For better or for worse, contemporary women are told they can “have it all”: the career, the kids and the successful social life. But this means that many of us are burning the candle at both ends, and in the process, burning ourselves out.
With this year’s theme for International Women’s Day being “balance for better”, we asked four amazing Australian women – Kate Morris, CEO and founder of Adore Beauty; Zufi Emerson, actress and ambassador for Adopt Change; Kellie Hush, former editor-in-chief of Harper’s BAZAAR and fashion industry leader; and Moo Baulch, CEO of Domestic Violence NSW – how they find balance in their personal and professional lives. Here’s what they had to say.
Kate Morris, CEO And Founder Of Adore Beauty
“I don’t love the word “balance” to be honest, I feel like it is some impossible ideal that sets women up to fail. Who is this mythical balanced woman?! Everyone I know, including me, is just heavily prioritising and delegating, and also accepting a certain level of chaos. Not everything is going to get done perfectly and we just have to forgive ourselves. I used to bake cupcakes, and I don’t any more, and I refuse to feel guilty about being the mum who brings bought ones.
I aim for work-life integration. My family is important to me, and so is my work, and sometimes the two get mixed in together and that’s just how it is. I leave work by 5-5.30pm, but sometimes that means I’ll have to do a bit of work later that evening, and international calls are often at odd times. I try to be present with my kids when I’m at home, and I don’t plan much on the weekends so that we can just hang out.
I think the most important thing for women is to insist their partners carry half the load of the home stuff, so that they can carve out and prioritise time for themselves. I’ve observed that men generally are very good at ensuring their own needs are met, but women less so.
I am conscious of living my life in a way that sets an example to my daughters. That goes for my business decisions, and my relationship with my partner, and also the extent to which I’m willing to call things out to try and improve the world for my girls.”
Kellie Hush, Former Editor-In-Chief Of Harper’s BAZAAR And Entrepreneur
“I am launching a new fashion retail business in 2019 so there is little balance in my life Monday to Friday right now. The tight deadlines mean I can’t ignore a phone call at 8pm or a WhatsApp message at 6am. I am, however, strict (most of the time!) with my weekends. If I need to be at a weekend meeting I prefer to do it first thing, ideally over an early breakfast, so the rest of my day is focused on my family. I’m also very strict with my exercise routine and try to do some form of exercise every day. A good week is five yoga classes and two 5km walks. A bad week is only exercising six times.
We are so busy all the time and I often think my generation especially, Gen X, need to learn to slow down. Life and work absolutely get out of control and you need to stop and recalibrate before you’re in a hole. I made the decision a few years ago to leave my job as Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s BAZAAR. It was a dream job for years, but I became restless and the travel and nights out were getting me down. Plus, for some time I had had a strong desire to create something of my own.
I’m a firm believer in keeping my personal life and professional life separate. I think we are different people in the workplace to what we are at home. I also love the fact I can walk in the front door at home and let my guard down, kick off my heels and be Mum and a partner, rather than a busy career woman.”
Zufi Emerson, Actress And Adopt Change Ambassador
“If I’m not keeping healthy mentally and physically I’m unable to keep up with my professional or personal life at all. A few crucial things for me is to make time for daily exercise, spend any free time outdoors and surround myself with people who I am inspired by and enjoy being around.
I learned early on that it’s not selfish to prioritise time out for myself, when to say “yes” and when to say “no”, and most importantly, accepting that I may not always have the answers. Knowing that I have a choice when it comes to how to best utilise my time and energy, meant prioritising what works best for me. For me, that meant surrounding myself with people who make me happy. It also meant in my professional life that I am more specific about choosing projects that interest me and environments I want to work in. I am a lot happier and healthier when enjoy who I am around and what I am doing rather than aiming to get it all picture perfect.
I naively used to wonder why women who were then older than me were so frantic day-to-day when they seemed to be running a smooth ship. Now I’m 22, I realised how impossible it can be to maintain a balanced life. The expectations faced by women, particularly mothers, to have a balanced life has meant the focus is on doing everything right at any expense. It’s far more important that women cut themselves some slack instead of focusing on a perfectly balanced life, prioritising becoming happier and healthier versions of themselves.
At the core of feminism is striving for equal opportunity across both genders and that alone has shown me there’s no place for glass ceilings or aiming for a perfectly balanced life when being ambitious in leading the change we wish to assist making in the world.”
Moo Baulch, CEO Of Domestic Violence NSW
“The biggest obstacle to achieving balance in my life has to be the volume and breadth of work – I could work 70 hours a week and still not get through all the emails and requests. It’s almost impossible to separate my personal and professional life completely because we are a tiny team with a big mandate and there’s always a to-do list that sometimes feels insurmountable. I try to take a proper break for at least a couple of weeks every year; we leave the country and I switch my phone off.
Since my daughter was born I have Mondays at home with her and I try to be as present as I can on those days. We go to a museum or catch up with friends or have a lunch date with each other. My daughter keeps me busy and grounded and reminds me that there are always simple joys to be had – ant-watching, bike-riding, gardening. I walk a lot in between meetings whenever I can, it helps me to think and disconnect from the frenetic urgency of emails and phone calls. One thing I try to do every week is make a playlist – I was a DJ in a previous life and making time to listen to music helps me reconnect to myself rather than just being CEO Moo.
I think most women spend their lives juggling family and work priorities and many of the men in my life are doing the same too. We live in a world that encourages us to be workaholics and disconnected from the people around us whilst living online 24/7. I try to resist those urges as much as possible. I’m also a Libran so it’s always about the balance for me.”
Best Of Future Women
Your inbox just got smarter
If you’re not a member, sign up to our newsletter to get the best of Future Women in your inbox.