A Chat With Supermoms Jaclyn Lindsey & Melissa Burmester, Co-Founders of Kindness.org

 Jaclyn Lindsey and family

 

Jaclyn Lindsey and Melissa Burmester founded Kindness.org on a simple premise: the belief that kindness has the power to transform the world. It sounds lofty, but Kindness.org is grounded in science-backed data and offers users a menu of kind actions to take. Jaclyn and Melissa shared their impetus for launching Kindness.org, tips to help our kids be kinder, and a series of questions we can ask to sort out work/life balance.

Congratulations to both of you on becoming new moms! What inspired you to start Kindness.org?

Jaclyn: I was doing really satisfying work that I felt passionate about, and yet I felt something was missing. I took some time to reflect on what mattered to me, and what my role should be in the world. After a silent day on a beach in Los Angeles, I landed on a particular phrase: Inspire kindness and generosity. That became my personal mantra. I saw kindness as a solution to the brokenness, hardship, pain, hurt and the true suffering I saw so much of in the world. Kindness is practical, even. A language we all speak. A universal truth. And it is more than being empathic—it’s an action.

Melissa: In the very beginning, it was about trying to become who I wanted to be. I’d landed on this idea that kindness was critical in the workplace (and in life in general), but didn’t feel like I prioritized it. Hitting deadlines, producing excellent work, and surpassing goals? Those were the measurements I paid attention to.  There has to be a way to prioritize kindness without jeopardizing success, I thought.

But it quickly became about so much more than that. I was pregnant while we were launching Kindness.org, and I spent many hours thinking about the world I was bringing my daughter into. I realized a lot more is going to have to change than just the workplace. Kindness is critical everywhere.

Tell us about Kindlab. How is kindness.org using science to promote kindness?

Melissa: Kindlab is our research hub for all things kindness. We examine and measure how kindness appears in our everyday lives, and translate that data into programs and recommendations for meaningful change.

What can parents do to raise kinder kids?    

Jaclyn: This work has taken on an extra layer of meaning since I became a mom. I feel an incredible sense of duty to Abel, since he is learning mostly from my actions and choices right now. In our work every day, we talk about how kindness is a choice. We ask what are we doing in order to make kind choices in front of our children? Does he see me on my phone? Does he see me choose kind words with my spouse? He is only a baby right now, but my behavior in front of him today will become the normal behavior he exhibits when he is five years old.

So what can we do? I think we need to commit to examining our own choices. The words we choose. Our actions. At a young age, kids are curious, so a child might ask why someone is experiencing homelessness or why people on TV are mean to each other. We need to be prepared for these hard questions, and always bring it back to this question: How can kids choose kindness in their day-to-day lives?

Melissa: Choose, teach and model kindness. That doesn’t mean being perfect, or even being “nice” all of the time. Sometimes it means having a hard conversation. You can start small—every kind act matters.

 

Melissa Burmester and daughter Amelia

If you could hand off one chore to someone else each day, what would it be? 

Melissa: Getting all of the stains out of my daughter Amelia’s clothes!

What is your favorite thing to do to relax and unwind?

Jaclyn: I love meditating. I love warm baths. I love a candlelit, instrumental-music-on, mask-on-my-face bath. I also like zoning out with a good Netflix show. And I love French fries.

What is your best parenting hack? 

Melissa: Reading Parent Hacks by Asha Dornfest is my hack to learn all of the hacks!

What is the best white lie that you’ve told your child?

Melissa: “Everyone is going to bed right now (at 7pm).” Also, “All of the yogurt-covered raisins are gone.”

If you could describe motherhood/fatherhood in one word, what would it be? 

Melissa: Joy.

Jaclyn: Miraculous.

What’s one moment in your motherhood journey that has made you proud?

Jaclyn: Giving birth. It was such a momentous experience. And I feel proud when I see him smile.

Also, I almost made a choice not to be a mom. And now to look at him, this little baby, and think: I made you. You were in me, and now you are out of me and you are going to be a person who has thoughts and preferences and feelings and you will impact the world. And to think that I’m part of that. I’m the linchpin in that! I feel humbled that I am this little baby’s mom.

Melissa: There’s an elderly woman, Fran, who lives alone in our apartment building. She often sits in the foyer hoping to strike up a conversation—or simply feel connected to other people. She was sitting there when we got home recently and Amelia just trotted right up to her, gave her a giant hug, and then trotted to our apartment door.  She saw someone who needed love, and she gave it without hesitation.

 

 

What is one piece of advice you want to pass along to your children?

Melissa: Kindness is a strength, not a weakness. It takes practice, it isn’t always easy, it’s different than being nice or polite, and it’s always a choice.

What is one piece of advice you would pass along to other moms?

Jaclyn: Be willing to cry. I don’t think we give ourselves enough space to be messy. To not have it all together. Don’t compare, either—trust your instincts. Believe in yourself. These are things I wish someone had told me.

I never take it for granted that Melissa is in my life—she’s my safe person. How many times have we sat in a conference room to have a meeting and tears well into my eyes because I’m overwhelmed and stressed and I don’t have it all together? Who is that safe person for you? Where is your safe space? Let yourself have a good cry. I love a good cry in the shower while singing my heart out.

Melissa: It’s a piece of advice that one of our researchers recently gave to me—have fun with your kids.

Is listening to Mozart while sleeping going to turn them into a genius? Nope. Could sharing music you enjoy with them give them an appreciation for music? Probably! Do activities together based on what you enjoy and what they enjoy—and stop stressing about whether or not those activities will eventually get them accepted to the right college.

How do you tackle the work/life balance? 

Melissa: There isn’t much separation between “work” and “life” for me—so it’s more of a daily check-in and negotiation with these three questions:

  1. Do I have enough uninterrupted time to focus on work?
  2. Do I have enough uninterrupted time to focus on Amelia?
  3. Do I have any uninterrupted time for myself?

And then I triage accordingly. Does Amelia need to go to the pediatrician today? Maybe I’m getting to the office a bit later. Is there a deadline I need to hit? Maybe I’m working after I get Amelia to bed.

Jaclyn: Melissa and I both have been on this journey as new co-founders and new moms. We’re trying to figure out how to show up as moms, and at the same time, show up to build a better world for our kids. And for me that means parameters. I try each weekend to take a day of sabbath. Abel is awake from 7am-7pm, and so I try to not be on my phone for that entire time one day a week, not even to take photos of him.

We’ve heard this word “balance” as if this is the pinnacle we need to achieve. I think it’s more of a question of: How do we need to show up in the places we need to be and be present while we are there? How do we honor both sides of your life?

Fun Facts

What was the last book you read?

Melissa: The Whole-Brain Child by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson.

Jaclyn: I just finished re-reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. It never gets old. And I try to read a psalm or meditation each morning.

Favorite Beauty Product: 

Jaclyn: A really good mascara and chapstick. I’m obsessed with hand lotion, and right now it’s Grove Collaborative hand cream.

Melissa: NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer. It’s pretty much the only reason I didn’t look like a zombie while I was sleep training Amelia.

Favorite Form of Exercise:

Jaclyn: CrossFit and yoga.

Melissa: Swimming and hot yoga.

What is on your DVR?

Jaclyn: The Voice. Seven Seconds. Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

Melissa: Daniel Tiger, Peppa Pig, The Americans, and Detectorists.

Favorite App:

Jaclyn: Expectful. It’s a meditation app for moms-to-be, moms, and for those embarking on their fertility journeys.

Melissa: The motivational app WeCroak. Yep, it is an app that randomly sends sobering reminders that we all die, along with a quote from a notable thinker. It causes me to stop and put things back in perspective. What really matters? What doesn’t? It reminds me of the urgency of action to honor the things that do.

Favorite Kids Store:

Melissa: Sprout San Francisco (there’s also one on Court Street in Brooklyn).

Jaclyn: Greenlight Bookstore.