When I was a little a girl I would watch my dad fold the laundry while I did my homework. I’d then accompany him to the supermarket to lend a hand with the groceries. Then he cooked dinner. Pretty soon I graduated to sous-chef.
Meanwhile, my mum would usually be upstairs in our home-office, working.
I never thought this dynamic was out-of-the-ordinary, until at my friends house I noticed the roles were completely reversed.
‘Your dad does the laundry?! But what does your mum do?’ – one friend would ask. Confused I wondered why my family was different. Then, I wondered why it mattered.
Soon I started to get jealous of my friends. Their mums would volunteer at school camp and sit in on their dance classes. My mum would show up 20 minutes late to pick me up from swimming while I waited outside wet and cold.
My parents founded and co-ran two early childhood centers during the majority of my upbringing. At one point my dad had a sign company as well. That’s three businesses to run and manage.
For them there was no such thing as a nine to five job and no boss for them to take orders from. Dinner conversations sometimes turned into what some would consider a business meeting. Our home was their workspace just as much as an ice cream truck would be to an ice cream man.
Running these early childhood centers (which they’ve since sold) required mostly the attention and devotion of my mum. As an early childhood teacher, encouraging children to become compassionate citizens of the Earth was her passion. Naturally she took on the front seat role of the businesses while my dad played his part behind the scenes (finance, administration and maintenance).
As my mum was busy running the day to day of the center, my dad stepped in for the majority (if not all) of the household chores.
Without this, I doubt their businesses could’ve succeeded. My mum wouldn’t have been able to put in the time and love her work required if it wasn’t for her having such a supportive husband.
The influence of family dynamic
Unfortunately, the above story is rare. Usually men get the opportunity to focus on their careers while the women sacrifice theirs to take care of the children.
The dynamics in my household were different from this norm, for good reasons. Dad did the laundry, cooking and countless other ‘feminine chores’ not because my mum forced him to. In fact she never even asked him to. He did it because that’s what a supportive partner does — support the other. The time dad spent on doing laundry and groceries gave mum more time to focus on the business and her passion.
My family dynamic had a huge influence on my upbringing and how I see the world now as an adult. Not for a second do I underestimate the immense opportunity it was for me to grow up watching my mum take on a leadership role in her work.
On the other hand, my dad showed us the importance of being a supportive partner. He never once complained about his role in our family. He was there for my mum when she needed him (and vice versa), as well as being there for my siblings and I too. Dad was responsible for making sure there was dinner on the table for us each night and our clothes folded away neatly — that’s a responsibility not to be underestimated.
My parents proved to me that you can achieve your dreams. For this I’m eternally grateful as it’s given me the motivation to achieve my own.
Girls can do anything
Whenever I have something important coming up like an audition, job interview or presentation — I get nervous. To calm myself down I find a mirror. Usually it’s in a bathroom but depending on where I am it will sometimes be in an elevator. With intense concentration I look at myself in the mirror, take a deep breath and repeat out loud "I can do anything".
With a new wave of confidence I walk out the door and try my best to kick-ass at whatever scary thing I’m about to do.
If you’re a male reading this chances are you’ve probably been told numerous times that you can do anything. But I bet that some women reading this haven’t. As girls we don’t always grow up with this kind of positive reinforcement. Boys grow up playing with toys that teach them they can be an astronaut. Girls play with dollhouses and dolls which teach them how to be a mother.
If you’re a woman reading this I want you to know that you can do anything, you just have to put your mind to it.
I was lucky enough to grow up with a mum who proved this to me right in front of my eyes. As a girl I saw first-hand that achieving success was possible.
She’s a living role model that girls can do anything. In return this has taught me to be confident, strong-willed and independent.
You may not have had that opportunity growing up but it’s not too late. There are some incredibly inspiring women out there who have proven success that you could turn to for inspiration. Alternatively, maybe you can provide that opportunity for someone else like a friend or child. From what my mum has told me, it’s incredibly rewarding.
Having a supportive partner
I recently finished the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. In it she talks about the importance of having a supportive life partner. She’s not talking about financial support, or ‘lets you do whatever you want’ support. She’s talking about support in the sense that he or she is by your side 100%.
While Sandberg’s book is focused on women, I believe some of her statement can applies to both genders:
"I truly believe that the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is. I don’t know of one woman in a leadership position whose life partner is fully — and I mean fully — supportive of her career. No exceptions. "
– Sheryl Sandberg
I saw the importance having a supportive partner first hand with my own parents. Now I’m starting to see it in my own relationship. Having someone who supports you wholeheartedly in what you do shouldn’t be taken for granted. It’s rare to find and can play a large role in the likelihood of your success.
I do believe that success can be achieved on your own without a partner. I don’t however think it can be if you have an unsupportive one. You both need to be on board with each others goals and dreams. If you’re not, you might want to have a conversation with them about it soon.
I’ve titled this article Heart Influencers because I believe there’s only a select group of people who can have an influence on us at the heart level. For me that’s my parents and siblings. Now as an adult, it includes my partner Owen too.
My parents played essential roles in my life in different ways. As the roles they played were different from the norm, this taught me to challenge the status quo. You don’t need influential parents to become an influencer. You don’t need to be a man to make it the top of the corporate ladder. You don’t need to be married with children to be happy.
All you need is a loving and supportive group of people (or person) to challenge you to be the best version of yourself.
Who are they?