The first daughter on motherhood, leadership, and campaigning for her dad.
Ivanka Trump’s new book, Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success, comes out Tuesday. The book, which focuses on career advice and “best practices” from Trump and others, was written before the election, though it includes a preface penned just days before her father’s inauguration. To avoid conflict of interest concerns, the first daughter has said she will donate all proceeds to charity and is foregoing the usual book publicity tour.
In these exclusive excerpts, Trump discusses her somewhat conflicted transition to working mom after the birth of her first child, her strategy for finding time for her family during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and her efforts to create a parent-friendly culture at her namesake fashion company.
On becoming a working a mother
Becoming comfortable authentically expressing myself as a female executive with kids was a bit of a journey for me. So many of the women in my life—like my three sisters-in-law, whom I adore (two are stay-at-home moms, the other works outside the home)—had been so unabashed and transparent in embracing their new roles after having children, and yet I was rather guarded. Part of it was a preference for privacy, but another part was grappling with whether being a young female executive with a baby would undermine my authority in the eyes of my colleagues and peers in a very male-dominated industry. I didn’t share a single picture of Arabella publicly until after her first birthday, at which point the paparazzi snapped a photo of us at an airport. I didn’t want the first photo of my daughter to be sold to the press, so I posted an image myself on one of my social media accounts; after that, I began posting photos of our family more frequently.
I wasn’t expecting the overwhelming number of comments I received in response to these candid family snaps. So many people expressed surprise and relief that I was comfortable revealing a more private side of myself. Especially in the first couple of years, I often heard things like, “It’s so inspiring that you’re such a hands-on mom and not intimidated to show that part of you,” and “So amazing! You’re not wearing makeup. I’m used to seeing you on The Apprentice in a powerful boardroom setting.” The contrast was jarring, in a positive way. As professional women, we’ve traditionally been careful about sharing our personal lives, for very valid reasons. These comments emboldened me to share all aspects of my life—not just my more polished persona—more frequently.
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I began to wonder whether I had been doing women who work a disservice by not owning the reality that, because I’ve got an infant, I’m in my bathrobe at 7 a.m. and there’s pureed avocado all over me. I realized that it might be helpful in changing the narrative—even in a small way—to, for example, debunk the superwoman myth by posting a photo that my husband candidly snapped of me digging in the garden with the kids in our backyard, my hair in a messy ponytail, dirt on my cheek. I’ve been careful not to pretend it’s easy because it is not.
It took me a while to have the confidence to know that my authenticity as a mother with young children doesn’t undermine my professional capabilities or my toughness at the negotiating table; being true to who we are and what our lives look like proves that women who work are real. Knowing my family is in the spotlight, I decided I was going to embrace it. If I can help celebrate the fact that I’m a super-engaged mom and unabashedly ambitious entrepreneur, that yes, I’m on a construction site in the morning and at the dinner table with my kids in the evening, I’m going to do that. Part of what I hope to accomplish with our Women Who Work initiative is for you to feel comfortable doing that, too. Together we will debunk the caricature of what it looks like to be a “working woman.”
On accepting that work-life balance does not exist
If I am negotiating a major partnership, I might work three weeks straight. If I’m planning a work trip, I know not to book something the night before I leave or after I return because I want to spend time with my family. Then I have other moments, like if one of the kids is sick, that completely change the dynamic of the day (or the week!). It’s about taking a bigger-picture approach and creating a routine that works for you and your family.
When my father was running for president, my schedule was even crazier than usual, but the way I made it work was through meticulous planning. I was incredibly disciplined about looking at my schedule and ensuring that I prioritized plenty of great quality time with my kids. When I agreed to campaign-related travel, the days that I wasn’t on the road, I worked from home, which is not customary for me, to make up for the time that I had been away from my family. If I was going to Philadelphia, or on a similarly close jaunt, I’d make sure that I could drop Arabella and Joseph off at school in the morning and that I’d be back by six to do the bedtime routines. In the max peak craziness of October, I was so grateful for the Jewish holidays, which forced me to take a break and allowed me to spend several days focused entirely on my family.
During extremely high-capacity times, like during the campaign, I went into survival mode: I worked and I was with my family; I didn’t do much else. Honestly, I wasn’t treating myself to a massage or making much time for self-care. I wish I could have awoken early to meditate for twenty minutes and I would have loved to catch up with the friends I hadn’t seen in three months, but there just wasn’t enough time in the day. And sometimes that happens. Seasons of chaos will undoubtedly come at some point in your life, and throw off even your best-laid plans, but you can go momentarily off track, knowing that you have a solid system in place to return to as soon as possible. The goal is that it’s the exception not the norm, and that you’re able to get back to healthy habits as quickly as you can.
When you are able, make the pace of your life work for you, rather than base your decisions solely on convention. For me, this applies to vacation. I sprint hard for eight to twelve weeks and then I’ll take a long weekend with the aim of resting and recovering. Taking a traditional week or two off happens much less often, but this routine works well for me. As New American president and CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter advises, “Working really hard for something and someone you believe in is exhilarating and often necessary. But it can and should be punctuated with periods when you take far better care of yourself.”
On creating a parent-friendly corporate culture.
If you’re in charge, share the fact that you’re leaving to pick your daughter up from school in order to create a culture in which others feel comfortable doing the same. I make an effort to swing by both of my offices before holiday weekends when I’m leaving early; every night, I start making the rounds at 5:30 to check in and announce that I’m going home as I leave. My team knows that I trust them to make the right decisions about how they allocate their time, and they would never abuse the privilege. They also know to expect e-mails from me at 11 p.m.—and that I don’t expect an answer at that hour, unless they, like me, leave early!
If a leader sends the message that flexibility is tolerated or even embraced, she creates an honest, supportive work environment in which other people feel it’s acceptable to acknowledge their lives outside of the office, and are inspired to go beyond what’s expected of them to deliver great results.
One of the ways I’m setting an example for a different kind of corporate culture in my company is by involving my kids—and spending quality time with them at the office. I had a standing lunch date with Arabella every Wednesday before she started kindergarten. We called it our “working lunch.” She came into the office—she prefers my “pink” Ivanka Trump office to my real estate one, in part because it has a kids’ desk that folds out of the wall, complete with treats, toys, colored pencils, and markers. We’d play for a bit—she has a doll called “Office Baby,” and sometimes I think she’s more excited to visit Office Baby than me! Then we’d go downstairs to the Trump Grill for lunch; I’d bring paper, crayons, and little games, but her favorite thing to do was draw on project floor plans—so I’d also bring layouts down for her to color. She’d use a crayon to draw where the bed or shower is, then she’d color it in and add special details, like flowers on a bedside table.
I love finding ways to incorporate my children into my work routine, and living so close to the office makes it easy to do. In a traditional setting, I might feel uncomfortable if my boss heard me FaceTiming with my son or saw him in my office, eating ice cream, midday, but as author Shawn Achor says, “All these practices provide exactly the kinds of quick bursts of positive emotions that can improve our performance on the job.” By occasionally bringing my kids to the office, I’m sharing what I love to do with them but also sending the message to my team that I prioritize my family and they can, too. It doesn’t just set the tone that kids are welcome; it acknowledges that having a family is a part of the fuller lives that we’re all living, in the same way that we sometimes need to take a conference call on a Sunday or reply to e-mails late at night. So I say, take that call, have that treat. Make memories and make the time you have together count. It’s good for you, it’s good for your kids, and it’s good for your company.
Excerpted from Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success, by Ivanka Trump, in agreement with Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © IT WWW Pub LLC, 2017