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Striving to achieve balance

On International Women's Day - what does balance mean, and can you achieve it?

Valerie Mann
By Valerie Mann — March 7, 2019 -

Did you know it is International Women's Day on Friday?

The theme this year is #BalanceForBetter

What does this mean? What do you think about first when you hear it?

Here at Mention Me, we got very excited and creative and brainstormed what we could do to celebrate; which is the energy I love about this place. Ideas included a group photo, a flock of flamingos (which already represent our Balance team value), a blog on our best practices of flexible working, pilates and yoga sessions, weekly massages, our charity work, diversity and inclusion, etc etc.

We’ve got a plan, we’re happy.  But I can’t stop thinking about #Balance…

Because what genuinely first came to my mind was something very different from work and more similar to this picture:

Striving to achieve balance

Why this? Because I grew up in the Congo and for my whole childhood, these women epitomised balance to me, in all senses of the word: physical, mental, their strength, resilience, their singing when cooking, their faith, their creativity and hard work in the face of poverty. My childhood in Africa was very privileged but it did impact my perspective of the world and people in a way I am very grateful for today.

Then I thought about how balance, or being balanced, is such a life-long holy Grail for so many of us, women and men alike.

My 13-year old daughter fights for balance between homework, friends, social media, time with us and sport, as well as growing up and staying young.

Young professionals may want to have fun, stay fit, show maturity, be curious, be ambitious, see the world, commit/not commit, stay humble… How do you balance for better there?

Parents have to redefine their balance the moment their child enters their world, like a movie suddenly switching to 3-D but without the necessary glasses to see clearly.

When I became a mum, the search for balance stopped, because there wasn’t any to find.

I was going to be the best HR Manager, mum, wife, friend, daughter and sister, I was going to give, give, give, and feed my increasing guilt of not managing it all wonderfully despite being financially safe and fortunate.

Result? I did become a decent HR Manager, loved my job, loved being a mum and was pretty bad at everything else for quite a while!

So what now? Well I am as close to balanced as I have ever felt. And for me, that means:

  • Accepting that giving and helping others is what I most enjoy;
  • Balance does not equate perfection. And accepting is as valuable as giving;
  • Reading, movies, travel, music, eating olives with a G&T and my friends and/or family, are essential to my balance and that is ok;
  • Being able to do all of the above while being me. At work. At home. Everywhere.

I have been very lucky in my professional life. I have always found the right job at the right time with the right people and they have helped me grow into a balanced HR professional, and, hopefully, a more balanced person altogether.

This is probably why, since joining Mention Me, I don’t feel unhealthily stressed, giddy with excitement, or guilty. I feel simply, ineluctably good. Balance is not just one of our company values, it is an intrinsic part of the culture, the organisation and its life, you see it, you touch it. When it’s in jeopardy, we talk about it openly and we actively look for solutions. Balance, be it gender, personal, collective, is inherently fragile and our office pilates class reminds me of that too: I cannot stand on the tip of my toes for more than two seconds.

Finally, all this led me to the women at Mention Me. They are there, everywhere, strong, creative and passionate, and the voice balance is real every day. I am working with great role models on the leadership team, and we also have Grace Graham, a truly unique and amazing woman, whose company WorkSpa provides our weekly massages, but accomplishes much more than that.

Maybe it is all these ladies who made me first think of the African woman… They walk head high and proud. And that’s pretty balanced to me. ☺

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