C.E.O.s Rediscover the Family Dinner Table


She said her family now eats dinner together every night, up from three to four nights a week before the pandemic. Spending more time at home has given her children new insights into who she is not only as their mother, but also as a creator of a business empire, she said.

She realized recently that her children had not known she was an inventor, with several patents in her name.

“They were like, ‘Well, what do you mean you’re an inventor?’ They think of an inventor as only a man — as being Einstein or Edison,” she said.

Over recent months, Ms. Blakely has made it a point to share more of her work with her children. When she noticed that one of her children was feeling worried about being judged by others, for example, she shared stories of the risks she took when she started Spanx, and how she defied the naysayers around her.

“Before the pandemic, it was kind of like, ‘I’m at the office, and here’s my work life,’ and when I come home I kind of want to shut that off,” she said. “But it’s nice to have them be more exposed to what Mommy does.”

Ethan Brown, chief executive and founder of Beyond Meat, which makes plant-based burgers, said that before the pandemic it was hard to find time for family dinners, between his long hours and his teenagers’ sports and social schedules.

“We were terrible about that,” he said. “It was always catching stuff as we were going.”

At the start of the pandemic, his family’s nightly dinners reminded him of being on a family vacation. By virtue of spending more time together, his 15- and 16-year-olds have learned more about what it takes to run a $12.2 billion business. “They’ll walk by, and they’ll hear me on Zoom and ask me what it’s about,” he said.


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