With four children and a full time job with the Kabbalah Centre, how do you manage all of that responsibility?
Very carefully! When you’re doing what you love, the hard work doesn’t feel like hard work. Raising four children, ranging in age from 3 to 18 years old, is definitely a juggling act. What adds simplicity is the fact that the way we raise our children is aligned with what we teach at The Kabbalah Centre.
I’ve learned that keeping everything in balance begins with creating clear priorities for myself. There’s a saying I love, ‘never postpone what you can straight up cancel.’ I know for certain that I’m not the only person who has taken on more than I should at times, so keeping my priorities in the forefront of my mind helps me not overcommit myself. I also use the analogy of sitting shotgun. Everyone gets to sit in the front seat, but it’s a rotation between children, a project with a tight deadline or even sometimes for myself (wait, if I’m riding shotgun who is driving the car??) For me, when you live a life that is not only true to what you believe, but also true to yourself, then no matter how busy you are, those two worlds will mesh together.
How did you get started with your work at the Kabbalah Centre?
My parents were worried I was going down the wrong path, as most parents of teenagers worry. I went to Beverly Hills High School and was exposed to a lot of different things, many of them things that my conservative, Middle Eastern parents would have preferred I wasn’t exposed to. Because they were concerned, they introduced me to Kabbalah and I began studying at seventeen. Like most young adults, I was struggling with areas around finding my voice, my purpose, figuring out who I was and what I wanted and believed. I became a serious student by eighteen. Just one year! Within a few more years I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to sharing this wisdom with others.
What inspires you in your work?
I know that everyone is supposed to live a life of happiness, joy, and fulfillment. With The Kabbalah Centre I get to help people find their purpose and their passion, assist them with the most important relationships in their lives and give them support and love on their journey. It is a gift to get to spend my days this way. (Don’t get me wrong, we all have challenges.) But I have such appreciation that I get to wake up every day and spend my time and energy encouraging people to dream bigger, be kinder and see their lives change, often dramatically.
We all deserve good things in our lives. There is no limit to the blessings and joy you can create in your life and the lives of others, but it takes work. Helping people to do that is what inspires my work.
What is your most memorable family vacation to date?
Six years ago, we took a family trip to Hawaii. It was the very first one we had ever taken just as a family and that made it so special. Prior to that all of our trips were in some way work related. As a result, we had such appreciation for just being there, getting to spend time with our kids. Being barefoot, riding waterslides, burying each other in the sand, it was just pure joy, pure simplicity. Just together and carefree. I got to feel, and truly enjoy, the best parts of being a mom and wife, and ultimately, a woman.
After that trip, we have made a point to carve out time, every year, to take a vacation and be together that way - no work, no interruptions, (for the most part) just Michael and the kids. Our work is amazing and so important to us, but as the saying goes, 'make time for the little things, because at some point you’ll realize they were the big things.'
What is the most difficult age to manage as a parent, and why?
The first years after our children were born were difficult, but that’s offset by how tremendously rewarding it was! (There is a study that reports that mothers lose 44 days of sleep in the child’s first year. 44 days!) But even sleep deprived, it is beyond rewarding, they are so cute, cuddly, you are their whole world and they adore you.
The teenage years are an interesting time. I think my job now is to not decide for them what they’re going to be, but set an example that they want to aspire to. Right now, three of my children are teenagers (and a doctor recently informed me that the hormonal upheavals don't end until around 24 – great news.) So it’s a process. It’s a back and forth of reaching for independence while needing the security of attachment. They want privacy, but they still want to be next you, they still need you, they still crave your support. Independence versus attachment.
I try to remind myself every day of how much I love and appreciate every one of my children, decidedly a more difficult task during battles over boundaries and independence. I know I look forward to the day where I don’t have to parent in this way and can enjoy the great benefits of friendship. The friendship is what is going to last a lifetime.
How do your children inspire the work that you do?
Kabbalah teaches that we have come into this world to grow spiritually and to make a difference. Our inherent nature is to stay in our comfort zones and that is not the realm in which we ultimately want to live. In order to transform ourselves and reach our greatest potential, we need to seek challenges, or at the least, embrace discomfort and my children give me plenty of opportunities to do that! For instance, I got an ego lesson during my last pregnancy. My 15-year-old son didn’t want to be seen with me in public! He’d figured out where babies really come from at that point and my very pregnant self was embarrassing for him. But, being ostracized and rejected by a child that I gave life to hurt my ego!
On a more serious note, when my children come to me with their pain, whether it’s a setback, rejection or disappointment I’m prepared with the teachings and the tools to help them. It is inspiring to me to show my children that there are things to learn from any pain they experience and how to use those experiences as opportunities for growth. It is through life’s challenges that we can find the greatest gifts, but we need to know how to look for them, and more importantly, appreciate them. I see my children using the tools, which is inspiring and going through their process with them gives me so much insight and the ability to have deeper empathy for others’ processes.
What values do you hope to instill in your children?
My husband and I have always done our utmost to lead by example, and to be a proactive influence in our actions and words. As my older children now begin to make their own choices, I have to let them live their life the way they choose, of course with my and my husband’s guidance, but we just have to trust that we have done enough for them in the first part of their lives to guide them to make great choices in the next phase of life.
The cornerstones we have instilled over the years are to be kind, set aside judgments (of yourself and others) and give people the benefit of the doubt. A friend of mine spoke at his daughter’s bat mitzvah and said this, “There are many things that your child can be, but only one that they should be and that is someone who gives to the world and shares of herself.”
What are your favorite children's classes in NYC for all ages?
Though I have only lived in New York City for a few years, I can say that I really enjoy taking my 3-year-old daughter to the Ballet Academy East, on the Upper East Side. The atmosphere reminds me of my childhood in New Orleans. They have a live piano player and everything about the atmosphere is beautiful. They also have classes for all ages (even adults) and I’m always tempted to show up in my leotard!
How do you carve out some "me" time in your day?
Exercise has always been a cornerstone of my life and a big release for me. I work out six days a week. I’ve always been a long distance runner but I’m also a very curious person and never pass up an opportunity to try something new, so when a friend introduced me to Tracy Anderson Method, not only did I get the best workout, but I had more fun working out than I could remember. The TAM studio has also become a place where I’ve met amazing friends and I can’t tell you how many times I finished a class and discovered that I had a solution to a problem, a new revelation, and left feeling inspired and creative. I definitely say this is my ‘me’ time.