What is the thing you love most about Israel?
Life is complicated, and sometimes a crisis pulls us out of our careers for a time. Coming back from a crisis is HARD but it’s not impossible. I’ve been there. It took time (years!) and a lot of patience. Below are tips on how to get your career back after the worst happens, and how these tips worked for me.
Just a little background…my late husband and I were vice presidents in the same tech company in Tel Aviv when he was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer. We loved working together. We drove to work together each day and even shared an office. We had three small kids under six and a wonderful nanny. Partners at home and the office, we were living our dream. And then it was a nightmare.
Within 10 days of his diagnosis, he entered the hospital for surgery. He was only supposed to miss a week of work. There were complications and he ended up staying a month. Neither of us went back to our jobs.
Often with a crisis comes money concerns. How much time away can you afford financially and emotionally? How much time do you need? The latter is not a question you can answer in advance, but you should know your rights and maximize your entitlements. Check with your company’s HR and your insurance agent.
It took several months, but once the right treatment protocol was chosen, we fell into a routine and I found freelance gigs in my field – more junior than I had been in years – that gave me the flexibility I needed to take him to treatments and other appointments while giving me something to focus on a few hours a day besides my family’s troubles. It also kept me in the game.
How did I find the gigs? I kept an eye on my online professional forums and applied for projects as well as jobs that were not necessarily freelance or part-time. Once in a meeting, I convinced them to take a chance on me for a small project to start, with no commitment for more. And then there was usually more.
I found that by earning a lot less, I fell into a lower tax bracket so the cut in take-home income was not extreme.
Of course, part-time or freelance isn’t always an option. In that case, try to stay in touch with online professional communities and even attend the occasional meetup in your field. The idea is not to disappear completely.
After my husband died, I worried about my little family’s future, but we were too broken for me to go back to work full time. That was an important realization, as I battled with my ego over being under-employed. I continued freelancing to make ends meet while I struggled to make sense of my new reality.
It took about two years before I started applying for full-time jobs, and I applied for director-level instead of VP-level positions. I was given and accepted the advice to take something less challenging professionally because I had so many challenges at home.
Accept that there will be setbacks and you can overcome them. After all, the worst has already happened. Gigs drying up and insurance complications are small in comparison.
In every job interview, I was asked why I left my VP job. The first few times I found myself close to tears. So I developed go-to answers for common questions that protected my feelings and privacy. For example, for that question I would answer truthfully, “I had to handle a family crisis, which has since been resolved.” It sounds cold, but that was the point. No one ever asked for more details.
About 18 months into the director-level job and five years after my husband’s initial diagnosis, a client from one of my freelance gigs became the CEO at another company and asked me to join as a VP. I was back. I was back…but I was not the same person as before.
It was not an easy transition, so my last tip is this: Forgive yourself for wanting your career back. Forgive yourself for stumbling if and when you do. Forgive yourself if it takes more time than you anticipated. You have been through enough, so please, be kind to yourself.
In the last seven years, I threw 5 bar mitzvahs and a wedding. This is in addition to countless global executive events and conferences over my 25+ year B2B marketing career and the 8-10 events our charity Jeremy’s Circle holds each year for hundreds of children and their families.
I don’t love planning events. They make me nervous. The level of uncertainty is huge – from suppliers that may or may not deliver to the weather which may or may not cooperate. And everyone who attends is a potential fan or critic. But here are some basic pointers that can help you plan a successful event, even if the thought of planning makes you shudder. If you don’t have the patience to read to the end, scroll down for an event planning checklist.
Always start with the money. Your budget is going to impact every decision you make so first and foremost know how much money you have to spend. Now subtract 15% and that’s your working budget. You’ll thank me later.
When it’s not a standalone event. Family celebrations, in particular, can be several events rolled into one. At the bar mitzvah last month, we also threw a Thanksgiving dinner the Thursday before, a dinner for the out-of-town guests on Friday, and then the main event was on Saturday. The upside is that these events serve as “warm-ups” for the big event, bringing your guests closer together. The downside, of course, is the organization and expense. These should be considered when building your budget.
Pick a date and time and commit to it with save-the-date messages up to a year before. This is particularly important for guests who will need to travel and/or tend to be heavily booked. You don’t need to get fancy with save-the-date messages. You can design something adequate in a free program like Canva and send it by email, SMS, Messenger and/or Whatsapp depending on your crowd.
Make your invite list and check it twice. Santa Claus might not be coming to town, but if you invited all your cousins except one…well…your aunt is going to give your mom a mouthful. I like to use Google Sheets for this so I can share with comment permissions only with those I need to consult with (and then unshare when I’ve received enough input). Have separate columns where you add up your adult and kid guests because generally, the caterer will charge you differently for them.
Location. Location. Location. The venue should give your guests a unique experience that reflects you (or your company). It should match the number of people that are coming and the mood you want to capture. If the space is attractive enough, you might not have to invest in extra decorations. The caterer often includes simple centerpieces for free. Every room looks better with flowers.
The food better be good. Most caterers have tastings. This is not your opportunity to show a chef how much you know about cooking. I’ve been to tastings and overheard others tell the chef how to cook the dishes better. Save it. The purpose of the tasting is to select which foods will best suit your guests. Really. Your guests hit the gym that morning so they could eat dessert. Make it worth their while. That said, if you have guests with dangerous food allergies or other critical dietary requirements, you should definitely tell the caterer early in the process and remind them repeatedly.
About alcohol. Let’s face it, parties tend to be happier with alcohol. You may be able to save money by buying hard alcohol at a discount from outlets or DutyFree and bringing it to the caterers yourself. Can’t hurt to ask.
Get your stakeholders involved. If it’s an executive event, keep the business team updated. They are the ones speaking to your guests before and during the event. If it’s a bar mitzvah or sweet 16 – then involve the kid in the decision making. If it’s a wedding, ask for advice from your future in-laws. Take them to the tastings. Have them speak to the DJ or musicians about their preferences and talk to them about your entertainment plans.
That’s entertainment. Fun is not one-size-fits-all and you want your guests of all ages to have a good time. What will happen at the event? Will there be a presentation? Dancing? Singers? Speeches? Interactive games? Photobooths? Magicians? Caricaturists? Have a plan for the evening outlining the timing and make sure all your suppliers on hand know and are prepared. If you want to show a video or other multi-media, go the day before to make sure the equipment works. Almost all of us have been to an event where the guests wait patiently while workers-in-black scurry around a stage fixing whatever was broken. If you see with your own eyes the day before that all is in place and working, you will sleep better that night!
Expect 10-15% to not show up to a personal event like a wedding and even more, like 30-40% to not show up to a corporate event.
RSVPs need to be managed. If you are using an event site like Eventbrite, this is a no-brainer. The site manages it for you. Otherwise, use email for RSVPs. Consider creating a special address just for the event like BobTurns60 at gmail.com. The idea is to keep all the communications in one place so no RSVP gets overlooked. Check each of the RSVPs against your invitation list. Don’t assume that just because they didn’t RSVP, they won’t show up. Some do. So you need to follow up with anyone who has not replied to you as you get closer to your event. Also, don’t assume that just because they said they were coming they will.
Some people will not go to an event if they don’t think they have a safe and affordable way of getting there and back.
Parking is Precious. How will people get to the event? Do they need parking? Should you arrange for transport? Will the bus need a place to park? At the latest bar mitzvah, which was on the other side of town, we pre-ordered a fleet of Gett taxis for the kids in my son’s class. This cost us half as much as a mini-bus. Whatever is decided, the details should be included when you send your invitation to your guests.
Send guests home with something branded, to serve as a reminder of the experience. I once threw a “5 senses” themed executive event. The guests could choose their giveaways in advance – which helped us collect the RSVPs – headphones for sound, scented candles for smell, etc. It doesn’t need to be so complicated. Photo magnets with the name and date of the party are a popular and affordable souvenir.
The week before the event check-in with each and every supplier. Remind them of the exact location (they also need to know where to park), date and time and the services you closed with them. Do a wardrobe check. Does everyone have something appropriate to wear? Do they need mending or ironing? Don’t leave it to the last minute – there will always be something more urgent to do the day of the event.
Expect the unexpected. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself. You threw a fun party – so relax and have fun. Things WILL go wrong. I promise. At our latest event, roadblocks appeared inexplicably on the street of the venue so the taxis had to stop down the street. The caterer messed up the seating cards, so some people had 3 cards and some had none. The tables were too close together. The cola was placed in carafes and no one drank it because they couldn’t identify it… Lots of things that were not 100% under my control went wrong. As I knew they would. But my kid had a great time – a fun, meaningful, and memorable experience with people he cares about. And his friends had a great time. And my family and friends had a great time. And so did I. So mission accomplished.
Two words about after: Thank you. After the event, thank your guests for coming. Handwritten notes are lovely, but it might just be easier and totally acceptable to send short messages to their phones.
I think I covered everything…if not, or if you have more tips, please share in the comments. Good luck with your next event!
Today, our boys, my husband, and I all went to family court. We were asked our names. Then, as we fidgeted quietly, the judge, the lawyer, and the social workers worked out the paperwork. Twenty minutes later the social worker gave me the documentation stating that my stepsons are now legally my sons.
Why adopt these man-boys now? After nearly ten years of being their live-in mother-figure? They are not little kids – one can even vote. The reason is simple. They asked me.
After court, we went out for a family lunch, and then back to work, doctor’s appointments, errands, groceries and more. Now, I am sitting in bed and thinking about the day.
What does it mean to me to parent these boys who lost their mom way too young? It means being okay with being number two. I chose to make these boys mine, with my eyes wide open that I am the lesser option. Each time that I come up short – say the wrong thing or fail to bring the right comfort when needed – that lurking feeling rises, that their real mother would have done better.
They don’t call me Mom. They call me by my first name. My sister’s young daughter-in-law and son-in-law both call her Mom which surprised me, and about a year ago I asked the boys if they wanted to call me Mom too. They looked back at me with a look that said: “we don’t want to offend you, but what for?”
To these boys, I am the “soft” parent, and my husband, their biological parent is the primary parent. That is, I get equal responsibility and blame for the day-to-day, but on critical matters, the biological parent disciplines and makes the final decision.
Sounds thankless? Sometimes. But not today. It’s family. My family. I chose them and they chose me.
On Sept 20 I got married, again.
I am very lucky to have found great love – the kind of love that I want to celebrate and announce to the whole world – twice.
The first time I was a 29-year-old bride, focused on building my career, wrapping up a Masters degree, and most of all, dreaming of building a family.
At 48, getting married is something completely different because I already have a family. We stood before the rabbi, with our kids – most of them taller than us – and officially merged our families.
When I think about the future that we will create together, it is a calmer future. It is less about building a family and more about developing and enjoying the family we have.
I can’t think about marriage without also thinking about Jeremy. I was Jeremy’s wife for nine years. Now, just two weeks shy of what would have been our 19th wedding anniversary, I have been Jeremy’s widow for ten.
The truth is that Jeremy, and Alon’s late wife Miri, are very much a part of this marriage and family. Beyond helping to create and shape who our kids are today, they taught us how to make a marriage work and how to function when the worst happens. Alon and I met as we both struggled with their loss and the weight of raising our children without them. It was a long, dark time for both of us, and we helped each other, and our kids through it.
When I was a lot younger, my mother, wisely said to me, “anyone can be a great boyfriend when things are great.” And she was right. It doesn’t take much character or strength to be wonderful in wonderful times. But before our relationship even started, Alon proved wonderful even in the very worst of times.
Now today, we are back to wonderful (“tfu tfu”) – we are happy and healthy with established careers and a warm, beautiful home. I look at these amazing teenagers. Each one of them incredible in his or her own right. The fact that they all look gorgeous is nice but superficial. The truth is that each of them is gorgeous on the inside. They are kind, supportive siblings filled with wonder for the subjects that interest them, whether it be music, sports, gaming, acting, politics or medicine, and I am immensely proud of them.
I look at Alon. My handsome, strong, seemingly tireless partner who despite his never-ending “doing” – whether its working or cooking or driving or running – also knows how to just be…with me. And I am thrilled to spend the rest of my life with him. And I want to celebrate this love and announce it to the world.
“You are only as happy as your least happy child.”
That is what my mother – who raised six children – told me. She was talking about her adult children but at the time I was struggling to watch one of my kids struggle in school.
I am not talking about a rough day. Even our happiest children have downs. I am talking about a struggle with a learning disability, bullying, or physical or emotional issue. I have been down this path a few times, both as a single parent and together with a husband, and this is what I learned.
How not to go to pieces when your child is struggling
First, remember to breath. The flight attendants tell us to place our own air-mask on before our kid’s each time we fly because it goes against our natural instinct not to put our child first. As parents, we can’t take care of anyone if we fall apart.
We also have to keep it together because the children are watching. If they see us look worried, the message they receive is that the issue is worrisome. This works for and against us. On the one hand, sometimes we want them to know that we are taking a given issue seriously. On the other hand, we are setting an example: this is how adults react to stressful situations.
So take care of yourself. In my earliest days as a caregiver when I was in pure survival-mode, I went to a nutritionist. I asked her to tell me what to eat so I could stay on my feet. Later, as our stressful life moved into more of a routine, I found ways to treat myself. An episode of a well-written TV show. A long run. Coffee with a girlfriend. I tried to find something to treat myself every day, even if it was as small as a really good cookie. This is harder than it sounds. When we are caught up in taking care of our kids, we often forget to take care of ourselves too.
Build a team but understand their agendas
When a child is struggling, there is rarely a quick and easy answer. We need to recruit a team of supporters around our kid for both the short and long term. Teachers may change each year, but usually the school counselor and principal stay the same. In an ideal world, they are all super professional, warm and wise. Hopefully, they have seen this before, and have suggestions that might or might not work. For example, a school counselor suggested my dyslexic child take notes with a laptop instead of a notebook, and to get some of his books on tape. The laptop worked great – he could take notes much more quickly and neatly – so we kept that up. He hated the books on tape – so we stopped using them.
Of course, we can’t always pick the team, but we have to make the best of it. I forced myself to smile at the teacher who told me how surprised she was when the same child started scoring near-perfectly once she finally agreed to give him tests aloud. I tried to understand her perspective. She had a lot of other students and it is time-consuming to test my child separately. And alienating her was not going to help my kid who sat in her classroom nearly every day.
The good side of worrying
I have been told a number of times that nothing good comes from worrying. I disagree. Worrying about our kids is not bad when it leads to positive action. I don’t mean obsessing. But worry often leads to careful thought, brainstorming, and discussion with our friends, family or other supporters which in turn leads to new ideas or perspective that can be very helpful.
Your child is not your BFF
When your child is struggling, he needs support and friendship, but most of all he needs a parent. Your kid might have work to do, but you must captain the ship and navigate him in the right direction. While showing your child that his issue impacts you as well reminds him that you are human, there is a danger in over-sharing. Showing a child that his issue is hurting you, grows the issue unnecessarily and can make him feel worse.
Until things get better
You have done the work. You built an effective team, and you worried, analyzed, consulted, discussed and decided on a plan to help bring your child to a better place. He is still struggling but at least he is moving in the right direction. It can take months or years for the problem to resolve itself, or to minimize into something more manageable. But he is on the right road. So what do you do in the meantime? Just keep breathing…and pass the cookies, please.
A young husband in my extended family just died suddenly, leaving a younger wife and a two-year-old son. Talk quickly shifted to how she could possibly get on with her life. But it isn’t really possible.
Moving on is a myth. There is no “moving on” after a life-changing event like a personal tragedy. We do not walk down some linear path, wait for a few beats for the mourning to pass, and then keep walking in that same original direction.
It’s been about seven years since my husband died and eight since his game-changing diagnosis of terminal cancer. The family we created with three small children and a couple living and working as partners with workaholic habits and really really good cooking (him) no longer existed. I didn’t only mourn the loss of my husband, I also mourned our life. There was no moving on. That life was as dead as my husband.
Together with pain and loss came reinvention.
The reinvention process started without me. I was no longer Jeremy’s wife. I was Jeremy’s widow. The crazy-haired, red-eyed mom that just lost her husband and seemed to be losing it in general. People looked at me in a different way and they looked at my kids in that abhorrent, side-tilt, we-pity-you way too.
I needed to change the subject.
My next reinvention was the Runningmom. When people asked me how I was doing, I told them, “I ran 12KM today!” I needed time to mourn before I could even start to figure out who I was without my husband, and the Runningmom gave me some space to do so. As more time passed, I continued to redefine myself, as we all do as we move through different stages of our lives.
So what can you say to someone who’s life has just been kicked into a parallel plane?
What do you do when the worst happens and your life as you know it is changed forever? The best advice I received (though it was hard to follow) was this: Breathe. Drink plenty of water. Sleep.
But please don’t ask them to move on.
It does seem a bit self-involved to name a form of communication after myself, but hey, so is creating a blog. The truth is we all have our very personal ways to communicate – effectively or not so effectively. Pamunications are my personal and professional truths in written form.
The name comes from work – I am the VP Communications at the app delivery company ironSource. When the company was still relatively small, I handled all the communications myself – PR, internal com, SEO, social media, community outreach, web content, conferences, and more – so Communications and Pamela merged into one word. Today I have a small team, but the name stuck in my head.
So here is my list of topics that are important to me and I believe I have something worthy to say.