Global Leadership Speaker and Premier Work-Life Balance Speaker
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Making the tough choices. All About Balance, Part VI

The word “priorities” continually came up in interviews. You have to know yourself enough to know and honor what matters most to you in your heart. Find ways to allot your time accordingly, because you only get to live this life once.

I really liked Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes’ story of stepping down as CEO of PepsiCo North America. She wanted time with her growing-up-too-fast daughters, said she knew she was fortunate to be able to afford the seven-year time out she took from the corporate world. And, while she was out, her brain didn’t atrophy. She dove right back into the work world at Sara Lee. Or Vicki Escarra, who basically sacrificed promotion to chief operating officer of Delta Airlines by not going to a 13-week intensive program at Harvard because she knew her daughter was at a fragile moment in her life and would suffer if her mother left.

 I’ve interviewed many senior executive women who gave up or delayed relocation and promotion opportunities because of their family demands. There were stories of family-first decisions that stalled or even derailed careers. But you won’t see a lot of regrets about the choices that were made. You will see a lot of pride as parents.

Recently, I was at a networking event where about eighty senior executive women had come for dinner. This was personal time, where no one felt compelled to put on the success mask and swap egos. What did they talk about? Their kids. About how joyous they felt watching them grow up and get ready to go to college in the fall. One woman talked about her son struggling with juvenile diabetes and how she wants to devote the next phase of her career to fighting the disease when she retires in a couple of years. Another told of her reaction when her daughter accidentally revealed a tattoo of a four-leaf clover on her side while reaching for something in the kitchen. One mother proudly shows off a spray bottle of a cleaning product that her ten-year-old daughter developed by mixing pantry staples together. The bottle looks professionally labeled with the help of the home computer and printer, and the girl even made a promotional flier. Another mom ended a cell-phone call with her daughter who’d just checked in to report that she’d just sold a $675 pair of shoes on her summer job. Pictures start coming out of purses and are passed all over the room.

The atmosphere was light and personal. It was happy. The women were happy.

And they were proud.

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books and speaks to corporations and organizations about courageous and creative leadership strategies.

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