Balancing career and family calls for organizational skills.
Story: Theresa Campbell
A recent study of 2,000 working mothers of children ages 5 to 12 revealed the average mom works 98 hours per week—the equivalent of 2.5 full-time jobs. The findings from Welch Foods Inc. doesn’t surprise one local mom.
“I totally agree with it; I never sit down,” says Jeo (pronounced “Jo”) Watterson, 38, of Fruitland Park, a busy mother of five children. Her day begins at 6am and it’s shortly before midnight before she drifts off to sleep.
“There’s never a dull moment,” she says. “I am constantly cleaning or washing laundry, cooking meals, or taking somebody somewhere.”
The “somewhere” destinations are to and from school, ball games, dance classes, doctor appointments, and more.
She’s not complaining. Jeo and her husband of 15 years, Dane, love being parents to their four sons and one daughter: Kanyon, 14; Evah, 12; Kaysen, 10; Kynton, 4, and Kavyn, 1 1/2.
To earn a little extra family income, Jeo recently began working at night at the front desk of Dance Dynamix, where her daughter takes classes. From the dance studio, Jeo goes to a doctor’s office to clean it while her husband cares for the kids. He works weekdays at The Villages Golf Cars at Brownwood Paddock Square.
“He’s very supportive and he understands sometimes it’s nice to get out of the house from all of the babies, so it’s kind of my ‘me time,’” Jeo says of working outside the house.
The Wattersons have found that by following a routine, making lists, and being organized, they balance parenting and their jobs.
After Jeo takes the children to school in the morning, she returns home to do cleaning and laundry. She picks up Kynton from preschool before noon, and while he and Kavyn are eating lunch, Jeo begins making dinner for her husband to warm up and feed the kids at night.
She also packs a bag of snacks and dance clothes for Evah to go straight from school to dance classes, and she packs items Dane will need for the boys’ ball practices.
“We teach the kids to put their backpacks in the same spot and we teach them to be organized, so we don’t have to search for shoes for 20 minutes,” Jeo says, adding house chores are rotated so the children learn to do them.
Navigating online dating
Story: Theresa Campbell
In today’s busy society, online dating has evolved into the most widely accepted and practical way to meet people to date, according to Michelle Afront, author of “The Dang Factor, the Dude Factor, and the Profile Factor.”
However, she notes online dating takes time and effort.
“You’re likely going to go on many dates before your match is made,” Michelle says in a press release. “Do not focus on the bad dates or bad apples. Instead, focus on the potential matches who may end up being your life partner. Look for those with a similar socioeconomic, educational, and life status. Date those whose lives seem like they could mesh with yours.”
Celeste, 60, who enjoys winters in Leesburg, has found online dating can result in moments of excitement, disappointments, and a few winks from creeps.
“If nothing else, it put me in touch with a few men that I would never have met otherwise. I got to test my flirting skills after 33 years of marriage and three years of widowhood,” says Celeste, who asked that her last name be withheld.
When she first went online, Celeste noticed some teenage feelings of self-doubt creeping in.
“It can feel like you’re back in high school, with the guys lined up in the hallway passing judgment on you. That’s not a good feeling,” she says. “It’s worse for the over-50 group because the pool of men is so small compared to women.”
However, she found it thrilling to be pursued by two men at the same time. “It made me feel young even if I ended up not liking either of them,” Celeste says.
She’s not giving up online dating just yet, as she intends to pursue some smaller sites, and she offered these words of advice to other women interested in online dating:
· Don’t spend more than an hour a day on the site. It’s not worth it. They always tell you not to talk “off the site,” but it’s more practical to do so.
· Get a “burner phone app” on your phone with a different phone number to talk with potential dates until you feel like you want to meet them.
· Talk on the phone. Texting creates a false intimacy. You know a lot when you talk to someone on the phone.
Celeste also offered tips for men about their online profiles: “Stop taking photos in the bathroom mirror, in bed, and with your tongue hanging out. It’s just disgusting.”
Break the cycle
Domestic violence victims can find help through many resources.
Story: Chris Gerbasi
Most survivors of domestic violence suffer seven acts of victimization before they finally say, “I can’t do this anymore.”
That disturbing statement comes from Reenea Wheeler, a victim advocate at Haven of Lake & Sumter Counties. Each year, Haven aids 12,000 to 15,000 female victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, about 95 percent of whom have at least two children, she says.
“The one thing we always try to stress to them is to get out of the situation,” she says. “We stress the fact that they need to get away from the abuser.”
Unfortunately, Reenea says, that’s the most difficult choice for abused women to make, because the life they’re in is all they know, and their abusive partner may be the sole provider for the family. Domestic violence also knows no boundaries, such as age groups or race or ethnicity, she says.
In 2016, police agencies across Florida received 105,640 reports of domestic violence crimes, including 1,663 in Lake and 314 in Sumter, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. About 80 percent of the cases statewide were categorized as “simple assault”; 179 were murders.
Leesburg police Detective James Dunagan sees his share of domestic violence cases.
“It is certainly a big problem in Leesburg,” he says. “All couples argue, and if you add drugs or family problems, it can escalate quickly.”
Many times, however, disputes come down to “he said/she said.” Officers try to document everything possible in an effort to corroborate stories and possibly file charges.
“Victims often rescind their cooperation after things cool down, but in most states, including Florida, we can pursue criminal charges without the victim’s cooperation,” the detective says.
Police often refer victims to Haven, one of Florida’s 42 certified domestic violence centers offering crisis intervention, legal advocacy, children’s services, shelter at a confidential location, and a host of other services at no charge.
Of course, it’s impossible to know how many women don’t seek help, but Reenea sees one positive trend: more women are reporting their abusers.
“I think in this day and age, more women are willing because there are more service centers than there used to be 15 or 20 years ago,” she says.
Reach out for help
Florida domestic violence hotline: 1-800-500-1119
Haven’s 24/7 domestic violence hotline: 352.753.5800 (or go to havenlakesumter.org)
Sexual assault helpline for Lake and Sumter: 352.787.1379.
Lake County Outreach Counseling Office, 2600 South Street, Leesburg, 8am-5pm Monday-Friday, 352.787.5889.
Sumter County Outreach Counseling Office, 2748 County Road 470, Lake Panasoffkee, 9am-5pm Monday-Friday, 352.793.5365.
More women are reporting sexual harassment.
Story: Chris Gerbasi
During the past year, the #MeToo movement has exposed the issue of sexual harassment and sexual assault like never before.
Many prominent leaders in all walks of life have resigned their positions, state and federal legislators have worked on new laws, and sexual harassment has been the focus of women’s marches around the country.
A correlation can be found between #MeToo and an increase in harassment complaints, says Victoria Mesa-Estrada, an employment lawyer for Florida Legal Services and a board member of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence in Tallahassee. More women are seeking help from the council and, on the labor side, she’s seen a rise in workplace complaints.
Unfortunately, distinct differences exist among women when it comes to reporting incidents, Victoria says. Immigrants and low-paid workers are less likely to complain for fear of immigration issues or losing their job.
“A professional woman in an office with, say, a higher education than high school is more likely to try to get help,” she says. “A farmworker woman will not report it and will not ask for help.”
#MeToo has influenced groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW), which in December announced the #EnoughIsEnough campaign. The goal is to develop strategies to address sexual harassment in workplaces and schools, with a special focus on low-paid workers.
Members of Lake NOW, a chapter based in Mount Dora, have embraced #MeToo because some of them have experienced harassment in the workplace, President Mary Flanagan says.
“It is a cultural shift,” she says. “It’s not just women stepping up but men stopping—thinking about what their behavior is and (realizing) it’s inappropriate.”
Of course, sexual harassment is not restricted to the workplace. Victoria says many cases involve women who are harassed in family settings by a relative or someone close to them. In any situation, however, the council has simple advice.
“We always advise them to first find a safe place and report it,” Victoria says.
What to do in the workplace
Don’t ignore sexual harassment—address the harasser and make it clear you want the behavior to stop.
Report sexual harassment immediately so your employer can take action.
Document incidents of sexual harassment and keep pertinent emails.
If possible, do not quit your job or your legal rights could be jeopardized.
Source: Whittel & Melton law firm website
Grabbing the purse strings
Women still strive to learn more about finance.
Story: Chris Gerbasi
The thought of a woman not knowing how to balance a checkbook or leaving all the financial decisions to her husband seems like a concept straight out of a 1950s sitcom.
And when Liz Cornell looks at her TB Financial Group clients, she sees generational trends: men generally handle finances among older couples, while at younger ages, women are more involved because many of them have careers of their own.
“Fifty years ago, a lot of women didn’t work. They weren’t the breadwinner,” says Liz, CEO and founder of the Fruitland Park company. “Today, a lot more women are breadwinners.”
In fact, more women work, pay Social Security taxes, and earn credit toward retirement income than at any other time in U.S. history, according to the Social Security Administration.
Despite that fact, or maybe because of it, many working women still need to educate themselves about family finances or their own assets, Liz says.
“There are a lot of young women who want to learn, but finance seems really overwhelming, and it’s just our human nature to avoid things that we find difficult,” she says.
A good starting point for women is to learn about savings and retirement plans, Liz says. They should create an emergency savings fund that will allow them to survive six months to a year in case they lose their job, for example. At work, they should enroll in a 401(k) retirement plan, in which employers match a percentage of their contributions.
That emergency fund is not for investing. But when the time comes that they do have money to invest, women should consult a financial advisor, Liz says.
Of course, women of all ages, whether they’re single, married, divorced, or widowed, should be savvy about their finances.
Elaine Bastl, a retiree living in The Villages, defied those 1950s stereotypes when she was growing up. She loved math and learned the value of a dollar from her father, who worked three jobs. Once Elaine married, she paid the household bills. But after nine years, she and her husband divorced.
Divorce or widowhood leaves many women in financial limbo. They should know everything about the family income, bank accounts, investments, mortgages, loans, credit cards, life insurance, and where financial documents are kept.
While raising two daughters and knowing she had to “figure things out for myself,” Elaine attended a financial seminar and received some good advice: pay yourself first. She set up bank accounts for each daughter and made deposits with each paycheck. She created a household budget and included her daughters in the process.
“I love budgets to this day,” Elaine says. “It’s a simple mathematical equation. It encouraged me to be aware of where the dollars go and where they’re coming from.”
Elaine eventually worked in a variety of fields, including public relations and marketing.
“I was always figuring out how to make enough money and how to save enough money, and do [things] for my daughters,” she says.
Budgeting in retirement remains a necessity. Women face greater economic challenges than men in retirement because they often have lower lifetime earnings, and they tend to live longer than their husbands, so retirement savings have to last a longer period.
Elaine passed her fiscal discipline on to her daughters, both of whom are married, employed, and taking care of their money—a task every woman should embrace, Liz says.
“At the end of the day, women hold all the power whether they know it or not,” Liz says. “With 99 percent of couples, women end up being the decision-makers.”
A woman in the oval office?
Many seem to be open to the idea of a woman holding the highest office in the land.
Story: James Combs
In 2016, Hillary Clinton came oh-so-close to becoming the country’s first female president, besting Donald Trump in the popular vote but falling short in the Electoral College. Her defeat left many Americans wondering whether the country will ever have a woman president.
It’s a fair question, especially when you consider that women have risen to leadership positions, including president and prime minister, in 70 countries.
Americans seem to think women make effective leaders and have the right qualities to lead the country. That was evident when we walked the downtown streets of Eustis, Mount Dora, and Tavares and asked random locals and visitors this question: “Do you think a woman would make a good president?”
Here are their responses:
“Women are every bit as capable, hardworking, and intelligent as men. A female president would bring different perspectives, different backgrounds, and different life experiences to the White House.”
—Brandi Cahill, Eustis
“I’m not a big fan of the current president and think we need change. If change means electing a female president, then I’m all for it. I don’t think Trump has much compassion for anybody. A woman would be much more compassionate to the elderly, minorities, and children.”
—Joseph Davis, Mount Dora
“The United States is a world power, so there’s no reason why we haven’t had a female president. The best thing about electing a woman is that she will bring a kinder perspective to the White House. I do think we’ll see a female president in my lifetime.”
—Mary Hobson, Eustis
“Sure, I want a female president as long as it’s not Hillary! I want a president with less baggage than her who doesn’t owe anything to anybody. Women see things in different ways than men, and we’re less hostile and more compassionate. That’s why I think a woman would make for a fantastic president.”
—Malena Doyle, Apopka
“Having a female president is a good idea because it would show everybody that we’re truly free in this country. We’re the land of the free, so everybody should have an opportunity if they’re qualified.”
—Jesse Pollock, Zellwood
“I think a female president would be great for the country because it would show women that they can aspire to be whatever they want. I also think a female president would do good for everyone, not just fellow millionaires or billionaires.”
—Jorge Sota, Orlando