While celebrating International Women’s Day which honors women’s past, present and future in many ways around the world, recognizing, supporting and encouraging participation in different areas, I thought of my career development and progress at every stage of my life wondering whether with all the goals I had set earlier and hard work on self and professional development, I was able to manage having a family and being a mother of 2 children, especially where I always believed that once choosing to be a mother, family should be a priority far beyond the selfishness of one’s own achievements.

I believe that life is full of unpredictability; it is more dynamic rather than static, so searching for a balance between personal life and professional career might not be realizable at certain moments. Trying to identify life key priorities, I also realized that they were sometimes interdependent and do not really help for prioritization or trade-offs. Therefore I decided to manage considering time and energy as limited resources, so needed to arrange my life and time in a way to be more efficient focusing on longer term objectives.

With much of the workload I had to accomplish at earlier stages, having small kids and preparing for my Masters and then Ph.D. while at the same time building my professional career, I faced a lot of challenges, failures, downtimes with feeling of guilt at certain moments when I had to skip some of the beautiful times I was supposed to spend with my children, or simply miss closely watching them growing up, with long hours away and sometimes traveling attending lectures or working over weekends. However I never felt my children were ignored and they did not either, as my husband’s and family’s support was very helpful and I tried to always be there when really needed.

I always believed that staying with kids at home is not the main criteria to being a good mother, it is rather letting them feel care and love with proper life orientation, making time spent with them significant and of high quality. Once my daughters became a bit older I tried to involve and set plans with them so they share my interest, achievements and success, which helped them acquire advanced skills unintentionally although they were complaining certain moments of not being available all the time like other mothers helping them closely with their studies rather than just providing guidance. However I felt pride in later years, watching them be highly evaluated at school, recognized for their autonomy, commitment and analytical skills. One of most important things they learned was to appreciate time value and quality, so if I may think of it as management by objectives, then I believe it was really successful.

Finally, to sum up, being a career-oriented woman has a lot of challenges as well as advantages, therefore in order to overcome main difficulties we have to develop an environment supporting a flexible working culture that recognizes performance based on achievements rather than just presence. Moreover, although Women Empowerment has lately become a topic widely discussed around the world, I believe that we should not expect others to give us such power; we need to learn, manage and work hard on a personal and professional level simultaneously in order to earn.

by: Laila Al Samman, Audit partner, Deloitte Middle East