Life advice from a very together working mom of 10 kids

How does Juliette Kulda, successful businesswoman and mother of 10 children ages 1 to 22, master the art of work-family balance? (Hint: she doesn’t!)

Juliette Kulda, her husband, and their 10 kids in 2015. Photo courtesy of Juliette Kulda

It’s pretty common to hear working mothers discuss work-life balance: how many business calls to take in the evenings, how many emails to answer on the weekends, how many times can one slip out of the office for a ballet recital. And my friends—who talk about this a lot—have only one or two, sometimes three, kids. So here’s a question: How do working mothers of really big families do it? How to they manage the demands of a career, and say, 10 kids?

MORE TO READ: 7 women whose careers took off after kids

To find out, we talked to Juliette Kulda, an award-winning realtor (ranked the #5 Keller Williams individual agent in 2015) in Half Moon Bay, California. Kulda is wife to Derek and mom to their 10 children, ages 1 to 22. Kulda has not only found guilt-free ways to integrate motherhood and her career, but she’s discovered that her career and motherhood are better together. Here are some of her tips for making it all work.

Manage stress by accepting that chaos is inevitable

There’s no way around it: any attempt to balance work and family life will be challenging (as is everything involving motherhood!). But simply accepting that life is chaotic—and not wasting energy fighting that—can give you some peace of mind.

“At first, I intended to work at the office only two days a week and work from home on the other days,” Kulda said in an email. “As you could imagine, it was not easy being on-call to meet clients’ immediate needs while still running a busy household. There is no such thing as a ‘part time’ real estate agent.” Working mothers know that this phase is the “rush hour of life,” and sometimes just accepting that as one of things that we cannot change can be freeing. Kulda and her husband manage their stress and seek guidance through prayer.

What appears to be a state of balance is something entirely different—an act of balancing.—Gary Keller

Know your non-negotiables

Kulda likes what Gary Keller says in his book The One Thing about work-family balance. “Nothing ever achieves absolute balance. Nothing. No matter how imperceptible it might be, what appears to be a state of balance is something entirely different—an act of balancing,” Keller writes.

Kulda applies Keller’s assertion that “extraordinary results require focused attention and time” to her work and family life. Kulda works hard at the office, but she also has “non-negotiables” that keep her focused as a wife and mother. She and her husband have prioritized “sit-down family dinners each evening, Sunday morning church as a family, and summer vacations at the lake” in their family life. Knowing they can count on these rituals to keep them strong and unified.

“There is a plaque that hangs in the lobby of my office that states the Keller Williams company’s [vision of]: “Shared beliefs and shared success,” Kulda says. “Under ‘Values’ it states: ‘God, family, and then business.’ I loved being an at-home mom, and I think it is the most fulfilling and dignified work a woman can do. Yet the world is changing. Most mothers need to work, which is okay! Just always be sure to keep the end in mind and connect with your children every day.” Knowing that family dinner is sacred can provide a comforting framework for you and your kids.

Prioritize your marriage

A solid family life springs from a solid marriage. In fact, just keeping an even keel at the office springs from a solid marriage.

“This is an ongoing challenge for my husband and me, and it takes constant monitoring,” Kulda says. “We recognize that the best thing we can do for our children is to have a strong marriage, so we keep that as primary focus.”

Include the kids

Kulda’s own parents modeled a work-ethic by including her and her siblings in their family restaurant, and Kulda continues that approach with her own family.

“My parents have been married 53 years now and are true entrepreneurs. My eight siblings and I grew up working in the various family businesses. All of my siblings have a strong work ethic.” Kulda includes her kids in her work whenever possible. She’s been known to have a couple of kids in tow while on the job: when she first became a realtor, the Kuldas already had five children. She says, “I always nurse my babies till 12 months, so it’s not unusual for my clients to remember the date they bought their house by the baby I had during their escrow.”

Kulda’s strong work ethic continues with her own children, two of whom are following her footsteps into the real-estate business.

Get help

Most working parents can’t manage office hours without some kind of child care, and the Kuldas were lucky enough to find a terrific caregiver, Theresa, who’s been with them for nine years. Kulda says she considers Theresa to be a part of their family, and while “it was a challenge for me initially to be at peace about having someone else … look after my children,” it’s simply not possible to work and raise kids without some kind of day care or babysitting. Kulda recognizes and respects the benefits their caregiver brings to the family, and how her and her husband’s careers depend on Theresa’s support. As hard as it is to entrust your kids to someone else’s care, Kulda says she now realizes that “hiring great talent changes your life for the better.”

Of course, not every budget allows for nannies or cleaning help, but for the working mom, it’s essential that we look at areas in which we need help and find ways to make it happen—whether by asking family members, joining child-care coops, or arranging swaps with friends.

Emphasize the positive

When you have a big family, things are always somewhat in flux, but that’s okay. As Kulda says, “anyone who has experience with large families would laugh at the thought of achieving ‘well-oiled family machine’ status.” But there are plenty of advantages to being a working mom—for your career, your family, and yourself. Your family life and your working life can even achieve a certain symbiosis.

“Having a very big family in a very small town naturally leads to networking,” Kulda says. “We are involved in several circles in four different schools, countless sports activities, church, gym, not to mention community events! Most of my business comes from football fields and grocery store aisles.”

Beyond networking, Kulda says she’s “developed skills from being a mother of 10 that have helped me in my business. Being flexible and taking on several tasks at once becomes second nature. Negotiating bedtime or settling disputes over someone eating more dessert than another requires similar negotiating skills to keeping multimillion dollar contracts together.”

Being a real estate agent also helps her be a better mom. “It gives me an opportunity to teach my children about hard work and running a business,” Kulda says. “Our oldest daughter recently graduated from University of Dallas and now works on our real estate team. Our second child is currently working for a Keller Williams real estate team in Dallas, Texas. All our boys pride themselves on working to save up money to buy and maintain their own cars.”

As for being a better wife? Kulda says, “You would have to ask my husband if that is the case!” But, she says, her marriage and her business are inextricably entwined, and that makes both stronger. Derek “is key to the success of our real estate team. He is the ‘man behind the curtain’ that oversees the whole operation and keeps us on track as we grow our business. He and I work together daily on business strategies and enjoy traveling to business conferences together.”

So maybe you don’t have ten kids and a high-powered job. But even for those of us with one or two kids and a low-powered job, it’s good know that there are people out there making it work. Hats off to Juliette and to moms—working and otherwise—everywhere.

Caryn Rivadeneira
Caryn Rivadeneira
Caryn Rivadeneira is the author of five books and is a columnist for Her.meneutics and ThinkChristian. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, three kids, and one red-nose pit bull. Visit her at carynrivadeneira.com.

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