At 21, as I was studying for my bachelor’s degree in administration, I wondered about many things. Would I be able to attain my desired professional success? If I had a family, would I be able to be a nurturing mother in my children’s lives without neglecting that career I loved so much?
Today, after 20 years of professional experience, not only can I answer yes to those questions but also state I would walk all the paths I chose and make the decisions I made again. The paradigm of the professional woman I knew at that time has fortunately changed for the better.
In 2016, women no longer need to choose between being successful, happy professionals at work or nurturing mothers at home. There is no longer an “or,” but now there is an “and.” Professional women can balance our lives so as not to miss a single school function, without failing in our work for that reason. And best of all―there are more and more women seeking professional growth and quality time with our families to raise our children as best as possible!
A key factor in this change was that companies have realized the importance of incorporating women in work teams and creating further diversity. Thus, we keep on walking a long way to ensure real equal opportunities for men and women. Some examples of the programs created, which help enable balance between professional and personal life, thus guaranteeing equal opportunities, include: an extended maternity leave, home-office days, flexible schedule programs, breastfeeding areas, and day care bonuses.
Thus, today we have fewer barriers to grow as successful professionals. Being a mother and raising a child is no longer an obstacle to overcome in the work sphere. All women undergo times in which this balance may unbalance. The key is realizing that sooner or later it is us who can find that balance again, by means of such tools at work and our own personal organization.
The current outlook is very encouraging for women like us, betting on achieving anything we set our minds to by combining and boosting professional and personal lives. I am a credible signal that we can, and I feel successful since I could combine and live both worlds to the full.
In my case, I have a 9-year-old and a 6-year-old. It was really difficult while my children were under a year—the long nights and lack of sleep, and because as moms we are always worried if they are OK (this lasts all our lives!). I took four months off with each, but I learned some valuable lessons along the way.
I learned to have good help at home, to avoid rush hours when going to the office and coming back home, to try to be very effective in grouping meetings on certain days so I could do home office on others, and to be really honest about when I needed to be with my kids. I also learned that having clear expectations and conversations with my supervisor at the time was key for such issues as travelling as little as possible when breast feeding, or avoiding scheduling meetings after 4 p.m.
I learned to be clear with the clients of my company, Accenture, a global professional services firm. They value when we are direct and honest. I had a client who loved meetings at 6 p.m. with us. It was the Chief Financial Officer of the company. I asked to talk to him and told him that I couldn’t have those meetings for a while, as I had a 4-month-old baby, and this meant I couldn’t be back home before 8:30 p.m. He said he didn’t realize the impact this had on me and, from that moment on, we had these meetings in the mornings.
HAVE GOOD HELP.
Try to organize logistics in advance, and ask for help! No one is a superwoman.
TALK TO CLIENTS AND SUPERVISORS.
Align expectations and be clear on your needs, schedule and look for “creative” ways of managing your time (calls as you commute to and from the office, get organized, schedule your time and efforts and “outsource” the repetitive and not important stuff—the supermarket, books and things for school, kids’ transportation).
QUANTITY IS NOT QUALITY.
Be sure that you make as good use of your time when you are at home as when you are at work, focus, and don’t try to be in both places at the same time.
EVENTUALITIES WILL HAPPEN.
You will feel that you are pulled from both sides. Relax, it is normal, one thing at a time.
DON’T GIVE UP.
We can certainly continue with our careers and be an excellent mom. There are hard times, but I can assure you that as children grow up, if you really made a choice based on the long term, you will feel great!