“May I ask you something personal?”, Lisa asked me as we were wrapping up a session.
What she wanted to know is how I managed to juggle between work and raising children. She kept this question for the end, thinking it would seem unprofessional.
As a Coach, and thanks to my work as a Mentor with The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women Entrepreneurs, I have had the opportunity to interact with many young women managing their own businesses. Having worked in the corporate sector for 20 years and being a mother of two, I have had my (un)fair share of challenges balancing personal and professional commitments.
The world has taken great strides and women are following their passion more confidently, but some challenges remain the same. In addition to all the challenges which every entrepreneur faces in terms of finance, markets, product design, team etc, women face some gender specific struggles too.
Many women are struggling with managing multiple responsibilities. They feel that they always have to make choices – between work, family, and self. Indeed, their own self does not even make it to the list of priorities usually.
While there is no success formula, here is what I want to tell all the brilliant, passionate, ambitious women:
- Be your whole self:
Yes, you can be a mother, a daughter, a wife and a terrific entrepreneur. There is no need to be ashamed of your emotional side or your nurturing side. You can be a demanding businesswoman, a smart techie or a wizard with numbers and still have red eyes being awake all night due to a cranky infant.
- No need to apologise:
Nobody knows your struggles like you do and it is ok to be confused sometimes or step back and take a breather. However, take that break and get back marching towards your dreams – unapologetically!.
- Ask for help:
Since time immemorial the duty of women is to cook, feed and look after her family members, and only after that focus on her business. Do not burden yourself with beliefs that everything is your and only your responsibility. It is ok to let your husband do the dishes or to ask for help from your parents to watch over the toddler. It is ok to ask your co-workers to step-in when you have a doctor’s appointment. Trying to do everything yourself puts you at risk of burnout.
- Challenge the boundaries:
Traditionally, it is drilled down from a very young age that girls should obey their elders, their husband and in-laws. In the process, they learn to deny themselves their wishes and dreams. If they are ‘allowed’ to have a career, it is still within boundaries set by others. It is time to challenge these old boundaries – calmly, compassionately and with perseverance.
- It’s OK to prioritise yourself:
In the long list of to-dos, do not forget that you cannot pour from an empty cup. You need to set aside time for yourself, to take care of your mental and physical health. Never ever put yourself down for needing a break! There is no right or wrong priority.
- Respect yourself:
Recognise that in pursuing your dreams, you are putting in sweat and blood. You deserve your wins. In the process, you are contributing to the economic upgrade of your family too. Respect yourself so you teach others to respect you too.
- Network, network, network:
Put yourself out there. Join business groups, look for mentors, form alliances. Women tend to think of networking as a social activity which does not find place in their busy schedules. This is a mistake! Networking is critical for your business to grow and for you to gain confidence and establish yourself as a voice to be heard.
I believe a woman is naturally wired to play multiple roles at once. Women are generally known to demonstrate higher emotional intelligence which is a critical trait for any leader. When a woman networks, she can forge lasting associations and give the company enduring stability.
So go ahead, follow your dreams – yes, you can!
The author of this article, Khyati Shah, is a Transformation Coach and seasoned professional dedicated to helping people overcome limiting beliefs and balance the demands of life and career more effectively. She is experienced in working with small businesses and support them in their journey of growth. You can reach her on firstname.lastname@example.org.