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Walking the tightrope – the balance between family and career

Nothing can prepare you to become a parent.

This is especially true for career-driven women like me. While we may know that returning to work after maternity leave is going to be tough, many of us find ourselves overwhelmed, unprepared, and often at a crossroads.

Between having children and handling work, with only 24 hours in the day, how do we make it work?

Women everywhere still manage to hold significant positions across different industries; we simultaneously grow businesses and families. Whether you’re a married or single mother, whether you go into the office or take care of your kids for the day, we are all working moms who make daily compromises, walking the proverbial tightrope in the quest for balance.

Defining success differently

My two incredible daughters, Natalie and Christina, are my biggest achievements. They give me constant perspective and are my biggest teachers.

Through them, I have learnt to adapt to change and the importance of managing how present I am at work and at home.

I encourage my daughters to believe in themselves, to dream big and to know that they have unlimited career opportunities and the freedom to create the life they desire. They both love to play dress-up. Some days they wear my stilettos and handbags and other days they are very busy playing with doctor sets.

When I was their age, I would play dress up, too. I would picture my future self in high heels, walking into a boardroom and presenting to crowds, making my impact. I’ve always envisioned myself as a leader and mentor. This is the role I have worked towards as an Associate Director at Accounting and Financial Advisory (AFA).

When I started my career at Deloitte, I was sure I wanted to be a CEO. During my years there, I considered what I could do to create opportunities for myself and invest in my future. I took my career in my hands and took charge of my own development, which has worked in my favour. I had the opportunity to work with brilliant mentors who stood up to recommend me for positions I hadn’t thought about.

Becoming a Senior Manager at Deloitte was a milestone for me. It was a moment where I felt the recognition of the commitment I had made to my dream.

When Natalie was born and I became a new mom, my ambition didn’t change, but my driver as a measure for success changed from working towards a title and earning power, to prioritising flexibility, exposure and impact.

Be deliberate, intentional and present

Flexibility is the key enabler that has helped me to thrive as a working mom. It doesn’t amount to less commitment, but instead is a gateway to establishing trust for women in business.

The balance I have created for myself has been hugely satisfying.

I have defined what being a mother means to me. I’ll hold client and team meetings, arrange flowers around our home, make it to play dates, spend an afternoon at activities with my daughters and whip up dinner for my family. I am a scheduling fiend. There are days where I’m running between client meetings and moms and babies’ classes, pausing between breaks to check and update my calendar or sitting down for a blow dry with my laptop open working on a proposal.

I am intentional and give myself permission not to experience guilt.

It has taken time and has been a deliberate process to allow myself to be present as a mom and in my career – there is room for both. It helps, too, that my clients have “dress your day” policies, so I have the choice to do all this in my trainers. I also give myself permission to entrust my children to their amazing teachers and focus on my clients and teams while they are in their care. It can certainly be a challenge on some days, but I’m not ashamed to ask for help.

I am led by the purpose to make an impact that matters.

This has been deeply entrenched in my core, both personally and professionally. I weigh the time I have in a day against tasks I must get through. I have learnt to use my time meaningfully and consider the purpose in everything I am involved in. Another of my mottos is, “You can have it all, but you can’t do it all.”

Trying to do it all is an impossible scenario; so, step back, take time to understand what’s important for your own happiness, and be brave enough to ask for what you want – all a good first step toward setting goals and objectively formulating the right aspirations for your future.

In the perpetual rush to tick off our never-ending to-do lists and be all things to all people, it’s easy to lose sight of what we might need to get by. For Julia’s list of practical pointers to create balance, click here.

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