I don’t know why but for me there always seem to be more opportunities open to me as an Expat then as a local in my own country. It could have a lot to do with comfort zone or it could possibly be the opportunity to “put yourself out there” when you’re in a foreign land but I love the opportunity presented to me nonetheless.
International Women’s Day
Today I was fortunate enough to spend the afternoon in the back garden at the Australian Consulate at an International Women’s Day event. Our Consulate General, Karen Lanyon is fantastic: she’s as down-to-earth as they get, she’s a go-getter and an inspiration. And she opens her house up to host events like today that’s like being at your best friend’s place which makes me proud to be Australian because it’s so damned Australian.
I hate going to events on my own. As out there as I am I’m incredibly shy at walking up to a group of people, talking and introducing myself. It’s my idea of a nightmare. Yet, I’ll happily talk in front of hundreds of people without batting an eye.
It’s not everyday I do something for myself so I forced myself out of my comfort zone and was rewarded for it. (For the record I was still pretty bad & didn’t ACTUALLY walk up to a single group of people and introduce myself but I did meet a couple of lovely people).
A panel of successful women bared themselves to us about their success and how they overcame various collective adversities and called out milestones that reflect how they got where they are today. I love hearing about others’ successes especially in the face of adversity.
When I go to things like this I get really jealous that I quit the corporate world and wonder if I could have been a Chief Marketing Officer for a large multinational as was my career goal before I had kids.
There were some great highlights and inspiring things said but one thing bothered me.
One woman said she was forced to put herself out there because she learnt her husband (& father of her children) whom she adored and loved dearly was cheating on her. This caused a marriage to dissolve and clearly she needed to stand on her own two feet to achieve her own success rather than rely on the partnership. Good for her, Amen to that sister. Nods, smiles, tears, claps.
Definition of success
But then when asked how she juggles her life she said it’s about “resource allocation” in her personal life the same way she allocates resources in her corporate life. Yep, makes sense, we can’t do everything it takes a team. But then this … “so I don’t cook most nights and I don’t take the kids to soccer training every Saturday or during the week.
Wait. Stop. What? On Saturday you pay a driver to take your kids to their games? Oh, right. That’s why I haven’t been able to let myself lose in the Corporate world because I want to take my kids to their swim meets and tennis matches or water polo training and sit and watch and enjoy them. I don’t want someone to do that for me.
She’s successful to her, but that’s not a success I want for me. And that’s OK. I admire her for what she’s achieved, I’m envious, good for you sister.
She might not have had much choice but to me that’s exactly what I don’t want to outsource. Cooking every night, sure; cleaning, definitely but going to watch my son swim or my daughter play tennis–no bloody way.
When I had my now 14-year-old son I started back at work almost straight away in the old agency I worked for. He was such a good baby I’d go in (timed when he was sleeping) do a few hours work then leave again. A few times (thanks to my gorgeous neighbour at the time time) I even managed to go in and do half-day media training sessions. It was fantastic.
My boss came in on one of these occasions and said, “You know things are working so well with you coming back into work why don’t you come back early.”
I said absolutely. I’m loving being able to bring my baby in he’s so good, he can sleep and I can work it’s great.
“Oh no. That’s not what I meant,” he said. “I meant you’re probably ready to leave him at home again and start working.”
He totally missed the point. The point was I was happy working but I was happy being a mum and I worked out pretty quickly that I could do both and not have to leave him in daycare. That’s when I made my decision to quit work and start my own Agency.
Traditional work environments
I learnt pretty quickly that I wasn’t looking for a traditional work environment, I wanted to create my own rules.
I found a client who was happy for me to bring my baby into meetings while he slept and we worked. I found a client who was happy for me to work at home at times that suited me yet delivering on needs they had at the time.
Times changed and when they were school age I thought it would be easier to go back to work. Then I found I still needed to keep unconventional hours, in fact even more so. I quit that job eight months later.
I found a client not long later who (in her words) snapped me up. She was more than happy to work around school hours. Twice a week I’d go into the office after school drop off and leave just before school pick up. As and when needed I would work longer hours but generally I could fit more work into more days just keeping school hours.
To me that’s my success.
One of my close girlfriends I met here in LA is my inspiration. With her husband she runs a highly successful Australian-created international company. She helped spearhead this company into the success it is.
The reason she’s my inspiration is not just because she’s clever and believed in herself and her husband to create an amazing brand but she did it raising four beautiful girls. To me she epitomises work-life balance. She drops the girls at school and picks them up. She works early in the morning, late at night and when they’re at school. There are, of course, occasions where she doesn’t always pick them up or drop them off and she has had the help of nannies over the years and housekeepers so she can cook most nights. But she didn’t want her role as a corporate business woman to interfere with her role as a mum and a wife.
When I first met her my first reaction was oh damn, she’s so nice I could be her friend but she’s too busy. But she took the time to have lunch or breakfast with me, she’d book us in to have dinner with the girls. She took me under her wing and gave me Doctors details and we went to great places to eat and invited me to events around town.
To me, that’s a true sign of success—outsourcing things that help you be a better person, a more productive business woman but without sacrificing being a great mum. Oh, and also being a great friend.
Make It Happen
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Make It Happen. I couldn’t agree more. But I think we should make it happen for ourselves, for what we want to achieve for how we want to achieve it.
While that woman who got up from her bed and wiped the tears away from her eyes and “made it happen” is someone to be admired I also think the woman who moves countries with her family and sets up a new home and social network for her family is successful, or the woman who sacrifices her career to support her kids and family is successful.
I think we need to put people up on a pedestal who are successful in non-traditional ways.
And to that I salute you all my friends who are happy in themselves and successful in their lives in the way they choose to judge success. When we sisters can put that non-traditionally successful woman up on a panel and learn and admire why they are successful to them and those around them then I think we have truly come a long way.
Meanwhile let’s raise a toast sisters. Cheers!
Xx It Started in LA xx