My Life as a Stay-at-Home CEO by Rachel Isaacs

My Life as a Stay-at-Home CEO by Rachel Isaacs

I wasn’t always a stay-at-home mom.

Once upon a time I was a modern Jewish professional who believed strongly in the model of balancing work and family.

I was successful in the professional world, building a professional persona and identity. I received positive feedback and good compensation. I had a clear path in front of me.

At 28, I looked down that path and realized the path I was on wasn’t leading me where I wanted to go. I didn’t want to spend my life running a non-profit, working day and night to serve the cultural needs of Jewish people in America.

I realized, that in addition to having a career, I wanted a husband and a family and I want to raise my family in Israel.

6 years later, I was living in Israel with my husband and three children, pregnant with my fourth child, working part-time in a great “mommy job.”

I was living my dream. But for some reason I was miserable.

Because in the dream I’d had, I hadn’t taken into consideration the sleepless nights, the cranky children, how sick I would be when I was pregnant, preparing dinner every single night, and the cost of buying new shoes for three children.

The world outside my home gave me a lot of kudos, but the world inside my home gave me a lot of crying and smacking.

If your colleague at work bites you or pees on you, you quit that job–pronto! At home it is par for the course of motherhood.

And when I was planning the path my life would take I certainly had not considered the outlandish possibility that my husband would develop a deep connection with a Chassidic Rebbe, and trade in his chinos and polo shirts for a bekeshe and streimel.

That 28-year-old career-woman had sort of just expected that she could continue with life as it was, children and husband in tow.

But life turned out to be far more complicated than I had imagine pre-motherhood.

When I looked at my husband in his Chassidish garb, I was shocked at his outward appearance, but I couldn’t deny his soul shined. I realized that what had attracted me to him was his deep desire for a real connection with Hashem and in Chassidus he found it.

So there I was, with 4 kids and a Chassidic husband and dreams of career.

And I didn’t know how to balance all of the conflicting messages in my head. But I realized that I couldn’t walk on two paths at the same time.

I could start working more, which would help me get more help.

Or I could work less and focus on my family.

Ultimately, I realized that if I believed in the mission of what I was doing, I wanted to give it my all.

For years, I worked in the non-profit world, where people are driven by a radical desire to transform the world. Often they will tell you that they themselves went through a challenge that made them become passionate about helping others and they will work day and night to make their mission successful.

I realized that instead of trying to keep one foot in my career, thinking that one day I would get back to my “real life” I could actually be the CEO of a non-profit called Isaacs Family Israel.

I could still be an empowered feminist, and believe in the importance of career if that career was being a stay-at-home mom.

As I had when I was directing a non-profit, I could work on a shoe string budget, build a five year plan, build my staff, create synergy among my team members. And, by making my home my career, and my husband the chairman of the board, I could completely eliminate the issue of work/life balance.

All that for no money, no recognition and no prestige. Yay! How could I refuse that?

😉

And that is what I did. It wasn’t easy. We went from a two income family to a one income family. That meant that both my husband and I had to work harder.

We had to decide together what our core values were and commit to living them. They included,

Shalom Bayit (a peaceful marriage and home) as top priority

Accepting his Rebbe as our Rebbe

Building a home based on faith and trust.

Giving the children a unified hashkafa (spiritual outlook).

Creating a positive, safe environment for our kids

Welcoming Shabbos guests.

My husband as the primary bread winner, me as the primary homemaker.

That meant my husband had to step back from certain tasks and I had to pick them up.

It was not always fun. Changing my life paradigm was not easy. I cried a lot when the kids were at school. I read a lot.

I studied women who valued home and motherhood like my Moroccan downstairs neighbor, my Chassidish Rebbetzin and my mother-in-law, of blessed memory.

I reminded myself every day that Hashem entrusted these children to me because He believes that I am uniquely suited to be their mother and I prayed for the strength to fulfill that role.

And little by little, I changed.

It’s ten years later. Those babies are teenagers. I still pray for the strength to be their mother. I look at the path we have taken. I have some battle scars but I have nothing but gratitude.

By giving motherhood and marriage my focused all, I have developed into a person who can live by her heart, who is learning to give up control and to trust.

By prioritizing the kids, I have been able to build solid relationships with them. I can be home when they are sick or spend quality time with them when they are well. And they are growing into people whom I admire.

So when people ask what I do, I can tell them I am doing a longitudinal study of the impact that traditional models of gender roles have on children. Or I can tell them I’m a stay-at-home mom.

11 comments

  1. Oh this is beautiful and wonderful, thank you for sharing!

  2. So uplifting. Reading this gave me a new burst of energy and focus. Thank you.

  3. Needed to read this. Thank you for posting!

  4. I just wanted to add that being a CEO is not the same as being a mum: you can never stop being a mum and you never get a holiday! It’s a way deeper relationship, it’s not “just” a career. I think that’s maybe why the author found it more meaningful also?

  5. anonymous

    This was brilliant, insightful, perfectly conceptualized what goes through our heads.
    Also, timely. Today I had my annual tug-of-war between agreeing to add work hours (and advance my career, get more responsibilities that I enjoy and am well compensated for) or spend more time trying to invest what I can in my home, even with all the difficulties in mothering and homemaking.
    It’s really an inner battle every year.

  6. Awesome post. I totally resonated with everything she said. I wish she had more practical suggestions how to accomplish this but I guess each person has their own path, even if it leads to the same destination.

  7. A great piece and I really identify with that struggle. I just wonder though, what are your plans for 5 years from now when your kids have all left home. I always hit that as a major question in terms of choosing to be a SAHM. If you give up your career, what do you do after the kids?

    • JewishMom

      here is a reply from the post’s author:
      It’s a big question. One I have grappled with a lot. What I have learned is that when you get on a different road, there are different stops. Now that I am actually at a point where I have more time to work, I realize that I like having time. All those things that I never got around to, I can do. Cook dinner for a friend, develop rich relationships, read or take classes in things that interest me. Other people I know find a cause that they are passionate about and start as a volunteer and then work there. I think that the next thing shows up and part of the work is to be open to opportunities.

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