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Getting the Work/Life Balance Right

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Last week I was delighted to be part of the Women 1st Conference in Knightsbridge, London.

The conference supports the idea that we need more women in senior roles to help businesses grow and evolve in a more progressive way.

Wellbeing of Women was the chosen charity for the Women 1st Shine Awards that evening.
The conference, hosted by Carla Buzasi, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post UK, was packed with motivational speakers, workshops and networking opportunities.

I asked to be part of an early afternoon 'sofa session', answering lots of questions about the topics which affect working women.

I was joined by three very inspiring females: Natalie Bickford, HR director UK and Ireland for Sodexo , Tracey Rogers, managing director of Unilever Food Solutions and Vanessa Vallely, founder of leading city women's network and website, www.wearethecity.com

Although we'd never met before, within minutes of sitting down we were deep in conversation. The camaraderie was great. We'd soon covered jobs, motherhood, the menopause and shoes!

The next day I was told by an organiser: 'We really appreciated your participation in the slightly wicked discussions yesterday! They provoked a lot of tweeting and conversation, it was brilliant.'

During the session we were asked to consider three pieces of advice for women trying to get their work/ life balance right.

Mine were as follows:

1. You have an ultimate responsibility to be honest with yourself about what you want.
If you decide to have children/ get married/ stay married be honest with yourself about your priorities regardless of what others might say. Find the compromise that works for you.

2. If you are not well you will not do well. Always prioritise your physical and emotional health.

3. Each week make a mental list of all the things you have done that have made you feel proud of yourself. However junior you may be in an organisation you will have some - even if it's helping someone else or making a colleague smile. When you're having a tough day unpack this mental box and remind yourself of the difference you make and be proud of yourself.

I was intrigued by what other leading business women had to say.

One high-achiever who works for a huge multi-national company revealed that she'd had a child at 36 and realised her husband was much more suited to being a hands-on parent. So she elected to continue working while he stayed at home.

'I could never have found a better parent for my children,' she said, 'But while I my love my kids, I just couldn't imagine being at home all day. So I handed the baby over and said, "Here you are - do what you do best and I'll do what I do best!" It has worked beautifully for us.'

I told the group that as a young mother I'd set up my own business running an employment agency. I had two business partners which meant I could cover the responsibilities and fit my working hours around raising my young son, Rob, now 30. In fact, Rob recently said to me: 'You never worked when I was little, did you Mum?'

Although I think it's great that he remembers my being there during his formative years the reality was I worked very hard when he was either in bed or at nursery school.

Today, I'm pleased to say that my son is a prime example of someone who is very committed to sharing the childcare with his wife and they have taken turns with their careers.

He recently took an eighteen-month sabbatical from his job as a museum projects manager so that he could be a full time dad to my grandson.

Of course, while I continue to enjoy putting in long days at Wellbeing of Women I still have to juggle, like almost every other woman I know.

Even though I am a grandma, I am still frantically tackling the work/life balance - and that will probably never change.

www.wellbeingofwomen.org.uk