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Helping women achieve work-life balance

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Shannon Young's wellness conference for working mothers takes place next month.

The seemingly unobtainable work-life balance is on the agenda. The Bermudian was put through her paces as a career-driven mother of three and now runs a coaching practice in Australia, the Care Factor.

Part-proceeds from the July 8 event will go towards the Women's Resource Centre. Lifestyle spoke with Ms Young about what's on offer.

When we talk about work-life balance it's usually directed towards women, not fathers. Why is that?

The title of work-life balance illustrates that it began as a “work” issue. It stems from treatment at work when women returned from maternity leave and thus it is seen as a women's issue much like pay inequality is seen from a women's perspective.

Balance is a person-based issue and is important for all of us, at whatever stage in life we are at.

Balance will be different but it will always be important. Thus the session is about “being in balance”, not a magical formula categorising how much of each you need.

What advice do you give to women when they don't feel they're good enough?

That is a huge question and to be resolved one really needs to go “down the rabbit hole”, as I call it.

That is where I go with people I coach. We look at how they think, the meanings they create and how they behave out in the world.

Self-awareness is key to growth. One thing I always end up doing when I don't feel good enough about myself as a mother is I hug my kids. A good three-second or three-breath hug. It reconnects you to what is important and, amazingly, hearts can end up beating in time.

How has your career evolved since you became a mother?

My priorities changed. Clichéd, I know, but they have and that is hard-wired into us mothers.

I am fortunate that my career choice was already in line with my nature, so there is a lot of crossover.

I created engaging environments at work and coached people to reach their potential. Same at home.

My career has evolved so that it involves me as a whole person not just “Work Shannon” and “Friend Shannon” or “Home Shannon” or “Mum Shannon”.

It is just Shannon wherever I am, and that is what a lot of people are struggling with.

They are trying to separate out their lives, compartmentalise themselves when they innately want to just be themselves.

What changes have you noticed in the workplace in terms of accommodating working mothers?

In the corporate world there are fabulous programmes that have been put in place, such as breastfeeding rooms and fridges, subsidised child care on-site, flexible working hours, work-from-home practices using the technology available, and paid parental leave — note the change from maternity to parental.

These are wonderful policies and practices, however, as I have seen in my years consulting, you can implement best-in-class practices but if you do not change the behaviour then people will revert to their old ways and the policies and practices will be ineffective.

In this case, this applies to the unconscious bias that leaders can have to career-oriented women who want to progress and also the women themselves as their biggest critics, so this is where I work at a culture and leadership level.

Have you had a lightbulb moment? Something that affirms what you are trying to accomplish?

My biggest lightbulb moments have been my own because they mean the most to me.

Yesterday my son said: “You know some people say you have to put yourself first and others say you have to put others first.”

This is the crux of what I coach on as there are the two sides and people see it as either one or the other. I see it and coach it as “and” — you do both. This is important for mothers. You take care of yourself so you can take care of others. Just as in an aircraft when they say put the oxygen mask on yourself first before assisting children or, for new mothers, that you need to eat and feed yourself first so you have enough nutrients in your body so you can breastfeed easily.

The fact that I can have this conversation with my son means that this topic of balance is getting out there and being talked about — even at the ripe old age of 8.

In terms of my mission to lift the care factor in mothers and banish apathy from the world, I started a “mindful mums” dinner last year where I facilitated relevant topics that stretch us — sometimes we just vented. A few of the mothers asked and pushed for the next one.

This shows that events such as the breakfast session I will be holding in Bermuda are desired by mothers to learn and to support each other.

How do you make time for yourself?

I make 15 minutes a day for me. That is all and [with three children] that is realistic.

If you set yourself too big a goal then you set yourself up for failure and this is about taking care of yourself.

So be kind to yourself — 15 minutes to do whatever you want. [At the conference we will] talk about how to make 15 minutes the most for you.

Register via e-mail: info@thecare factor.com.au. Learn more at www.thecarefactor.com.au

Loving family: Shannon Young with her children, from left, Senna, Sachin and Lara. (Photograph supplied)
Loving family: Shannon Young with her children, from left, Senna, Sachin and Lara. (Photograph supplied)

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Published June 07, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 07, 2016 at 1:28 am)

Helping women achieve work-life balance

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