Archimoms have it ALL… this is a project I started recently to amplify voices of archimoms in the profession who have been there, conquered that. The intention of this series is to showcase everyday women in architecture who did not step because they had to fulfill their maternal roles at home. These are the stories of women who found struggled to do it “all”, who defined their “all”, and have set out great examples for young archimoms by showing how to balance it “all”.
Today’s featured Archimom is Mani Farhadi. Mani is a Senior Facilities Planner at Stanford University. Follow Mani on Twitter: @mfarhadi
Mani Farhadi’s Archimom story, as shared by her: https://storytalecom.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/joyful-reminiscence/
WHAT IS HAVING IT ALL?
The best decision we ever made was to become parents. It has been an epic journey over the past two decades, through all their cute little phases until now that they are adults launched out into society. Do I miss those cute cuddly days? I most definitely do. I ache for those tiny hands and mushy hugs. I want to go back to the time when they had big eyes, chubby cheeks and squishy flesh. I miss how much they needed me, and how integrated I was in their lives. Anytime I see young children out with their parents, I smile knowingly. Inside, I’m saying: “Hold on tight! These moments are fleeting. Before you know it, it will be just memories.”
What surprised us? Now that our son Rodd is 23 and our son Ryon is 18 years of age, we have a new appreciation for them as young men. With one graduating college and one graduating high school, they have their wings. It is a complete thrill to see these two when they come to visit us and when we see them together. They give much bigger hugs, totally encircling us, considering they’re both lanky and 6’-1” with long arms. It’s especially heartwarming to see them hug each other, like long lost best friends. The chubby cheeks have long been replaced with bold jaws, and their soft skin is now covered in unshaved stubble. Their childish voices have transformed into deep manly vocals, and they physically tower over me. Yet, in this new phase, we are enjoying hanging out together, having lengthy conversations about the meaning of life, and talking about their plans for the future.
How does it feel to be empty nesters? As much as we miss them, we’re happy to devise ways to get together. “Let’s all meet up in Seattle,” where our youngest attends University of Washington; so we fly there for him to show us around campus. “We’ve got to see your performance,” talking to our actor son; so we trek to LA for his latest gig. “It’s been too long since we’ve visited grandparents,” who live miles away on the east coast; so we arrange a family reunion with 100 relatives. “How about a trip to southern France?” where we’ve never been; so we dream up a European vacation. Literally, any excuse! They help with arrangements, ideas and itinerary coordination. The trip collaboration beforehand is half the fun; the other half of the fun happens when we’re on our adventure with them.
When the kids were younger, I worked part-time in the architectural offices of Sasaki Associates and Steinberg Hart, to maintain a semblance of balance. I’m grateful to both firms for allowing flexibility. It was important for me to continue with my career path, contribute financially, and show my sons the lifestyle of working moms. My husband has been a supportive partner, for which I’m eternally thankful. To make it do-able in their younger years, I declined business trips, came in to work late after dropping them off at school, left early to pick them up from after-school, took time off when they were sick or had appointments, and all sorts of other nuances. I’d sometimes go back to work after they were asleep or on weekends, to finish up a deadline. As tough as it was to make it all happen and to juggle priorities, it was a choice we made, which I embraced.
A favorite activity? I would say volunteering in their school on my day off, since I worked 4 days/week. With my clients being educational institutions, it meant a lot to me that I could contribute to our local schools, while having it be an activity relevant to my career. I experienced how the classrooms functioned and how the buildings came to life. For 10 years, I joined the Los Gatos Union School District (LGUSD) Bond Oversight Committee, contributing my knowledge of public construction while furthering my understanding of the school district. For this volunteering, I received the AIA ‘Citizen Architect’ award. Subsequently, having built on these relationships, I was appointed as an LGUSD School Board of Trustee member, serving for 18 months. A highlight of my community involvement, it honed my leadership and diplomatic skills. In turn, it elevated my standing with clients when I told them I was a Board member, let alone the increased pride that my sons showed towards me. Furthermore, volunteering for Women in Architecture committee of Silicon Valley AIA gave me a chance to combine my profession with my passion for advocacy.
Looking back on the past 20+ years of being a working parent, would I do things differently? Absolutely not! Did I really have it all? Possibly. First, for the past 30 years in architecture, I have continued to work in a career I was educated for, with dozens of repeat clients and completed educational projects that are making an impact. Staying in the industry has provided invaluable experiences and lessons learned, while contributing to our household financially. Secondly, I’ve been able to attend my sons’ performances and athletic tournaments; I traveled with them both for auditions and competitions. Being there for them through their schooling and after-school activities, friendships and challenges has given us a strong bond. Thirdly, volunteering locally for my profession allowed me the chance to be a leader and to be a voice for my community. At times, it has felt as if I was living three lives simultaneously. It seems I can’t say no.
What did I give up to have all this? I sacrificed sleep and probably a fit healthy body. I have gained more weight than I’m comfortable with, and survive on several cups of coffee a day. Yes, something had to give and some things were gained. My career is moving forward, my family is thriving, and my community is represented. I may be tired and showing my age, nonetheless my heart is full of love and my spirits are high. To me, that says it all.
As a global thinker, Mani Ardalan Farhadi is a creative thought leader in her role as Senior Facilities Planner at Stanford University, School of Medicine. Ever a non-traditionalist, she brings over three decades of experience in the architecture profession, forging long-term relationships and contributing thoughtful solutions. She is integral to campus projects for public and private educational clients throughout the US, from early inception to the very end. Described as ‘the client in the room’, Mani brings a keen ability to listen and build consensus within an institution’s user group setting. Leveraging her expertise in strategic planning and programming, Mani enjoys leading workshops, open forums, stakeholder presentations, and conferences nationwide (SCUP, AIA, EQXD, CCFC, CCLC, A4LE).
Furthermore, she excels in formulating case studies, conducting feasibility efforts and following trends. Her analytical strengths lead to research, benchmarking and post occupancy, as well as collaborating on future strategies for clients. Mani’s leadership extends into volunteer duties: former Board of Trustee member for Los Gatos Union School District, and Chair of the Bond Oversight Committee, for which she received a ‘Citizen Architect’ award. Mani is a graduate of Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA with a B.A. in Architecture, followed by a B.Arch from Boston Architectural College. A lifelong learner, her education has been supplemented with certificates from SCUP Planning Institute (Step III), Leadership Los Gatos, and LEED AP, as well as training in MIG (Management in Governance). Mani lives with her husband of 30+ years in Los Gatos, and is proud of her two sons, Rodd (23) and Ryon (18).