Becoming a Mom while becoming a Leader

While serving on the JLSA Communications Council last year I had the pleasure of working with our VP of Communications, Heather Blazi. Shortly into our League year I was happy to learn that Heather was expecting with her first baby! As any mother knows, there is so much that goes into preparing for a new life. As any League member knows, there is so much extra work, time and energy that goes into the positions, such as VP of Communications and others that sit on the board of JLSA. Amazingly, Heather stuck to it! From the outside everything appeared smooth sailing and Heather handled tasks with grace. Women are truly multi faceted beings we hold jobs, volunteer our time and manage our friends and family life – we give so much of ourselves. As an organization made up of women, I thought it particularly important to highlight Heather.

1. What was your role during the 2016-2017 JLSA League Year?

My 3rd active year in the JLSA, the 2016-17 League year, I was the Vice President of Communications.

2. When did you learn that you would be taking on this position?

I was called by nominating early on (I think it was sometime early September 2015) and asked if I would consider my nomination! I was a whole mix of emotions – excited that someone felt enough of me to nominate me for the position; and nervous because I felt I was so “young” in my League career, that I wouldn’t know enough to be a strong leader.

Even after the interview (sometime in October 2015), I thought for sure I had flopped it. I felt like I said all the wrong things, I didn’t have a “vision” for the Council, and I felt like I stumbled all over my words… all-in-all, I think my interview lasted a solid 5 minutes (they had told me to block out about a half an hour…). When I was called and told that I was being slated, I think my jaw hit the floor. I had no idea what to expect, but I accepted the “call to duty” and was excited to start my new adventure.

3. When did you learn you were pregnant?

I found out December 14, 2015 at 1:43 PM. I will never forget that moment. I was at work, and I couldn’t wait until I got home… so I did it at the office. The first person to find out besides me? Our receptionist.

4. Many would have requested a different League position, some members even take the year off, why did you choose to brave forward?

Ha! Honestly, the thought never crossed my mind (that I remember). My predecessor, Ariana Barbour, had her baby girl during her tenure as VP, so I figured it would be easy enough to manage both, and a full-time job, and double-placing in another non-profit #FTMambitions (I ended up backing out of those two positions in my other non-profit because I didn’t want to over-commit and stress myself out)

5. What kind of things did you struggle with?

Communications is an interesting placement; You have to know what’s going on League-wide, which is honestly what drove me to Communications in the first place. It’s a great place to view everything our League does from community service to fundraising. There are so many moving parts, that sometimes I felt like everything was crashing down at once. I felt like I was burdening my husband regularly with taking care of a newborn while I went to meetings or had to take phone calls. I could sense a little resentment from him, and I hated that.

6. What did you find most helpful?

My Council members. Seriously. If nothing else, this year taught me to delegate. Everyone on my council was so on top of their game, and we were tasked with some major projects (new website, new SCRAWLS, hiring a PR firm) and they just knocked it out of the park. They alleviated my load, so that I could focus on my kid and other projects (like updating our communications bylaws, re-developing & updating our branding guidelines, etc).

And, I can’t forget Ariana. I hate burdening people with my problems, so I tried really hard to not feel like a “bother” to anyone. However, whenever I felt like I was overly stressed, or if I needed to have a sounding board, I would call/text Ariana. She always graciously accepted my call/text and imparted me with her wisdom.

7. How did you manage the stress of it all?

Organization. The key to everything (in my opinion) is being organized. I have always been a little O.C.D. when it comes to organization, and it paid off for me, in this role.

Tuning Out. Sometimes, the best thing to do for your sanity, is to just turn it off. I think my husband got frustrated with me a few too many times before it clicked that I was dumping on him too much. I finally developed a schedule where I would put away my phone/computer, and be done for the day so I could focus on my family.

Wine. I mean, do I need to say more? Sometimes, you just need a glass…. Or a bottle….

8. Tips for other Super Women

Never be afraid to ask for help or say “No”. I have always been the type of person that never wanted to let anyone down, and always wanted to help out when someone asked me to. I love that feeling you get when you do something for someone else and they are so grateful for your time. However, while we are super women… we are also humans who have lives outside of the JLSA (GASP! yeah, I said it).

I sometimes think having Nora was the best thing that happened to me (for a multitude of reasons) but also because it helped me focus and reprioritize. As much as I would love to do it all–and I feel like I did most everything I wanted to do in my tenure­–I learned to let things go that were not critical.

9. Would you do it again?

I want to be perfectly candid. Before this opportunity, I never saw myself in a leadership position in the League. My dream was to join Sunshine Singers and sing and dance my way through my years. At Placement Showcase my new member year, I walked by the communications table, and started talked to Brandis Davis about communications. At work, I had just started my transition from the Architecture department to the Marketing department, and I thought the Communications Council would be an awesome training ground for me to help me in my transition. I would have NEVER anticipated becoming VP 3 years later.

All of that said, I totally would. I learned so much about myself and I learned how to be a Leader (I’ll let others determine if I was a good leader or not, ha!) It totally inspired me to see my council members take on their tasks, and want to do more with their League careers, and I hope that I helped push them to keep that passion­–again, they will be the ultimate judge of that!

10. Reflecting back prior to finding out you were going to become VP, or mom – and your current self, how have things changed?

Ha! I’m a lot messier… organized chaos, is what I like to call it. My husband cringed a lot in the beginning (although the whole “selling your house” process has caused me to be a lot more on top of things than I have been). I am also a lot more aware of what is around me that could influence Nora.

Example: I love music. I used to listen to 96.1 all the time and sing along, but after she was born, EEK! Have you actually listened to some of the lyrics in these songs!? Holy moly, I did NOT want to expose Nora to that… so now we pretty much only listen to classic rock, 90s (the good stuff: like gin blossoms, sister hazel, etc.), and Christian radio… because I must have music, and you could not pay me enough to listen to kids bop or whatever… (except Casper Babypants… look them up)

.. let’s be real, if you paid me $1M, I’d listen to anything you want…

From a VP perspective… When we took the Gallup Strengths Finder assessment in the beginning of the year (2016), my top 5 strengths were:

Input, learner, individualization, responsibility, belief

Basically, all of that boils down to: I like to listen to and observe the world around me before I make a decision; I believe we are all important, and we all stand out in our own unique ways and bring our own ideas to the table; I believe in taking ownership and following through; and I have an extremely strong moral compass.

Now, I did take this strength finder assessment pre-baby, so I’d be curious to see if anything has changed… but when I re-read them recently (like today… when I wrote this), they all still apply. I strongly believe in the words of our prayer, mission and vision, and they inspire me on a regular basis. I think everyone should take a moment to really read the words. Don’t just recite it, but comprehend what we are saying when we say these. If that doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what would. These are our guidance for everything we do, in our community, for our community, and for our members.

Prayer: Our Father, we pray that we will never be so blind that our small world is all we ever see, or so supremely satisfied that we are all we ever hope to be. Grant us the joy of filling someone’s need. Make us gracious followers. Make gracious those who lead, and more than all, we pray, that through the years, we will remember there are always new frontiers.

Mission: The Junior League of San Antonio, Inc. is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.

Vision: We are a community of women realizing and cultivating our gifts, passion and purpose. We will advance San Antonio through bold female leadership in position of responsibility and influence.

All of these just give me goosebumps.

11. Your daughter will now grow up seeing her mom active in the league, what kind of message do you hope this conveys to her?

My whole life, I have found extreme joy in helping others. I was very active in my Church when I was in MS/HS, and we did mission trips, choir tours, food drives, etc. for our community, and the communities that we visited. I loved every minute of it. JLSA has helped fill that void in my adult life. I hope that passion translates to Nora. Tim and I have already agreed on a lot of the ways we are going to encourage Nora to help others, especially around our birthdays and holidays. I never want her to take for granted what she has. I want her to see the world around her, and be inspired to help make it a better place. I have big dreams for that little girl, and I know she is going to change the world.

Thank you, Heather for all you do, you are so brave and strong! 

By Crystal Sperber