Originally printed in the November 2020 issue of Produce Business.
One of the many hats I wear is that of Mom. I am the mom to two girls; one is 2 years old, and the other three months old. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, everyone — even my own family members — chided that I couldn’t possibly raise a newborn and work full time… well, they were wrong! I worked the first few weeks from home with my new child in arms (even, I kid you not, working from the hospital on my laptop before being discharged). This was quite an undertaking but I rose to the occasion.
Even though this meant working around the clock, quite literally, I was able to accomplish my work and felt confident in my decision to choose to mother and work simultaneously. This isn’t a new concept, by any means. Mothers have been working for decades to support their families while also taking care of their children. Now, bringing your child to work daily and getting the job done? That’s another story! I was up for the challenge.
Did people think I was crazy? Absolutely! Did I even question my own sanity at times? Yep, you bet. My ability to multi-task and stay focused on the tasks at hand made me be able to do this successfully. On the day my oldest daughter turned 3 months old, she came to work with me daily. She was the youngest member of the family to put her hours in at work… the 5th generation certainly started young! She rocked in her soother, slept in her playpen next to my desk and when she got a little bigger and started to move around, she would run around the office. She even starred in one of our banana ripening ads that ran in the trade press.
How to juggle running a wholesale business and raising a toddler and infant at the same time. COVID can’t stop me….
Fast forward 2.5 years later, and I had my second baby — smack in the middle of a crazy pandemic. A few months before the arrival of my second child, I started working exclusively from home due to safety and health concerns from my doctors and family members alike. I wholeheartedly did not want to do that, but at the time I thought I would be home for just a few weeks… little did I know that seven months later, I would still be working from home, still in the throes of COVID-19.
Working from home these days is the new norm. The majority of our country is learning to do their work from home while their kids run around them. Many parents also have to fit their work around their children’s virtual school sessions as well. These times are crazy, to say the least. Most people I’ve talked to on the phone can attest to the “background noise” — I apologize, although it seems these days most everyone understands!
To add another facet to my produce-centric life, let’s add in the fact that my husband also works in the industry. Working with a spouse is not for the faint at heart. It takes a lot of effort to separate work and home life. My husband left his work in the finance sector four years ago to come work for my family’s business. He went from working bankers’ hours, 9-5, to working insane hours: 3 AM-11 AM.
Working with your spouse can be a challenge. Working with your spouse, father, and numerous other family members can be even more of a challenge! Working with family is often difficult. Lots of big personalities! Lots of disagreements that carry over from the office to home and back again.
In a family business, you have to be accountable to many people. I work hard not just for myself, but for my family at work, and for my employees there who are like family, but I work the hardest for my two daughters, to show them what dedication and hard work go into running a business — to show them what it means to be a #GirlBoss.
I work hard to be able to leave them a legacy and a business to go into (should they have an interest), just like my father, grandparents and my great-grandparents left for me. That’s a lot of pressure!
Tracie Levin is the controller for her family’s wholesale produce company, M. Levin and Company, Inc. She has been working there for the past 14 years and is involved in all facets of the company’s daily operations.