Wondering how other parents cope with the joys and challenges of motherhood? We talked to three moms trying to balance work and home life, all while staying personally fulfilled. Read on for their insights and advice.

created at: 2010-04-23Karyn Cohen Leviton is the director of strategy implementation at Combined Jewish Philanthropies. Before joining CJP as a professional last year, she was an active volunteer. She’s married with a 7-year-old stepdaughter, Isadora, and a 5-month-old son, Sam, and lives in Lexington.

As a mom of two kids with a full-time job, what makes your commitments and sacrifices worth it?

I waited a long time to have a family and am so appreciative of it every day. I’m passionate about my husband, stepdaughter and son and want to create the warm, fun, supportive family dynamic I had growing up. I’m also passionate about what I do and the potential impact of my work. The intellectual stimulation and the personal connections I get at work are so important to me. I feel that working enables me to bring something to the family—in addition to money—that is valuable. I can help my children understand how to make contributions to the community both professionally and personally. Balancing multiple priorities is difficult, but worth it.

How do you manage your family and career so you feel fulfilled?

Is that possible? I always feel as if I’m not doing something well. There are trade-offs. Monday mornings are the most difficult. During the weekend, I feel like I get reacquainted with the kids. Then Monday comes and I have to shift into work mode. The most important thing I need to do better is learn how to say no. I haven’t been great at it. As someone who spent so much of her time working and volunteering, I haven’t fully made the transition to my new reality. Every morning or night meeting is time away from family. There is no way that I could manage work and family without an incredibly supportive husband. Michael works crazy hours, but shares child and home responsibilities. He’s there in the morning and I’m there at night. He takes full responsibility for dealing with all aspects of the kids’ lives: changing diapers, making snacks for school, feeding in the middle of the night and attending school performances. Sounds trite, but I really feel like I have a true partner.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for other working moms?

I’m still new at this. My guess is that most working moms could share a thing or two with me!

What would be the most meaningful Mother’s Day gift you could receive?

Having a quiet day with the entire family would be ideal. No errands, no commitments. Just the four of us together. And my husband’s help unpacking boxes from our move!
created at: 2010-04-27
Beth Backer is the mom of four kids: Miles, 7; Sophie, 6; Jonah, 5; and Laney, 2. She and her husband, Dan, live in Weston. Beth is the co-chair of CJP’s Young Families and Interfaith Planning Committee, a member of the Women’s Philanthropy executive board and a member of the Jewish Family & Children’s Service board.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job as a stay-at-home mom? The most challenging?

The most rewarding aspect is that I am able to engage in the majority of my children’s activities with them, such as volunteering at their schools, watching them participate in after-school activities and achieve daily milestones. The most challenging part of my job is dividing my time and attention equally amongst our four kids, my husband and finding time for myself.

How do you manage your kids, relationship, volunteering and hobbies so you feel fulfilled in all areas?

This is definitely a challenge I face every day. I try to make a weekly schedule and stick to it so I know what’s ahead and can better balance my priorities: CJP meetings, pediatrician appointments, workout sessions and time at home with my kids.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for other stay-at-home moms?

Don’t sweat the small stuff, pick your battles and enjoy every day because they grow up so quickly. I know you hear these “sayings” all the time, but they are very true. I find I have my best days when I realize my only goal is to have quality time with my kids. If I am able to cross off one or two things from my to-do list, then I consider those extras and it makes for an even better day!

What would be the most meaningful Mother’s Day gift you could receive?

Breakfast in bed with some homemade cards, and not having to go to the grocery store!

created at: 2010-04-23Laura Shulman Brochstein lives in Salem with her wife, Rebecca, her 21-month-old daughter, Noa, and her 7-week-old son, Eitan. She’s the director of the Women’s Division and Leadership Development at the Jewish Federation of the North Shore, and has worked in Jewish communal organizations for the past nine years.

What’s been the most challenging part of transitioning from maternity leave to full-time work outside the home?

I have not yet finished my maternity leave with Eitan, but I did have a six-week leave when Noa was born (Rebecca is her biological mom, and she took 12 weeks’ leave). I distinctly remember having a much lower tolerance for the daily annoyances at work. I wanted to do my job and get home to the baby as soon as possible. I loved my work and still felt very connected to it, but was torn—I wanted those precious moments to see Noa grow. I think this transition could be even more difficult because of my physical connection with Eitan. I wasn’t the mom nursing Noa, and I wasn’t used to the immense amount of time together that nursing gives a mom and baby. Since I am nursing Eitan, I imagine that sudden shift to hours without him will be very challenging at first.

How do you strike a balance between your relationship, kids and work?

I try to be very present with whomever I’m with at the moment. If I’m with the family, then I try not to let my mind linger on work topics. Obviously this doesn’t happen all the time. I try to be focused at work and get what I need to get done as efficiently as possible. I remember the days before kids when I could stay at the office until whatever hour I liked, take whatever train fit my schedule and stay in the city for dinner with coworkers. I definitely miss this flexibility. I don’t think we have struck a balance in our relationship yet. We try to make date nights, but at this point we’re so tired. Honestly, the vast majority of our energy goes into the kids and work. But we have not forgotten our relationship; we just need to find more time for it right now.

What advice can you give to other working parents of young children?

Don’t dwell on what you’re missing out on by both working and raising kids, but focus on how full your life is instead. It can be overwhelming and feel like you’re getting less of the “work” and less of the “family,” but having both is an amazing, if not chaotic, experience.

What would be the most meaningful Mother’s Day gift you could receive? 

That same-sex couples and families are, finally, granted the same rights, responsibilities and privileges that are enjoyed by heterosexual couples on state and federal levels. That all families are respected, whether they are single-parent, intergenerational, divorced, same-sex, interracial, interfaith or any other option.

To hear from a fourth mom about finding balance, click here.