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.

Why do you get out of bed and go to your workplace every morning?

Is it a sense of personal responsibility to your commitments? Is it driven by the requirement to be paid in order to live your life?

Is it because you believe in what you do? Or what your organization is aiming to do? Are you looking forward to some major event, and each day is a step in that direction? Or are you chiseling away at a glacial pace, knowing someone long after you will be the one at the finish line, but you got in early on the relay?

Is it because you’re building your own professional self? Or you are part of a team, and without you, the gears can’t run?

Is it because you need meaning in life to get you going in the morning?

Is it because you need money to make your life run?

Is it because if you don’t, people will judge you?

Is it because you owe it to the cause?

Do you often consider why it is you get out of bed and go to your workplace every morning?

Does your answer ever change?

Summer of mom.

I’ve been having the best time and I want to tell you about it.

But first, a disclaimer – there’s a lot of grief out there – sanctimommies and all that – but I’m being completely honest, no-holier-than-thou, and you can trust me because my kids haven’t really had lunch in a couple weeks and just today the seven-year-old watched 3.5 consecutive hours of unsupervised youtube clips, and that’s the 513586th time in 513586 days.

I’ve been having the best time just being a mom, constantly. I’m on maternity leave, and this has been the most fun by far. The last two I spent job searching, and the first is the first but it’s different. This time, I’m getting to spend the summer with my two older kids in what we’ve dubbed Kaytanat Ima (mom camp), since we aren’t sending to any official (and expensive, jeez c’mon) camps.

And every day I start out so grateful that I get to spend the day with my kids, and I’m  not stressed about work, and I’m not checking my phone for emails, and I’m not cursing out a perfectly nice work colleague. I’m not debating how to handle a ‘crisis’ and I’m not taking care of anyone I didn’t give birth to.

I’m not doing any of that while trying to hang with/feed/bathe/love my kids.

Also – I’ve been making dinners, like full food groups dinners.

I’m asking what they think about stuff, we’re discussing life, we’re laughing over stupid jokes, we’re making up songs, we’re cursing out the drivers in front of us together. We’re seeing new parts of the country we hadn’t seen before. We’re doing science. We’re doing good deeds and volunteering. We’re getting wet. We’re learning how to photoshop. We’re uncovering fairies. We’re learning new skills together. We’re making snow happen in July. We’re painting while wearing socks. We’re seeing our first movie in the theater together. We’re spending hours playing with 6-shekel flashlights. We’re enjoying coffee together. We’re poking a storm trooper in the eye.

I don’t want it to end, this may actually be the first time I’ve felt it like this. Whole picture, not just I don’t want to leave my little baby. But I think part of it is I work myself too hard so when it’s time to play, with no work in site, I can appreciate it to a degree I’ve never felt around my kids before. So the contrast has made these past months so much more wonderful.

Part of it, is of course, their ages.

And it’s killing me that it has to end eventually, at least in part. I’m not going to dwell too much on that right now because I’m still feeling rainbows and kittens from two paragraphs ago.

Tell me, how do I keep a taste of it for the long haul?

The impossible quest.

It was exactly two years ago that I started my current job, director of marketing at a fast-paced startup in a relatively new yet traditional industry. It was also exactly two years ago that I was finished with the mandatory paid maternity leave with my third child. I was coming off a full time marketing consultant position, something I had been doing for almost three years from home.

Newly minted director, newly commuting to an office, newly minted mom of three. It was also a war, it was also the heat of the summer, it was also a major reckoning which basically came down to: what the fuck am I doing?

It was the start of an impossible quest. For the first nine months, I resolved to uncover someone exactly in my position, but 5-10 years later – someone working a full time manager job at an intense company, whose partner also worked full time, who had no time for late night TV show binge watching or running or taking the kids out after tzaharon to anywhere further than a nearby park. Someone with a super intense job, thrown into a managerial position with no training. Someone who was a mother of a three, living in an apartment, no hired help, no parents in the country, no family support nearby. Not native Hebrew speakers, new to every step along the way. Someone who was hacking it to the finish line.

Me. But in 5-10 years, having lived to tell the tale.

I’d ask the female partners at my company. But they’d be disqualified, lacking these criteria or those criteria. I’d scope out women at conferences – my seeming peers. But, no – not full time, or full time less kids, or Israeli partner with parents in town, or some other thing. I’d look around on career oriented Facebook groups. I’d ask people outright.

I’d get a lot of ‘Ooooh I also need that! When you figure it out let me know!’

I honestly thought I could find that person. Surely she exists. Surely someone’s done this. Lived this life. Surely she’d mentor me. Tell me it’ll be ok. Laugh with me and cry with me.

That person does not exist. Not two years ago, not now.

But she will in 5-10 years.

As I look around, having added more to that plate – four kids seven and under, four different drop offs and pick ups next year, two doses of private daycare tuition, same full-time demanding jobs for both parents, still no parents within 30 minutes, etc etc – I know and accept there is no such mentor. No one has my life. No one has your life.

Unique special snowflake shit.

So I’m left to figure it out. I have no idea what the next 1-2 years will look like. I know that I am not limitless so we’ll figure out where that line gets drawn pretty soon.

I will say this: holding a two-month old in one arm and cutting cherry tomatoes with the other is possible. So at least there’s that.

WANTED: someone to talk to

ThankfulIs anybody out there?

Two 30-something partners and parents of three and full time marketing professionals seeking someone similar who has figured it all out. Realizing that no one has truly figured it all out, also seeking someone who has at least crossed to the other side of hectic and has less regrets than one would assume.

These individuals cannot currently provide help in the form of locally-residing parents or trust funds or native fluent Hebrew or any spare time.

But they can provide:

  • a generally optimistic take on it all
  • a healthy dose of not taking life too seriously
  • a joint sense of humor that takes the edge off

If you have any information as to where the secret to making this work might be located, or anyone who has survived not making it work but making it work enough, please be in touch.

Those 3 dreaded words: work life balance

Waldorf Astoria bathroom selfieHow is it natural to go from a 6-month-old clawing at your neck while laughing in your face all day, and then at 5pm switching to wearing suitable Waldorf Astoria clothing, packing business cards into your clutch and smiling like you haven’t been waking up every two hours for the last few nights?

It’s not. It’s not natural. There’s no way. The trick is to not give up on yourself while trying to make it seem natural.

Or the trick is to get as many cute cheeky naked butt shots of the 6-month-old before you have to leave for the evening. The trick is not to think too hard that you haven’t seen the other kids since 8am and won’t see them before they go to bed tonight.

The trick is to not feel weird about leaving the house every day with diapers stuffed next to your work laptop. Or to ignore that it’s a shame you’re sweating through your nice work clothes as you race back and forth between ballet and soccer practice.

One day I’ll come back here and explain to you how I did it.

First I gotta figure out how I’m going to do it.

 

 

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Lean in to what? My sleeping kids in a sweaty bed?

Really universe? Really?

I have a follow-up job interview today. I’m doing my best to Sheryl Sandberg this shit and last night attempted an early bedtime.

Sheryl, is this how it’s supposed to work? Because I think I broke it.

I was up twice before 1am feeding the infant.

At some point after that, not one but both of the older kids zombied their way into my bed and tangled themselves up on me.

After that I spent on-and-off time tossing and turning, deliberating whether to just get out of bed or stand my ground.

Was up again at 5am to feed Madame Milk.

Changed two diapers by 6:30.

And then I ditched the whole operation.

So what were you saying about Lean In?

5 ways #KahenaCon got me pumped to go back to work

I signed up for KahenaCon soon after registration opened. Maybe even the day it opened. I really enjoy this conference for getting inspired in the kind of work I do, by hearing from others doing it and by the atmosphere we create when we get together. It’s a gathering of marketing professionals within the kind of environment that suits us – plenty of networking time, solid speakers, awesome lunch.

But this year I had an alternative motive – not only get inspired by the work I do, but get inspired to start looking for new work in my field. Looking for your next professional opportunity can be rough when you’ve just released a new add-on (parents, amirite?).

Newborn at home means new job hasn’t sounded as attractive as it should. It’s making me do a lot of thinking. Luckily, a marketing conference had its say today.

Here are 5 ways KahenaCon inspired me in the search for my next digital content marketing opportunity:

1. Ladies, ladies ladies. 

The conference kicked off this morning with two fabulous females: Joanna Lord, CMO at BigDoor and Kate Morris, digital marketing consultant at Distilled. There is just something so welcoming about this when you’re a lady at a conference.

To anyone rolling their eyes (ugh, why do ladies always mention ladies?)… too often in the startup/marketing/hi tech world, we don’t see enough women up there. And for KahenaCon to fly out and kick off with two of the best presenters out of the whole day, who happen to be girls? Makes me feel good about our profession, too.

2. We’re alone but we’re not alone…

A few minor points Joanna made in her keynote session, ‘The Loyalist Advantage’ might be the thoughts that resonated best with me today. They both validated my self-worth as a marketer and offered a healthy dose of nostalgia for when I worked for a larger company:

  • Sometimes it’s lonely when you’re a marketer in a bigger company. But at least we’re all in it together: Can I have budget? *No.* I made something out of nothing! Can I have budget? *No.* I could do this better, can I have a developer? *A developer for marketing?! No.*  
  • We jump in head first while the execs hang back. Someone has to for a company to survive… so there we are. First responders.
  • We’re chameleons – usually the only ones at a company who are evolving… and we also take it upon ourselves to evolve our colleagues and company, too.

3. Second life for the ‘struggling’ writers.

There’s a GIRLS story line this past season where Hannah ‘sells out’ working for an advertising agency and laments her disloyalty to her creative writer self. I totally got that but it’s also incredibly naive; if she moved over to digital marketing, she might see how much room we have to create.

And really, where else would we all be if it wasn’t for this professional space? We, the recovering English majors… the dime-a-dozen MBAs… the disillusioned former journalists (FYI, I qualify as only two of those things).

We got a second chance to be creative and make our own path in an ever-evolving profession. I think we done good and I’m ready to get back to the conference table.

4. My local marketing buddies.

This might be unique to Israel. We’re blessed with an intimate hi tech and startup community, which has created an even more intimate digital marketing community. I genuinely enjoy being a contributing member to this group and seeing my colleagues a few times a year so we can discuss tactics, method, and our dangerous habit of operating Twitter while high on coffee.

5. Pumping breastmilk in a conference room.

True story. A breastfeeding-friendly conference organizer is a sign of a mother-friendly professional culture which points to a wider family-friendly society. And I’m so, er, pumped to be a part of it and know that for the most part, I will be welcome as a working mom as much as the (likely) working parent who takes me on their team.

So… when I get those batteries charged for the daily pumping… time to get back to work!