Women executives are often faced with work-family balance issues. Wanting to be the best mom, worker and partner are admirable goals -- but largely impossible to do simultaneously. Perhaps, postulates Nicole Enright, Vice President, Strategic Enablement Services for Avnet Technology Solutions, the answer is for women to put themselves first. Then, all the other parts of your life can fall into place. — Jennifer Bosavage, editor
As the leader of a largely female team and as a member of a predominately male executive leadership team, I find myself constantly trying to balance the demands of my work and my life to serve both worlds as a good and balanced example. At this point, I am sure that many of you are reading and already thinking…”okay, here we go again, better work-life balance…check, check, I got it.”
[Related: Women Executives I Admire ]The truth is—most of us don’t get it. While as women we know the importance of balancing life, we find it difficult, if not impossible to be outstanding in all of the roles we play. The reality is—none of us can simultaneously be the best leader, employee, wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. We can try, but I usually find that as a result, we end up placing ourselves last. A good friend and a fellow CRN Woman of the Channel once told me that: her children come first, her job second, her husband third, her extended family fourth, her friends fifth…and she herself, what she needed, what she wanted, that came last. I find the same to be true for me.
So the question is: why do we put ourselves last? I think we feel it’s expected. If you have children and a family, they should come first, right? If you have a job, you want to do the very best in that role. If you are a leader, you want to create an inspired and engaged team that is able to learn and grow. The good news is while I don’t think we can do everything, I do think that if we changed our priorities, and instead of placing ourselves last, we put ourselves first, maybe, just maybe, it would actually be easier for us to accomplish all of these things well.
For example, if we took care of our health, if we took time for ourselves, if we stopped placing all of our needs last and put some of our needs first I think we would be stronger and able to do more. I think that perhaps that’s what work-life balance is. It’s not about juggling; it’s about recognizing that the only way to achieve it is to take care of ones’ self first. If we don’t do that, I truly believe it’s so much more difficult to take care of everyone else.
Sometimes taking care of yourself is taking up kickboxing or yoga and sometimes it’s volunteering at your child’s school or for a charitable cause. A friend shared with me that her children left her a note in her lunch box asking her to come have lunch with them at school that day. I remember how much she wanted to have lunch with them. For her that would have nurtured her soul while nurturing her children. But instead she felt she had to participate in a meeting and didn’t go.
Sometimes it’s true. It’s not possible to always put ourselves and our needs first, but I think it’s more possible than we allow it to be. One of the members of my team called me in a panic because her daughter’s first dance recital was on the same night as an important dinner with some senior leaders. She wasn’t sure what to do? Why do we even allow ourselves the question? There was only one place she wanted to be and needed to be, but still there was a little war within her as to what she wanted and what she felt might be expected and important to her career.
Balance isn’t about juggling, it’s about balancing between needs, wants and what we believe is expected, and ensuring we are honoring all of the roles we play in the best way possible. As women, I believe one of the most effective ways we can do that is to stop placing ourselves last and instead to honor our needs and wants, minimally, the way we honor the needs and wants of our families, our employees and our organizations.
Perhaps I am writing this for myself—to move from this conviction I have to put myself first into the actual act of doing so. This is a fast-paced industry within a fast-paced world. I am constantly exhausted trying to be all things to all people all of the time. Perhaps if I listened, really listened to this voice within that continues to tell me that I can have balance, and may even do a better job than I am doing now for my family and for my organization, if I truly placed myself and my needs first, maybe I would do something about it. Maybe we all would.
And without really realizing it, I did just do it. When I was first approached about writing for this forum, I was interested and wanted to contribute to the blog (for me – it was something I really wanted to do), but I almost didn’t agree to do it because at the time I thought I was way too busy.
And this is how we, as women of the channel, can all take that first step—from last to first.