In my thirties, life as a female executive was easy: work hard, play hard; work harder, play harder. Then in my mid-thirties, I took THE leap and had children. Suddenly, there was a lot more to juggle! Being a mother and a female CEO can be overwhelming, without a doubt. Here are a few simple tips to make things easier.
1. Create rules, tell your colleagues and stick to them
Decide what hours you are willing to work and which ones are no-go zones.
These will probably change overtime as your children get older.
When you still have babies, making it home on time for the bath and story time is vital. Later other things take priority like dinner and homework.
When I had my first son, Sebastian, I explained to my CEO, my assistant and our office manager that it was imperative that I leave the office at a fixed time. I would not be available from 6.30-9pm for phone calls or meetings. We also informed all my direct reports. I left the office at exactly the same time every day and then picked up on urgent work after 9 pm. My CEO understood immediately as he was also a father and had a working wife. My assistant became my vital fortress to respect my commitment and to push back on any requests for meetings within the no-go zones.
One of the key learnings was: if I personally deviated from the rule, then the rule became obsolete.
2. If a colleague repeatedly breaks the rule, make a case out of it (kindly :))
When Chloe was 2, I started working for an American start up as MD EMEA based out of London and Paris. Time zones made things complicated and it was a lot harder for my assistant to control incoming calls from my colleagues during the no-go zone. One colleague repeatedly broke the rule and kept on calling during story telling time. Several times, he broke the rule and I abandoned my storytelling to talk to him. Oddly, it was I who ended the calls apologizing for having to cut short.
One day it happened again and I realized it would not stop until I put my foot down. So instead of interrupting my story telling, I put my phone on speaker, introduced my colleague to my children and asked him to continue the story. He apologized profusely and tried to hang up but I refused: he had to tell a bedtime story. He laughed, accepted the “punishment” and invented an awesome story on the spot. He was a really good sport about it and told the entire office about the event, further legitimizing my right to family time.
3. Make your life as a mother easier: take the short cuts and do things when it’s convenient to your schedule. Nobody is judging!
During the first few years as a new mother, you feel pressured to drop everything the second it involves your children. I was no exception. I tried to juggle everything and be a perfect mother, organizing great birthdays on the same week as my board meetings, travelling back and forth between countries 4 times in the week just to meet childrens’ obligation. Some weeks were a nightmare without any downtime.
Over the years I have learned to chill out. My kids’ birthdays for example used to be super stressful as they are close together, in the dead of winter and during Q4 which is usually the most intense period workwise. One day I decided birthdays did not need to be celebrated on a specific date. Obviously, we celebrate their birthdays as a family on D day. But for the celebration with friends, the kids and I jointly pick a date during the spring and space the dates out so I am less rushed. The kids love deciding when their birthdays will take place and getting involved in the preparation.
4. Learn to delegate things you hate
I hate making cakes and I am terrible at it! I hate the taste of them, even their smell as they bake. I used to force myself to make cakes for birthdays and special occasions. Not anymore! I have learned to trust the coolest bakery and cake designers to make spectacular looking cakes for the special occasions. Now my kids even go to the bakery every Sunday to choose their own sweets for Sunday lunch whilst I indulge at the cheese shop.
As much as I love literature and reading, I am really not a big fan of poetry. And coaching my kids to learn the mandatory poetry for school is pure torture. I have no patience nor tolerance for it! I now delegate this task to my super home COO and nanny Bernadette. She loves it and she is so kind and patient with my children as they butcher incomprehensible sentence one after the other. I take on all the rest of the homework which I love such as maths, literature and creative writing, sciences and history.
I have learned to not feel guilty in my role as a mother. We are all doing the best we can and we do an awesome job of it. I would love to create a community where all working mothers could share their tips and demystify the role of the perfect mother.
Let’s be happy and successful!