Can you combine motherhood and a career without guilt?
Samantha Ettus, 44, a Harvard MBA, mother of three, and author of The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe For Success and Satisfaction thinks you can.
And not only that. She has the formula.
It’s based on a pie chart of course. She did do an MBA and that requires a lot of graph skills.
Ettus’ book talks about women’s fulfilment. She compares life to a “messy gooey pie” and says there are seven ‘slices’ of fulfilment that every woman should spend time nurturing. A major one of these? You guessed it: work.
The other slices of the ‘pie’, according to Ettus, include family, relationship, hobbies, health, friends, community or religion – to achieve satisfaction. “Think about what fulfilment means – even if you love being a stay-at-home mum more than an employee, there will be other areas of life which will need your attention,” she wrote. “Even though your life may already feel horribly overloaded, you need to find time to see friends, go on a date night, and spend quality time with your children.”
Work is a major part of the perfect pie.
“If you leave the work force completely at this point [having a baby], you are unlikely to find it possible to return in any meaningful way,” Ettus wrote for The Telegraph.
“The statistics simply aren’t in your favour: more than 60 per cent of women who want to return to work after they left their careers to raise a family cannot find equivalent positions to return to.”
“There are too many of us walking around wishing they could do more, and have a more satisfying life once their kids are in school full-time,” she wrote. “If you do hit the pause button, then do everything you can to leave your options open. Work part-time, run a home-based business, consult – whatever you do, don’t throw the job out with the bathwater.”
Obviously some women continue working for financial reasons, as well as that slice of fulfillment.
Ettus’ pie life formula has a secret ingredient. It’s all about what time you get up in the morning. Yes, really. It will change your relationship with yourself, your partner, your children and your work.
Wake up earlier. Like really, still-dark-out and not-sure-if-people-can-function-at-this time early.
“Once piece of advice I give is to get up an hour ahead of the earliest riser in your household,” Ettus wrote. “Make the most of this magic hour. That time is yours to read the paper, catch up on emails, have a shower, practice the piano. You’ll be less frazzled when everyone else gets up and hit the ground running”
… Alright, practising the piano might be a leap. But, many mums are clued into the productivity tardis that is the early morning.
Belinda Tumbers, mother of two and Managing Director of Kellogg's, agrees with Ettus. She says getting up early, and arriving at the office before the workday begins, helps her set up for the day ahead.
"I wake up at 5am every day. I love it as I can be in the car by 5.40am heading to work before the rest of Sydney rises. I am a morning person so getting up early allows me to get through a lot of work before people start coming into the office – check social media, read the daily news and think through what I need to do during the day ahead." - Tumbers.
Kellogg's Australia's leadership team is 50 per cent female, so it's a place of early-rising, balancing-act mums. Tumbers' two colleagues, Director of Corporate Communications, Public Affairs & Government Relations, Rebecca Boustead, who is a mother of two, and Marketing Director Tamara Howe, who is a mother of one, also agree with Ettus' suggestion.
I also get up early around 4.30-4.45 to get to the gym 3 times a week as I feel so much better having had a run or done a work out. I also work flexible hours so that I can get to my children’s school to help with reading groups occasionally or their afterschool activities and see how they are doing and what they are achieving. I have always been a morning person and love that time in the morning when most people are asleep. My husband and kids are also early risers, so my husband and I on weekdays or all of us on weekends - eat breakfast together so that we check in and get ready for the day together. - Boustead
Ettus’ advice resonates as I’m up at 5am most mornings – then either at the gym by 5.30am or in the office before 7.30am. I do my best thinking in the morning and find I’m able to be focused before the back to back meetings start at 8-8.30am. - Howe
Early mornings aside, there are other tips that make balancing those slices more doable. Tools like calendars and fridge door programs. (Concepts that, for millennial women like me, might sound foreign and a little too much like they'd frown at you for all the things you always forget.)
Most reassuringly, Ettus says, it's not always meant to work seamlessly. There will be days where things don't go to schedule. Where the kids are sick and the dog has weed on the carpet and the ham for the school sandwiches smells funky and you haven't even arrived at the office yet. These moments are normal. They don't take away from the fulfilment. They're part of it.
"Ditch the idea of perfection. I love the metaphor of life as a pie, because the most delicious ones are the messy, gooey, dripping-off-the-sides homemade ones. Concentrate on where you are right now, rather than feeling guilty you aren't somewhere else. Being a great mother is nothing to do with the hours spent, but that the quality of the hours of spend with your child"
Most importantly however, those moments of happiness, and bursts of bliss are always possible, in between the busy-ness. These moments are what the slices of pie combine to achieve. Satisfaction in who you are, what you're doing and the people you have in your life.