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.

Bebe update: Seven years

To my Goon… for your jokes that make us laugh whether we get them or not (keep workshopping), your knowing what you want (and getting stronger about asking for it), your self awareness, your basic instinct to share, to smile, to make others feel good about themselves, your honesty, your allergy to napkins and silverware, your living in the moment, your absolute need to feel everything and everyone, especially when that everything includes mud, beetles, muddier mud, homemade clay, and also mud.

Happy 7.

Nettles update: Four years

This is cheekiness uprising. This is sound effects for every action. This is slapstick comedy. This is curiosity. This is telling dogs to go away. This is a love affair with a mosaic snail. This is finding the word ‘batata’ hilarious. This is pretend-nursing a baby. This is tormenting the younger sibling. This is torturing the older siblings. This is knowing when to make the funny face at exactly the right time. This is four.

This is Nettles.

Zooey update: twenty three months

There’s that point after the baby turns into a toddler and the toddler gets even a bit more toddlery that they are so delicious you could just eat them. And even if I haven’t quite gotten to the bottom of what is bothering you yet… I feel tension in you, Zooey… so while I’m busy trying to gobble you up daily, I’m also wondering what is the source and how it’s probably my fault. But you are growing out of a shell, or a cocoon, because every day you are finding new things to touch and watch and wonder at. So keep at it Zooey and I’ll keep eating you and we’ll sort it out.

5 commandments of returning from vacation.

Assigning myself 5 commandments of going back to work after a somewhat off the grid week of vacation.

  1. You are not limitless. Saying no is not a special occasion; it’s a standard.
  2. You are not 2- or 3-dimensional. There has to be more than work and home.
  3. You are not worth any less than your peers. By definition you are at least equal.
  4. You must take your pulse. Recharging is mandatory for phones and people.
  5. You must seek the bigger picture. Every day, just a little bit.

In the meantime… a few hours of freedom left.

 

Zooey update: twenty two months

You give kisses now! I love that! The little pwaa! of your tiny lips. Especially when the aim is off.

You’re still sparse on words – what do you wanna say, Zooey? You can tell me… or Big Bird, we’re into Sesame Street now…

I mean, I love the faces you make – you’re speaking with your eyes, with your little button nose, with your shoving to get in the center, make sure you get yours along with the other kids.

But maybe we can both try something for the next few weeks… deep breathing, letting go, saying what we need and what we want and what we don’t want, as hard as that can be at times.

 

Tell-All: 4 team management lessons from Summit planning

I recently, ahem, was part of a core team running one of the biggest events in startup-Jerusalem each year, in its 4th year. It’s a production put on with a lot of demands, a lot of resources, a lot of professionals, but the core team from within the company are not necessarily production careerists (though a couple of us are definitely).

Before this year, the event planning was fueled with stress, rife with resentment, and even filled with fear. This year was different. And I’ve been exploring why.

1. The revolution will not be televised – and will not happen without a good team. 

For months we joked about filming a documentary of the event prep. We (I) didn’t do it, but if we had, it would have probably been side-splitting hilarious (to us). Something I learned was, any job – even the hardest, the ones that make you feel enslaved, depraved, and unappreciated – are actually awesome if the people around you are fun to have around, genuinely good people, and hardcore team players. That was a real turning point for me; why shouldn’t planning an incredible, complicated event be fun, if the people you work alongside inspire you to do your best possible job? The chemistry was right, the people were solid, and the goal was clear. It was a new level of teamwork we brought out from within ourselves.

2. A team is the sum of all its parts.

A few years ago I had this revelation. I was wondering why people would pay me to write for them. I knew practically why, but it was a symptom of impostor syndrome, and I really didn’t get it. I asked the question on twitter, and got a response: because they can’t do it themselves. They actually aren’t equipped with the skills.

Ever since then, I repeat this to myself. I’m not a logistics person; someone else is not a brand-builder. I’ll never run the finance department; someone else won’t be writing compelling invite copy. And so I build this appreciation every day for the people around me, diverse skill sets and frames of minds. Different career paths leading to this project; different life experiences to lend. I wish more people could appreciate how we all have something to contribute. If we acknowledge healthily what we lack and promote with vigor what others contain, we become a stronger force – with better results.

3. Ditch the dead weight – from your mental load

When working on such a massive, months-long project, it helps to leave behind the haters. The ‘this has nothing to do with me’ attitude of colleagues. Feeling held back by a need to convince everyone or try and infuse inspiration into every single colleague is not going to help me do a better job. I found staying focused on the end result was the right way – more calming, more productive. And luckily, from previous experience, we had the confidence to know we could keep moving forward and that we were right: it was going to be successful, amazing, and even better than we ever imagined.

4. Putting the ‘der’ in leader. 

Ok, this is going to seem obvious but shutup it’s been three years and I still don’t always get it.

I find managing a team challenging. I freely admit it because I think it’s healthy and it prompts me to work harder to seek out mentors and case studies to learn from. I’ve had no direct mentor, and frankly, not always the best examples to learn from. So I’m winging it.

This was the first year I felt properly equipped to run my part of the event as far as personnel. So I knew I had no one to blame but myself if I mess it up. And there were plenty of pitfalls – delegation is still rough on me. But as the heat got turned up, I knew it was manager do-or-die – if the team doesn’t get to take the wheel, then what is the point of joining for the ride? I lose them now, I lose them in the future, too.

Last week I learned what it truly means to let go – of the doubt and fear – and felt such a new pride at this smart, proactive, flexible team I somehow found the insight to put together. The right people – true team players – seek out opportunities to grow and stretch their skills. They don’t just take orders but they own their roles and figure it out. We need to surround ourselves with people like that – at work, at home, in life. It’s what makes a manager a leader.

There’s so much more I could offer insight on – and forgive me, it’s been quite a hiatus from thoughtful posts in the last few months while I was running around, well, learning. For that we’d have to get a cup of coffee or maybe just a humble facebook chat.

After all, there’s still event followup to put together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zooey update: twenty one months

You’re just one of the girls, Zooey.

You’re thing now is part de-planed flight attendant, part big kid going to school – rolling around Nettles’ backpack (especially convenient because she doesn’t want to, and, um, between us – you’re being kinda used… but there’s time to work that out…).

You pick it up in the morning and hand it back as you walk into your gan… and on pickup, it’s the first thing to run and hug – although, sometimes Nettles or I get one before the bag does.

I suppose I should have seen it coming, but hair is kind of a big deal in our house these days. Your older sisters are having a ball of it (or making balls of it… who knew kids needed to be taught to brush their own hair?!) and you are right there beside them, soaking it in – from the conditioner to the braids to the headbands.

I may not be as great at providing you with the kind of entertainment I did for your oldest siblings, but you do have them around to look out for you… and make sure you get what they got… guess I did something right…