The Ima Kadima Conference, held last Friday morning in Tel Aviv, was called “Triumph of the Imas.” I think a more apt name, for me, would have been “Mama Mojo.”
Getting up early (and dressed!) on a Friday, and shlepping from my mountaintop home, away from Shabbat cooking and any chance of a nap on one of the shortest Fridays of the year… this was no easy task for me, nor for any of the other 300 Imas present. But we shlepped. And we met. And for many of us, especially me, we got our mojo back.
Ima Kadima, for those not “in the know”, is a nearly 10,000-strong community of career-minded, English speaking mothers in Israel, run by Naava Shafner and a host of dedicated volunteers. We are fighting an uphill battle of feminism at its strongest. Why a battle? Didn’t we already win the feminism battle? Well, sort of. As Fleur Nachum-Hassan, the keynote speaker, noted enthusiastically, “We now get to EVERYTHING. Raising kids. Arranging chugim. Recruiting investments from VCs. Hosting conference calls on the way to piano pickup. Attending networking events. Launching startups. Baking birthday cakes at 11 p.m. Is this really triumph? Have we, in effect, done ourselves a disservice?”
It got real, fast.
The conference offered us a wide array of panels from which we could garner knowledge, from maximizing your energy and managing your time effectively to how to launch a digital marketing effort for your small business.
Plus, there were snacks.
Fleur regaled us with a comprehensive list of reasons that her career makes her a better mother, and another list on why being a mother makes her a more effective businessperson. For one, she said, women are born multitaskers. Science attests to the fact that female brains switch between tasks and juggle priorities at a much higher level than men do. Parenting four children, pursuing a (successful) political career and managing a business, Fleur makes the most of every moment, even holding court at her hairdressers when there’s no more room on her schedule. While her husband, she testifies, cannot listen to music while parallel parking, Fleur (and the rest of us at the conference) naturally multitask.
Second, attested Fleur, women are more empathetic creatures than our male counterparts. Empathy, she says, is an imperative skill for conflict resolution, and the successful ability to foster conflict resolution is the first step toward leadership. Our elevated capacity for empathy (potentially rooted in a maternal instinct) makes us better professionals. Finally, Fleur stressed our ability, as women, to bond. We are more adept at forming meaningful relationships, and therefore, when the time comes to elevate our brands and businesses, we don’t stop at handing someone our business cards. As a group, we offer support, validity, and we can listen actively, bringing our networking to a much higher level.
But the real value at this conference — for me — was the mojo. It’s incredibly empowering to sit in a conference hall of women — many who brought their babies with them (because we can!) — to drink in the shared experience and enthusiasm. We are all pushing. Pushing to get ahead in business, pushing to grow, both personally and professionally, pushing to keep our children at the forefront of our priorities, pushing to maintain a healthy partnership with our spouses.
The diversity of this group was staggering, and although it may have appeared to an outsider that we were a homogeneous body (these women were all white, English speaking, Jewish working mothers) diversity stared me in the face. Ages of attendees ranged from early 20s to late 70s. There were mothers and grandmothers. There were married, divorced, and single women. There were mothers who had children alone, by choice. There was freeflowing hair and wrapped hair and wigs. There were long skirts and cropped tops and stilettos and jeans. There were settlers and Peace Now activists. There were administrative assistants, CEOs, entrepreneurs, artisans, marketers, accountants and graphics experts.
And we were one. We were overworked, overstressed, and desperate to achieve. Some of us were experiencing burnout, or on the verge of it. When you’re burning the candle at both (or all) ends, sometimes, you need a pick-me-up, and (for once) I’m not talking about chocolate. Or wine. I left the conference feeling like Mia from Pulp Fiction after Vincent Vega stabbed her in the chest with a shot of adrenaline. After being mired in work and kids and continuing education and client satisfaction and business development with a break here and there for marriage, I woke up, spitting and spewing, refreshed, and ready to go at it again.
Mama Mojo was just what I needed. And I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one.