by Alicia Wanek
What is “all?” Of course, the definition changes for every woman, but most mothers can agree that knowing how to balance the demands of work and family can be challenging no matter what choices you make. There are constant demands on your time, and striking the right chord for you and your family takes some strategic decision-making.
Angie Sifferman, Plano resident and co-founder of a local consulting firm of 25 women, suggests it can be done. She has managed to balance work, raising two daughters and even spent a year running a non-profit organization of over 900 women. She has seen up close and personal how differently women balance their choices. Her firm has implemented some creative approaches to helping women be able to work and stay home, but not everyone is so lucky to work for an organization willing to do that.
For the full-time career mom, it’s about finding the balance between her two worlds. Attorney Marilea Lewis with Orsinger, Nelson, Downing, and Anderson LLP, a mother of two grown children, says, “You have to keep in mind that there will be deadlines and emergencies in both your personal life and professional career. You need to take advantage of the times that there are no looming deadlines and no readily ascertainable emergencies to steady yourself—whether it is your relationship with your children or in response to the needs of your clients. And, of course, find a good lipstick and comfortable shoes.” She must have done a good job modeling this balance, as her twins are now both practicing attorneys themselves.
For others, staying home full-time becomes the best option. Moms who are home are definitely working full-time, too. I haven’t met a stay-at-home mom yet who’s hanging out watching soap operas and eating bon-bons all day. Much of the success of our PTAs depends on these women who are working unpaid to keep the programs and libraries at schools up and running.
The theme for all the women I spoke with is “prioritizing.” Dallas mom Tracy Bell, whose personal resume reads like an entrepreneurial odyssey with her vast professional experiences, believes women need to be the “master of our own domain.” She describes herself as Type A, organized and efficient—all of which have served her well as she’s raised her three children, now ages 29, 16 and 12. It’s her philosophy of “Carpe Diem”—seize the day—which helps her to assess her priorities daily. One of the other priorities she is committed to balancing is her philanthropy work. Recently she was named as one of 19 Zin Fellows at the American Associates Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and is as proud of her unpaid work as she is of all of her professional accomplishments.
Angie reminds us, “We have to respect women where they are.” No judgment either way. As women, we need to support each other’s decisions. And sometimes those change over time. For Angie, she was able to, as she says, “dial it back” when her children were younger, but now she works almost full-time hours.
Other women like Angie have found that, as their children get older, they’ve pursued their career goals more. Amy Harberg, a local child and adolescent therapist, stayed at home with her children for twelve years. She has steadily taken on more clients in the past four years since she went back to work in private practice. She believes her children, ages 18, 15 and 14 “value my time a little differently” but also appreciate that “I have something important” to do at work. She believes, for women, there’s always a bit of “the grass is greener” view; women at home miss working, and women working envy the time stay-at-home moms have with their families. Ultimately, you have to figure out what works for you.
It’s a juggling act. Amber Liddell Alwais, also an attorney with ONDA, says, “I have to keep in mind that although I might not get it perfect, I am getting it right most of the time.” You may have to give up something in the process of prioritizing, as our managing editor Tricia White reports. “I‘ve had to give up having everything perfectly in place, having a clean house at all times and home cooked meals since returning to work full-time… But I try!” Don’t we all?