The Work-Life Equation: Ariel Foxman, Writer & VP, Brand and Experience

Ariel Foxman

Does this sound familiar? You want to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for all families, but you're not quite sure how. You may have been told to simply ignore differences and treat everyone the same, but that approach hasn't yielded the results you hoped for.


The truth is, ignoring diversity can actually lead to feelings of exclusion and disrespect. You may be feeling frustrated and uncertain about how to move forward. But don't worry - in this episode with our featured guest, Ariel Foxman, we'll explore the importance of respecting and celebrating diverse family structures and traditions. You'll gain valuable insights and practical tips to create a more inclusive and harmonious society.

Read the full transcript

00:00:10 - Christine Michel Carter
Hello, everyone, and welcome to The Work-Life Equation a Bright Horizons podcast, the only podcast featuring candid conversations, stories and strategies from corporate leaders, public figures, and everyday people who are putting the pieces together to make life work. I am one of your hosts, Christine Michele Carter.

00:00:31 - Priya Krishnan
And I'm Priya Krishnan 

00:00:33 - Christine Michel Carter
Priya, how have you been?

00:00:35 - Priya Krishnan
I've been well, Christine. How have you been? I love the whole cushion-plant arrangement behind you.

00:00:41 - Christine Michel Carter
I love it, too. You know, plants need a little bit of cushion. I felt like it was breaking up a lot of the just green behind me. So plants need cushion. We'll just say that for today. Today's guest is a GLAD board member and was named one of the most powerful fashion editors in the world by Forbes. But at home, what I'm hoping for is that he's probably just a dad covered in sticky apple juice like us. At least that's really what I'm thinking. I'm imagining. I don't think anybody in the house cares that he was named the top fashion editor. But before we meet him, let's have this week's here we go conversation. So my conversation with the kids, and for those of you who have just started listening, other people call them dinner table conversations, but really, no one has time to have conversations, especially crucial conversations, with their kids over dinner tables anymore. So they're the ones that make you think, how in the world am I going to talk about this with my kids? And my dinner table conversation was about nontraditional families. And that phrase, and I happen to hate that phrase because technically, being the divorced mom of two kids and raising one child, that is, they them. I have a nontraditional family. But I was thinking about it, and my daughter was asking me about the phrase of a nontraditional family. And I've always been in a nontraditional family, so for me, it's a traditional family. Like, when millennials were growing up, many of us, like millions of us, live with grandparents, and that's technically considered a nontraditional family. So it was an interesting conversation to have with her.

00:02:21 - Priya Krishnan
Yeah. And it brings back this conversation that I was having with the boys. I don't know whether you read this New York Times article, a lot of single moms coming together to live under one roof and how much fun those kids are having. And like, you, you're a chosen single mom. I'm a fourth single mom. But the boys were like, this is just the exact shape and form of a village to bring up a family. And you're right, there is no what children need are a pair of adults around them who make them feel secure, safe, loved, and whatever shape and form that takes is a traditional family. So I hate the term non traditional family, too.

00:03:11 - Christine Michel Carter
I do, too. That's really what came about, is that I hate that term because there is no such thing as a traditional family. It's funny you brought up that article, because my cousin sent it to me immediately and was like, when are we moving in together? I will propose to you and that will be that. Oh, my goodness. But I think it's time for us to bring on our guests. Today's guest is none other than Ariel Foxman. Welcome Ariel to The Work-Life Equation.

00:03:38 - Ariel Foxman
Thank you so much. So glad to be here.

00:03:41 - Christine Michel Carter
So typically we hear about women breaking down barriers by securing high-level roles in male dominated industries. But when you became Editor-In-Chief at InStyle, you were the first male editor there. What did that mean to you and what was that experience like as a male in a typically female role?

00:04:02 - Ariel Foxman
I didn't really think a lot about it at the time. I had been working at the magazine for a few years. I had been in publishing for quite some time, I think because I wanted to be in fashion publishing. I was always surrounded by folks who were progressive in their thinking about work and roles and parameters. So I had been working at InStyle, and when I was named editor, I was only the third editor in chief that the magazine had had. So there wasn't this huge sort of history where it was like, oh, there were ten women before you. Of course, it's a traditionally there we go with that word again, traditionally female role. But I didn't think about it until my boss at the time, or one of my boss's bosses, said, maybe you don't need to put your photograph in the magazine on the Editor's letter. Back in the day, when magazines were thick, they filled them up with as much content as possible, including a full page for an editor's Letter right. With a photograph. And I thought, why wouldn't I put my photo and my name? Ariel could be both a woman's name or a man's name. And the comment was made to me like, what people don't know, they don't know, and why tell them? And I thought, well, now I'm definitely putting my photo in the magazine, and I'm certainly not ashamed of the role. And anyone who likes the content would like the content regardless. I think for me, it's just always been about being true to myself and being incredibly open and vulnerable and being in the role. I think it's interesting. It definitely prepared me to be it prepared me for conversations about being a gay dad in, you know, conventionally, mostly women's spaces or spaces held for women or moms. When I show up or my husband shows up, there's often a conversation around what might be missing or maybe a question around maternal instinct. And I think I think back to those days, right? So it's like I was running a woman's magazine, and while I wasn't maybe purchasing or wearing everything that was in the magazine, I certainly knew how to make a magazine. That was what my training was. And so when you're a gay dad, and I think this is true for all dads, there's this assumption like, well, you can't know it as well as a woman can, because the conventional wisdom is that there is such a thing as a maternal instinct and not a parental instinct. And I've always just kind of held my own and have felt like being the sort of OD man out in a room full of women. It's been the last 20 years, so I find it quite comfortable. It's funny that we're talking about this today. Earlier this morning, I was doing research for a marketing initiative and was joining a bunch of local moms groups on Facebook, and some of them have gatekeeping with survey questions. And I kept thinking, like, I know that they want these to be a safe space, and I appreciate why they want it to be a safe space, but I had to answer so many questions to get into these groups and was told by some this morning, this is really for moms, for moms only. And I said, I respect that. I'm a parent, and everything you talk about and everything you promote is something that I'd be interested in. I come from a home with no mom, and so I will be sad that I don't have the opportunity to be in this group and hear what you have to say, and we'll see if that changes people's minds. But that really is for me, it's become such the norm that I'm in these spaces. And even today, as I work in marketing and development, my team is mostly women in an industry that is primarily men construction, development, real estate. Today, as I do marketing for this development, I'm surrounded by mostly women. So I guess I'm very fortunate in.

00:08:33 - Priya Krishnan
That way, and I'm a big, huge fan of the seaport. So whatever you're doing, you can fantastic. Thank you. You've had the opportunity to interview some of the world's best known, well known celebrities. Whose interview would you say has been the most memorable or meaningful to you, and specifically in the context of being a dad, a gay dad, and choosing to parent from a place of strength and from a place of saying, I will do this, and I will do this on my own terms, I have been really fortunate.

00:09:15 - Ariel Foxman
I've met a lot of fascinating people, or people that people think are fascinating. Two women come to mind when you ask the question. My last interview for the magazine before I left publishing and I left in style was our First Lady, Michelle Obama. And of course, I've talked to all sorts of people. I was very prepared for this and very nervous for this. We went to the White House, and I knew that she would be magnanimous, and I knew that right, just because we had witnessed her, and it was at the tail end of their second term. So I had been told there's, like, a lightness to her now, in particular, because she's got her freedom coming. And we sat and talked about education and parenting and how hard it is to stay on top of all those things when you have a busy schedule. And she really was speaking to me as a mom and as a working person who has two kids, and I didn't have a child yet. And I remember thinking, wow, the vulnerability and the doubt that she expressed in decisions and in sacrifices and priorities. I thought to myself, well, Michelle Obama has these questions still, and in the public eye, this is natural and will be natural for me as a parent. We already knew that we were planning to have a family. The second interview that comes to mind is I had the pleasure of interviewing Carrie Washington a couple of times, and she was a new mom, and then she had a second child, and I spoke to her both times. And we spent a lot of time talking about parenting in regards to not having your children be the wish fulfillment for you or the sort of second chance for you to really see children as people before children. And I remember us having a long conversation outside on a very hot day in a restaurant in Los Angeles, and we were talking about how we had read a book, but the whole idea is conscious parenting. And the idea specifically that we were talking about was, you don't own your child. You say, this is my son, this is my daughter. This is my family, but you don't own anybody. Right? We know that as adults, as people, have parameters and boundaries, but it's not about getting your child to do something because you said so, or I'm the parent. I think it's a very novel idea still, but it was really novel to me when we were talking about it. And now as a parent, I think about that all the time, and there isn't a day where I don't slip into at least a mindset of because I said so, but then also pausing and being like, oh, I wouldn't like that to be the reason or a justification if I said to somebody, well, why? Right? Why are we meeting it this day? Because I said so. Those were two conversations that I remember quite well.

00:12:41 - Christine Michel Carter
About parenting, I can respect that because I struggle with the idea of no being a complete sentence, and my daughter catches me all the time and will pester me and pester me, well, why not? Well, why not? Why? And it's almost the flip of because I said so, where there's nothing wrong with saying no and letting that be the complete sentence. But I feel guilty about that, so I get it.

00:13:08 - Ariel Foxman
Well, I learned quickly that when you justify the no, your child then gets old enough to then be a lawyer. Right?

00:13:16 - Christine Michel Carter
Right. Oh, yeah. That's my daughter's nickname, Maya Shapiro.

00:13:19 - Ariel Foxman
Why? That reason doesn't apply. So no has to be a complete sentence. I completely agree. It's hard, though. It's hard.

00:13:26 - Christine Michel Carter
It is. I learned that now. She's eleven. She's been Maya Shapiro since she was five. I think what you bring to the podcast is a different perspective, not only as a parent from a marginalized group, but you have been with a lot of different companies and been able to see a lot of different de and I initiatives. And I think that you can respect the data being in marketing. So I want to share some data with you. So data shows that LGBTQ plus and minority IA plus excuse me, and minority working parents are the most at risk of dropping out of the workforce. Only 46% of those parents feel like they can be themselves at work, and they're twice as less likely to be satisfied with their job, their compensation, and their benefits as a whole. How do you think not only from your perspective of GLAD, not only your perspective as a working parent, not only from your perspective that we could show that community and other marginalized groups that they are accepted, that they're valued, and that they belong.

00:14:32 - Ariel Foxman
It's a gripping statistic, and at the same time, it doesn't surprise me. I think I have been very fortunate to work at companies. I work at one today whose values and vision is not only progressive in quotes because I don't think progressive is necessarily progressive in a way that I don't think nontraditional is not traditional, but it's not only progressive, but is also very clearly articulated. I think there are places where perhaps there's progressive values, but people aren't quite sure what the company's values are. So I think making sure that those values are articulated and consistent and reviewed and presented to new employees and checked in on, I think is a critical exercise. The other piece in general around supporting parents and minorities and people who feel marginalized, whether it's from maybe they're not neurotypical, right, and they don't have the accommodations at work or they have another disability that maybe they are. Uncomfortable sharing, or they haven't been properly resourced around, or just, I'm going through a hard period, or I'm going through a challenging period, or my life is just not like the lives of the other people here. And I think it's managers jobs and HR's job when you're hiring people to really ask those questions, what is life at home like for you and what are your schedules like and where do you think there might be a vulnerability and how can we best support you? And I think the onus is not only on the employee to say, hey, I'm not operating exactly the same way you think everybody is, and I need help. I think some people can advocate for themselves. For the many people who can't advocate for themselves or don't even have the time to think about it, the manager and management saying and inquiring, hey, I'm just wondering what's the typical weekend like for you? Because I don't hear from you on the weekend, which is fine, but if you're catching up for the week ahead on the weekend, then maybe we can schedule time on Friday to prioritize your work. Or I notice that you don't come to any of the after work activities. Is that just your preference or is that something that we can shift every once in a while to accommodate your schedule? I think it's less about the sort of identity and identity piece and more about the sort of human interaction. I've had the privilege of managing 100 people and managing much smaller teams. And the one thing that has been for sure is that everybody's life is different and shifts probably like every six to twelve months, right? So I think taking a page out of the way, we think about maternity leave, which has miles and miles to go in this country and at many companies, but many companies are very, very thoughtful about it. And yet it's this moment in time that we think like, this woman's pregnant and she's going to have a baby. Wow, that's going to really change things, right? Sure, of course. But there are so many things along that lead up to that in other people's lives who don't have children after you have a child that are equally, if not more difficult to juggle than that one time that so much attention and resource is put towards, which is appropriate. But I think extending that across the way and saying, hey, what's your life like without invading people's privacies but letting it be known we're interested because we want to accommodate you. And I think that's the other piece, right? A company, a business has to really be invested in accommodating folks. And I think this conversation right now about work from home and return to office and the balance and the struggle is an important one. And I think it could really be valuable if people say, instead of like, I need you here three days a week versus five days, where it seems arbitrary, really, saying to your team, right? Like, what do you guys need? Right? Do we all want to be off on the same day? Do we all want to be here on the same day? Is it easier for us to be split up sporadically? And I think just sort of taking that into account and again, going back to your data point, listen, if you are from a marginalized community, you are used to an environment that doesn't speak to you directly, even if they're trying to speak to you directly. And the last thing I'll say about that from a company perspective is to make sure the people who are speaking to those folks also include members of that community, because the best intentions is not the same as sitting in your seat. And I think that's probably a big gap at a lot of companies.

00:19:58 - Priya Krishnan
Because we had Minda Harts, who's this amazing advocate on the show, and all of us know that inclusion is the first place. And what you said right at the end of your conversation, which is have someone who someone can identify with is the first step in inclusion, and how do you create that safe space? And part of that safety comes in numbers 100%. Tell us a bit about your family. Your family has a unique background. I know your husband is Cuban American, you are Jewish, and Brandon's also converted. And we were talking about nontraditional families earlier. You're defining your own tradition, but how does that translate into parenting and how does he understand the diversity?

00:20:59 - Ariel Foxman
So. Yes, my husband is Cuban American. He is Jewish. I am Jewish since birth. Our son is Latino, and he is Jewish. And we don't think of ourselves as a nontraditional family. We do say we're a rainbow family. And I wanted our son to understand from a very early point that we are different than many families. And I didn't make that a priority because I wanted him to be prepared when people notice or say something, but because I think it's quite special. And I think rather than focus on what's nontraditional, really focus on what makes us special. And I would say there's a month that really celebrates rainbow families and Rainbow people, and we are one of those families. And there's other things throughout the year we're going to see other people celebrating. That may not be our family or our choice, but we get to celebrate along with them if we're invited and we can do enough research. So he is very aware of how special he is by his diversity and how everyone has their own unique specialness. It was interesting. I went to an all Jewish Hebrew day school for elementary, middle and high school, and I'm one of those parents that I don't do the 100 years ago I had to walk to school, but I'm often telling stories from either his babyhood or my childhood, right. And I said to him the other a couple of months ago, we went to go celebrate Purim, which is a Jewish holiday where as far as kids are concerned, they get to wear a costume, they make a lot of noise, they eat cookies. And we went to a synagogue that's local. And I said, you know, I went to a school where I didn't go to a synagogue for this party. I had it at school because everybody at my school was Jewish. And without a beat. My husband and I still talk about this without a beat, he said, oh, that's terrible. How would you know what everyone else was celebrating. And I said, well, that's why we choose to maintain our traditions and learn about our culture and go to parties like this. But you are in a school right now with other kids who celebrate different things. And it was like such an affirmation of our choice. The choice was not to send him to Jewish school. The choice was right now. We want to make sure that you see the diversity in experience, whether it's people, children, families, religion, culture, background, race, et cetera, and get to touch a little bit about of it and so that you'll feel proud to say hey, this is what I do and let me tell you about that. And so we are very conscious of that. We're very fortunate. Listen, we live in Boston which is becoming more and more and more of a modern, integrated, diverse city. We have a mayor who's committed to that. We have a governor who's committed to that. Across the state we have pretty progressive legislation. My son is in public school and we were just photographed for a local exhibit called Portraits of Pride. And we're the only family that's in it. Between my apartment and his school is the exhibit. It's out in City Hall Plaza for 30 days. And he said to me, please tell my teachers and the principal that our photo is and he understands that it extends to the five year old. So I told her and I said, listen, I promised CLL that's our son's name that I would tell you. And she said, oh, fantastic. How lucky are we? We are going to take the kids to go see the exhibit, right? And I said, how lucky am I, right? The whole situation is wonderful. When there was a real sort of spike in anti-Semitism here in Boston and Massachusetts, there was activities with proud boys, and neo-Nazis, the school put on their social media how to tackle and talk about anti-Semitism. This isn't happening in most schools, unfortunately, and in most environments. So we feel very fortunate. But you know, as I watch the news and I see so much tide turning away from our culture and our reality, it is frightening. As a parent, I think of parents of trans-children or trans-parents with children and my heart breaks. As a Jewish person, as a gay person, I see the racism and the bigotry and the prejudice. I'm attuned to it and I've experienced it in my own realm. But to see such hate fermented into legislation that is particularly targeted at a parent's ability to parent and to provide care and provide sound care and the erasure of that is so concerning and so upsetting. And I stand with these families and say you have allies and you need be frightened, of course, but you have a network and that fight is everyone's fight and our fight as well. I feel very lucky and proud. But I'm also nervous all the time. All the time.

00:27:03 - Christine Michel Carter
You have what sounds like a very educated son. You are happily married. You have a wonderful perspective on parenting. So naturally, I hate you because you've got it all put together. And see, you didn't even have to be another mom for me to hate you. I'm not discriminating. I'm hating over here. Are you still putting rainbow sprinkles on Oatmeal to celebrate pride for your son? What are you guys doing this year?

00:27:32 - Ariel Foxman
Well, you know what? We will be doing rainbow sprinkles for sure. We made a rainbow gingerbread house the other day. Halfway got you. So we go full into the sort of commercial piece of it, because I just remember as a child, yes, I was listening to we do this and we celebrate this and this ritual and that, and it's all fine and good, but I was like, what's in it for me? Right? Like, where's the fun? And so we really embrace that. The other piece that I'm very conscious of is twofold, is that pride is a year long thing. And so when I see a rainbow or I see something rainbow, I always say, oh, look, it's pride sneakers. It's pride. Oh, it's a pride poster or Pride yeah, whatever it is, and whether it's meant to be a pride moment or not, and CLO will go and see pride is a flavor. He'll see rainbow ice cream, and it's like, oh, I want the pride one. And to me, that's just so incredible that we're not shoved into 30 days of a year. For us, the 30 days is like the extra celebration. I'm also really conscious, as is my husband, of never judging or trying hard not to judge something that feels perhaps not gender, quote, unquote, normative. If he makes a selection, if my son makes a selection, that I know a traditional person would say that's for girls or that's a girl thing, which I don't ascribe to my husband, because right now, that's the thing that we're most vigilant about. He knows that Pop and Daddy love each other and that we're two boys, and to the extent that that's what that means as a pride family. But I worry much more about the pride in your ethos, pride in your likes, pride in your aesthetic, pride in your exploration. And so we were just actually in CVS the other week, and he had to buy the school is amazing. They do different projects every two weeks. And they were doing a salon so kids understand what it is to go to a salon and people who work in it, et cetera. So he had to get a brush and a comb, and he told me he had to get hair gel. I don't think that was part of the list. And we went to the store, and he said, dad, what? We went into the hair accessories. He was like, dad, what's this? And I said, oh, it looks like it's a pride braid. This is like an extension. People can put this in their hair. And he wanted it. And I said, I have no problem buying that for you, but if you bring it to this lawn, other people are going to want to try it on at a five year old's level. I was like, this is going to be the issue people are going to want. He said, they can look at it and they can touch it from hear, but they can't touch the hair. And so I share that because I grew up in a family that is loving and very supportive. But I know if I had said that immediately, somebody would have said that's not for boys. And even in our house, where we're pretty disciplined about that and we say it outright, my son still comes home just yesterday, he said, girls are shorter than boys. And I said, well, some girls are shorter than boys and some boys are shorter than girls, and some people aren't boys or girls, and who cares what their height is? And just the energy that we have to spend pausing to address what are, I think, offhand comments or observations in a larger society is so exhausting. And I would challenge every parent to think about the silly thing they say to their child that that child repeats to someone else's child. You are parenting other people's kids by the things you say. My son said, I don't like this child because this child says dinosaurs are for boys and purple is for girls. And we unpacked it to the extent that what could that possibly mean? I said dinosaurs aren't real. They don't exist anymore. How could they be for one type of people? And all the things that you would say. And I thought I felt inside I'm far from a perfect parent and I haven't figured it all out greatly, but I was getting angry at that child and then angry at that parent, and I was like, why are you telling your kid that purple is for girls? What are you getting out of that? And then the weaponizing of that to my child who came home and felt silly. And I said, some people have very old ideas. And back when Grandma was a little baby and people thought, like, it was an easy way to think, but it doesn't make sense, right? And we show what but for me, that is the pride work that we're doing all the time is like, because I also don't know who my son will be, right? And we wait to see that unfold. And I just want him to know that whatever choice he makes is a good choice, a valid choice, and even more so to not be that person in a conversation who's judging someone else's choice, right? But you only don't judge if you don't feel judged, right? I believe that. And so he said. The other day, his grandmother was buying him troll dolls at a flea market and she said, which one do you want? The blue one, the silver one? And he was like, do they have the pink one? And she was looking. And not that she was uncomfortable, but she was looking. And I found myself saying, he wants the pink one because it's the queen. She's the head of which is the truth. But I thought to myself, why do I have to justify? If he had said green, I would never have chimed in. And so I have my own anxiety that someone's judging my son, even though I know that's wrong. That's the vigilance around pride. He's got the rainbow thing down.

00:34:07 - Priya Krishnan
I have a similar perspective in terms of the fact that I wrote about and I talked to my boys who are older, who are 18 and 15, and saying that if you each one of us, that us as parents and them as children have a role in eliminating these gender stereotypes. There are boy only games and girl only hobbies. I think the world will become a better place and we can't change everything.

00:34:37 - Ariel Foxman
And the sagely advice, I couldn't agree more. I think that is like one of the fundamental changes. And this isn't about even gender identity or nonconforming identity or trans identity, all of which are its own things and require the same sort of love and support, really. Just like what you can and cannot do before you've even decided who you are is so punishing and so exacting and it creates an environment and it creates in people a desire to either act out and self-harm or harm others. I mean, we see it over and over again and yet everyone is so enlisted in this idea. I mean, I was in a toy store recently and it still said, I kid you not, this was in an urban environment, girl toys, boy toys. And I was like, what? The poor clerk at this store who has to sort these are things you would think, conventionally people think about it. I thought, Why are we doing this? Who feels more comfortable like this?

00:35:58 - Priya Krishnan
You are amazing at taking that energy, not only clearly at home, but you've also done it in your work. And we all watched with fascination. Your whole Banana Republic live with pride campaign. How did that come about and what was the experience like and what are you the most proud of?

00:36:19 - Ariel Foxman
It's so exciting to be invited into a Pride activation or portfolio. And I've been fortunate to have that experience a couple of times. The Banana Republic one came about because of a relationship we have with the creative director there who is aware of our family, knows the education and equity work that my husband does, knows that we are very out and active gay family with gay fathers, with the son. And I think because there's a moment in time with some of these Pride movements where it's like, okay, it's about marriage equity, or it's about liberation and freedom and choice. And the moment had come where we had seen in the culture more gay parents, more gay dads. And so I think Banana and this creative director wanted to have that be emblematic. We did it. Is it nice to have and be photographed? Of course. But we just kept saying, like, this would be so cool to share with Cielo. And one day we'll be able to say, hey, Pop and Daddy were in this. Because we, like so many people, believe in these things, and our family believes. And then this year, we were invited to be in this Portrait of Pride. And I said to the creative director, it's so lovely that you're recognizing our work, but what about if we shot it in our house with our child? And he was like, yes, that would be so wonderful. They hadn't thought about it, maybe, or maybe it wasn't on the list. And it's a pretty big deal still, like, in the middle of City Hall, there's a portrait of a gay couple with a child for everybody to see. And there's still such curiosity, I think fatherhood in general, but gay dad and whose baby is it? And how did you become a family? And how do you talk to your child about not having a mother? And all these things that we don't think about on a daily basis. We barely think about it all.

00:38:38 - Christine Michel Carter
The moment that you decided to become a father, what was the pivotal moment, the one moment or the one major thing that you wanted as to be a parent? I guess so what I'm trying to say is, what was something that made you say, I want to be a dad? And it is because of this I want to instill this life lesson into my son.

00:39:08 - Ariel Foxman
It didn't happen like that for me. I was an uncle first. I have a sister. She still lives in New York City. I lived in New York City for many years before I even met my husband. I became an uncle. And there was something about there's a whole sort of world around gay uncles - Guncles, as they're referred to – and how gay uncles are super fun and available and non-judgmental. And the flip side of that is, like and the gay uncle gets to drop in, have a parenting moment or a familial moment, and then go back to maybe like a bachelor hood of some sort. And I am still the fun gay uncle. I'd like to think so. But my sister had three children. They're grown now. One is in college, two just graduated last year. And I lived, like, blocks away from her. And so I was always over, inkling. And I remember holding it makes me tear up now. Yeah, I remember holding my niece and nephew. They're twins and babysitting them and parenting them in, like, little spurts. And I remember thinking wholeheartedly, I won't be satisfied and I won't feel fulfilled unless I am a parent. And I don't know how unique that is. I think some people babysit and they're, like, really happy for those couple of hours, and they are really happy.

00:40:46 - Priya Krishnan
They want to have I didn't have.

00:40:47 - Ariel Foxman
That feeling sometimes like all parents do. And the more I developed a relationship with these children and bonded with my nieces and nephew, that became very clear. And then when I met my husband, he's an educator, he's a teacher, he was a principal. He spends his professional time improving the quality, particularly early childhood education, and making sure that there's equity around resources and attitudes and all of that. And so when we first started dating, we talked a lot about education and child attitudes and attitudes about children. And it was always very attractive to me. And I thought, Now I know this is not only do I want to be a parent, I want to be a parent with this person. And I think we say this all the time, Brandon and I say marriage is challenging, parenting is challenging, adulting is challenging. The thing that we actually are the most we're aligned on many things, but the thing that we're most aligned on, surprisingly, I think, because you hear the opposite so often, is parenting. And we come from vastly different upbringings and even different approaches, both culturally and just sort of individually. But we have a real clear sense of how we want a parent Cielo and what we want him to feel like in his day to day interactions with us, in our family and in the world. And I'm glad because I went through with it. We have a child. And I think what I imagined it to be is that. But 100 fold, it's amazing. So, yeah, I've held that feeling for 20 some years and waited until it was the right configuration and Cielo went.

00:43:01 - Priya Krishnan
To a childcare center. Because Bright Horizons does that. We are about supporting working parents. How was that experience for you as a family? And it's amazing that he looked at the synagogue scene and said that there was this diversity that he's exposed to. But how is the childcare experience for you? And was that something that your employer supported?

00:43:31 - Ariel Foxman
Yeah, so when we lived in New York City and he was an infant, and then just sort of like one or two, it started to become COVID. So childcare options, obviously, were increasingly limited. And so we may do like every family did. When we moved to Boston, it was still COVID, but a little less so. We were in between waves, and there was an opening for new parents to bring their children to daycare. We approached daycare for two reasons. Three, really. One, we needed to have our time freed up so that we could get back to work in a more substantive way. It is why we came to Boston. My husband's work brought us here. Two, because we really felt like we had missed out on some sort of, like, fundamental socialization, and that concerned us. You know, our child is an only child as well. So my son was very adult in his thinking and his approach. And we thought, okay, he needs to be around more kids. And you couldn't really make playdates. And this was like this incredible way to have playdates every day. And I went to nursery school. Brandon had early childhood in his background, and he's a proponent of universal three K and pre K. So we know the benefits of being around other children and being in the care of caring, trained adult professionals. And we brought our child to daycare, never seeing the upstairs because they couldn't let parents they took a tour with an iPhone, and we would bring Cielo every morning to this elevator. And this, you know, I can't thank the team, you know, daycare enough, who were under their own stresses, right? Like, this was not an easy time. And they made us feel like not only was our son going to thrive there, but in moments where he isn't thriving, they would either be in communication or they would be sure to report it. And I'd say maybe. I think a lot of parents have that anxiety of, like, what's that first day going to be? What's that first week going to be? The first week, we had one day where he was very clingy, and the woman took him up into the elevator, and they waved to me from the second floor, and she texted me all day and sent photos and said, five minutes later, as I suspected, he would be fine. Maybe one other time, he was clingy and didn't want to go. Turned out he had an earache, but it was a godsend. And it was less about my work supporting it, but it allowed me the support as my husband, the support to get to work, to get back to work and to find some sort of normalcy in the schedule. I also feel and as two men in the couple, we never had a conversation of maybe a more conventional, sort of old fashioned conversation of, like, well, maybe the woman will stay back and not work, or, what all the conversations and compromises that people make. We were always like, well, of course we're both going to work. We both have careers, and we'll be a parent who has a career, and we have the luxury of daycare and childcare and a wonderful school now in the public school system. But for us, it's always been very important that Cielo knows that we work and we try and talk about our jobs more than we go to work to pay for things that you need that doesn't resonate. But we try and explain what we do and why we're trying to impact the people that we work with and the people that our work impacts. Daycare was critical in our getting that sort of back up and running. And he loved it. And he would come home with stories about kids, like the dramas of the day and the jokes that he had heard. And we saw a really sort of broadening of his social aptitude. And it was so wonderful, too, to be able to get feedback from trained professionals to say, your child may need a little bit more assistance here, or we really see him leaning towards this, or he had a hard week, what's going on? Do you need additional support? Because without that, you don't really get that. It's all subjective, but you don't get that objective feedback and then you end up being in an echo chamber as a parent. And I think we really leaned into that at Childcare. And the team that got to know Cielo was really great about giving feedback and taking feedback, which was also really crucial. We have friends who the daughter is a year and a half younger than Cielo and Cielo is so close to her. He calls her his sister and now her new brother his brother. And I remember they were moving towards the Daycare solution because their work was picking up again. And we were so encouraging and supportive and just said, even if this isn't the right fit, daycare will be a right fit for you to get your life back. It's so critical and your child will be better for it. And she loves it. She loves it now.

00:49:32 - Christine Michel Carter
Wonderful. That's wonderful. It seems like you are really putting the pieces together to make Life work, which is what this podcast is all about. Thank you so much for being a guest on the Work Life Equation.

00:49:45 - Ariel Foxman
Thank you so much. This has been so much fun. We'll have to do this again in person.

00:49:49 - Christine Michel Carter
Absolutely. I mean, I have learned quite a bit. I think one of the biggest takeaways for me is that, no, you don't have to be a mom, the perfect mom for me to hate you. You can be the perfect dad as well. Ariel, rainbow sprinkles in the oatmeal. You make me look so bad. I think I used a T shirt to dry off today because I had no clean laundry. And you're putting rainbow sprinkles in oatmeal.

00:50:14 - Ariel Foxman
Yeah. Listen, we're all figuring it out hour by hour.

00:50:18 - Christine Michel Carter
Yes. Thank you so much. Priya, what were your thoughts?

00:50:25 - Priya Krishnan
I didn't get to a place I thought about hating Ariel, but my takeaway was just two things. One was the fact that you spoke about the maternal instinct versus parental instinct. And as a woman, you sort of think about it as a maternal instinct. So I certainly learned something today, and it is true. My husband is equally parental and he's equally involved with the children. And I loved how you thought about not talking about it as a tradition or the lack of it, but about thinking about your own life as a privilege and as something to celebrate, which is such an amazing attitude. So kudos for that. And it's something that we can all learn. Thank you so much, Eric. That was wonderful. We had such a great time. And I have to catch coffee with you since we yeah, I would love that.

00:51:24 - Ariel Foxman
I would love that.

00:51:25 - Christine Michel Carter
What resources? Besides being a resource in itself, what resources do you have for us this week, Priya?

00:51:31 - Priya Krishnan
As usual, I think our listeners can go to Bright Horizons and find tons of things, but I think specifically for this, I would say there's an article around how to help children understand diverse families. It's helpful for all families and it's one that people should look to read and then raising an Inclusive child. So, just like Ariel spoke about the fact that this is as much about us but our ecosystem, so thinking about how to raise an inclusive child is as much our responsibility as parents. So this is another it's a webinar so people can listen into that. Bright Horizons is the world's most trusted education and care company. We partner with employers to provide exceptional early learning, family care and workforce education that transforms lives and organizations because we believe education and care can change the world. One child, one family, one organization at a time. Are you looking for a job? Visit Careers at, where you can join our talent community and receive the most up to date news and events at Bright Horizons. And don't forget to subscribe to Teach. Play. Love, our parenting podcast, where you'll get expert advice from our education team and learn what really matters and what doesn't in your child's earliest years of learning, growth and develop. Follow us on our social media and stay up to date on company news. Join live events and see what's happening at our centers. Join us by following Bright Horizons on LinkedIn and @Bright Horizons on Instagram.

00:53:05 - Christine Michel Carter
You've just listened to an episode of The Work-Life Equation with Christine Michel Carter

00:53:09 - Priya Krishnan
and Priya Krishnan.

00:53:12 - Christine Michel Carter
Until next time, guys. Thanks so much for joining us.

Priya Krishnan, Senior Vice President, Client Relations and Growth Operations
About the Author
Chief Digital and Transformation Officer
Priya Krishnan comes to Bright Horizons after founding and running India's largest childcare business. She is the winner of many awards for her work in the space, including Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, Young Turk, FT1000 for Asia, and Red Herring Asia.
Ariel Foxman