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This Wilmington Native Dishes on the Value of Having a “Work Wife”

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Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House

 

Years before curated collections were the thing, Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo disrupted the fashion world with Of A Kind, their micro-curated fashion edit that aims to bring emerging talent—and their stories—into your heavy rotation, one limited piece at a time. Almost 10 years later, Mazur, a Wilmington native (and super psyched about it, thank you) and Cerulo, her business partner and bestie, credit their thriving business to their relationship—and they wrote a book about it. “Work Wife” drops this month from Penguin Random House.

Describe Erica at peak work wife.

I just had my first child. It had been a really long emotional journey for me, getting to the position to have kids, and knowing that this person who is so central in my life, that it would seriously impact our partnership. I’m someone who loves work so much, and I had so many personal anxieties about how having a kid would impact my work life. Even something as short-term as maternity leave, Erica has had to listen to all my [fear of missing out] and control freak issues about it. The day we’re figuring out what my maternity leave will look like, she says, “I’m going to leave early twice a week and come and be with you. I can help with the kid, or, if you’re up for it, we can talk about work stuff, you can review things, whatever you want.” I still can barely talk about it without crying. That was a tremendous gift. She demonstrates serious understanding and acceptance of my vulnerabilities and my needs as a business partner. Bottom line: She gets me.

What’s the most critical skill to kill it as a work wife?

Vulnerability. So much strength comes from being able to share your fears and insecurities with another person.

Why are work wives so now?

We’re in a professional world where there’s more room for women at the top. I think there used to be this mentality that, “Well, we put one woman in a leadership position. We’re good.” We’re starting to chip away at that. It’s no longer a sense of women competing with each other for that one spot. We’re in a place of partnership versus competition. While we started writing this book long before #MeToo, that movement is an example of women partnering together in powerful ways. Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who broke the Harvey Weinstein story in The New York Times, they’re work wives. If you listen to Jodi and Megan talk about how they were able to tell their stories, they say that the most critical thing is that they had other women telling the stories with them. No one wanted to come alone. A lot of what we talk about in the book, to co-opt a Hillary term, is “We’re stronger together.”

Working with your bestie cannot be all happy hour, all the time.

Erica and I drive each other nuts sometimes. One of the things we speak about is that for the first five years of Of A Kind, we rarely fought. We got into disagreements, but we just weren’t good at talking about it. In doing research for the book, and interviewing other work wives, like Kerry Walsh Jennings and Misty May Treanor, we learned that this is really common in women’s friendships—we’re conflict averse. Even when you study language patterns, women don’t want to disagree with each other because it ends up being misinterpreted as “You don’t like me” versus the truth, which is, “We’re in a disagreement.” With the help of a coach, Erica and I had to learn how to fight. It’s like, I don’t want to do this, but we have to have this conversation about this thing that upset me. We learned we could have these conversations and it’s not going to ruin a friendship, a partnership or even our day.

Who are the ultimate work wives?

I love Kathy Lee and Hoda. They’re fun, light, drinking wine in the 10 o’clock hour, so it may feel silly putting weight on them in this way, but they are such an important example of a work wife. Kathy announced she’s leaving the “Today Show,” and they’re crying. Hoda talks about how Kathy was immediately there for her, both personally and professionally, and says, “The moment you stepped into my life with both feet, everything changed.” I cried because it so succinctly describes what I feel about work wife marriages, and mine in particular with Erica. We are emotionally and financially entangled, we spend all of this time together … there is no other way to do it than with both feet.   

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