Community Women Speak Out on Work-Life Balance

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Many adults, and working moms in particular, struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Today’s women are juggling more than ever before. How many hats do we wear?! We are wives, mothers, housekeepers, cooks, drivers, and everything else that comes along with the role as family co-CEO. Add to that, women may have a full or part-time jobs. As the price of tuition, food, gas, and everything else continues to rise it has become more difficult to make ends meet on one income. Fortunately, women are incredible multi-taskers and most are able to juggle a lot. But do we get it right all the time? Some of the time? Maybe our goal should be to just do our best and let go of what we cannot accomplish. 

Let’s hear from some of our own community working moms to understand why they chose to work outside the home, how they manage work-life balance, and what advice they want to leave us with. 

Natalie Zenou

I am a Physician’s Assistant. I’m married and have one little girl. I work because I fell in love with medicine and worked really hard for many years to get where I am. Also, I feel good about contributing financially. I don’t feel like I have a great work-life balance. However, there are a few things that help me immensely. First and foremost I have help. I could not realistically manage otherwise. I have a part-time housekeeper and I send my daughter to full-day daycare.  It’s rare that I get me-time during the week, but I have carved out one precious night a week, after Shabbat, just for myself. On Shabbat, I take the “morning shift” of tending to the baby and the household. Saturday night my husband stays home with our daughter and clears up while I go on a run. It’s the one time a week I always have to myself and I cherish it, even if it’s zero degrees outside, I go for my run and come home to a clean house and a baby that is ready for bedtime. It’s my opportunity to escape responsibilities for a while and have some quiet time.

I don’t have a perfect balance yet, but it’s getting better as time go by. I learned to delegate more and accept/hire help. Things are always changing, but I always try my best.

I’d like to share one tip. It’s okay to shift gears and make a change if something is not working for your family. I learned the hard way. Just a few months after giving birth I got my first opportunity to finally work as a PA. The job was doing a night shift at a hospital. I took the job, but it was not right for my family. My husband had to take on an immense amount of my responsibilities and it really took a toll on both of us. I’m not a quitter, so we did our best to make it work. But ultimately, I decided to quit and look for another job. It wasn’t an easy decision, but in retrospect, it was for the best. I found a day-time job that works better for me and my family. 

Claudine Winitsky

My company is Faceworks, which I co-own and manage with my mother.  We do facial care using muscle manipulation. We both have a background in personal training, which helps us to have the same approach to our work.Faceworks is a cosmetic service. We aim to revitalize the face through natural techniques.

We’ve curated a series of specific facial massage exercises  that help brighten, contour, and rejuvenate facial skin and structure. With enough consistency you can sustain these improvements without needing injections, chemical ointments, or cosmetic surgeries.

I am also the mother of three wonderful children, ages six, four, and six months. I work because it gives me a sense of independence that empowers me.  It’s also a great feeling to know that I’m instilling in my children strong work ethic values.  They see the time and effort  I put into my craft.

Work-life balance is a really tricky thing for me, and I think for all working moms. Something I try to do is to schedule my work life around the hours my children are in school or sleeping.  By creating and sticking to a set schedule I am able to make sure that I have enough time for all of my responsibilities both at home and work.

I am also very fortunate to have an amazing support system.  At least one day a week is spent on the road in Brooklyn, servicing out-of-town clients, which means we leave early in the morning when the kids are still home, and return after they’ve finished school. I’m very fortunate that I have my husband and mother-in-law around to help care for the kids when I am not around. I also have amazing help from my housekeeper, who helps keep my house clean and organized. 

Balance is something I struggle with every day. I always want to be there for my children, but at the same time, there is a great demand for our services. I always have to take a step back and remember what’s important to me, which of course is my family. Once I’m aware of that, I have to relay that message to my clients. I have to say no sometimes. Sometimes I’m just honest and I say my children are home right now, and I have to give them my attention. It’s not simple saying no to clients, but it’s essential for a healthy balance.

Melanie Falack

I run a referral agency for baby nurses, elderly care aides, and nannies. I live in Deal, NJ and have three kids. I choose to work because I appreciate having my own life outside of my home. It gives me a feeling of independence and I am able to utilize a different skill set when I’m away from home.

Having a career or job presents a struggle for women. We are expected to be everything that comes with being a mother and a wife – no matter what. As a working mother I found that if I’m going do it all, I have to cut corners. I want to go to the grocery store and hand pick my vegetables. I would love to be the one to fold my own laundry and color code my husband’s shirts. But it’s also so important to have something for myself outside of my home. (It doesn’t have to be a job; it can be a hobby or hesed once a week.) For me, I feel fulfilled by working and earning an income. I have always felt this way, and worked all through college and it felt invigorating. 

Only when I got full time live-in help was I able to have a full-time job and feel like I could disconnect from the home at my job. The only way I personally can have a career is by having someone else clean my house every day, laundry done for me, my groceries delivered to my door (I love Instacart), and my vegetables cut and prepared by someone else so that when I begin cooking it cuts the time in half. I don’t like to cut corners in the family meals. I really believe in providing my kids with wholesome and healthy home-cooked food. But sometimes I do serve pizza or store-bought chicken nuggets. But I do try to give the kids a nice variety of vegetables, protein, and a starch/carb every night. 

Being a mother is a blessing and is very rewarding. But, I also love to work. Work also makes me feel accomplished. I do it for me. I work for myself. I love talking to people and helping people. I work because I love it. Another thing I love about working is that my children know that I work and I have something of my own. It’s so important for me to be a role model to my children. They see that I have a career, a hobby, and I create my own financial independence.

To be able to work outside the home I found I needed to have live-in housekeeping and nanny help. I tried taking on jobs before I had live-in help and I was way too overwhelmed. I would end up feeling like I wasn’t 100 percent doing my job anywhere – not as a mother and not at work. So, instead of feeling a sense of accomplishment from my working extra on the side, I felt like an all-around failure at work and at home. Now that I know what I need in order to work, I am able to really do it all.

To maintain a healthy work-home life balance I moderate the time I am available to respond to people for work. I am a night owl and can stay up until 11pm with work phone calls. I recently made the conscious decision to put my family first. I actively try not to respond to non-urgent matters on weekends and on weekdays after my kids come home from school. Scheduling specific times for work and specific times to be a wife and a mother really helps me balance it all.

Rebbecca Veyg

I work for Progressive Insurance, handling injuries from car accidents. I have one child, and it was a shock how much having a baby changed my day-to-day routine. Before I had a baby my work got done, I always cooked dinner, and my house was spotless. Post-baby life is very different! I had a nanny when my baby was younger, but it was hard having someone living with us and the inconsistencies in my schedule resulted in her leaving. I work from home, remotely. My father or mother-in-law sometimes come to babysit while I’m working, which is a big help.

My baby is my priority (over work and housework) so when he’s around and wants to play, needs to be fed, or changed etc., everything else is on hold. I work when the baby is napping. As for the home – some days dishes pile up in the sink, the beds aren’t made, and there are toys everywhere. Some days I don’t get around to cooking dinner, and we order in. I try to work out or do something for myself, in between caring for my baby and working. So, dinner and tidying up do not come first. 

I work because living in Brooklyn is expensive, so my salary, of course, helps us financially. To make this work it’s very helpful that my husband is very hands on with the baby. If I need to go out or just need a break, he doesn’t mind watching the baby and he even will feed, bathe, and put him to sleep. 

I don’t have any specific tips for your readers, but I’ll say what makes me happy is online shopping. It’s something I do for myself often now that I have a baby. It’s like a reward, I never had so many boxes coming to the house before and it’s just fun!

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The take-home message is that there is no perfect work-life balance. Working moms accept that when you work outside the home, some things have to give. But you do your best with what you have, and the rest is up to Hashem. Women need to do a careful accounting of what works best for them and their families. Extra money coming in may be a necessity. For some women, self-fulfillment from work may also be a necessity and not just a bonus. But, when you have an outside job, all agree that you need support, be it from hired help or willing family members. Working moms are heroines, doing their best to juggle work and family obligations, and trying to do it all with a smile.

Thoughts on this topic? I’d love to chat! Follow me on Instagram @friedaschwekyphoto.

Until next time, 

Frieda Schweky!