It’s Working Project Interviews Jessica Affatato of Harbor Cheese - Food & Beverage Magazine

It’s Working Project Interviews Jessica Affatato of Harbor Cheese

WHAT IS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WISH YOU COULD OFFER YOUR FORMER, EXPECTANT SELF?

It’s going to get harder in ways you can’t imagine. It’s going to get easier in ways you can’t imagine. It’s going to be more magical in ways you can’t imagine. Change will be the greatest constant in your life – learn how to sit in that.

DID YOUR CHEESE CAREER START OFF AS A PASSION PROJECT? WHAT CAME BEFORE? WHY DID YOU MAKE THE SHIFT?

 I headed into the cheese world like I do other paths in my life – with curiosity and a complete unwillingness to look before I leap. It was an unusual field with a cool skillset to learn. And by the third day I realized it combined everything I loved, customer service, working with rare objects, esoteric history, culinary, small farms, science. My business came because there aren’t a ton of jobs doing what I do and if I wanted to grow I’d need to create the opportunity for myself. No one was going to hand it to me. (Whenever someone says that it’s because they were exasperated and wanted to give up.)

My educational background has no bearing on what I eventually became. Getting a degree in experimental film trained me to be a really great waitress.  I landed in hospitality backwards but found its where I should have been all along.

IS THIS WHAT YOU EXPECTED WHEN YOU MADE YOUR MOVE TO CHEESEMONGER?

Oh boy. I don’t know if anyone has any preconceptions of what it is is to be a cheesemonger! I never even *knew* a cheesemonger before I became one. But I think that’s part of what I love. It’s an obscure field where I get to write my own rules, my own professional code to go by. I don’t have a career yardstick to measure myself against or to which other people can judge me.

 WITH TWO KIDS AND MANY RELATIVES CLOSE BY YOU HAVE A BUSY HOME LIFE, HOW DO YOU MANAGE ALL YOU DO? 

My kingdom for a time turner. Work and family can subsume you. And often, I do feel like I’m squeezing myself into the cracks of my life especially in light of two inherently demanding young children. They need to be loved, cuddled, fed, taught, listened to, and cherished. I sacrifice loads of personal time to the needs of those around me and what I’ve created in my family and career.

 On a practical level coordinating all my gadgets and gizmos with Apple has been a game changer. I have to code switch between mom to business owner frequently through the day. Stealing a few minutes here to write an email on my phone or getting text messages on my watch during school pickup or signing a contract in my ipad while cooking dinner. Not having to translate all these notes to different devices saves me hours of work time every week. Making my time more efficient is everything.

YOU WORK LONG HOURS AND OBVIOUSLY POUR YOUR DEDICATION INTO ALL YOU DO. HOW TO YOU KEEP YOURSELF RESTED AND WELL?

  1. Well that’s the name of the game, isn’t it? It’s a struggle to find space to attend to yourself. I try to remove as many “trackers” as I can in my own life. So no habit tracking, no food logging, no water logging. If I don’t have room to sit in my own mind to understand why I maybe didn’t hit a goal then the whole business becomes an exercise of self-flagellation. I try – and often fail, but keep trying – to find a way to be as present as possible in each moment.. The greatest and most radical form of self care is to live with a heart and soul wide open not only when they are perfect but also when they are in disarray. That deeper connection with those you love is worth everything.  

WHAT PRO-TIPS DO YOU HAVE TO SHARE WITH OTHER NEW OR EXPECTANT MOTHERS?

That little life in you or in front of you has never existed and never will again. They are just as in awe of the moment as you are. We are but stardust made whole for a tiny bit of time. It will be a mess but it will be your beautiful mess that has never existed and will never exist again. And in that it is perfect.

 WHO WAS YOUR BIGGEST SOURCE OF SUPPORT IN RETURNING TO WORK AS A NEW MOTHER?

Other moms telling me I am not in fact losing my mind. Also wine.

WHO ARE YOUR MENTORS? WHO DO YOU MENTOR?

I wouldn’t have one specific person who I’d pluck out as a mentor. I have a lot of people I turn to for advice but never so much in a professional way. I do work hard to be an open book for anyone who comes to me for advice. I follow up with them and take such joy in seeing them develop.

FILL IN THE BLANKS:

As a working parent, I never expected _________would be so hard and _____would be so much easier.

As a working parent I never expected stillness would be so hard to live in and saying no would be so much easier

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