On International Women's Day, it's business as usual for three Berkshire moms

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GREAT BARRINGTON — It's International Women's Day and the theme is #Balanceforbetter, a campaign about "driving a gender-balanced world."

Founded in 1911, the day is meant to celebrate the "social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women — while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender balance," says the campaign's website.

But in this world of women juggling full-time jobs, children, technology overload, cooking and cleaning, how does this really work? The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2018 Time Use Survey reported that women, for instance, do 49 percent of housework, while men do 19 percent.

And regardless of either gender's careers or income, women are doing more household chores than their male partners, according to a 2017 study published in Springer journal's "Sex Roles," led by a researcher from the University of Alberta.

The Eagle took a quick look into the lives of three Berkshire County women to find out how they manage their days, and asked them about "gender balance."

WEI WEI SHI

Shi, 37, of Dalton, is co-owner and chef at Shiro Kitchen and Asian Market in Great Barrington. She has two boys, 10 and 11.

Morning routine: "I yell, `It's time to go,' to wake them up," she says of her boys. "And if I say I have a `good breakfast' — they get up really quick." Shi's boys love rice balls and noodles in the morning. It helps that these are easy to make, she said.

The day: Shi works from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and can't pick her boys up from school in Pittsfield. "I ask friends or my husband does it," she said, noting that the boys will transfer to school in Great Barrington next year to make it easier.

Struggle: Apart from scheduling hassles, Shi worries that there aren't enough veggies in the boys' diet. "I want [the boys] to eat healthy. The boys love burgers and pizza." Shi made lasagna recently. "They said, `Mom — there's too many veggies in there." But the boys love the frozen dumplings she sells at the store, and those she makes. "I can mix veggies and meat."

Berkshires life: "Summer is easier, winter is harder. There's more money [made] in the summer to cover the winter bills." Shi and her family like to hike and ski, but don't do it very often. They love going to the Pittsfield Bird Sanctuary.

Gender balance: "Most women struggle. People need to support women more. The husband, boyfriend or partner should give appreciation to make a woman feel important. When they ask daddy a question, it's one question: `Where's mommy?' Mom is more easy going."

ANGEL LINDSEY

Lindsey, 28, of Great Barrington, is second-in-command to general manager, McDonald's. She has one boy, age 7.

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Morning routine: Lindsey gets to work at 7 a.m. Because she lives with her sister, and her son lives with his grandparents, mornings are "simple."

The day: "If I'm in a good mood, I'm happy, so I'm going to make everyone else happy and make sure the job is getting done." Lindsey says her days are satisfying, knowing she saving money. "I save up to make sure I'm OK. I have a pretty decent job so that I can actually save."

Struggle: "Long days. And I have stress when people are not doing their job and I have to do it for them." Lindsey also says she's too tired by the end of the day to really cook, and usually heats up a frozen pizza or makes a quick pasta. "It's ready-to-go food because I work so much." No McDonald's, though — she's eaten it too much. "I don't touch McDonald's."

Berkshires: Lindsey grew up in Great Barrington, and said she didn't have much to compare it to. But she says she sees a lot of people "who are not doing well," and using drugs. "I don't do drugs."

Gender balance: Lindsey says notions of gender balance and equality in the workplace might not be the same for everyone. "It depends on who the woman is and how she's living her life. Some women don't want to work and their husbands or boyfriends work. I'd rather work and save up and be OK with my life and make sure my son has everything he needs. He's super smart."

JESS COONEY

Cooney, 45, of Great Barrington, is CEO and founder of Jess Cooney Interiors. She has three children, ages 9, 11 and 16.

Morning routine: "My husband is in charge of making all the kids' lunches the night before. In the winter we'll have soup or stew ready to heat at the stove. That makes the morning flow." Cooney takes care of breakfast, which is usually eggs, avocado toast or oatmeal, and sometimes French toast. "I'm not a good cook — I don't like cooking." Yet she said she's dedicated to a strong breakfast for her children.

The day: She says a little exercise on her trampoline or some yoga helps her manage the demands of the day. "I'm energized and more positive with the kids." Cooney also says spending 15 minutes the night before planning the following day also eases the strain.

Struggle: Cooney stopped struggling with work/life balance when she and her husband, a physician, "renegotiated" the division of household and parenting work. Life got easier, and her business took off when she invested in staff at her busy firm. "I feel like women don't hire help as quickly as men do. My husband wouldn't start a medical practice without a secretary. I meet women who are killing themselves in their business by not having staff. They think they can't afford it — but the business will grow. Trust that."

Berkshires life: Cooney says this small-town makes finding balance easier. "It's incredibly helpful that everything is five minutes from me — I'm not sitting in traffic."

Gender balance: Cooney says she'll step in when a contractor tries to put her all-female staff in the "secretarial role" by asking for a coffee run, for instance. "We weeded that out," she said. She's also fiercely opposed to marketing meant to undermine women, and talks to her daughters about it.

"Spending every last bit of money to perfect your looks with products marketed to us to make us insecure is detrimental to living in the true power and essence of who they are."

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871


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