By Carrie Kwan
As an Australian woman, mother, business owner, and the facilitator of a community network of business-owning mums, I’ve been reflecting on my many conversations and the collective experience of women and families balancing work and life in 2020.
Has the great gift of this pandemic period been to finally call the bluff on having to choose between ambition, livelihood and wellbeing? Can we have them all? And if so, what is the mindset and skills we need to balance things accordingly?
2020 silver linings
In many ways, the pandemic period has served businesses well. In our eagerness to stay in touch and remain productive, we’ve achieved ten years of digital transformation in twelve months. On a local level, many regional businesses have described their year as busier than ever. And another upside has seen the mental load (so often burdening women) becoming a little more visible.
What we long for is knowing the long term will be OK
In the short term scramble, what we’ve lacked is a longer term perspective. Women-owned businesses have been hardest hit throughout COVID, not just because many tend to be in pandemic affected sectors but because of their typical newer stage and smaller size.
This makes the livelihood of a fledgling female founder extremely vulnerable to external changes. Sometimes it’s a choice between backing the breadwinner and getting a holiday or persevering with a startup that does not immediately yield a return.
For many, COVID has overruled our business and life desires, so now is the time for us to get back in control to feel that the long term will be ok.
It’s critical that Australia has more female business owners and entrepreneurs. While the COVID compromise may make sense in the short term, how do we manage our perspective about ambition in the long term?
What we’ve lacked
My perspective on what we’ve lacked has come about from talking to our network of Australian business-owning mothers and sharing my own experience throughout 2020. Anecdotes and findings are supported by the 2020 She Loves Tech cohort report prepared by friends of Mums & Co, Fingerprint for Success.
Here’s what ambitious, business minded women that also seek to balance their family and personal wellbeing need to do more of in 2021:
1. Assert ambition
2. Recognise that livelihood is a transferable skill
3. Practice wellbeing as a mindset for every minute of each dayLet’s go into detail:
1. Assert your ambition! Over at least 5-10 years.
Ambition is a wonderful thing, but like all good things, allow it to take time. Take a big picture view and plan to build your business as you do your family over many years. Don’t chase the overnight success fallacy!
Being assertive is about giving permission to yourself and to those around you. Clearly articulating what you want and need directly correlates to your success.
Anything that will help you articulate and embrace what you want and need is great for becoming more assertive. In your business, job and career, these kinds of statements might be found in company or brand values. In your personal and home life, try having family statements or code.
The most important person to be assertive with is you. Try to avoid (or at least reduce) any self deprecating or justification of your desires, dreams and ideas. Practice being positive and kind as being assertive. No one idea, wish, ambition, or need is the same. Be kind, positive and assertive with you and watch how others will become curious and supportive for your ambition along the way.
2. Livelihood is a transferable skill
Parenting is often our strongest motivation, yet can at times feel like the weakest link. We want to set a good example for our children and contribute to the household income and how we achieve that really comes back to time. The only way we can ‘get more’ time is to be more productive and organised, or get help.
Where are you already an expert? One way to harmonise ambition, livelihood and wellbeing is to recognise how many of your skills are transferable. Turns out, business and parenting, management and motherhood go hand in hand.
What do you have in your life experience or management training that you can apply to raising kids while building a business? Where are you already a pro that will help you discover that magical solution: more time. Have clear and specific conversations with the broader company around you about what you need, what they can do, the overview of your plans and some suggestions for ways they can support you.
This is another transferable skill because this type of conversation is the same kind of conversation – asking for help and being clear with what you need. As a family unit, decide what you don’t want to persevere with, and what you need to change.
Being open minded and more tolerant is now a proven way to help women in business succeed. As a mother, you already have this down! You need to be as tolerant through a toddler teething as you do throughout early venture success.
3. Wellbeing is a mindset
Now you’ve mapped out your long term ambition and interchanged management and motherhood approaches, there’s one final gear that we need to shift.
Stop thinking about wellbeing and start doing! Wellbeing is a mindset. Take it from me, I’ve flown around the world as a beauty editor and might have previously said that wellbeing is something that you buy. It’s not. The more credit you give for your kindness, positivity, and the transferable nature of all of your skills, the more assertive, open minded and tolerant you will become.
You are never alone. None of this is in isolation, that’s why we refer to the ideal state of “harmony” at Mums & Co as the balance of ambition, livelihood and wellbeing. Everything is more realistic and sustainable with the right “Company” around you– like having a supportive partner and family.
I hope this reframes and empowers you to be assertive, ambitious and proud of what you’re capable of. You’ve already planned it out and now is the time to start doing.