Balancing the life of working and parenting has never been easy, but adding a war to the equation can make things feel impossible, according to Avital Eusgeld and Natali Zekaria, two working moms who are hosting an “Unapologetic Parenting: Navigating the work life balance in times of war” program to help fellow challenged parents on Sunday, January 21st in the Herzog Tower in Tel Aviv.
Both Eusgeld and Zekaria have two toddlers each.
“After we each had our second children, we found ourselves talking about going back to work,” Eusgeld explained. “I was considering bringing my child to work with me – with a babysitter – and people began reaching out. We all were struggling, mostly in the high-tech or law sectors. Natali and I decided to create our first event last July.”
“We noticed that parents who had their act together shared a common denominator,” Natali expounded. “These parents were ‘owning’ who they are – at work and while parenting. They had created definite red lines, separating their work lives from their parenting lives. Creating that separation is really difficult. You can have it all, just not at once. You must be unapologetic!”
Full capacity at the past Tel Aviv event
The July event drew seventy women and filled the Tel Aviv conference room to capacity. Even before the event was over, the women were asking for the next event. The event had a speaker for mothers of children with special needs and for moms with all boy families.
“This time,” Zekaria asserts, “we wanted men in on the conversation.”
The event will consist of a panel discussion with short breakout sessions being held by a spectra of professionals addressing everything from mental health to marketing businesses, giving tips and practices to help working parents get through the particularly difficult times nowadays.
“This time we have the war to contend with and people are faced with different challenges in carrying out ‘our daily jungle,’” Zekaria explains.” How do we protect ourselves and deal with emotional safeguarding of our children. The younger ones can be sheltered, but you can’t keep the older ones in a bubble – they have to deal with a certain amount of reality.”
How much reality to share and how, is just one topic that will be addressed.
“One wife of a soldier in the reserves told me that she quit her job to help her children cope with the stress,” Eusgeld said. “But I’m a terrible example, the wife said. I quit work because my job was not supportive at all. I told her she is exactly the example of what Unapologetic Parenting should be.
“On June 8, 2014, Shonda Rhimes (creator and writer of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal) gave the commencement address at Dartmouth College where she spoke about Doing it All,” Eusgeld said. “’How do you do it all?’ she asked. ‘The answer is this – I don’t. Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life.’
Unapologetic Parenting continues the conversation.
The speakers for the Sunday event will include Guy Grimland, Communications Manager at Intel Israel, a father and a certified group facilitator who is actively involved in fatherhood support groups; Harriet Finn, mom of three and a partner at Herzog, where she splits her practice between Internet and Gaming and Banking and Finance, representing a leading online gaming entity in connecting with commercial and corporate activities, as well as banks and borrowers in various international debt financing transactions; Joshua Begner, who leads the first ever M&A insurance team in Israel, who will discuss managing global partners and clients during a war – while raising three young children; Liza Kramer, Individual and Family Psychotherapist who will provide practical ways to turn home into a place of safety and stability for loved ones; Natalie Seeff, Freelance Lawyer and Corporate Liquidator and Single Mother by Choice of two boys, who is also involved in community initiatives, talking about maintaining a positive attitude; and Jeff Shapiro, Partner, Human Capital, Viola Group, a father of 7 with more than 25 years of experience in talent acquisition for technology and life sciences companies, who assists portfolio companies in searches for VP and C-level executives.
More need for such programs during war time
“Pre-motherhood, I invested everything into my business,” Eusgeld, CEO of HiPitched, a branding company in Jerusalem, added. “A quick trip to NY to meet a client? I’m there. A networking event until midnight? No problem. A late night call with a client in another time zone? Um, every night.”
After her oldest daughter, now two and a half, was born she found that while she had the same drive she could muster only half the time and energy.
“I wanted to give everything I had to my baby, and I also wanted to do all I could to continue building my career.”
She said it didn’t take her long to realize that the juggling act was impossibly unsustainable. She was dropping balls all over the place and living with a constant feeling of failure.
“I felt guilty that 100% of my attention wasn’t on my baby. I was frustrated that my business was slowing down. I was overwhelmed by the regular tasks of daily life. I missed the familiar dynamics in my marriage and I couldn’t figure out how to take care of my own basic needs.”
When she reached out to other working moms she realized she was not alone, and partnered with Natali Zekaria, an inspiring friend who is Sales Director at Ultra Information Solutions, a company that provides digital solutions including data collection, ID and automation, and also is the mother of two children, ages three and a half and almost 18 months.
After the success of the July event, and the onset of war in Israel, the duo realized that there was a lot more to address.
“Business is slow, sirens are blaring, the news is scary, and everyone is living with some degree of trauma. Many families are displaced from their homes, have loved ones on the frontlines, or children without regular school and childcare schedules.”
Natalie Seef, lawyer and single mom by choice of two boys aged 17 months and three years, says the current situation makes it impossible to escape what’s going on. Even in Tel Aviv.
“I’m a relatively chilled out parent but every time a siren goes off, my whatsapp parenting groups are abuzz with wondering how are the kids,” she said. “That, plus the uncertainty over whether there will be day care.”
Her eldest just started compulsory free kindergarten but they didn’t have a bomb shelter so he was assigned to a kindergarten farther away. Seef couldn’t commit to the trek.
“Convenience has to prevail,” she explained. “It means an extra years’ worth of private daycare but my time is money as well. But for a single working mom, it makes life much more difficult and is a costly proposition. Fortunately I’m self-employed. While I’m self-supporting, I’m lucky I can be flexible and I can afford to pay for the private daycare.”
Seef will be talking at the Unapologetic Parenting event about staying positive. Her motto ‘be the reason someone smiles,’ resulted from an impulsive imperative she had to bring balls to children who were evacuated in Netanya hotels.
“We bought out all the balls in Max stock and gave them out. Then someone in the States opened a GoFundMe Me and I started getting calls for underwear, diapers and socks. When I got back to Tel Aviv, I started working on donating particular items to individual cases, baby formula, and reflexology. It feels like a drop in the ocean but it was turning something negative into a positive.”
As for the theme of the event, she says, “You can try and be perfect and multitask, but you can’t do everything at once. It’s really tough for moms whose husbands are in the reserves.”
As a single parent by choice, after speaking to wives of reservists, she says single parenting is much tougher for people who had that support system to begin with, but then are left without it.