Deputy Director Rachel Laser and family

Announcing Double Booked: A Conversation about Working Families in the 21st Century



When I heard that the White House was planning a Summit on Working Families later this Spring, I felt a surge of excitement. Our country is overdue for a dialogue on how to improve the lives of working families. As we have engaged before with Democrat and Republican White Houses, so here the Reform Jewish Movement has a lot to contribute. Our Movement has long been a moral force and advocate for the rights of working families, from affordable child care, to equal pay for women, to the importance of a living wage.

This is also a topic of great personal passion. One of my proudest life accomplishments has been finding a path (though bumpy at times!) that allows me to invest in both my career and my family. At age 44, and with daughters now 16 and 14 and a son who is 12, I, together with my husband, have lived the  “working family” life for many years- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

An early memory remains of my first day back at work at a law firm after my first daughter was born, when a large smiling group of colleagues stopped by to take me out to lunch – just as I was about  to close my door and take out my breast pump.

Then only a few months ago, there was the day I worked from home because my daughter was running a high fever. I was to kick off an important call that morning with the top leaders of the Movement. Coffee in hand and my daughter sleeping in the other room, I was ready to transition seamlessly from Mom to Deputy Director.  I had just dialed into the call when the doorbell rang, the dog barked, a car alarm (mine) blared, and a city worker at my front door explained that his truck had accidentally set off my car alarm.  Muting the phone, I sprinted upstairs to locate my keys. When I tuned back to the call, someone was guessing: “She must no longer be on the line.” Un-muting my breathless and frazzled self, I launched into my presentation.

Sometimes being the type of Mom I want to be compromises my professional self. Sometimes the demands of work make me a less ideal parent than I’d like to be. But on the whole, I’m very grateful for a professional life that allows me to be both parts of myself.

Most workplaces choose not to be or cannot be as flexible as the RAC about allowing their employees to work from home. Many parents have to miss work every time their kids are sick. Because we still have no federal paid sick leave in this country, these parents may be forced either to forgo caring for their child or to fall behind on their rent.  Some even lose their jobs.

Today, the RAC announces our new working families blog: “Double Booked: A Conversation about Working Families in the 21st Century.” My hope for the blog is that by reading each other’s stories, we will learn more about the broad range of challenges that working families face today. Through blog posts and comments, I encourage readers to share their own personal struggles.  We also welcome your insights about what works for you and your thoughts about what structural and cultural fixes could help improve the lives of today’s working families.

Comments are an important part of the conversation. Share your thoughts in the comments sectionThis blog is part of a special RACBlog series, “Double Booked: A Conversation about Working Families in the 21st Century,” dealing with the many issues that affect working families, and featuring everything from personal stories to policy analysis. Visit the Double Booked portal to read more posts, or join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #doublebooked.

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Rachel Laser

About Rachel Laser

Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, has been the General Counsel for Planned Parenthood Metropolitan Washington, Senior Counsel for the National Women’s Law Center and Director of the Culture Program at Third Way, where she helped draft the first ever pro-life/pro-choice abortion bill in Congress.

14 Responses to “Announcing Double Booked: A Conversation about Working Families in the 21st Century”

  1. Beginning in 1999, The Shalom Center explored with leading religious and labor leaders, sociologists, and economists the issue of overwork in American society, and its connections with disemployment. We developed models for “free time for a free people,” coupling “liveable hours” with a “living wage” as necessary to the physical, emotional, political, and spiritual health of individuals and of society. The 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War blew away that whole exploration — but the issues remain, and indeed with the worsening impoverishment of the poor and the middle class have gotten worse. For a community that prizes Shabbat, this ought to be at the heart of our social and environmental concerns. Once the 8-hour day & 40-hour week were reasonable responses to and benefits of industrial technology — yet had to be fought for. Now, in a time of more and more computerized technology, we may need to legislate a 4-day, 28-hour work week to achieve full employment and sufficient free time for family, neighborhood, grass-roots citizen involvement, and spiritual life. How do we begin this struggle? See https://theshalomcenter.org/treasury/45
    for a treasury of essays and reports connecting Jewish tradition on free time with the needs and possibilities of a post-industrial society.
    Shalom, Awaskow@theshalomcenter.org

  2. Rachel Laser

    @Rabbi Esther Lederman- my 16 year old daughter thought of the title!! I was happy for the ego boost for her given that junior year in high school is otherwise tough on the ego!!!!

    One test for me that my job is going well is that I feel like talking about work at the dinner table (as I did when Emily thought of this title). It hasn’t always been that way!

    Thanks for commenting and please spread the word! Maybe even newsletter?!

  3. Love the title! And this is such a necessary conversation. I’m realizing accepting good enough in both arenas is what helps keep me sane.

  4. I am constantly inspired by hearing the stories of how other women balance/make it work/juggle it all. It does often feel like a lonely road–especially because each person’s experience is so unique/individual. But, having places like these to engage in positive dialogue our situations makes me feel less alone in the struggle, and more empowered as a mom and a professional!

  5. This is going to be a great blog about a very important topic that affects many of us daily. Looking forward to seeing more!!

  6. Rachel! I’m so excited about this blog. There are too many families who are struggling under the weight of trying to make ends meet and provide a positive environment for their children. Being a good parent shouldn’t have to be this hard. We need policies that help ALL families reach their fullest potential

  7. Natalie Bullock Brown Reply January 29, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Rachel, you are singing my life above when you describe the tension between being a mom and a professional being. That tension exists in just about every decision I make, personally and professionally. I so applaud you and the RAC for taking on this issue, and for humanizing it with stories about you and your lovely family. I look forward to reading more, and contributing to the conversation. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this vital discussion!

  8. This is such an important conversation. I really like the point you make about flexible work schedules and working at home not being an option for many women–most women in service occupations, for instance, just don’t have this option. So it’s especially crucial that we have laws to protect the jobs of those who need to take time off for family obligations of all kinds. Thank you for starting this!

  9. Thank you so much for starting this conversation. These issues are woefully neglected while being central to everyone’s lives and to the fabric of society. I am fortunate enough to work part time and I still don’t feel like I can be the parent I need to be or the employee I want to be.

    Yashar Koach!

  10. SUCH an important topic. We’ve come a ways, but not nearly far enough. From people I know who are really juggling, it seems that some very large corporations, and some non-profits now offer flexible solutions. But it is certainly not the norm.

  11. Great topic! Thanks for starting this conversation. I am about to return to work after baby #4 and I am feeling more than double-booked!! Looking forward to reading more.

  12. I look forward to this blog! Issues like childcare, living wage, equal pay, family leave, sick leave are so important. We need a conversation which can lead to change.

  13. I’m very excited to be a part of this project with Rachel and the RAC! So many of us toil in the lonely world of work and family life balance alone – it is wonderful to have a place to talk about it in the Jewish community.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Wrestling for Work Life Balance | Familia Wanderlust - May 28, 2014

    […] and sustain a conversation about working families in America (and abroad), both Jewish and non. Read more about the Double Booked. I was honored to add my voice to the many working parents have shared their stories, contemplated […]

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