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Firing on all cylinders

Aug 31 2012 13:19

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WOMEN who perform the three-pronged role of career woman, mother and wife know that each role can complement the other successfully.

The fulfilment that comes from having a career you are passionate about, makes you a happy person who can offer the very best in you to your family.

Yet the demands of this three-faceted role can easily make a woman feel inadequate – as if our contribution, be it at home or at work, is never quite enough or good enough.

The pressure on career women who are also mothers and spouses is not unfamiliar. And, although I have experienced my fair share of this, I am blessed to be able to say that I am "enough" – for both my family and also within my career.

As career women and parents we perform quite a juggling act every day.

I am the mother of a teenage daughter, wife of a man who has his own full-time practice and executive head of Sanlam Personal Finance (SPF), the biggest business within the Sanlam Group.

The path I had to take to learn to give the necessary attention to all my commitments - and how to handle the demands and many expectations - was not, and still is not, always easy.

But I believe that as career women and parents we should not castigate ourselves too much when something occasionally goes wrong. After all, success is not necessarily a perfect outcome, but a perfect attempt made in the context of mutual love, understanding and support.

I believe that my success as a career woman, mom and woman is surely linked to several factors: my inherent ability to organise myself and my life; the support and understanding of my family and colleagues; clear career and personal goals and sound planning so that I can carry it all out.

And then there is the critical matter of sheer grace... because I believe that each person can plan their life up to point only and that we do not directly control the rest.

As an actuary, I definitely entered a man's world in 1985 when I was appointed to actuarial in Sanlam. My interest in and passion for my work and faith that others had in me made it possible for me to climb the so-called career ladder quite rapidly, so I quickly had to make adjustments at home.

My daughter was still small when my career started demanding a lot from me. My husband was incredibly supportive and throughout it all I also relied on the help of an experienced au pair.

What I often find about women and mothers with full-time careers is that we understand the necessity to play a critical role in our children's lives, and our sense of duty is of such a nature that we delegate that with which we are comfortable.

So, we will rely on help but still accept final responsibility for ensuring that homework has been done and that school matters get the necessary attention.

To be successful at this was, and still is, not always easy. I think that a mother who is also a career woman has to handle more logistical matters than a man in the same career.

It is often necessary to compromise and make up for lost time later on.

However, if a family learns to understand the context of a mother's contribution completely and if there is a close bond and good communication it is indeed possible to handle the logistics so that we, as women, can be successful in both a career and family context.

If I had allowed myself to be tripped up by the career-related and personal challenges that came my way, I definitely would not have experienced fulfilment and success in my career.

In addition, had my family life not been based on love, support and sound communication I would not have achieved what I have in my role as a mother, or in my career.

Women are proven organisers and I believe that in the end family and career success are linked to the quality of the plan that one has in place. However, it remains important to admit that no plan is necessarily 100% perfect.

I still strive after perfection, but can forgive myself for sometimes arriving late at a dance venue, prize-giving or the netball court, or when I could not attend a school function because a business trip had to be given priority.

The knowledge that my family forgives me is what carries me.

The opposite is also true, though. Like every working mother I have also happily forgone work functions and trips because my first priority at that stage was my family. My family knows this and we are all comfortable with the mutual sacrifices.

As career women with a good income, our children enjoy educational opportunities that are not possible for everyone. This is something to be humble about and thankful for. At the same time, in pursuing our careers we get the opportunity to lead fulfilled lives.

One could hardly ask for more.

 - Fin24

* Lizé Lambrechts is executive head of Sanlam Personal Finance. She is the last guest columnist taking part in Fin24's Women's Month campaign celebrating women in business.

Previous women's month columns:

A township girl's wisdom - Odette van der Haar, CEO of the Association of Communication & Advertising

Go with the flow - Glenda Noemdoe, senior operations manager for Metropolitan Wellness

The female factor - Ngao Motsei, group executive strategic human resources of MMI Holdings

Dare to take risks - Kate van Niekerk, marketing manager of Norcros SA

Seducer or slavemaster - Jacqueline Allschwang, inspirational and transformational NLP coach and facilitator and owns Inspire Transformations

Knowledge is power
- Mimi Viviers, key accounts executive at Connection Telecom

Sweet and simple - Sandy Wilde, head of Sanlam icover

Does money matter
- Jessica Pryce-Jones, CEO of the iOpener Institute for People and Performance

Starting from scratch
- Karen Short, founder and chairperson of By Word of Mouth

It's all in alignment - Anli Kotzé, general manager at Ladbrokes.co.za

Make it a team effort - Lulu Letlape, executive head of group corporate affairs at Sanlam

Life isn't like the movies - Judith Middleton, founder and CEO of DUO Marketing + Communications

Ramp up your fun factor - Marteen Michau, head of fiduciary and tax at Sanlam Private Investments

Map your delivery plan - Jackie Carroll, managing director for Media Works

Fine balancing act - Managing director of MUA Insurance Acceptances

Small victories are sweet
- CEO of Save the Children South Africa

Head in the clouds - Marketing manager at kulula.com

The sky's the limit - Tsidi Luse, quality control manager at Lafarge's Lichtenburg plant

In the driving seat - Dawn Nathan-Jones, CEO, Europcar

Get your hands dirty - Sandra Burmeister, CEO of the Landelahni Recruitment Group

Manage like a woman - Wahida Parker, director of Equillore

Four tips for working moms - Glynnis Jeffries, head: business development at Futuregrowth

Women a force for change - Amelia Jones, CEO of Community Chest

Don't be an ice queen - Nicole Fannin, financial consultant at deVere Group 



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workplace  |  business  |  women
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