Howell woman honored as mother of the year
HOWELL— When ElizabethWalk was born, her parents Joy and Todd were ready for the typical challenges of parenthood. Then, a few years later, came a doctor’s diagnosis that Elizabeth, now 8, was autistic.
“It wasn’t the plan we laid out. We’ve been together 21 years,” said Joy Walk, of Howell. “Back when we were teenagers talking about our future, this definitely was not it, but in some ways it’s better.”
Walk, an administrative assistant with the Woodbridge office of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), was able to work with her supervisors to develop a flexible work schedule that enables her to spend more time with her daughter.
As a result of Walk’s dedication to Elizabeth, Working Mother magazine honored her as one of 66 mothers of the year at a gala held in Times Square, New York, on Oct. 20.
The distinction affirmed her motherhood, she said.
“Every decision we make, I always question myself, especially because of her disability,” Walk said. “Am I delaying her, am I keeping her back from advancing? [Now] I feel like maybe I am doing something right here.”
She said she appreciates her employer’s flexibility and understanding.
“They said, ‘We don’t want you to quit unless you have to, or if you ever get to that point, tell us what you need from us to make you stay,’ ” she said. “It’s been really fantastic.”
Initially, Walk would leave work early on Monday and Tuesday so she could be with Elizabeth when the youngster arrived home from school.
To compensate for that, Walk would work later on Wednesday and Thursday, and was off on Friday, which was when she took Elizabeth to her medical appointments.
While Walk currently maintains a traditional work schedule between Monday and Thursday, she still has Friday off.
“It’s not rough on my company, either,” she said. “Now, I’m not taking off sporadic days.”
Additional challenges came from fellow employees who did not understand her need for a different type of work schedule.
“I was a trailblazer in that I was sort of the first person who asked [for a different schedule], so people who don’t know what’s going on think I’m getting special treatment,” Walk said. “That was kind of tough.”
Todd Walk gets Elizabeth ready for school every day except for Friday.
“It’s definitely a team, and it’s a shame they don’t have a working father award,” she said.
Walk said she also was recognized because of her creation of a running club at FINRA. She started the running club after she lost nearly 100 pounds on a Weight Watchers diet.
“When Elizabeth was diagnosed, I was significantly overweight and she was difficult to handle at that point,” Walk said.
Walk began organizing a running club and was able to convince her employer to sponsor the runners’ participation in various runs, including a 5K event at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y.