KAREN HABERBERG is a New York City-based portrait photographer and published author. Her photography has been shown in numerous gallery exhibitions, magazines, and newspapers including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Daily News, Huffington Post, Time Out NY, Daily Mail, Cosmopolitan, New York Family, and Fit Pregnancy. She has been interviewed on ABC News, Good Morning America, and NY1. In addition, Haberberg teaches photography at the 92nd Street Y and JCC of Manhattan.
For nearly a decade, she served as the Director of Photography and Digital Media at the JCC in Manhattan, where she spearheaded photography related programming for children and adults. Haberberg has also curated numerous exhibitions and collaborated with well-known photographers such as Annie Leibovitz, Elliot Erwitt, Joyce Tenneson, Gillian Laub, Bruce Davidson, among others. She also frequently lectures at NYU, Rutgers, and various Health Care Organizations throughout the country.
Haberberg holds a BA from Brandeis University and earned two MA Degrees; Educational Communications and Technology from NYU and Fine Art and Photography from the ICP. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and kids, Maya and Liam.
Karen Discusses Balancing Family and Work life as a photographer.
What was your road to parenthood like?
Ah, the road to parenthood… I first had to find someone that I wanted to spend my life with. After I got that out of the way, I got pregnant very quickly. In fact, we weren’t really even trying and I took a pregnancy test and got a false positive. Not knowing at the time the test was false, I went to the doctor and told her I was pregnant. We were crushed to find out that I was not in fact pregnant.
The next month we tried and got pregnant.
It was funny because I took 5 pregnancy tests, which were all positive, but my husband refused to believe it until the doctor returned the blood test results.
How does being a mom influence your work?
Being a mom has been life changing in so many ways. In regards to work, I do photograph a lot of kids and families so it’s important that I have knowledge of raising kids, where they are developmentally, and how to speak to them so they are comfortable with me. I try and make sure to keep it all easy going and fun. The photos hopefully exemplify that feeling.
What inspired you to start your photography business? Since the age of 13 when I received my first camera for Bat Mitzvah, I loved taking photographs.
When I graduated from college, I was afraid I wasn’t good enough to be a “real” photographer so I worked in video and web production and did very well. However, I struggled with the fact that I didn’t purse my dream of being a photographer and decided to literally give it a shot. I went to art school and started shooting events and portraits and made this my career and I couldn’t be happier about it.
And, what is the inspiration for your new photography book?
I had a brother who died of a rare disease before I was born and is the inspiration for this book. An Ordinary Day is a documentation of the personal lives of 27 courageous kids who have rare genetic conditions and their families who love and support them at all cost. 1 in 10 Americans are living with a rare genetic condition. This book sheds an important light on these existences. The every day moments captured in An Ordinary Day hope to inspire awareness and empathy, while highlighting the commonalities between families with rare genetic conditions, and more deeply between us all.
What advice would you offer to multi-tasking overwhelmed moms? Have patience with your kids, spouse, family, and yourself. You can’t do everything well all the time and that’s okay.
Do you think it’s tough for women to balance parenting, a personal life and professional pursuits? Who do you turn to for support?
It’s virtually impossible to balance parenting, a personal life and professional pursuits perfectly. I just do the best I can, and I learned after my second child that it’s okay to let some things go.
My friends and family are great outlets for me. They remind me to do the things that make me feel good. Exercise, go out and have fun, work, play. We laugh a lot — which always helps! It also helps to have my mother in my corner. She is an incredible force. My husband and kids are my rock. Just their presence reminds me of what is most important in my life and I want them to be proud.
What do you see as the positives and challenges of having a child at age 35 or over? Having a child at any age will take over your life. Some people are ready earlier than others for this selfless and sacrificing at times, life change. For me personally, I am glad that I waited. If I were younger I may have had FOMO while my friends were out late nights and having long Sunday brunches. Since I was older when I had my kids, I felt ready and sort of done with the late nights out. That being said, I do I love an occasional night out with friends or my husband, but I love being with my kids more.
Sometimes I do wish that I were a younger parent for my kids sake. I would probably have a little more energy.
Has anything about being a mother surprised you? What do you love the most about it, and what is the most challenging? You really can’t imagine what it’s like being a mother until you are a mother. I am profoundly in love with these kids (most of the time). I am more emotional, invested, selfless, loving, generous and forgiving than I ever thought I could be.
There are minor challenges and major ones all the time and they change depending on what age and stage my kids are and each child has different struggles.
In general, patience and having realistic expectations can be very challenging. They are so capable yet still so young and imperfect – like we all are.
What do you most want to teach your children? What have you learned from them thus far?
It’s very important to me that my kids are kind to all people. I want them to be inclusive. I want them to have integrity and be honest. I am reminded every day how impressionable they are and how much love and guidance they actually need. They have unknowingly force me to set a good example as much as possible.
Have your parents offered any particular parenting advice that has really resonated with you?
My mother once told that that I should say no to my kids as little as possible. What she meant was rather than saying “no” use the phrases “Maybe later, or we will see.” The word no is very loaded and kids tend to argue with you more when you throw down the gauntlet. I thought this was great advice and a more effective way to placate them but still hold my ground.
Do you have any particular memories from your own childhood that inspire you to make memories with your children?
Some of my favorite memories with my dad are playing tennis. Looking across the court and seeing him smiling when I hit a good shot always made me feel good. I know this is a bit self-serving, but I would love for them to enjoy the sport as I do.
What words of wisdom would you like to share for someone contemplating motherhood over age 35? You will never regret having children. You will only regret not having them.