Jo's Story

I really admire Jo's perspective , self discipline and balance on life,   as mother of 3 (Tzur is almost 6, Noga is 3 and a half and little Lia is just 10 months old)  she also works in strategic philanthropy, at a foundation which strives to improve academic achievement in Israel in mathematics and the sciences.  Jo's role as Director of Grant Operations, ensures the smooth facilitation of the grants from start to finish, while overseeing relationship management with recipients and internal projects. Jo has lived in Israel for ten years, we grew up together in London and since moving she has always worked in non-profit and philanthropic organisations.  I really love that Jo has a 'technology sabbath' every Saturday and refrains from using phones, laptops and entertainment for the day and really just spends it with her husband and kids. We could probably all do with a bit more of that!

Give me 3 words to describe how you feel about your job. Committed. Meaningful. Stimulating

Tell me about your maternity leave  I have always worked full-time, taking 4.5 months maternity leave for each child. I began my current job when my first child was one. It was a step-up in terms of responsibility and scope, but I am extremely lucky that our offices are located really close to my home. The lack of commute makes life much easier logistically, and means I have more valuable time both at work and with the kids.  I consider myself very lucky to live in a country that really values the family. In Israel, women receive 14 weeks fully-paid maternity leave and your place of work has to keep your position open for at least 6 months. My employers have always been very supportive and happy for me as we have expanded our family.  Nonetheless, however supportive the environment, coming back to work after having a baby is hard. After my daughter was born (no. 2), I felt a little displaced at work and it took time and patience and hard work over time until I felt that I was really back on top of things. The tiredness is a killer - waking up in the night to nurse and getting up early in the morning for work. Phew!

do you think working mothers are as good at their jobs? Yes, I think working mothers learn to be very efficient. They will often be torn in several directions, but if they are driven, committed and loyal to their work place, they will find a way to make it work.  For me, there are two essential factors which enable me to work full time and be a hands-on mother to three kids under the age of 6 – one is a supportive work place that understands the needs of its employees and really cares about being a family-friendly organization; and the other is my husband. We share our parenting responsibilities and management of the home equally. Beyond the first year when I breastfeed our babies, there is nothing I can do that he can't do. He is 100% supportive of my career and my ambitions, and he is an amazing and capable father.

do you feel guilty going to work? I did feel guilty with my first two, especially when they were babies for the first few months but I got used to it over time, and with my third, it was a bit easier. I suppose I have come to terms with it. I still missed her a lot, but I didn't feel guilty. And my return to work was much smoother than the last time.

do you feel differently about your work now you are a mum or are you still as driven? I think I have the same drive to succeed – but family comes first.

3 words to describe being a mother. Joyful. Challenging. Intense.

Would you be a stay at home mum?  Being a stay at home mum isn't an option for me, financially-speaking.  If there were no financial considerations, I would take a longer maternity leave, but I would still choose to work outside the home. A fulfilling, challenging, meaningful career is very important to me – I want to make a small difference to the world in my own way, and this is as much a part of my identity and sense of self as being a mother. At some point over the next five to ten years I would like to be able to work part-time for a while, and be with the children a little more. I do envy those women who can make a living doing their own creative thing, building an independent, flexible schedule which allows them to be around the home more. But the grass is always greener- I'm sure there are different pressures that come with that. 

Was there pressure to go back to work?   The cultural norm in Israel is to go back to work 3.5-6 months after having a baby. My mother was at home with us until we were two or three and I think it’s a wonderful thing, if its good for the parent, but not really financially viable in this day and age for most. I’m sure it must be very difficult to be a SAHM – it requires a lot of patience, creativity, and energy. I have made my peace with going back to work and having my kids in childcare from when they are babies. My husband and I both work reasonable hours, and one of us is able to pick up the children every day from 4pm. I do think there is a lot of pressure to do it all and have it all. I find the  “good-enough” attitude is helpful – not everything has to be 100% perfect all the time. I try to be wise about where to invest my energy, how to prioritise, how to keep everyone happy, including myself. Its a work in progress.  Most people I know (men and women) are busy juggling the joys and challenges of a career and raising a family, and are trying to find the right work-life balance. I feel that over this decade (age 30-40), I need to invest in my building my family and my career simultaneously, and it isn't easy.   

whats the hardest thing about being a working mum? Not enough time, never enough time. Always juggling, multi-tasking, thinking about many things at the same time. The morning rush of trying to get the kids out and to work on time without losing my temper or forgetting something. And of course, I would love a little more time to myself...and a little more quality time with my husband.

whats the most rewarding? I am proud of the work I do, I enjoy being a co-bread winner of the family. I hope I will be an example for my children. 

how do you typically split your time? give an example of a day where you are working and have your kids. My husband and I split the dropping off (around 7:30am) and picking up of the kids (around 4pm). Some days one of us will do both, sometimes we share it. Although I am lucky that I can leave work early to pick up the kids a few times a week, it is really hard to get everything done during such a short working day, and I don't like being the first to leave. I always feel a bit torn. Twice a week I stay later at work but usually still get back for bedtime. In busy periods, I go back to work from home in the evening, after they have gone to bed, for a few hours.

how do you maintain a sense of wellbeing whilst devoting your time to your kids? Exercise. I aim to work out three times a week - at the moment I run and lift some weights, usually in the evenings, after they have gone to bed. I need that for myself, it is essential for my well being. I try to eat healthily, and get enough sleep, although I almost always end up going to bed too late. I think overall, we spend quite a lot of family time together, and this is good for all of us. As modern orthodox Jews, we observe the Sabbath, so every week, from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, we have a built-in quiet, family day. We go to synagogue, have meals with friends and family, spend time together hanging out in our pjs, reading and playing with the kids. This day also helps maintain our family well being, and I find it liberating to have a day completely free from phones and laptops, which we don’t use on the sabbath.

what are your dreams?  Career-wise, perhaps far in the future, I'd love to see if I have it in me to do something creative or therapeutic, perhaps something with my hands - to be more independent and active (not desk-based). I have no idea what that could be. In terms of life in general, I dream of health, happiness, inner quiet, and travel. And a big back garden ; ).

any pearls of wisdom for other new mums or working mums out there?  When you go back to work after having a baby, go easy on yourself, trust your instincts, have faith in yourself - you can do this. It gets easier : ))