Double Booked: Perspectives from the President of WRJ
By Blair Marks
With a demanding professional career managing the ethics and compliance training, communications and external engagement for a Fortune 500 company, some people think I am crazy for having agreed to serve as the President of Women of Reform Judaism. Sometimes I would have to agree, but mostly I prefer to think that I am incredibly lucky. It’s true that I don’t end up with much down time, but WRJ brought my life into balance when I worked in a male-dominated profession, and continues to give me a perspective on our world that I would never have otherwise achieved.
It is a privilege to work with other women passionate about continuing WRJ’s 100+ year tradition of standing for those whose voices might not otherwise be heard, and especially for women, children and families. Stronger together, our sisterhoods have spoken out and taken action against sex trafficking, genital mutilation, enslavement of women and children, eating disorders and bias in hiring and promotion, while advocating for women’s right to vote, equal rights including equal pay, gun control, and protections for children and the elderly. Yet not only do our WRJ women work to improve global conditions, they also directly enrich each other’s lives every day.
For many years I thought I understood the term “sandwich generation” but discovered that I did not fully appreciate the significance until I realized that I was the sandwich filling.
My in-laws lived out of state and we could see them only infrequently, taking vacation to visit for just a few days at a time. We worried about whether my husband’s mother was accurately telling us everything happening with her and once even had to deal with a doctor who would not provide information over the phone, despite the fact that she had authorized the conversation. We wonder how to handle my mother’s needs as she moves into her eighties and requires increasing attention and support. I spend part of most weekends taking care of the “must do” things and feeling that I am not doing everything that I could and should for her, yet I feel at once blessed and guilty about her stated opinion that her daughters are taking very good care of her.
Whenever I am out of town yet again (part of almost every week) I know that when I get home I will be scrambling to take care of the laundry, mom, errands, bills… and oh, yeah, to spend some time enjoying my incredibly understanding and patient husband. And I count my blessings that our daughter has successfully established herself as an independent and insightful adult, while at the same time I am trying to figure out how to catch more time with her than the occasional text message and short visit over dinner. It’s a juggling act, requiring many very late nights and weekends, but as long as I can keep all the balls in the air (even if I occasionally catch one only an inch off the floor) I figure I am doing OK. I joke that my motto is “sleep is highly overrated.”
My WRJ sisters, both in my own congregation and across North America, provide essential understanding, advice and support. They have taught me the value of even just a quick note of encouragement or a reminder that help is always just a phone call away. I am not unique, and I can only hope that I have been able to do the same for them, as so many of us try to balance careers, aging parents, extended families and the needs of our children at all ages. And I hope they feel as lucky as I to be part of this amazing community of women!
Blair Marks is the president of Women of Reform Judaism, and lives in Marietta, GA.
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