In recent months, a psychologist, secretary, dance instructor, kindergarten teacher, silversmith and daycare center owner all chose to take their young children along with them to work - at the home of Alex and Shani Noam in Kiryat Tivon. Some six months ago, the Noams opened, Hayozma (Work with Baby ), a communal project that allows mothers to work with their young children beside them. This model provides them with work and also offers a solution for the children.
Hayozma finds simple jobs for the women, such as packing and pasting, for which they are paid per diem. And while the mothers are working, Shani Noam takes care of the children, with the help each day of a mother from a rotation of the participants.
The idea surfaced after the birth of Naveh, Shani and Alex's son, who is now 18 months old.
"At first, I was at home with him," says Noam, who worked previously as a curator and with art. "As he got older, I felt his needs were changing and he needed more social interaction, and I also wanted to bring in income. I didn't want to leave him and I wracked my brains trying to come up with something."
At the same time, Noam attended gatherings of mothers and babies in the area, and realized she was in the same situation as many other mothers. "I realized that quite a few mothers like myself want to get out of the lonely bubble and also work, and at a certain point the pieces of the puzzle connected for me," she recalls.
The puzzle that emerged brought together mothers and Alex's tattoo-sticker business, which was looking for a worker to make stencils at the time. "The idea is the simplest thing in the world," says Noam. "Instead of hiring a full-time employee, we broke the job down into several smaller ones."
The jobs are not meant solely for mothers. Initially, there was also a father with an infant taking part, but he left after finding another job.
At first, Hayozma was set up to run in a local building, but was subsequently moved to the Noam family's home. The house is 80 square meters and Hayozma operates in the living room, which is divided into two sections: In the one, the mothers sit around a table, and in the other, the children hang out. The mothers work, but when they want to, or when their kids need them, they can go to them.
"Except for child-safety measures, we didn't make any dramatic changes in the structure," says Noam. "The living room is next to the kitchen and everyone brings their own food and can make themselves a hot drink. The mother on duty prepares food for the children."
Hayozma also does outsourcing for other businesses. "We provide good, quality work and save the businesses from having to select workers and worry about employer-employee relations," says Noam.
Today, most of the work is in creating the tattoo stickers: The factory sends sheets of tattoos and the work entails peeling them off and cutting and coating them. Each mother works at her own pace and based on her own motivation. Some work intensively and also take work home; others work less and are there more for the social and communal aspect.
"I knew I wasn't interested in just a workplace, but a communal place," says Noam. "It's a kind of tribe."
This idea is reinforced by the fact that each of the mothers takes care of all the children once a week; and during vacations, they also bring their older kids with them.
As part of the concept of a modern tribe, Hayozma offers evening and afternoon activities that are also open to participants from outside the project. For example, there are courses in parenting and knitting and also cooking groups. The Noams believe in the power of a supportive environment and a community feeling, and they are looking for other businesses and factories to receive outsourcing from Hayozma.
"Our dream is to open branches in other places around the country," says Noam. "It's a project that is both profitable and really fills the need for employment and community."
The participants also speak of a feeling of closeness and support. "We have become like family. Relationships have developed between the families and we meet in the afternoons as well, go on picnics and have Friday evening gatherings," says Mor Werzer, 34, a former graphic designer who now works at the project.
Werzer, who is married to Michael, and is the mother of Ido, four-and-a-half year old, and Itamar, 16 months, came to the project after seeing an ad, and really took to it. "I wasn't looking so much to start working then," she says, "because I wanted to be with Itamar a little longer. But the possibility of working while still being with him intrigued me very much. We sit, work and talk, and the children are nearby and we are accessible to them. On the other hand, they have others to interact with and toys. It's perfect."
There are also regular visitors who emphasize the idea of community, such as a young girl who had a crisis and found a supportive environment, or one of the neighbors, who comes every day to help take care of the babies and has become their "Grandma Aviva," who even has he own advice column on Hayozma's website.
The actual work is easy, but the women do not see that as a negative. "There is something meditative and calming about this work," says Werzer.
Sima Baruch, the mother of Inbal, 3, and Amit, 10 months, also describes the work as relaxing. Baruch, 40, is married to Avi, a civilian employee of the Israel Defense Forces; she used to work as an office manager.
"I worked in very stressful places, such as a law office and an investigator's office," Baruch says. "Now, I work in a relaxed place. True, when I managed an office, I was high up and had a lot of responsibility; but today I enjoy the tranquillity and the closeness to my child."
Are they worried that such a place removes them from the labor force?
Baruch: "This concern is relevant perhaps for someone who doesn't work at all. But I'm working. I may not be in my field, but it is work. I believe that I will be able to return to my field if I wanted to."
Werzer: "For the time being, it feels good and I'm going with it. Concerns about returning to the workforce apply to anyone who wants to be at home with their baby. I feel that my job at the moment is to be a mother and Hayozma provides me with a framework and support. It's just a supportive environment for my job as a mother."
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