by Christina Wedgwood of Intelligent Ink, and mum to two very young boys

Over 100 women booked babysitters, or had their partners step up to the mark, to join us for the first event of our Working Mother’s event series recently. Amidst the lovely wine and delectable nibbles sponsored by ASB (who continue to be hugely supportive of women in business), attendees were treated to ‘A Mum’s Perspective’ from a panel of successful working mothers.

Facilitated by Hannah Ockelford, the panel featured:

  • Broadcaster Miriama Kamo
  • Chief District Court Judge Her Honour Jan-Marie Doogue
  • Air NZ’s Chief of People Jodie King.

They have all not only maintained their careers, but flourished in them, alongside parenting. These women were frank and refreshingly honest about their experiences as mothers. They clearly value their careers and are committed to making it all work.

However, our panelists were quick to tell us that that doesn’t mean it works all the time… So, what can we learn from them? Here we explore our key take-outs from the evening’s discussions.

  1. It’s not about being perfect

It’s easy to look at successful working mothers and see a polished picture: they look as though they’re handling the juggle so well. This event had some of the best in their respective fields. It was refreshing to hear their admissions of being far from perfect. One panelist declared:

Every day I drop some balls.

What was clear too, from the bringing together of such diverse perspectives and stories, was that there is no single ‘right’ way. Surely this should take a bit of pressure off  us all. The intertwining themes of needing to ditch perfectionism and let go of guilt point to the fact that it’s time we unburden!

  1. Sometimes ‘almost enough’ is actually enough

Very much leading on from the point above, Professionelle’s Executive Director and Trustee (and mum to three daughters), Jayne Chater, put it well when she said in her summing up

80% is enough!

Again, this sentiment is about acceptance – acceptance that you’re doing your best, and that your best is enough.

As one of our panelists also reminded us, it’s OK if there isn’t always milk in the fridge, or if occasionally you all have toast for dinner. None of us is perfect (even when it might look like it from the outside) and, in making the best decisions we can, occasionally something’s got to give. The practical advice was to pick your priorities  and talk to your kids about the things that are most important to them – then banish the guilt about the rest.

  1. It’s OK to adjust your expectations

As well as adjusting your expectations and accepting ‘enough’, several on the panel spoke about the changes they experienced in how they felt about their work. As one asserted “your entire worldview changes overnight” and, another admitted that,

Your ambitions change; you don’t think they will, but then you have a baby

It was heartening to hear that even though they love their work, the successful working mothers we heard from couldn’t help now looking at their careers in a slightly different way… and that’s OK. It was also encouraging to hear that other opportunities and experiences that were open to them because of their changing life circumstances had, in hindsight, led them to exactly where they were supposed to be.

  1. Openness and honesty has great payoffs

The last theme of the evening related very much to perception. So many women (our panelists included!) feel the pressure to prove something, be perfect, perform at 110%. However, all of them also credited their success to a strong support network. Whether a partner, friends, or an understanding workplace, the support of others is vital to successful juggling.

One of the key ways that we get support, and provide it to others, is through talking. We can share the things that have worked for us, or the challenges we’re facing. We can be unafraid to ask for help. Several of the panelists echoed the desire for certain topics to be more openly addressed and shared examples of times that something pretty special happened when they did choose to have a challenging conversation. Indeed, the camaraderie that’s possible among women – and mothers in particular – is incredible, so find your tribe.

 

To connect with more like-minded women, consider joining Professionelle. And keep an eye out for the second event in our Working Mothers series, ‘The Struggle of the Juggle’ – an interactive seminar (including time for networking) coming up on June 12th.  

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