Creating a New Eco-System of Support - Redefining Family

Last week, in our first post focused on female leadership, we identified 4 essential factors to combine professional success and happiness. 

1) Learn to be at one with yourself in your work environment 

2) Create environments where honesty and risk-taking prevail 

3) Maintain healthy mind in a healthy body 

4) Create a new ecosystem to support your work/life balance  

Today we will tackle the new eco-system needed to support working female executives. 

There is no doubt that no matter how successful we are as female executives unless we have stay-at-home partners, we will still take the lion share of family management and administration. We are still seen by our loved ones, and other men and women as the primary caregivers. We probably see ourselves in that role as well and are not ready to let go. 

Teachers will always call the mother of the children to sort out a problem at school. Mothers will call other mothers to organize play dates.It is expected that mothers will go to the doctor’s appointments with their children. And we tend to organize after school activities, house care, dinner parties and holidays.

Even when we choose to outsource a lot of these tasks, we will remain as the heads of the household. As a female executive with children, you will constantly battle scheduling conflicts and organizational challenges.

If you want to manage both career and home, the traditional notion of a family needs to be rethought.

You might have a great partner who steps in, but you are going to need a lot more than one support. It’s not politically correct to say this: but you will not make it alone!

First: you need a great family COO; someone who is your childminder, your house minder, who looks after you and is an extension of yourself on most levels. Someone 100% focused on running the home: someone who keeps it all together and understands all the interdependencies of the family.

Try not to have a classic employer/employee relationship with that central person. The new family COO is a person that you truly partner with on all levels and that you trust 300%. They should share your values and agree with your lifestyle choices.

Bernadette has been with us since I moved my family to Paris 7 years ago. Chloe was a new-born, Sebastian was 2 and I was starting a new job as Managing Director with 150 staff and a P&L over several hundreds of millions, 2 months after giving birth, in a new industry, a new company and a new country.

Bernadette has been instrumental to my success and not a week goes by that I don’t remind her. We have chosen to intertwine our lives in many ways to form an extended family.  She also has a husband and children.

The children all come to my house after school, almost as one set of siblings which ensures Bernadette can manage my challenging diary without impacting her family negatively.

Every week I take care of her family as she takes care of mine. We have different skills and experience which we leverage to optimize both families. I manage all banking, education and legal matters for both families and she manages all our day to day activities.

We trust and empower one another fully in each area of responsibility and never feel threatened by the deep impact we have on each other’s family.

 Second: Ask for help and surround yourself with people who you can depend on. I don’t know why we are so shy when it comes to asking for help and yet how giving people are. Friends and extended family have been so generous in contributing to my children’s lives and helping out. And I do the same for all my friends.

I consider my close friends as part of my family and integrate them in my life. My kids have multiple unrelated “uncles and aunts” as one would in an Asian culture. They always have my back when at the last minute a business obligation pops up or I need a different perspective on a problem.

Third: Talk to your children about your work. No matter how wonderful your eco-system might be, there will be nights when you are across the world and cannot attend the school play. It will disappoint your children. But they will understand, as long as you talk openly to them. My children have always known that I am a business executive and that I travel a lot for work and that many people depend on me for their well-being. They are proud of it and understand that it will mean small sacrifices along the way. Recently I was featured in Challenges magazine for my work as a business angel and mentor to young entrepreneurs. My 7 year old daughter was extremely proud, read the article end to end and even brought the magazine to school to show her friends and teachers. She embraces my career.

I also impose downtime even during the working hours to have quality time with my children. I accompany them to school outings. I have a long breakfast with them on a Wednesday morning when they don’t start school until 10 am. Nobody at work has ever reproached me those moments. They think it’s awesome.

I will never pretend that it is easy to be a female executive and an active involved mother. But it is absolutely possible and hugely rewarding if you don’t sacrifice yourself along the way but rather surround yourself with the right support.

Let’s be happy and successful!