do. Deciding which of those to do today or tomorrow… that is difficult.  And it is difficult to live with and be comfortable with the inevitable loose ends.

Overall, though, I have loved the opportunity to do this interesting work, while still being able to spend so much meaningful time with the girls.  I was fortunate to be able to perform my job part time for a number all of the years before the girls were in school full time. With that flexibility, I was able to attend and be a bigger part of the girls’ school, and sports and social lives.

Where do you think working mom guilt comes from and how can women overcome it?

I believe that being a working parent makes both work and parenting more challenging.  There may be, at times, a tendency to feel guilty toward whichever of those priorities one is not focusing. However, I found effective ways to make it work more comfortably for all.  Although I could not be at everything or home every day after school, I continually focused on being present at and available for the events and times that meant most to the girls, whether for their special days at pre-school, holiday parades and parties, soccer games, dance shows, even certain carpools… When I would tell them I would be there, I was, with very few exceptions. I tried hard to be sure that the girls knew that they could count on me and so they did not feel anxious or worried in advance about whether I would show up.

Similarly, with work, although I have not been in the office all day, every day, I work hard to give my bosses and clients confidence that all of my work will be handled, fully and timely.

What have you found to be the motivations and benefits for women that take on the extra stress and time crunch of combining work and family?

Working is a financial necessity for most parents. However, in addition to that important benefit, having a meaningful and interesting career has added so much to my life both while my kids were young and now that they are largely independent. In this job, I never stop learning and taking on increasingly more significant work. My job also offers many incredible opportunities to perform volunteer work benefitting many persons and organizations in need.

What would be your time-saving tip for your fellow working moms?

 Order groceries on line! Use the Starbucks mobile app! Take the time to thoroughly teach all of those who support you at work. In the long run, it will save you much time.

Who or what gives you your daily dose of inspiration?

I am in close touch with all three of my girls, wherever they may be, and we laugh often.  Nothing is more valuable than that.  I also, listen to music every day especially while I am commuting.  I exercise (while watching sitcoms) most evenings.  Also, I have learned a lot about mindfulness including through meditation over the last few years. Through this practice, I am more focused and able to accomplish even more each day. I try to get outside every for a little while each day, whenever weather allows. 

What was the best advice a momma mentor in your life gave you?

Most of all, just enjoy your kids! They will be young for only a very short time! All the rest will follow…

What advice would you give to other working moms when it comes to balancing a career, family, and self-care?

Don’t try to fit everything into each day.  Figure out what needs to be, what should be done each day regarding your work, kids, home, you… Let the rest wait until tomorrow. Forgive yourself for the things that aren’t perfect. When you can, give yourself until the morning to review and send that email or document.  The morning you is often the best editor of your late night work!

What is in your briefcase, purse, luggage, diaper bag, that you use every day, that you live for/need, in your life in order to make it a little less chaotic?

A working pen, Lancome Dual Finish (powder and foundation), Bobby Brown Dual concealer, reading sunglasses, and my Starbucks mobile app.

If you go back in time and give one piece of advice to yourself as a young mother, what would it be?

It will all turn out ok! Keep working hard, trust your instincts…and most of all, just enjoy your kids.  They will only be young for a very short time.  

If you could have a theme song for a “day in your life” what would it be?

I Say a Little Prayer – Aretha Franklin

Bonus: Do you have a favorite quote? Share with us if so! 

“In the end, only three things matter; how much you loved; how gently you lived; and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”