This post is part of our blog series, The A to Z of Being Babyproof, a celebration of the attitudes and behaviours it takes to balance career and family – because “babyproof” is not a destination, it’s a blueprint for having it all and making it work.

 

Despite women having made huge advances in education and career opportunities over the last fifty years, there’s no denying that there is still a very real conflict between motherhood and successful career progression. The childbearing years coincide with the period in women’s lives when most career opportunities and responsibilities arise and it is unsurprising that trying to balance the demands of a new family and a challenging job often derails the most promising of careers.

As if the pressures of combining work and family weren’t enough, women have also often had to contend with issues of workplace discrimination, marginalisation and harassment surrounding pregnancy and maternity leave. With all these apparent obstacles to achieving a successful work-life balance, the last thing many women feel is ‘empowered’ at this critical time in their lives. In this blog, however, I’d like to show you that it absolutely doesn’t have to be that way.

 

Here’s how:

 

empowered

 

  1. Understand the meaning of “being empowered” – finding the power to influence outcomes in your own life. Being empowered is all about finding power in situations where you feel powerless. It’s about not waiting for others to hand you the solutions to a problem, or for a broken, unfair system to be fixed by someone else – because that help may not come in time for you to benefit from it. You have two choices – you can dwell on all the things you can’t do, all the obstacles in your path and the unjustness of it all, or you can focus on what you can do, on what you can control, and influence the direction of your life that way. There are things you can do to take charge of your circumstances and direct your own future. This is what it means to be empowered, and it is the essence of what it means to be Babyproof.

 

  1. Find your role models. Whether in your home life, at work or in the public eye, there’s no shortage of examples of people who will have found the inner strength to achieve great things, from Beyonce to Sheryl Sandberg or Karren Brady. Look for people who embody the values you admire. Use their qualities and successes as inspiration and motivation for your own career and personal life and look at the circumstances they have overcome. If they can do it – what’s stopping you?

 

  1. Reflect on your successes. Think back to a time when you surprised yourself when you achieved something you feared you couldn’t do. Reflect on how you felt before and after you had achieved your goal. Harness that positive feeling to give you the power to try again when you feel afraid. Keep a detailed record of your successes – awards, praise, testimonies – and regularly review them to sustain your confidence and power.

 

  1. Be conscious of how your power directs your life. Life isn’t just ‘happening’ to you, even though it may sometimes feel that way. Think of the hundreds of small decisions you make every day and how cumulatively these reflect your values and shape not only the course of your day, but the course of your life. This will develop your sense and feeling of control over your own circumstances.

 

  1. Say no! It can be hard to say no to things or to people, especially if you are someone who likes to please, or you are afraid of seeming uncommitted. But if you never say no, you’ll never be empowered. Your life will be dictated by other people’s needs and expectations of you and not by what is best for you and what you want your life to be. Saying no seems daunting at first (I’ll get to that when we explore N for No later in the A-Z of Being Babyproof series), but it’s one of the most empowering things you can do. I remember saying no to a high profile client earlier this year because their expectations did not fit with how I worked. I was of course nervous that I wouldn’t get any work again, but guess what happened? I got more of the right sort of work. And I mean much more! It was the best feeling of empowerment ever.

 

  1. Practise self-care. Make yourself a priority. Your mental and physical well-being is the key to making a success of working motherhood. You can’t be empowered if you are physically and mentally depleted. Look after your diet, get regular exercise and develop a good sleep routine. Allow yourself some time-out every day to reflect and check in with yourself – how are things going and do you need to make any changes to your routine? If you take steps to stay healthy and strong, you will have the energy and power to take control of your life.

 

  • Be empowered by others. Join a community or be part of a group – they say there’s safety in numbers, but there’s power too. Being part of a group where the members are all passionate about a common cause or driven towards a similar goal is massively empowering. That’s why networking groups, like the women’s business community I am part of, Sister Snog and online networks like our growing babyproof community, work so well. Each member is interested, focused, and sustains, encourages and inspires the others to achieve so much more than they could alone. We humans are the archetypal social animals – the solid support and enthusiasm of others around us is the most empowering gift of all.

 

Be empowered by connecting with like-minded supportive career women in our Babyproof groups on Linkedin and Facebook, or sign up for our Babyproof Your Career online course, launching in the New Year.

 


empoweredCaroline Flanagan is a Keynote Speaker, Babyproof Coach and Author of Babyproof Your Career, The Secret to Balancing Work and Family so you can Enjoy It All. Caroline believes passionately in the dream of having it all, and founded Babyproof Your Life to train and prepare ambitious career women for the marathon of working parenthood so they can find their own way to #enjoyitall and #makeitwork. You can reach Caroline at caroline@babyproofyourlife.com