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Part 2: Brooklyn moms share how they manage careers and families

A three-part series about amazing women

September 12, 2022 Mary Frost
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This is the second article in a three-part series about amazing women in Brooklyn. The final piece will be published in the near future.

The challenges of raising children in this city are daunting. Working full-time can leave moms feeling stressed out and guilty about being neither a good-enough mother or good-enough worker. Sometimes the task seems impossible.

How do Brooklyn moms balance life and career? 

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The Brooklyn Eagle spoke to a dozen moms who have gone through the struggle of finding a balance that works for them. Some have kept their nine-to-five jobs, dealing with all the issues of daycare and schedule-juggling that entails. Other have left the corporate or nonprofit worlds to strike out on their own. Some have cobbled together a combination of part time jobs, consulting or flexible side hustles.

Related Article: Part 1: Brooklyn moms share how they manage careers and families

We heard stories about moms closing real estate deals during labor; losing jobs during supposedly protected maternity leave; leaning on their friends and faith; and creating new businesses during the pandemic. We found these women’s stories to be frankly remarkable, and the advice they offer to other parents is inspirational (even for folks with no kids at home).

Here is Part Two of a three-part series about amazing Brooklyn moms:

Diana Hilaire: Senior project manager and entrepreneur

Diana Hilaire, a single mother of boy/girl twins just entering pre-K, lives in Flatbush and works as a senior project manager for R. F. Wilkins Consultants, owned by Francilia Wilkins Rahim. 

Hilaire said the company is “just amazing!”

“That’s my nine-to-five, that’s what pays the bills, that’s what pays the mortgage, everything,” she said.

But Hilaire also runs two businesses of her own. The first is When She Comes Homes, which she launched in 2020. When She Comes Home provides comforting care packages for mothers, mothers-to-be and women who have experienced pregnancy loss.

“When She Comes Home was birthed after I realized I had postpartum depression after giving birth to my twins in 2018. It was a dark time but thank God for family and friends,” Hilaire told the Eagle. It took her a year to “pull the trigger” after launching a crowdfunding campaign. 

“Everything in the box is made by a woman-owned-business and everything in the box is just for her. So you’ll find a journal, a pen, candles made with ingredients that help with anxiety and depression. You’ll find natural products such as honey pot, intimate washes and wipes, body butters, soaps and aromatherapy shower bombs — because not everyone in Brooklyn has a tub. You put one on the floor of your shower and it illuminates your bathroom with the smell of lemongrass, lavender, mango butter, just to help with whatever you are going through. Because the shower is where we cry, where we pray, where we celebrate ourselves, so the shower is pretty important.” 

Hilaire’s second business is event planning, which she has been doing for five years. “My event planning business is called Hilaire Affairs. I do baby showers, birthdays, weddings, receptions,  intimate events where you can really appreciate all that goes into planning an event,” she said. “I used to work for Macy’s in Corporate and I did events for Macy’s all the time.”

“And so, I’m a mother, I’m a daughter, I’m a sister, I’m a cousin, I’m in a sorority, so I’m busy! I believe that we are put on this Earth to help others and to serve, and I want to make sure that when I reach the pearly gates of heaven, God has no questions on how I had an impact on the Earth,” Hilaire said.

How does she manage a nine-to-five job, two young children and two self-directed businesses?

“When you love what you do you never work,” she said. “In my nine-to-five, I work from home three days a week and two days in the office. I have a fabulous CEO and amazing leadership, and just as long as your work is done they’re not running after you.

“It takes a supportive work environment, a supportive boss and a supportive tribe — my family is my rock and my foundation.” She also belongs to a mom’s chat group. “We do mommy picnics and playdates,” she said.

“My kids’ father is active in their lives and I’m grateful for that, which affords me the time to do what I have to do personally and professionally. And if not, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. is my shift for doing anything for When She Comes Home or for Hilaire Affairs,” she said. 

Hilaire offers advice for other moms in her situation.

“Number one, find a good therapist. Nobody ever talks about postpartum depression,” she said. “You can have friends and family, but if you get someone objective who can give you their professional advice and help you cope, that’s the best thing you can do.

“Number two, put yourself on your priority list. Everyone is demanding you put yourself second, and that is not right,” she said. “If you want to get your nails done or get a massage, if you want to have a mommy date with your girlfriends, or sit down and have dinner and drink wine or whatever you need, you need it.

“Number three, don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Hilaire said. “I don’t like when people call me a Supermom. Because the S on my chest is crooked. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and if someone says no, that’s okay, go down the list of who you can reach out to for help.

“Number four, for me personally because I’m a Christian and I heavily rely on my faith and my God, I make sure that whatever decisions I make I include Him,” she said. “I wake up every morning and I spend at least 10 minutes with Him — do a devotional or get a scripture and just marinate in that, and that starts my day. 

“And last but not least, please journal. Write your feelings down, express yourself on paper and you can always go back and meditate on it or figure out how you are going to find a solution,” she said. “The front part of my journal is just my regular. The back part of my journal is all my accomplishments, my achievements, and my goals. There’s something about putting it on paper that allows you to really hone in on it.”

“Women are fearfully and wonderfully made,” Hilaire said. “That is my quote from Psalms 139. Don’t ever forget that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Kim Glickman transitioned from volunteer work and nonprofits to deputy director of the Brooklyn Heights Association. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

Kim Glickman: From the PTA to the Brooklyn Heights Association

Before Kim Glickman, deputy director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, had her daughter in 2005,  she worked at American Express in marketing, making use of her MBA from the Wharton School. Her long-term goal was to work at a major nonprofit like UNICEF.

“When I went out on maternity leave, I knew I wasn’t coming back,” she said. She told American Express not to hold her job for her. Four years later her second child, a son, was born.

“I had my son in 2009, and when my daughter started at P.S. 8, I started getting involved in the PTA. So I started my big volunteer journey. That’s where I met Ansley Samson, and she and I did a lot of volunteer work together and eventually became co-presidents of the PTA.” 

At that time the increasingly popular Brooklyn Heights school had become so overcrowded that dozens of neighborhood children were waitlisted. Glickman and Samson became activist co-presidents, petitioning the Department of Education and working with elected officials and the BHA, making presentations and working on solutions that would benefit the entire district — on top of the usual PTA tasks of fund-raising and organizing events.

“Volunteering with the school, I just made that my priority,” Glickman said. 

“When my daughter was in 5th or 6th grade I got a couple of side consulting jobs from friends of friends, helping with whatever little business they were running,” Glickman said. She then moved to a job in recruiting, but it was “all through friends and networking, and I just didn’t feel confident really.”

After several years in recruiting, she looked for something more fulfilling. Glickman found pro bono work in the fundraising area and did consulting work with the nonprofit LEDA, which helps students from under-resourced backgrounds gain access to top universities.

But she wanted something more continuous. “And then this job at the Brooklyn Heights Association just appeared,” Glickman said. “A couple of my friends heard about the job and they said, ‘You’d be perfect for them.’ They knew me from my days at P.S. 8 and all the stuff I had done there, working with everything from politicians and other administration, and fundraising and volunteer recruitment.”

“I realized that I could have an impact on something much more micro. And even though the BHA’s mission has a variety of facets, there are things that I find really fulfilling about it and it feels empowering to make a difference on such a micro-level,” she said. “So I realized that this was just a great place for me to go. I liked the people, I liked the work, I liked that it was part time so that I could keep doing the other consulting and volunteer work, and I’m going to see where it takes me next,” she said. 

“I love that I have the flexibility now because while my kids are much older, they’re still at the stage of their life where I want to be around a little bit to guide them,” Glickman said. “My daughter is going to be a senior in high school and my son is going into eighth grade.”

“Everything I’ve done has been through some kind of networking,” she said. “I think that people feel kind of awkward leveraging networks. But when people know you are looking for work, when something comes up they think of you, and they have more confidence in you than you have yourself because they have a less biased view.”

Having support from her husband also played a significant role, she said. 

“When the kids were little my husband was all for me. There was no question about me staying home; I wanted it so he wanted it. We were lucky financially that we could swing it. But I did get to the point where I felt like I needed more to do. Raising my children was a huge part of my identity but I find it helpful in our relationship to have things to discuss, because he has a whole other world going on in his job and I have other things that are important to me.

“People are all different,” Glickman said. “I knew I wanted to be home with my kids, but every choice comes with its own sacrifices. Other people who had stayed in a career while they raised a family had an advantage on the career ladder. I felt that I was at a disadvantage having made the choice to stay home with my kids, but yet I wouldn’t have chosen to do anything differently. I think you just have to know that the choices you make come with positive and negative consequences, and that you can change your trajectory when you’re ready to.” 

Several weeks ago, Eunice Liriano went back to work running Corporate Partnerships and Strategic Alliances for a cultural institution. Photo courtesy of Eunice Liriano

Eunice Liriano: Nonprofit corporate relations

“I’ve been in corporate relations in nonprofit for about eight years now,” Eunice Liriano told the Eagle.  Liriano, a Clinton Hill resident who has a 2-year-old daughter, just started a new job a couple of weeks ago.

“Before I had my daughter I was working as head of Partnerships and Events for an educational nonprofit run by a prominent family here in New York. It was fantastic. And then Covid hit and I was working from home for about two years,” she said.

After her daughter was born, Liriano took off about eight months from her job. “I used up all of my paid time off and of course whatever government gives you, and then I took extra time off whether I was being paid or not. I didn’t care, I wanted to be with my daughter,” she said.

“Two weeks ago I went back in-house to work for a cultural institution again, running Corporate Partnerships and Strategic Alliances for the organization,” she said. 

How does Liriano manage full-time work and rearing a 2-year-old?

“When I took this job they said that they needed me to be at the office a few days a week and I said I was happy to do that, but it really needed to align with my current schedule that I have my daughter in. I didn’t want to disrupt the schedule that we’ve been on the last two years. That was very important to me to convey to them and to keep that as part of my deal breaker,” Liriano explained.

She has someone who comes to her house to take care of her daughter while she works at home a few days a week in a separate space, she said. “There’s someone who takes her to the park, takes her to music class and swimming, so she has her own activities and her own schedule. So while I have help, I’m also home with her, and I’m very much a part of her day-to-day.” 

All decisions revolve around her daughter Liriano said. “If it doesn’t work for her, then it doesn’t work for us.”

“Luckily, I have an employer who said, “Listen, you do what you have to do,” and that’s pretty much how it’s been,” she said. “Today she had a doctor’s appointment, so I’m not coming in the office. I will take my meetings as necessary but really, aligning to her schedule is how I align to my work schedule.”

She added, “I have a really wonderful partner and he is fully committed to being a parent. He is a big part of that support, which is very important.”

“I bow down to anyone who’s a single mom,” Liriano said. “I got very lucky in that sense because — and I use this phrase often —  you have to be very very sure who you have a child with. You get married, that’s okay — get married, get divorced 15 times. But if you have a child with someone that is for life. And you can’t give the kid back. I feel like people are doing the opposite, which really is interesting to me.”

 Liriano shared the parenting advice given to her by her own mother, by the older woman who takes care of her child, and by the younger moms who are part of the Fort Greene moms group she belongs to.

“Keep it as simple as possible. Try to get her to the closest activity, the closest park, and try to find things to do in your neighborhood. If you live in Clinton Hill don’t go to Williamsburg for a music class. Try to find things that are convenient for you proximity-wise. I think that’s super important,” she said.

“Also — and as I do every week — I take out at least one hour on Fridays and I go get a massage or a manicure. It’s something that I have done since she was born, and it just helps me reset,” Liriano said.

“And lastly, I would say, it’s not that serious, right? We are learning as we go along. Every single day I learned something new about being a mom. It is not a one-size-fits-all and you make it work. I wish someone told me that before I had my kid, too,” she said.

Leah Wiseman Fink transitioned from being an assistant principal at a high school to being a leadership coach. Photo courtesy of Leah Wiseman Fink

Leah Wiseman Fink: Leadership coach

Leah Wiseman Fink, a leadership coach, lives in Williamsburg with her husband John Kutinsky and two kids ages 9 and 5. Fink and her husband own a celebrated chain of pizzerias called Williamsburg Pizza.

Fink had been in the field of education for about 15 years by the time she had her second child. “I had worked on opening new schools, worked at Department of Education Central, worked at coaching principals, but at the time I left I was an assistant principal at a high school in Queens,” Fink told the Eagle.

“It’s not the prettiest story, but I got pushed out of that job while I was on maternity leave,” she said. “I went out on leave for three months and when I came back I still technically had a job, but somebody else had taken over all my roles, my office was painted and it was not a pretty situation. It’s one of those things that’s in a gray legal area, where you still technically have a job even though all your duties are reassigned. I came back in November and I stayed till June because I was my family’s primary health insurance.”

“We own pizzerias so my husband and I are both entrepreneurs, and for that year it was scary. We had a brand new baby and we were trying to figure it out,” she said.

“I finally resigned and I was working on projects,” she said. “At first I was running new moms groups in Williamsburg, and I started a Jewish organization called B’Nai Brooklyn. I was doing quite a few projects, so I hired a leadership coach to help me streamline all my businesses and all the projects, and in that time I realized that coaching is what I should be doing. So I got trained as a coach. I worked under my own coach for a few months, but then I went off on my own and I’ve been working for myself ever since.”

“A leadership coach is a combination of life and business and executive coaching,” Fink said. “So I help people get from point A to point B in their lives or in their businesses. It’s more businesses now.”

For example, one of her clients who was teaching religious school wanted to finish the year and then transition to freelance writing work. “So we made a plan and a timeline, and by the time June happened she had given her notice and now is freelancing. She didn’t need help getting clients, she needed help organizing her life to handle the business,” Fink said. “Also just getting confidence and into the mindset of being an entrepreneur and understanding that she could actually do it,” she said. 

Fink also offers help with things like getting business licenses, acquiring clients and marketing. “I describe it as sort of a holistic approach to coaching,” she said.

Fink said she loves the balance of working for herself and raising kids. “One of the best things that I always appreciate is every time I’m able to go to a school breakfast or the Halloween parade or a PTA meeting. Every time I go to the Halloween parade I just feel an appreciation that I built my life so that I can do that.”

“When I was getting kicked out of that job on maternity leave — and obviously I was devastated — my husband said to me, ‘Describe what you want your life to look like.’ And I said, ‘I want to take the kids to school, I want to work out at the gym and then I want to sit down at a desk and or have a couple of meetings and phone calls, and be able to put it down and pick them up.’ And basically that’s what I do. It’s pretty amazing and it’s flexible and I figured out how to make my life fit within it.”

“We own Williamsburg Pizza. There are now five locations,” Fink said. “I think that’s part of his being able to say to me, ‘Okay, six years ago I went for it, now it’s your turn to go for it.’ He left Wall Street to pursue pizza. It’s kind of a cool story,” she said.

Fink’s advice for other moms?

“Have a vision of what you want to do. It’s both imagining what you want to do for work and at the same time what you want your life to look like. And then from there, just put one foot in front of the other to get there,” she said.

“Also, I really think — and I’m not just saying this because this is what I do — but having some support or someone to hold your hand really helps. My husband was partially my support, especially in the beginning. He was the person who said, ‘If this is what you want your life to look like we’ll figure it out and we’ll get there.’ And also the coach that I hired was my secondary support. She helped me figure out some of the details and getting clients, and what the structure should look like.”

“There is an amazing book called Designing Your Life, written by two Stanford professors [Bill Burnett and Dave Evans]. It’s about thinking about what you are naturally good at, what you are drawn to, what do you want your life to look like and planning from there,” Fink said. 

She added, “I think it takes a certain kind of chutzpah to put yourself out there to design your life how you want it, but if you can have the courage to do it, it really pays off in the long run.”

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