How to Balance a Successful Career as a Mother
I’m a first-time mother to a beautiful baby girl called Nancy, of whom, has very, fortunately, found a Kita (German for nursery) place here in Berlin, (but please don’t hate me yet). Aside from being a mother, I’m also the Lead of an Executive Recruitment team within ACELR8, where I have been for the past 11 months. Time flies, things change, but what remains constant is the support we must give one another, through sharing experiences of hardship. So here is mine.
My husband and I decided to move to Berlin in April 2019 to give our daughter, and us, the best life possible. As my husband is a creative by trade, it made the most sense that I went to work and support our family from a financial perspective. I was fortunate to secure a job with ACELR8 before we moved over, and it’s been an incredible ride since then but what has become glaringly obvious is the lack of working mothers I know, making the internal dialogue of Am I doing it right? pretty constant.
Throughout the whole interview process, I was completely open and honest with Michael (CEO & Founder of ACELR8) and the team about my situation, the challenges, and the fact I would require some degree of flexibility to allow me to be Supermamma I needed to be. Still, I get asked, how do you do it all? and the answer is — it’s tough, so set yourself up to have as much support from work and your family as possible.
Looking back, there is some certain advice or support that I would have liked to have heard, in the way of a group or a community. I, unfortunately, found a distinct lack of community groups, focused on female leaders here in Berlin. As career women and devoted mothers, it’s so important we have a platform to share our experiences and challenges. This was probably the driving force behind ACELR8 X creating the Female Leadership Community.
Here are some tips to help working mothers or soon-to-be working mother’s handle everything. YOU ROCK.
I — Join a flexible employer
This is, without doubt, the first step in enabling you to balance both work and motherhood. When you’re selecting an employer, try and do some research and see if there are other mother’s there, when being interviewed, ask if they have many working parents within the company.
Be very open and direct about the company's policies regarding working parents, and don’t be afraid to ask any questions. If they don’t want to answer them now, then they never will. Take this as a sign.
Find out exactly what you are entitled to: whether it be a private room for breastfeeding, more working-from-home days, or early finishes to pick your child up. You will need this information and flexibility, so please be mindful.
Make sure to find out during the hiring process what kind of flexibility an employer is able and willing to give to you, so you can feel less stressed about all those extra activities of your kids that you‘ll have to attend or organise: birthdays, carnival, parent-teacher conferences. It can be a win-win for both parties if expectations from both sides are well-managed. ~ Judith Nguyen Thanh, Director of People Operations, IDAGIO
II — Get rid of that guilt
It’s easier said than done, but there really is no beneficiary of this emotion. Ask yourself is anything good coming from this? The most common answer is no.
Alas, the truth is you will feel guilty a lot of the time, it often feels like you can’t give your 100% to either your child nor your work, and that’s a horrible feeling to bear, BUT realise that isn’t the case and you are doing your best to serve everyone as much as you can. We're only humans after all.
If you find yourself making decisions based on guilt, please rethink and make them again.
Feeling guilty for not taking over the role of parent representative or accompanying the school trip is definitely not needed – there are plenty of mothers with a lot of time out there who love to do stuff like this. Do what you are good at – let them do what they are (hopefully) good at! And contributing to the school bake every now and then is enough and for sure feasible (but, my honest confession: I would feel guilty to bring a frozen cake 😊) ~ Josefine Hansel, Managing Director at AlixPartners
III — Wake up before everyone else does
Waking up at the crack of dawn is not something I would do out of choice, but our lovely children dictate otherwise, so use this time to be productive.
Waking up this early is super impactful, and quite often it's when I get my best work done. The baby is pottering around playing with ‘Ducky’ and ‘ Moo’, the late-night neighbours are soundly asleep, and fresh coffee is dripping. It really does add a lot of hours to the week 12.5 hours a week, but hey who’s counting?
IV — Find your partner in crime
Thankfully times are changing, parental responsibility is shifting and it is becoming more balanced. Sometimes, I think we should all move to Finland- they seem to always be leading the way with gender division. Your partner should both support and encourage you to thrive at work and within the home.
V — Be kind to yourself
Sometimes it feels like everyone has it figured out but you, however, chances are, they are going through the exact same challenges too. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help or advice, there is comfort in knowing others are sharing the same experiences as you.
If you’ve had a bad day, it’s okay to cry and feel down. It’s incredibly tough to manage everything, so don’t be so hard on yourself. Remember it’s okay that you want a career and a family, and why shouldn’t you?
Grab those massages and spa days whenever you can. Relish in those moments alone at the gym or at yoga. Enjoy that mindless scrolling through Instagram. And remember — you’re awesome.