Raising two babies in the Holy Land - opinion

"Our baby is due on August 29. I say 'ours' purposefully as I feel often there is an assumption this is my responsibility alone. My husband will be extremely hands-on."

 THE WRITER speaks at an annual mega networking event run by her organization, in Tel Aviv, earlier this year. (photo credit: Maddie Grishom)
THE WRITER speaks at an annual mega networking event run by her organization, in Tel Aviv, earlier this year.
(photo credit: Maddie Grishom)

Well, it’s been a while. When I was approached to write this article, I have to be honest, I was a little nervous. It’s been a while since my last piece. Where to start?

A quick intro I suppose. I made aliyah from England in January 2019, did Ulpan Etzion in the hopes of finding a good Bnei Akiva husband from another English-speaking country, and instead made some incredible friends who are all still a part of my life four years on. After four months found my hiloni Israeli-born but from-Russia oleh husband via an app. Far from what I had imagined, perfect for me in every way, I suppose I am considered an aliyah success. We live in Tel Aviv and are expecting our first child at the end of August. 

Personally, I have been nothing but blessed to live in this country, after just six months of living here, and, for some reason, I decided to start my own business and somehow have managed to scramble through COVID, recessions, and rockets. 

It has been somewhat akin to scaling craggy terrain with a backpack full of stones as people fling rocks at you. I’m not meant to say this as my business revolves around supporting business owners in this country, but recommended? Not likely.

 Tel Aviv skyline (credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Tel Aviv skyline (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In fact, there were quite a few of us who started businesses around the same time, and many wisely (in my opinion) have gone on to get jobs in hi-tech with stable salaries, tenbis, and actual colleagues. But I have stuck it out – mostly because I believe in what I do; because I remember how much I needed this when I made aliyah; and a little bit because I am a masochist who has never really known a stable salary in her life.

For those who don’t follow me on social media where, I obnoxiously and consistently post, I run English Speaking Networking and ESNInternational, groups for English-speaking business owners in Israel (Tel Aviv, Modi’in, online and coming soon, Jerusalem) as well as for international business owners in specific niches (lawyers, Jewish professionals, and creatives). 

That’s the bare bones I suppose, but running a business in Israel – one that targets both the local and global market, specifically in a post-COVID world is a rollercoaster of emotions. 

See here’s the thing. I essentially started my business during COVID. Although I officially launched six months before, the majority of the initial build-up was done when people were sitting at home, staring at their computers and yearning for any sort of connection. And don’t get me wrong, COVID was a dark and challenging time (I got married in Omicron without any friends from England), but for a lot of businesses, it was cracking. 

People were trapped at home, governments were generous and money was cheap. It was something of a honeymoon professionally (if not personally). 

Now in July 2023, we are firmly on the other side, for which I am eternally grateful. But there has been a clear shift in the way businesses and people operate. The “recession” hit everyone in the first quarter of this year – oddly, it feels as if there are more unknowns now than in 2021, and suddenly people are free to bop and move. Happily, gladly, but, of course, it does make running a business that much more challenging.

On a more personal note, I am writing this eight months pregnant which is as exciting as it is terrifying. As a business owner and more than that, an absolute control freak (know your weakness), there is no real chance of a full maternity leave (just shush, don’t tell the government.)

Our baby is due on August 29. I say “ours” purposefully as I feel often there is an assumption this is my responsibility alone. My husband will be extremely hands-on and is planning to take six weeks paternity leave to help me raise our daughter and run the business – both our babies being very much a family affair. 

And so, as I give one final push (pun intended) before the summer months – and let’s be honest there isn’t a business that is able to grow during August – I am fully aware I am close to burnout, which I recommend to absolutely no one. 

So much more important to keep a consistent 85% than throw yourself in at 100% and go up in flames of exhaustion and emotional breakdown. But, I am already feeling the Mummy guilt – wanting to spend as much time with my as yet unborn child as possible but knowing that my business, a living breathing entity still only close to four years old, is going to need all the love and support I can give it.

The plan in August is to take one last babymoon before our world is turned upside down and inside out; plan content and socials for September-November including the mega networking in 2024 where I aim to have 200 business owners and five sponsors (Eek!) – last year we had 100 attendees and one sponsor – and relax a little. (Though as you may have gathered from this article, relaxing is not my strength.) 

If you would like to share more of my journey, feel free to follow me on Instagram @networkwithhelena or connect with me on LinkedIn at Helena Baker. 

The writer is a born and raised Brit who started her copywriting business at the age of 21. Four years ago she moved to Israel – a country that didn’t have much of a culture of formal networking in English and so created her own brand: English Speaking Networking and ESNInternational.