I guest wrote this as a piece for during August 2017 for women’s month. https://puddingfaceweb.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/five-fab-ladies-featured-for-womens-month/
I met Thozama as a colleague at PPS in 2015. She was a ray of sunshine in the office and the only way to describe was her: “she owned it”. Everything about her was gorgeous and a fashionista of note. A colleague relationship that turned into a friendship and for this I am grateful. We have shared many wonderful memories, lunches, party notes, fashion tips and fitness tips. Yes I learnt about ruby woo from Thozi’s!
I often get asked: How do you do it – the working mom / life balance? Every single day it gets done, somehow. Balance is a myth. Work life balance is not a reality. Strive for work life integration or work life blend. My family is most important but my job or what I do is also an important part of who I am and I want my kids to appreciate that.
Some days work wins and some day’s home wins. It is said ‘You can be a good mother and still follow your dreams. Only if you so desire’. In lieu of women’s month I find myself sharing my story having been in corporate for many years and fast approaching 40. I am a mom to two girls, aged 13 and 6 and work a full day job as a management consultant within the financial industry with a specialization in project management for the last 17 years. Things that I am passionate about, women in leadership and technology and am part of 2 forums that allow me to share my journey with younger women and inspire them.
I always struggled to look good and fit in. I somehow knew deep down there would be a light at the end of the tunnel, and that it was just a matter of time before I’d be able to experience it. Let’s be real, though—that light didn’t just magically appear. It took years and years of deep introspective work , lots of fitness and the highest level of self-care possible to finally acknowledge the signs from the Universe, find that light—my voice—and fully embrace my truth. And almost turning 40 for me to finally agree with that voice and get to where I gratefully am today without any explanations, apologies, or regrets.
Nobody understands the concept of the balancing act like a working mother – something I am very familiar with. The classic “ mommy wars “ between workings moms and those who choose to say at home with their children still persue at every opportunity and party and often ends up in guilt.
My life feels like this. Like a roll-a-coaster.
But the struggle inherent in the everyday life of the working mother — a struggle that really does happen moment to moment, every moment, every day — is more than the simple question, “To work or not to work.” It’s about how to be the best possible parent, the best possible person and have the best possible work experience. It’s about trying to have it all, and as often as not, feeling like a failure when one of those many balls we’ve all got in the air falls to the floor, breaks a lamp and rolls under the couch (metaphorically, of course). It’s a struggle that takes its toll, and it’s a struggle that is very personal to me.
In between that battle for what we deserve and the battle to be super mom is a middle ground where most of us find ourselves in.
Sheryl Sandberg in her book “Lean In” reminds us that our husbands can bear half of the load (possibly true, depending on the situation), and that we can get more help in the house (but this does require some money). She maintains that we need support to help us with our children. We cannot be successful mothers and career women all by ourselves. This can be a hard message for many of us “I can do it all” to hear: that we might actually need to ask for help. Early on in my career, I learnt that help is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Yet I still have trouble asking for it
What I do know for sure about being a working mom, is that it has never affected my personal ambition and my 2 girls are always in the fore front of my mind even during those most important meetings. I need to raise 2 strong independent young women, and be a role model for them. To teach them to be kind and give them a set of indispensable skills. Fill their minds with facts and travels and teach them all sorts of things. They need to pursue their own careers and to not be limited by gender
Working moms play by a different set of rules. It’s not that being a mother makes us less hungry for success or less motivated to achieve our career goals. It’s just that we also have to incorporate a full range of emotions into the mix that those who are not mothers don’t have to deal with.
I am a better employee because of my kids. For many reasons. For one thing, social and emotional challenges with co-workers are easier to spot and understand when you have kids dealing with the same things. It makes us human and real and who we are.
So, where does that leave the rest of us — working moms who struggle to do it all and figure out who we really are without feeling like we have split personalities? We need to accept that we can be both and there is nothing to feel guilty about. Also ask for help. Hey, Pinterest is your best friend. And we need to prioritize our children’s needs and our own needs above other less important things. This isn’t always easy, but if getting your work accomplished means hiring a babysitter for those late nights, or spending quality time with your child means leaving the dishes, then that’s what you do. It’s never easy. It’s never uncomplicated, but it is possible.
I am the last person to say that we can all have it all, as if there is some simple formula that will help us skip merrily from nursery to the hospital or the boardroom and back again without, well… getting flour over your suit or wearing mismatched shoes because you got dressed in the dark ( yes this has happened – many a wardrobe fail) . But what I do know is that being a working mother is worth the struggle. Know that you can do it. Ask for help. Share responsibility. Join up with other working moms to find solutions. Talk about how hard it is, and let yourself be comforted up by both the frustrations and inspirations of other working moms. Most of all, put aside your guilt. You simply don’t have time for it.
Things I have learnt:
- To take myself less seriously. I was passionate about everything, an over-analyzer, a perfectionist but please cut yourself some slack.
- Be fully present at work and at home. Feeling guilty is wasted energy and it will wear you down quickly. You can’t multi task presence. Be fully present. Put down that damn cell phone when your kids are talking.
- Find yourself a tribe – a support system that you can on. I have built a strong tribe of women around me. For mentoring, coaching, inspiration, play dates, and just general women support. Sometimes you just need someone to listen.
- Cry if you need. That’s why they made waterproof mascara
- Don’t dwell on the things that cause stress or grief. Some days work wins, some days home wins. The trade-offs are inevitable. Some days you will attend that sports day or ballet recital and other days you won’t. But you will find time to be there for the important ones. Exchange cell numbers with other moms in the grade to send you pics for the times you are not there. Trust me , they are more than happy to snap away and share
- Be comfortable with yourself and who you are
- Never will you see this on a tombstone : Here lies such and such , she was such a great asset to her company
- This is vital. My entire day job consists of planning and delivering projects. I use a wall calendar in my kitchen and fill it with school schedules, extra murals, weekend events. My husband travels a lot and we swop out duties at times.
- Prepare what you can at night. Lay out clothes, prep school bags and sports bags. And prep lunch to a certain extent.
- I certainly do not have enough hours in the day and came across a personal gym service that comes to my home with the equipment. I am in a love hate relationship with my body and have come to accept that I will never be skinny but I will be fit and healthy. I run part time , ok I walk fast J and try and attend as many fitness events as I can.
- Save time. Mobile hair dressing services, gyms, online shopping. These all exist to make our lives easier. Use it !
- Say NO ! It’s not vital for you to attend everything you are invited to. Decide where your time is valuable and how you want to invest it. Make time for yourself. Make time for your kids. Make time for your family. Make time for your relationships and your spouse. As with anything, what you put in is what you are going to get out.
- Look good and feel good. My theory is that if you look confident, you can pull off anything, even if you have no clue what you are doing. Invest in some good make-up. Learn make-up application skills from YouTube. The black suit. The power dress. Know how to dress for you and be confident in it. Make it work for you. No point in wearing the latest fashionable shoes if you are falling off them and dress appropriately for the occasion.
- Nurture your soul. Fill your space, your mind, your heart and your soul with happy things and never stop learning. Learn , learn and learn
If you give yourself permission, what will you do to serve the world. A quote I came across during my recent life coaching course that I took. My life has taken a different turn this year. Questions of who am I and what is my purpose on this earth, a bit of a late bloomer you may say but I now have the answers that I need and to continue my journey. My purpose is to help others be a better version of themselves.
To sum it up I think with age, each decade gets better. There are things I can do now that my younger self never could or would do. Maybe the top of the hill isn’t such a bad place to be. You get a good view of the years behind you while also realizing the importance of the next few decades, really appreciating time and how you spend it. And the importance of learning to say no ! I am here to tell you that old and older are not bad words. I am honestly happier and more at ease with myself now more than ever. I am not saying that everything is perfect and there are no downsides to getting older (or that you will suddenly be wiser with age.
If you are approaching 40 or whatever decade you are getting to, don’t be afraid, come on in, the waters warm and don’t forget to live your best life! Love and light !