Friday, April 26, 2013

The Having It All Project: Naomi Greenfield

I had the privilege of meeting Naomi when I was helping to plan the Temple Emanuel BBQ years ago and we hired her balloon company. You guys, she is simply awesome at this. And then we watched her documentary and learned all about the fascinating lives she profiled there. Now, we catch up annually at Temple Emanuel's Yom Hashoah commemoration. Here's how Naomi is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I am the proud mom of happy, fun, ridiculously cute, curly-haired 2.5-year-old Sylvia. I live in a condo on the top floor of an historic house in Arlington, MA with Sylvia and my smart, funny and very calm husband Matt.  I work Monday-Thursday as a Creative Strategist at a multimedia and animation studio in Boston called FableVision Studios.  I met my husband at work and he works about six feet away from me every day!  My Fridays are special days where I try to work very little, relax as much as possible, and mostly play with Sylvia. 

I have a business, Red Balloon Company, that I run on the side making balloon animals and doing balloon sculpture and workshops at parties and events.  Ten years ago, one of my best friends and I made a documentary about balloon twisters, TWISTED: A Balloonamentary.  Aside from being a mom, working on that film was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.  The film has screened in 15 film festivals, in 10 theaters across the country and is available on DVD.  I will always consider myself a filmmaker, but right now am much more focused on my job at FableVision, my balloon twisting work, and my life as a mom.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
I keep my "Home" calendar separate from my "Work" calendar so I can be organized and prepared for all the things we have scheduled as a family--appointments, trips, birthdays, parties, classes, etc.  I also always look at the month-view on our calendar to get a broad sense of what we have coming up and to make sure our lives aren't too packed.  I like to be busy and with an active toddler it's good to have activities planned, but I also know that we, as a family, need good solid downtime in addition to activities.  I'm also careful not to stress myself out by putting too many "to dos" in one day.  

Also, napping--not just for Sylvia, but for me and Matt!  When Sylvia was born, people always said to me "Sleep when the baby sleeps!" I found that almost impossible to do when Sylvia was an infant, but now that her nap times are more predictable, Matt and I always try to lie down and sleep a little on the weekends when Sylvia is sleeping.  It's amazing how much better I am as a mom, a wife and a human being when I am well rested.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
Thankfully, I don't have many times where I felt like everything broke down, aside from that time of immediate chaos right when Sylvia was born and we became new parents.  When Sylvia was about 15 months old, though, Matt had an emergency appendectomy that definitely threw us for a loop.  That night, I had to drive him to the emergency room and leave Sylvia sleeping in our apartment with one of the neighbors watching the baby monitor.  Luckily, my parents live 25 minutes away and came to our house to stay with Sylvia right away.  The week or two after his surgery was also hard because he didn't have much energy and couldn't pick up Sylvia, so the nice parenting balance we had established was disrupted.  It was extra stressful for me taking care of both Matt and Sylvia; Matt was frustrated that he couldn't play with her more, and Sylvia was sad that he couldn't pick her up. Thankfully, that ordeal didn't last long.  It did remind me (and does to this day) just how incredibly fortunate we are to be healthy.

I'm due with our second child in July, so if you come back to me after that, I'm sure I will have many more examples of things breaking down! But I'm hoping we'll figure it out eventually just like we did when Sylvia was born.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I'm actually pretty happy with the balance of work and family in my life.  I owe that mostly to my 4-day-a-week schedule, which is definitely a financial sacrifice and, at times, a challenge with my FableVision workload increasing.  But having that Friday for myself and to be with Sylvia is a regular reminder that my job is not everything in my life and that I am committed to spending time with my family.  Having Fridays off also makes me feel better about the one or two times per weekend when I leave Matt and Sylvia and work a balloon gig or event.  I feel very fortunate to work at a company that is family-friendly and that has a nice handful of working parents.  It's helpful to see how they all balance work and family life, always working hard when they're at the office, but taking time off to coach soccer practice, chaperone field trips and attend school events.  FableVision also has a generous personal/sick day policy that really reduces the stress that can be caused by having to take unexpected personal/sick time for when your kid is sick.  

I also feel very lucky that Sylvia has a nice balance in her life between time in school, time with me and time with her grandparents.  She has several out-of-town grandparents who we see about once a month and my parents take care of her one day a week.  I feel so happy that together with my parents, we were able to coordinate that one-day-a-week with Sylvia.  It's a very special experience for both of them and one that affords me great balance in my own life, for which I am extremely grateful.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
Well, when I was 18, I think probably my biggest concern was that I didn't have a boyfriend; I'm not worried about that anymore. I think with each new change and adjustment in life--marriage, jobs, homeownership, children--there are new concerns and worries.  Right now, I am so happy and thankful to have my health, to have my family and to have a great job that I find challenging, rewarding and creatively fulfilling.  I wish I could tell 18-year-old me how great everything worked out!

Relate to what Naomi is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at!


  1. A balloon artist?!! Wow, this post is causing some serious career reflection! Sounds so much fun!

    Good luck with baby #2!

  2. Thanks, Kimberly! It's definitely a great side business for me.