Working moms who made motherhood work

‘She never stepped out of her role as a mother, even when she trained us in the business’

Inquirer Libre - Davao - - PANGUNAHING PAHINA - By Marge C. Enriquez

THROUGH the years, family photos of the Kienle always show Max and Zelda huddled with their daughters Stephanie and Jessica. Their closeness and trust extend to the family’s furniture business, Philux.

“Max and I are open to new inputs from our daughters,” says Zelda, Philux president.

Although Max, the patriarch and founder, is still on top of the business, the couple is slowly handing over the reins to Stephanie, head of sales and marketing, and Jessica, head designer.

One of the reasons that they can be objective in business and maintain intimate ties is that Zelda emphasized the importance of communication.

“As a teen, I wasn’t afraid to express my feelings,” says Stephanie Kienle-Gonzalez. “I could even talk about taboo subjects. Good communication in the family translates to the workplace.”

She describes her mother as nurturing even as a boss. “She never stepped out of her role as a mother, even when she trained us and guided us constructively in the business.”

Jessica Kienle-Maxwell adds, “She’s the most generous person I know. She speaks the language of love. When we came into the business, our parents didn’t give us a hard time. They trusted us and were open to our ideas.”


“We saw how our parents started from scratch,” adds Stephanie. “As the second generation, we are passionate about this business.”

On rearing her daughters, Andrea, 4, and the newborn Arielle, Stephanie looks up to Zelda as the role model. “Mom was hands-on.”

Zelda is pleased. “When they joined the company, we observed them. They did a fantastic job. They saw how we ran the business and took care of our people.”

The family shop talk is limited to the factory and office. The Kienles often have lunches together, despite their separate households.

Off-hours, Jessica enjoys bonding with her mother at the nail salon or shopping for the upcoming grandson (Jessica is set to give birth anytime).

Zelda says she and Max can take longer trips and not worry about the business.

“My girls respect each other and learn a lot from each other. For us parents, it’s wonderful to see that.”

Lala Fojas, Executive Vice President and General Manager at The Shangri-La Plaza Corporation , and Yvonne Karla FojasAlmirante, 45

While raising her children in the ’70s and ’80s, Lala recalls, “Parents were less self-conscious about how to ’boost self-esteem’ or being ’helicopter’ parents. We encouraged kids in their pursuits and talents, spoke to them about concerns, and included them in family decisions.”

Her work took her overseas, which enabled the family to travel frequently. Lala recalls how her children wanted to eat at McDonald’s to get the freebies from their Happy Meal.

The children were persuaded to discuss ideas openly. “Now that they’re all adults, we are able to speak to one another as equals, and I would even consult them. My daughter works in advertising and would pick my brain for marketing insights. My son is in telco and I would get a lot of information from him,” says Lala.

Bonding time is meant for the children and grandchildren. “We celebrate milestones with a good meal. I attend graduations, recitals, sports meets. My granddaughters raid my closets for clothing and makeup. We go shopping. Once in a while, they come over on a workday to have lunch. Simple things.”

Because of the open communication, Lala’s children still seek her guidance and unconditional love.

“They’ve been through different trials in their lives and the best I can do is be non-judgmental but not patronizing either—and to constantly be present.”

Moral compass

Yvonne, Lala’s eldest, describes her mother as a moral compass. “Exactly 28 years of being solo parent, provider, career coach, lodestone, values driver, cheerleader, mentor, advice giver, solutions expert, fashion consultant, feminist model, accomplishment benchmark, taste purveyor, relationship counselor, best friend, and grandmother,” she says.

“I see my mom as having broken glass ceilings when we didn’t even know what glass ceilings were.”

Although Lala is exacting at work, as a mother she is nurturing. “She uses her skills at managing for family events,” adds Yvonne.

Yvonne admits that during her teen phase, she was bit of a rebel. “Instead of ’disciplining’ or ’setting limits,’ Mom’s style was more a firm talking to and showing you the consequences of your actions. And she would even give you options, and allow us the time and space to make our own informed decisions. She would get angry but would create a situation where, if you step over the line, the consequences were tough love.”

They keep close communication and share photos of fashion items that catch their eye. While Yvonne is making a presentation or meeting clients, her mother would call. At this writing, they are planning their first motherdaughter trip.

Yvonne says it’s challenging to find a gift for someone who has everything. “At gift-giving time, Mom will outdo you. In small things, I try to be present as much as I could—being available when she calls, making sure the grandkids see her, even running errands. I’m not entirely sure whether I show her enough that I do love and value her immensely. She may not be fully aware that she’s been all that to me and more.”

ZELDA Kienle with daughters Stephanie, 30, and Jessica, 28

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