As we celebrate Mother’s Day in many parts of the world today, I reflect on how we are still trying to defend what women can bring to the table. There are essential business talents, skills and aspirations that women can bring to business and society.
Among many others is the ability to multi-task and get things done. Yes, we need some credit for that. Today, I celebrate all mothers around the world.
Recently I attended a networking meeting, and as soon as I walked in one of the lovely ladies told me that they had just been talking about me – she wanted to know how I’m able to do all the things I do in business and for the community, all while raising 5 children. Many people have asked me this same question. So, I want to share this story that reflects my life as a business mother on some days.
It was Thursday 14th of March 2019, and I practically had to record my full-day activities. It was a tough day for me. First, I had to wake up at 6 am to get my youngest son ready and drive him to school at 8am. I found myself in the middle of traffic on our way to school. Meanwhile, I was thinking about how I needed to rush back home to pick up my second son to attend a parent-teachers meeting at another school 45 minutes away from my house, which was scheduled for 9.30am. I quickly rushed and picked him up, and on our way, we encountered another traffic jam, which made us miss the first meeting slot.
On the same day, I had a business meeting in Amsterdam at noon with the lovely Sheila Gemin, another office meeting in The Hague, and I also needed to get dinner ready at 7pm. Meanwhile, I had some emails and content to write for my tech team, which had to be taken care of when the kids went to bed. Somehow, I managed to handle all these activities in one day.This happens periodically, but on this particular day I thought I should record it. It was a tough day, but I survived, and so do many women – especially single mothers.
Women typically have to strike a balance between caring for their family needs and their daily work activities. This juggle often comes at the cost of increased day-to-day stress, decelerated career advancement, impaired leadership development, and reduced organisational or social networking. Organisations who are ready to advance women into leadership positions need to recognize this and support their growth.
Many goal achievement trainings do not take into consideration the many roles women play in the workplace and in their homes. Whenever I read a time management tool written by a man, it amazes me how there’s no mention of family uncertainties. Unplanned events will show up and eat up your time. So, this is the reason I launched the Rise and Lead Connect2Grow circle meetings. It’s a safe space where women come together to share our personal stories, learn new skills and be inspired to keep unleashing our potential as leaders and change-makers.
Here are my suggestions for women who want to achieve their dreams and aspirations, while at the same time, taking care of the people that matter most to them:
- Identify your true identity as a woman and your “purpose” so you can focus on what matters most to you and your career. Learn to step back and connect with what is most important to you, your family, your mission, your purpose and your legacy.
- Develop the right skillset through reading books or attending personal development workshops. Learn how to craft your visions, and to align your personal and professional life with your core values.
- Create a 90-day plan where you break your vision down into goals, and your goals into action plans. Identify 1-3 things that will have the most significant impact and pursue them with intensity. Focus only on actions that bring you closer to your goals and priorities.
- Accept the fact that unexpected events will arise to disrupt your well-thought-out plans; keep calm and do what you can.
- Remember that the phrase “work-life balance” is a myth. I believe you can have it all, but not all at the same time. Focus on your daily priorities and don’t beat yourself up regarding what you cannot do. My family is my priority, so when they are away in school, I’m able to achieve a lot. When they are at home, I’m able to take care of them. I occasionally invest in good nannies and housekeepers. Once my children are taken care of, I can then focus on my next priority – my business.
- Never use a goal-setting model developed by people who do not know what it means to be a mother; it’s purely misguided. Instead, focus on creating your path based on your unique situation.
- Be open with your bosses, colleagues and business partners, especially when you have a family situation or unexpected events that will force you to cancel an appointment, and try not to feel guilty about it.
- Set time boundaries and claim back your day by keeping time-stealers away. Save time and energy by cutting down on activities such as coffee time with well-meaning friends, telephone conversations, social media addictions and small talk.
- Find a way to delegate as much as you can. If you can afford it, hire a nanny to do some of the school runs (as I do), encourage your older kids to help you out, and ask your team members for support. If you have a partner or a husband, delegate some tasks to them. Quit expecting them to automatically know what you are going through and offer to help out – ASK them first. Finally, cut down on unnecessary social functions that don’t serve your purpose. Find what works for you and stick to it.
In my opinion, mothers should be celebrated every day. Happy Mother’s Day! It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are you busy about? – Henry David Thoreau EbereAkadiri: A mother of 5 lovely children, an entrepreneur and an advocate for women in leadership.