5 Things I’ve Learned About Career & Family: me in a video; lotta honesty; who needs role models

Hi. Because I have decided to step up this year in ‘challenging my comfort zone’, I said yes without thinking that hard when the BreadWinners* co-founder asked me to interview on camera for their new project.

*Whether it’s essays on topics about the complexities of having a career and family at the same time, or original video content that is actually relevant to your life, this is the long-awaited voice of our generation…our ultimate goal is world domination, but we’ll settle for a world where women feel comfortable taking up space at the table- both in the boardroom and at home.

Yes, usually I’m the one behind the camera, torturing startup CEOs and average (industry) joes to answer questions and look charismatic while doing it. Mwahaha?

Anyway… I did it and it was fun. Here’s the video, and below are my rough cut answers as we prepped for the video. Bonus: if you watch through #4-5 you get to watch my fourth upstage me.

Watch 5 Things I’ve Learned About Career & Family

Read Behind the Scenes

To prep for the video, I responded to some prompts with train of thought answers… which I thought I’d share in addition to the final video since they didn’t all make the cut.

  • ‘Self care’: This is a tough one for me, if by self care we mean stopping to breathe, taking a break, treating ourselves. I think I’m not alone here that a lot of us are the types who, to get everything done, we have to keep moving… stopping would mean a break in the system… it’s a huge problem and I recently experienced what I think was the biggest burnout I’ve experienced during the last nine years of being a career-oriented person crossed over with being a mother. It’s harsh but we’re not allowing ourselves enough. And the hardest part is probably asking for the break – asking yourself for it.
  • ‘Lack of female role models’: When I started my current job nearly four years ago – and this is by far my most demanding job in my career – I spent the first year searching for a female role model. Who was out there, outnumbered by their kids, first time in a management role, working full time, a partner working as full time as I was, no parents in the country – who was like me, but ten years ahead and could tell me it would be ok? It took time for me to realize – STOP LOOKING. I’ll never find another me to tell me it’ll be ok. Instead, I have to hope to find people like me now to tell me they are at least struggling as hard. I’ve found more and more of that as I’ve opened my mind about it. But there aren’t enough role models or mentors. I think we are all still figuring it out – but I pledged and still do to serve as an open book for my peers and the up-and-coming women watching me. (I have an anecdote about being the first woman in my office to need a pumping space and how pioneering that felt and how scary and intimidating it was… but three years later, I’m so proud that we now have options of pumping-secure offices and around-the-clock pumping moms throughout the year).
  • What balance actually looks like: It’s doing the best I can. Some months, it’s terrible. Some it’s better. Sometimes the marriage is winning, sometimes the kids, often the job, it’s not balance… clearly.
  • Relationship with boss: I’ve been really lucky in my career to have very family friendly bosses. It’s a gift, I know it’s not to be taken for granted. I try to pay that forward to my workers. when I’ve had less family friendly or understanding bosses, I take what I didn’t like from that experience and reverse for my employees. Especially when it comes to being pregnant at work. I would never want a hard-working pregnant employee to feel afraid to ask for support – I’d rather she didn’t even have to ask.
  • Male coworkers: There are a lot of good eggs out there… from all generations and walks of life. But specific to my generation – I think men are getting better at seeing this anew. I really do. I’m married to a really great man. In the sense that I don’t know any other guy as supportive of his wife’s career than mine. And it’s vice versa of course. But let’s just say I’m partnered with a guy who gets angry when things like picking up the kids or making them dinner or taking them to the doctor or going to PTA meetings are called ‘mom jobs’. We need to change our vocabularies and support our men if we want change. I look at the men around my office rushing off to pick up their kids and I’m proud of where we are (where some of us are). At least in my corner of the world.  A note about the older guys… I try to filter it through the world they come from. I get really belittling comments. I get called ‘gal’ or ‘girl’ or whatever bullshit. Those guys are older. I shake it off. They’ll be gone soon and we’ll run the place.
  • Female co-workers: I think among the moms, no matter what team you’re on or what age you are or what number kid you’re up to or if you actually like each other or not – there is an underlying thing of, “I get it.” At least I feel that way… I hope others do. I try to be as supportive to my mom peers as much as possible. especially the younger moms.
  • Pregnancy and working: The guilt sucks. I spent a whole pregnancy planning one of our annual global summits and to this day I still look at my daughter two years later and quietly tell her I’m sorry for how hard I pushed myself then, and however that may have impacted her. I spent the night before the big event in agony in my hotel room, berating myself for putting work first before my unborn kid. I’m not sure I did or not but it felt that way. On the other hand, I was happy that my management could look at me ‘normally’ and not get annoying and awkward about working alongside a ‘delicate flower’ of a pregnant woman.
  • Maternity leave and its effects on the job: Maternity leave is scary – whether it’s your first or fourth. I’ve seen things happen I wish I could unsee. The fact is, no matter how loved and appreciated you are at your job, being gone for 3-6-9 months at a time is just going to have an effect. There’s no getting around it.  And I could speak for a full hour about how to survive coming back. Giving yourself time… it takes 6 months in my opinion. The pumping at work. The feeling low. The wondering what the hell you’re doing here. The lack of sleep and its effects. Missing milestones. Missing meetings. Missing both somehow, at the same time.
  • Relationship with kids: My kids don’t know me any other way. For them, their parents have jobs and work hard. They don’t get exactly what I do which is obviously fine, but I do think they are ‘inspired’ by it as much as a kid could be. They are curious… they ask questions… they complain I work too hard. More and more it’s becoming an issue. I’m working on it. First step at least – being aware of it. I let them call me out. It’s the most direct way to make me work on it. I’ve recently admitted to myself that I am addicted to my work and I can’t stop and it’s meddling in my life and it’s time to work that out. I was thinking, wow, if I didn’t have kids, what would I be doing? But not in a fantasy kind of way. In a, how far in could I have lost myself completely? kind of way.
  • Ambition: in my own introverted way, I’ve always been ambitious. My parents instilled a really tough sense of work ethic in us. They’re both career people who care deeply about what they do and that they do it well. I don’t think they were taking us aside and teaching us anything directly, but we learned by example. I appreciate that in other people. And I can’t not be doing something meaningful. it’s not in my DNA.
  • Relationship with husband and how it’s effected by working: Marriage is one tough project. As mentioned, I happen to be married to a good one and I couldn’t have been with someone who didn’t support me having a career and feeling strongly about whatever I choose to do. Is it hard? Yeah.  One thing I will say is. when I took my current job and we just had our third kid, I would come home every single day, throw down my bag, and declare THIS IS NOT SUSTAINABLE. There is no way we can both work full time office jobs outside the house. No one else is doing this. It has to end somehow. But it hasn’t ended… I have no idea what the long term effects are. They may be horrible. But we are definitely bonding over doing A LOT of problem solving together.

Ask What’s Next?

I don’t know. I’m figuring a lot out at the moment. But I know it was fun doing this. I’ve wanted to do this since I forced myself to be the ‘pumping pioneeress’. So if you know of more opportunities for me to bare my soul in an effort to help others, let me know.

If you are interested in participating, or want more content and discussion, check out BreadWinners.

Expat life: Eleven years.

As of today I have spent a third of my life living as an expat, having made the choice to leave what I knew and start over somewhere else, with specific goals and ideology fueling the decision. And 11 years later I really don’t have much to complain about, which I appreciate is incredibly fortunate.

Sure, over a decade later taxi drivers still balk at the fact I left New York City. Even other olim balk at the fact I left New York City. But I maintained during year one and I maintain now that I was born in the wrong city and it took me (only) two decades to find the right place to grow, breathe, build, and live.

The one thing I tell people and grows truer every day is that the cost of leaving family never goes down; it gets more and more taxing as you build a career, settle with a partner, have another kid, watch your siblings and parents move on without you.

For myself, I made the right decision 11 years ago and it set my life on a course I’m proud of. Not all my goals have been met yet and the ideology that fuels my perspective and life has transitioned. And no matter where I am, I always feel like an outsider and, oddly, that’s where I’ve realized I operate most naturally.

But I’m happy feeling as natural as I can as an inside-outsider here in Israel rather than an inside-outsider back in New York.

10 things about turning ten (celebrating a decade of lizrael update)

Where’s my cake? lizrael update turns ten-years-old today!

That’s six months longer than I’ve lived here. That’s two more years than I’ve been married. That’s five more years than I’ve been a parent. That’s as long as I’ve been out of my first university.

It’s the longest-running project I’ve ever undertaken, with no deadline or end in sight. I’m proud because as a kid and past my teens, my creative pitfall was (and still is) not finishing what I started. I’m probably a bit insane because… really? Who’s blogged for ten years? Who is still blogging in 2014??

Finally, not finishing what I start is worth something.

Here’s to you, once-newfangled writing format I was skeptical of back in 2004 and needed good friends to convince me to try! Thanks for all the good times, the learning times, the up-till-4am-fixing-this-goddam-thing times!

Here are ten things I have to say in honor of my blog turning ten:

  1. In the beginning, I was tracking my move across the world. What I quickly realized was, it was also a way to exercise my writing chops without feeling like homework.
  2. My advice to others: If journaling feels good to you, and you stick it out for those tough first 3 months, I mean three years, I mean forever – it just becomes part of who you are and how you communicate and relate to the world.
  3. ^That said – blogging has majorly evolved in the last decade; that’s probably an understatement. So now you might consider photoblogging, microblogging, Twitter, public Facebook profile, or 39573485 other ways to build your space online in the way you like.
  4. I’m in a relationship with this thing. Sometimes I want to hug it. Sometimes I’m disgusted and want to look away. Sometimes I want to twirl in a field of lilies with it.
  5. Reading old blog posts is like looking in a really distorted mirror.
  6. So much has changed! I started with a private site on LiveJournal, converted over to Blogger, then WordPress.com, and finally WordPress. I did open a Tumblr account ages ago, but didn’t it feel it would work for me.
  7. In a way, getting into blogging turned me on to my career. Among other things (hi, thefacebook), it was part of a greater culture I joined when I graduated from university with my first degree (in nothing practical).
  8. Thanks to all the people I’ve met over the last decade! Seriously – I’ve met tons of readers, fellow bloggers, fellow expats, aliyah-curious – some of whom I’ve spoken to from across the world and met for coffee, some of whom I’ve corresponded with for months till meeting them in person, some of whom have become friends. Like, real-life friends (hi SG!).
  9. I’ll admit: there’s a lot I don’t say. There’s been an internal conflict about being private vs public. Gave up privacy years and years ago. You a pay a price.
  10. I’m glad to be creating some quirky/fun/sentimental footprints for my kids to discover one day.

Blogging may be in or may be out. We can call this something else from now on… content creation, sure. Living online. Personal branding. (It used to be an ‘online journal.’)

Whatever it is…

Whether it’s out there for the world or in a word doc…

Whether it’s for kids or friends or no one…

Whether it’s proofread and polished or riddled with typos…

I do highly recommend carving out a space, sharpening your style, building a bit of yourself in some corner of the written world.

Aright, back to blogging.

lizrael update: 4 facts till I reunite with coherent thought

Happy March! Since it’s been quiet around here, I’ve provided a few quick facts:

  1. Fifty-Two Frames isn’t the only thing going on in my life, but I have felt uncharacteristically quiet for a long while now.
  2. I haven’t been working since beginning of February. More on that another time.
  3. Sometime in the next few weeks we plan to get a baby out of me. Pretty much as ready as.
  4. I miss running! It’s the season and every time I see a Tzur Hadassian making their rounds, I really miss it. I’d like to do the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem half marathons in 2015.

There. I hope that unblocks things a bit.

lizrael update: the expat-makes-a-visit edition

Living in Israel (and probably many other countries as an American expat) is an exercise in being happy with what you have, and I feel lucky to have even scratched the surface of that sentiment.

Occasionally the conversation comes up with fellow expats here and I’m no longer surprised to admit that I’m happier here than I imagine I would be in the States.

Last week I returned with the kids from a trip to the US where we mainly visited with family, which is actually the sole serious issue I have with living far away from the place I grew up. The family aspect was lovely. It’s soaking in as much familiarity and nostalgia and new memories as I can in as little time as two weeks out of the year.

Each time I go back for a visit, I feel a certainty that I made the right choice, which I think is so incredibly valuable when you’ve made a life-altering decision. This time, it barely even crossed my mind to contemplate it; it was a given.

Some of the time, I view America the way lots of people who don’t live there view it. The politics creep me out. The culture shocks me. The values confuse me.

And when I’m in New York, I’m overwhelmed. The supermarkets are heavy. The malls are filled with stuff for sale that makes me sad. The maternity and daycare situation is dismal. The nightly news is frightening. I’m looking over my shoulder. I’m filled with mistrust.

I think maybe I was always overwhelmed until I left. Surely not every born New Yorker has a New York soul. Not every American feels at home. A lot of the reasons people cite for what’s great about living in the States don’t compel me.

I’m happy to be lucky to be happy with what I have.

Life lately.

Enjoying the summer blooms.

Soaring through the superhero phase.

Ate through a 2-week baking craze.

Acknowledged July 4th in Jerusalem, USA.

Devouring a Song of Light and Fire, games of thrones, crows, feasts, cravens.

Inspired at the home office.

Welcoming new friends.

Uncovered a long-lost treasure.

Attuned to the start of Ramadan season.

Fifty-Two Frames: Self-Portrait

First off, I started participating in Fifty-Two Frames exactly 52 weeks ago, January 2012, and this week I completed it, in time for a new round called 2013.

Secondly, this week’s theme was a good one. It had the potential to be awkward, narcissistic, lame, or reflective. Sighofrelief it became the latter.

This week I was lucky to find myself in the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. You know that wonderful mosaic statue park, right outside the kids’ petting zoo area? It’s my favorite part of the entire zoo. The statues are beautiful, kids can climb on them, and just eyeing the colorful tiles makes me feel creative. While there last week, I noticed a few of the abstract stone creatures had mirrored mosaic tiles so I took advantage and experimented. 75984758461 photos later, I had a few to choose from.

Now for the reflective part… I’ve been around a little while. Three decades. I’m a lot of things. I’m a writer, an amateur photographer, a blogger, a student, a former junkie of a few left-behinds. I’m a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter. I’m a dual citizen, split down the middle by an ocean. I’m a lot of someones.

Week 52: Self-Portrait

I’m a lot of things, but I’m not broken. I'm a lot of things, but I'm not broken. Fifty-Two Frames is a collaboration of artists, sharing the best of their work to a weekly theme. Want to join? Contact Yosef.

My NYTimes debut: experience of an expat Staten Islander during Sandy

My New York Times debut: A journalist found my post on my experience of helplessness as a Staten Island expat, far away during the Hurricane Sandy disaster. After some emails and a phone call, my Staten Island-based mama and I became the lede of his article on New York expats taking action during crisis.

Here’s the article, in this weekend’s paper in the New York Times Giving section:

Tied by Heartstrings to Calamity

It was kinda cool to be on the flip side of reporting as the interviewee. Probably made it a lot easier for the writer, too. And I also got a kick out of collecting info for him to find other local Israeli resources.

The experience reminded me of my old reporter ambitions (which, since abandoning them, I’ve partly pursued here for the last 8+ years; so one might say). It got me thinking that I might want to revive that old life a little, perhaps staying online, maybe starting with guest posts? Might be fun to give it a shot.

Next stop… byline somewhere!