The Summer of 2017 took a unique turn from my normal events of going to my hometown at the Jersey Shore with my 5 kids in tow, and hopping between my offices in NJ and our BWN (Beth Warren Nutrition) home base in Brooklyn, NY. Why we decided to upheave our entire family, delegate some work responsibilities to other team members and trek into the unknown of world travels (and intimidatingly long overseas flights) with small children, ages 10 years – 20 months, I do not know exactly. If I had to put my finger on it, I would say it was a mixture of my husband actually agreeing to go through with the idea, my working mom’s guilt of not being able to be fully available to my kids and jump into weekly adventures during the winter season, and a recognition within myself that I needed distance to gain some perspective on my business and personal goals, and come back recharged and refocused.
One thing that came with entering into my 30’s, albeit a delayed epiphany of 3 years, was the perspective that I do not have to do it all to be successful. In fact, if this summer was any indicator, sometimes taking on less and focusing on more of what you are doing contributes more success both in your work and family life. I frequently get asked from other people, “How do I do it all? Where do I find the balance?” Well, I’m here to tell you after building a successful practice, writing a book with another soon to be published in March 2018, and raising 5 hooligans (kidding…they’re perfection – most of the time), there is no such thing as being able to do it all and to think of it as “balance” will leave you sorely feeling as if you failed.
When I think of the word, “balance”, I think of the pressure to keep everything on equal footing at all times. The concept may be achievable by an angel that’s capable of putting full focus equally on multiple tasks (as we believe in my religion, Judaism), but for us humans, it is officially impossible. We are not designed that way. I learned that if I try to focus on everything at once, while taking on more things because I do not know how to turn them down, it is as if I am running on a nonstop hamster wheel without stopping to live in the moment and get the most out of what I’m doing.
Instead of thinking of my life as a balance, I practically think of it as a juggle. Allowing myself to picture a more realistic act makes it achievable because I feel less pressure that everything has to be perfect all the time. Juggling can get wobbly. There may be a time where a ball drops, but you find a way to put majority of focus on the ball that is up in the air without letting the one at the bottom completely fall down. Then, the one at the bottom gets its turn to receive the majority of attention when it makes its way up top and the cycle continues.
So, I went into the summer putting my family “ball” up and my work “ball” lower. In this day in age, I was able to keep tabs with my company and in touch with my clients so the ball was far from being dropped. Of course, this work-a-holic could not fully disengage and I happily managed appointments while away virtually and in between my travels back at home, juggling the various offices. The decision to travel actually broadened my scope of work by allowing me to reach out to clients and followers overseas and do my much loved media work and demos in other countries. The success of my overseas adventures has us planning our BWN Virtual Program that I would not have thought possible if I didn’t take the trip.
As for my offices back home, of course, things came up. As a boss of any company, the reality is you need to be there. It was a nice reminder that it means something to my clients and staff when I’m fully present inside the office. However, I would not take back the decision to get time away with my family and if anything, it made our team closer as each member stepped up out of their capacity to keep the standards of my BWN practice at our high levels of service. Let’s just say our end of season party while we boxed together at Overthrown NYC and toasted at the restaurant By Chloe, was full of excitement for each other and the projects we have planned together for the Fall/Winter season.
By “forcing” my kids into family time, I witnessed each child maturing in his or her own way. My youngest two, ages 3 and 20 months, were constantly at war with each other before we left. Now, they learned to play together (with only the occasional hair pulling). I was able to say, “Sure,” most of the time when my kids asked if we could do something, instead of, “Mommy needs to work.” Ultimately, when it comes to my kids I constantly remind myself that working as much as I do was my choice. I aim everyday not to allow my own choice to affect my kids who had no choice. I always want them to know that they are the priority and it all can and will be dropped if they need something. I make it sound so easy but each day brings its own unexpected curve ball thrown into my juggling act and it takes a minute to get my bearings again. Family is everything. Work is something. Both are important to me so I need to keep on juggling. As with any skill, I am a witness that the act only gets better with practice (and age 😉 )
My message to those starting out (or the “20’s”): I was you, and I am you in a few years. I take a look at what you are up to sometimes and my first ingrained response is to jump on the bandwagon with you and take something else on. Then, the more thoughtful part of me remembers to take a breathe, rethink why I decided to do what I do and my goals of where I see myself growing in business and with my family, and ease back into focusing on those tasks that will get me there. Ultimately, it is about you and not what everyone else is doing. Take the moments to enjoy the times you are building. Understand that sometimes doing less, but better, makes you feel more fulfilled, allows you more of a work-life balance and leads to more success than taking on too many things. I know, ultimately you will need to draw your own conclusion through personal experiences, but hopefully you can remember this when you start to feel the pressure and the taxing toll taking too much on is having on your life. Now, go get it, Girl! Girl Power!
I received so many nice messages inquiring about the agendas of my trips to Israel, Panama and the Hamptons. I couldn’t have done most of it without you same followers giving me ideas along the way. To pay it forward, I’ve compiled the things we did with our small kids. Overall, I was amazed to see that my kids were pretty good with all the jumping around and lack of schedule (for my standards!), aside from the normal, “Are we there yet?” and “I’m hungry” chanting. I think it was because we kept it fun and age appropriate most of the time. Feel free to comment with your suggestions for these places as well, I’m sure we didn’t cover them all!
I advise to always call ahead and check the hours before you go. We had a few times when things were closed or overcrowded.
Jerusalem museums – While we fought jet leg and worried over the summer heat (which wasn’t too bad in my opinion if you were geared up with sunscreen, water fans and bottles of water), we started our trip going to museums in the area
Other things we did:
Bible Lands Museum
Hebrew Music Museum
Emek Refaim – restaurants (Olive is great)/shops and we went to an indoor pool in the area
Old City/Kotel – this is NOT stroller friendly. We did it a few times but it was a lot of work.
Pantry Packers – We did a day of “Chesed” or “Act of Kidness” by volunteering at the organization Pantry Packers where we packed bags of rice for those in need. It was a great experience to do with small kids. We also wanted to support the IDF so sponsored pizza for the Lone Soldiers in Jerusalem and hung out with them for lunch at their social center.
The Shuk – NOT stroller friendly. If you do not need to prep for the Sabbath (Shabbat), then it is less crowded and overwhelming to go in the beginning of the week.
Ben Yehuda Area/Yaffa Street – We practically live right off this area so we were there all the time!
Abraham’s Tent – I highly recommend this with small kids and it includes camel rides.
(Down the road we went to a natural spring that a local told us about. We opted not to go to the Dead Sea and En Gedi with our age group and the heat, but these would make sense to do with this day trip)
This trip we had a few things we wanted to do and we jam packed the overnight stay at a “Zimmer” or cabin. The experience at the overnight Zimmer was very interesting, it was in the middle of a village and had a pool and more things for the kids to do. However, since we were on such a time schedule we didn’t have enough time to hang around there. If I had to do it again, I would do two nights up north and split the trip into explore the west and east sides of the Galeel.
Gangaroo – a kangaroo zoo. It’s really cool to see but doesn’t take too long.
Next door was a natural spring that we swam in.
Aqua Kef – highly recommend for all ages! It was blow up jungle gym on top of the Kineret
There are a bunch of holy graves in the area. We stopped in R’ Shimon Bar Yochi
Tzefat – when we went all the stores were closing down, but it was nice to walk through the old city and visit the grave of the Aari
Kesem Hapri – we found a “Pick Your Own” farm and they took us through on a tractor ride and we picked our own plums and nectarines.
De Karina Chocolate Factory – We had a lot of fun at this chocolate factory, you can make your own chocolate and they had a fun chocolate cafe at the end.
We ambitiously drove to the other side of the North to visit. It was beautiful to see and interesting to learn about. We headed back down to Jerusalem from there.
Kibbut Tzova – a small kibbutz with a few kids rides. This was overcrowded because camps were there so we did not stay long.
Mini Israel – a guard was nice enough to let us in even though we didn’t realize the opening hours started in the evening. It was cute to see the small models but it doesn’t take much time to go through.
Shefayim – the largest water park and it was very fun for our kids. We stopped at a beach in Herziliya before we headed home.
Tel Aviv – we went to the beach for today, but for our kids, there wasn’t much else for us to do there. We much preferred the beach in Ashdod, where we had family to visit in the area and also took a boat ride.
Panama – We happened to go during the rainy season, which wasn’t ideal. We stayed in the Hard Rock which isn’t so kid friendly, but it was fun. The coolest part about the trip was being able to see the Jewish community there and how they live – similar to us New Yorkers. There was an abundance of kosher food and over 31 kosher restaurants. My favorite was Vitali, which sold artisan type whole food options. I also did a book signing and shopping tour at the supermarket Super Kosher and I couldn’t believe how many of the same products were there (see my blog interview on how unique the markets are there: http://www.bethwarrennutrition.com/highlights-from-panama/ ) We also went to the Panama Canal because we felt how could we not? In theory, it is really interesting; however, with small kids, waiting 1.5 hrs for boats to pass through is not their idea of fun.
Hamptons: I was surprised to see how this area is not kosher. Aside from picking fresh fruits at One Pond Farms in Watermill and farmers market at every turn (which I love!) you could not get anything truly kosher certified, other than something packaged at a 7-11. Your best bet is to bring your own food, as the Chabad in the Hamptons told me as well. The area is more of a beach town, so my kids and I hung out by the pool and beach. We attempted the Montauk Light House, but I was sad that they did not inform us there was not much to do if we went inside if we did not climb the actual light house (my toddler did not meet the height requirement). There was a nice park area and beach front to walk through, but you do not have to go inside the lighthouse and pay the fee with small kids, plus the fee for parking in the area. We also attempted to go horse back riding, but for kids over 6 there was a 30 minute trail and I didn’t feel that my kids would be able to manage that long on a horse for the first time!
The fitness there is great. I limited my choices to the East Hampton area which was 30 minutes away from Montauk. I did a great Soul Cycle class where I met my foodie friend, Dini Klein (Dini Delivers) and she introduced me to Jack’s Coffee, which I went back to a few times. I also went to the Tracy Anderson Method which was fun to try. I did a band class where you used a designated number of bands that were attached to the ceiling and basically did cardio and some strengthening holding onto them. Oh yeah, and the temperature of the room was hot.