For years, I have struggled with the self-confessed ‘work-life balance‘. I’ve written about it many times (read here, here, here, and here), I’ve pondered it in my personal journal, and, as the years go on, I’ve come to reevaluate this unrealistic notion of a ‘work-life balance’, and also how it applies to me and my life.
In retrospect, I wasn’t really looking for balance, instead I realized that I am looking to move forward and harness my creativity.
Moving forward means pushing my creative boundaries in writing, drawing, designing, curating, and even cooking. It means never staying still and, instead, feeling that energy and the vibe that being successful provides – especially when I have created something out of nothing. And what I realize over these past 12 years since becoming pregnant and becoming a mother to two children, is that I was never looking for balance in “work” and life, but rather, I was looking for a way to foster creativity despite the mundane, tiresome, and sometimes wretched aspects of life.
There were many times that I viewed being a wife and a mother and a homeowner as a bother. And that’s when I would fly off the ledge and succumb to the oppressive guilt of having negative feelings towards motherhood and housewife-ery and throw myself into those roles, headfirst, suddenly becoming the perfect wife/mom/homeowner for a short time before erupting into anger and tears and anxiety because I wasn’t being nourished by these roles. I didn’t get gold stars on my soul for having a clean bathroom, or cooking the perfect meal every single day.
And then I would give my head a shake and throw myself face first into the opposite – an entrepreneur, an artist, a writer, a designer – I have a million and one ideas at all times. I would work all hours of the night to develop these ideas, and spend my days trying to produce them – all the while ignoring the needs of my family, my home, and myself. I felt selfish. And then I would finally explode from exhaustion, doubts and fears would take over, and I would then succumb to the guilt of forgetting to sign school forms, or eating out too often because I was just too busy to cook… and then the cycle would start again and I would refocus my efforts on my home and my family.
I am consistently inconsistent in this regard. New ideas sparked creativity, but didn’t necessarily make me happy. Taking care of myself and my family made me happy but it also felt like something was missing. I would struggle with these emotions for years trying to figure out how to balance these two parts of my life.
And then I went to Israel. By myself.
The idea of leaving my family for a week on an overseas trip was both terrifying and exhilarating. I had never flown on a plane without my husband or kids. I had never adventured around the globe. And my twenties were spent growing up with my husband and our kids, not with roommates or the freedom of allowing yourself to grow with random people who were just brief plot lines in the story of your life.
I was going to Israel on behalf of Vibe Israel, who had chosen me and 4 other mom bloggers to visit their beautiful country. The idea behind the trip was part culture shock and part ‘we’re not as different as you think’. We were meeting Israeli women, mothers and their families, to see the experience of motherhood and raising a family in Israel.
Prior to visiting Tel Aviv and its’ surrounding towns and villages, I had read so many articles about motherhood and creativity. Most notably there is the triggering ‘Secret to Being a Successful Mother and Writer‘ by Lauren Sandler, ‘Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid‘ by Rufi Thorpe, ‘How Motherhood Affects Creativity‘ by Erika Hayasaki, and ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mom‘ by Kim Brooks. Each include personal stories and points of view, but the underlying argument is how creativity affects motherhood and vice-versa.
I admit, there were times in my life, especially in the world of postpartum anxiety and depression and diapers and breastfeeding and no sleep, where I couldn’t imagine a better time. I didn’t think things would get better and I would watch myself dissolving into a hot mess of a woman, angry and unsatisfied. And then, of course, I would shower, put on a clean outfit, and write, draw, and have adult conversations and would feel like myself again.
The women I met in Israel amazed me. Why? Because I felt like so many of them were just like me – creative, not satisfied by a ‘typical’ life, always moving forward to develop new ideas, creating amazing businesses, art, and movements – and all the while, they were mothers. Mothers who had found a way to build a satisfying and creative life, and still hold their families close to their hearts.
They weren’t afraid to speak their minds, and they weren’t worried about societal values or being ambitiously polite. Their creativity drove them forward to becoming successful businesswomen, artists, and philanthropists, and the whole time, their families are what pushed them. Everything they did was for and because of their family.
Family is the core of their creativity and it is what drives them to success.
Tal Tenne Czaczkes is a conceptual artist, inventor, and designer, who lives with her husband and four children in a perfectly imperfect home, located a few steps away from her art studio. Tal is well-spoken (in English and Hebrew) with a quiet smile that explodes when she laughs. When she became a mother, she realized that success comes from connecting to her inner child and involving ‘play’ in everything she does.
Her studio, like her home, is filled to the brim with discarded toy pieces, vintage dolls, collectible cars, and an explosion of colour in every corner. The intersection of chaos and pure, unadulterated happiness.
As a mother, Tal went through a time of her own malcontent, trying to figure out this new landscape of motherhood and how it connects to her creativity. She learned that by embracing a childlike view it helped her connect with her children and sparked creativity in her work.
Esther Liebersohn Namer is a mother of three and the CEO and Co-Founder of Bosco, an app that gives parents the comfort of knowing their child feels both free and safe. When I first met Esther at SheSpace Studio in a hip neighbourhood of Tel Aviv, I was immediately drawn to her – she was chic, smart, and her smile radiated warmth. And she turned a common parenting fear into a technologically advanced solution.
My daughter is 11, and I have yet to give in to buy her a cell phone, yet in Tel Aviv it was very common for a child at that age to have a cell phone. Teachers even use WhatsApp to give homework to their students! Esther recognized that while kids having a cell phone is common place, she created a way to ensure kids are safe on their cell phones by creating Bosco. The app alerts parents to cyber-bullying, shaming, and other unhealthy behaviours to help keep your child safe.
As a mother to three and an activist, Esther is passionate about preventing bullying, shaming, and eating disorders. Back in Tel Aviv, in that hip little spot over cava and cookies, Esther wowed me with her intelligence and her accomplishments. What amazed me more is that she did this all as a mother, because she was a mother.
Ofra Abramovich is a mother of two and founder of Mamanet, a mother’s Cachibol-league. I was lucky to share dinner with her at the lovely Claro, and listen to her inspiring words and passion for self-care as a mom. Essentially, she created Mamanet because she was sick and tired of moms not prioritizing their own needs. So, instead of being the ‘soccer mom’, the mom becomes the star of the game in Mamanet. Such a simple yet profound thought, because it brought up so many emotions in me.
How many times have I played taxi to my children and my husband? I make sure everyone is at their activities, on time, which are typically social and active, while I get to sit in the car or on the sidelines. Before that trip to Israel, I couldn’t remember the last time I did a yoga class or a mom meet up, something that was just for me.
Ofra took the time to create a league, which is now worldwide (even in Vancouver!), that encourages moms to put themselves first, be active, and be social. Ofra’s words are perfectly quoted on Be A Fun Mum’s blog: Invest in yourself as a person; like the ripples of a stone thrown in water, it will be a gift to your family.
The women I met in Israel, the ones noted above and many more, proved that creativity and motherhood can indeed co-exist. My “all or nothing” attitude was a hindrance to my life and wasn’t serving me in any way. Being a mother and being a creative, serial entrepreneur are both a part of me – so why did I think they couldn’t both shine together, in harmony?
My time in Israel invoked such deep emotions in me.
For the first time my eyes were opened to the idea that women could have everything they wanted in business, in family, and in life, and that I could also be that woman. I can be that loving wife and mother that has time for both her family and her business. I can be that home owner that could have her perfectly imperfect space that’s sometimes messy, but always full of life. I could be that creative woman with ideas flying all around her while still holding my children close to my heart.
The long elusive work-life balance doesn’t exist for me, nor is it something I ever really wanted. What I wanted was a life that allowed me to be creative and a mother, without sacrificing either. And it’s something I had all along, and a trip to Israel showed me that.
Want to learn more about my time in Israel?
Some photos were taken by myself, many of the photos in this blog post were courtesy of the amazing photography Sharni Sadicario