Working Moms of Aqua Bound

11-minute read

The life of a mom who works full-time outside the home is a challenging one. What’s life like for some of the moms here at Aqua Bound? Read on as they tell you…

Aqua Bound's working moms with a few kayak paddles: Justine, Susie, Kate, Luanne

Justine, Susie, Kate and Luanne—four of Aqua Bound’s working moms with young children (including one first-time expectant mom)

At the time of this writing, we have four women on our team who are in their child-raising years, including one expecting her first child. We wanted to introduce them to you and give them a chance to share what it’s like for them as working moms—and especially working moms at Aqua Bound.

If you’re a mom who works full-time outside the home, too, you’ll be able to relate very well! If you’re not, their stories will give you some insight into their lives and challenges.

We also hope it helps communicate how companies can support the moms on their team (as well as the dads) to help foster both healthy families and a healthy, productive work environment.

Introducing Our Current Working Moms

Susie Kadlec—Susie is the Aqua Bound veteran among our moms. She started here in 2018 and works as the International Sales and Marketing Manager. She focuses on providing stellar customer service to our international retailers, which has included overseas travel to meet some of them in person.

Susie is married to Brandon and is mom to four active boys ages thirteen (twins), ten and eight.

Susie and Brandon Kadlec and family

 Susie and Brandon Kadlec and their family

Justine Kolve—Justine works in production handcrafting the composite blades for our Tango and Whiskey kayak paddles, Malta standup paddles and Aerial whitewater paddles. She’s been on our team for almost three years. Justine worked closely with Luanne (up next) and our engineers during the development of our new Aerial line to help improve the processes and graphics in a way that benefited everyone.

She has two children—a daughter age nine and a son age three. She shares custody with her ex-husband with their daughter and raises her son alone.

Justine Kolve and her children

Justine Kolve with her two children

Luanne Koubsky—Luanne contributes to product development and marketing as our Creative Lead. She focuses especially on product aesthetics and branding. Her latest project was the new Aerial whitewater lineup we released in late 2023. She’s the one who creates smart designs and cool-looking paddles that stand apart from the rest. She’s been part of the Aqua Bound team since 2022.

Luanne is married to Evan. They have a three-year-old daughter and a five-year-old son.

Luanne and Evan Koubsky and their family

 Luanne and Evan Koubsky with their family

Kate Wright—Kate is the newest member of our team, having started here in spring 2023. She’s also the newest mom here, currently pregnant with her first child. Kate serves on the leadership and product development teams and oversees the strategy and work of the Marketing department. She came to us with a background in marketing, sales, design and sustainability from time spent in a wide range of settings.

Kate is married to Adam. They look forward to their child arriving sometime in late July 2024!

Kate Wright with her husband Adam Mahler and their dogs

Kate Wright and Adam Mahler with their pooches—Child #1 on the way

A Working Mom’s Biggest Challenges

These moms have both similar and unique challenges they face to balance their family life with their work life in a healthy way.

Luanne and Justine have the youngest kids as of this writing, so their biggest challenge is constantly dealing with sick little ones. “My hardest thing, definitely, is having to be on call all the time,” said Justine. “If my kids are sick, I have to go.” And as a single mom, she doesn’t have backup much of the time.

Luanne added, “It seems like every week one of them is bringing home a new virus. And they’re not both sick at the same time, but our daycare has a rule that if one child is sick, every child from that household has to stay home.” Luanne’s husband runs a dental practice, so he doesn’t have as much work flexibility.

For Susie, “The hardest part is that I’m rarely not ‘on.’ I get up in the morning to work out and it’s the only alone time I have—that’s why I do it!” Her days consist of helping kids get ready for school, being on the phone with customers all day at work, and then handling family activities after work, evenings and weekends. “The biggest challenge for me is always feeling like there’s somebody who needs my attention.”

The hardest thing for Kate has been learning how to work with consistent nausea and fatigue even later in her second trimester of pregnancy. She said, “I expected pregnancy to have some serious challenges, but I didn’t expect still not being able to function at a high level.” Even learning to ask her co-workers for help has been a for her. “It’s been a very good reality check for my ego!” she said.

The “Mom Guilt” Phenomenon

All of these moms have experienced “mom guilt”—a very real feeling that adds extra pressure to both their work and family life. Sometimes it’s realizing she needs to ask for help, like Kate said. It’s often feeling guilty for not performing at the high level in their work that they expect from themselves. Or having to leave work…again…to go pick up a sick kid.

When Susie started working here she was the only mom with young kids among the office staff with young kids at home. “It felt really isolating at first,” she said. “Especially because I was brand new. I was the only one constantly having to take time off for a sick kid or dentist appointment. And I wanted to be a high-achieving member of the team.”

family canoe trip on a local river

 Susie’s family on a local canoe trip

Luanne added, “When you have high expectations for yourself, a high-achieving personality, raising young children while working makes you feel like you’re constantly trying to dodge roadblocks. I see the finish line, but then it gets more difficult to cross when I’m home with one sick kid and one hyper, healthy child.”

What each of these moms has stressed though, is that these feelings have come because of experience in former jobs or they’ve been self-imposed. They all agreed that Aqua Bound’s leadership team has been extremely supportive of not just them as working moms, but of all the working parents in our company.

“How does the Aqua Bound team support you as a working mom?”

The three moms who’ve had their children while working in previous jobs are unanimous in their appreciation for the atmosphere here that supports families.

Justine said, “I actually love my job now compared to my old job. I was just a number there. I could be the best worker in the world and be replaced in a second. Here, I’m valued and everyone treats everyone like family.”

Susie was a school teacher before coming to Aqua Bound. “My husband is also a teacher, so now I’m the only one who’s not home full-time in the summer, which can be hard. But I was so stressed as an educator. In the end, I wasn’t a very good teacher, mom or wife. Now when I go home and when I do have time off, I’m more present. I’m not so stressed out. I’m a better version of myself. And I’ve never not been able to take the time off that I need.”

Kate was apprehensive to let the rest of the leadership team know about her pregnancy after watching women at other companies be seen less favorably following their announcement.

She said, “I had no idea how everybody was going to react, and it was less than a year since I started. What I didn’t take into account was that most of the other members of the leadership team have children and understand the challenges parents go through. I received so much encouragement and excitement when I did share. It’s made this process fun for me. And we’ve been working as a team to develop a flexible maternity plan.”

She was impressed that right away—months before her due date—the men on our leadership team (all the members but Kate!) had made arrangements for her to have a safe and comfortable place to pump when the time comes.

“The leadership team has done a really good job of allowing us to balance both our family life and work life well,” said Luanne. “The consistent support has helped me relax when things are out of my control. Once in a while, I’ve even brought my son to work with me, and it’s always been a welcome surprise—that’s how he’s received here. One time Jason, our president, got a big tub of wood scraps so my son could sit and play blocks by me.”

Evan and Luanne in Greenland

 Luanne and Evan on the Aqua Bound Greenland kayak trip in 2023

Those who can do some of their work from home have appreciated the flexibility that brings, too. Luanne said, “It might be putting a little more time in the evening or earlier in the morning, but being flexible and supportive with that schedule helps me get my job done even when I’m home with sick kids.”

[Or when school is two hours late because of a snowstorm—which happened the morning of our interview!]

Susie has used her experience as a working mom here to communicate with her boys about work/life balance. “I’ll tell them I can be at their event because I have a great boss and a great team that values family,” she said. “They can find a company like this to work for too, when the time comes.”

Empowering Examples that Show It’s Possible

Aqua Bound and other companies with these types of policies prove they can support the family life of their employees and be successful in their industry. They can provide a healthy, balanced work environment for the moms on their team while still expecting—and getting—a high level of performance from them in their jobs.

Luanne said, “We work in a very male-dominated industry. Because there are working moms here, I’ve received some excitement from moms from other brands who are either a current parent or pregnant with their first child. It’s a relief for them to speak to someone else who’s a mom in the paddling industry.”

Susie agrees. “Having had my kids when I was teaching, I can tell you it was a vastly different experience then, compared to when I came here.”

Kate looks forward to motherhood while moving ahead in her career. She said, “It has me really motivated to enter this chapter in my life and work with people like Susie, Luanne and Justine—to know I can do it well. I have people here I can ask questions to and know I’ll have their support and guidance. It’s cool to see Aqua Bound continue to elevate mothers and women in this industry and show empowering models.”

Kate and Adam in a loaded canoe

 Kate and Adam on a canoe trip

I (Sharon, writer of this blog) will add my two cents here, too. My situation is much different from these moms as our kids are now adults. I chose to stay home with my children during their growing-up years and homeschool them. So I was out of the workforce for a long time.

When I did start to look for work outside our home again, I was committed to keeping my schedule flexible because by that time my parents were aging, especially my dad. I wanted to be able to help them when needed. And I knew within a few years our kids would start having children of their own and I wanted to be active in our grandkids’ lives from early on (we now have two grandchildren who live nearby!).

Sharon with her two grandkids

 A somewhat successful group selfie of Sharon babysitting her two grandkids

I pursued close to a hundred companies in the outdoor space looking for part-time contract opportunities. Aqua Bound was the only one who valued the skills I could offer and was willing to hire me as a part-time off-site contractor. I think I can say it’s been a definite win-win for both of us since I signed on to write these blogs in late 2016!

[NOTE: Aqua Bound has many amazing team members in varying stages and roles of parenthood. In this blog post, we've chosen to highlight a group that historically faces many big challenges connected to working with young children in the home. We hope this has been an uplifting read and empowers you no matter where you may be in your parenting journey!]

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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