Double Booked: Navigating a Non-Profit
By Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi
It’s not easy to balance work and family obligations with three beautiful young children, especially because my wife and I don’t have extended family in the DC metro area. Fortunately, we are blessed to have wonderful neighbors and friends. Our three children are eight years old, three years old, and eighteen months-old. My wife decided to quit her job in order to stay home and care for them.
With my demanding job and travel schedule as the Director of Community Outreach & Interfaith Relations at the Islamic Society of North America’s Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances, I have little time to spend with my family. Just in the past three weeks, I went on work trips to Senegal, Kenya, Jordan and Finland. I usually leave to the airport when the kids are asleep and get back when they are in bed. Even when I am not traveling, I often miss having dinner with my little ones due to my busy work schedule. We all know that working in a non-profit, with little resources and not enough staff to fulfill the mission of the institution, is not easy.
Nonetheless, it’s critical to lead a balanced life style and give family the time it deserves. My kids were overjoyed during this past winter break when I surprised them with a trip to Hershey Park in Pennsylvania. My three-year old still remembers the song we heard when we took the tour. I still catch him playing with his train set and singing “it’s milk chocolate.”
I cherish the quality time that I spend with my kids, and I do my best to stay involved in my older son’s education and extra-curricular activities. For example, although I was under the weather this past Sunday, I took him for a day-long workshop to fulfill the spiritual requirement for his Cub Scout trail.
When I was away from my family on a recent trip to Finland, I learned that NGO’s in Europe are much better when it comes to balancing work and family. It’s enough to know that they have twenty-four vacation days a year for those who work for just one year. This is in addition to all kinds of days off. I think they got it right. Balancing work with family obligations is a powerful tool for productivity and prosperity. We should learn this lesson from the Finnish, and find creative ways for those working in the non-profit sector to achieve this balance.
Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi is the Director of Community Outreach and Interfaith Relations for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). His responsibilities include fostering interfaith relations, strengthening ISNA’s relationships with the Muslim community in North America, and supervising ISNA’s joint projects with interfaith organizations and federal government institutions.
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