Life Balance: 5 Ancestral Ways to Balancing Work and Family

Life balance seems impossible to achieve by career-driven women but it turns out our ancestral grandmothers have a lot to teach us about life balance, particularly about balancing work and family

Recently, Matt Lauer co-anchor of the TODAY show on NBC jumped into the life balance debate by asking CEO Mary Barra “Given the pressure at General Motors, can you do both [parenting and managing GM] well?”

Lauer’s question drew a lot of fire from men and women whom I believe were not critical of him bringing up the topic of life balance, but rather the disempowering way in which he asked it.

Mary Barra, CEO of GM weighs-in on the old-time issue of life balance and work life separation during interview with Matt Lauer Photo Credit: Time

Mary Barra, CEO of GM weighs-in on the old-time issue of life balance during interview with Matt Lauer Photo Credit: Time

He essentially asked Barra if she could do both jobs well, and therefore called into question her ability to do something she is clearly already doing.

In hindsight, perhaps Matt Lauer would agree with me when I say that he should have asked a far more empowering – and enlightening – question by asking Mary Barra how she both runs GM and is a good mother.

So, let’s give Mr. Lauer a “do over” by pretending he has just asked you to chime in on the work life separation debate by saying “You are an amazing woman. You excel at your job, you are a loving and present mother, and you look like a Greek goddess. How do you do it?”

Well, how do you do it? Some coaches and time management gurus advocate leaving work at the office and being totally present at home. They say if you can achieve near total work life separation, then you will have achieved the Holy Grail of work life balance. Do these people not have smartphones that bling and bleep so they tap the screen like lab rats hitting a food dispensing button?

If you have been able to achieve a balanced life, then I say to you what the alcoholics of AA say to one who is able to control his drinking – good for you! We wish you well and beg you to leave us some tips in the comments, below.

If, however, you are like the rest of us (one of whom is dictating this article to her smartphone while she drives to a family reunion), then you are already so deeply jacked into The Matrix that a balanced life feels impossible.

For the rest of this article, let’s assume that you check email during your children’s recitals, Facebook offers to tag your friends before you even think of them and your vacation auto-responder is a sham.

Work life separation is not a new issue. In fact, work and life did not even get separated until the industrial revolution! When humans walked the earth as hunter-gatherers, work and family were inextricably bound because if you didn’t gather enough tubers or kill enough animals with your DIY spear, you would be dead.

As an anthropology student at Emory University in the 90s, I was astonished to learn that pre-agricultural women provided up to 80% of their communities’ food, participated in “collective mothering,” and often carried their babies while they gathered food or built shelters. So much for work life separation!

Let’s look at some strategies pre-agricultural women used to survive when work and life were impossible to separate and see if they can help us with our modern quest for life balance.

Life Balance and 5 Ancient Ways To Cope When Work Life Separation Feels Impossible

1 Worship the goddess

Stop trying to work like a man and start channeling Goddesses such as Guanyin, Hecate or Shakti. Step fully into your feminine powers of communication, empathetic leadership and consensus-building.

Achieve Life Balance | Worship the Goddess in you: Step fully into your feminine powers of communication, empathetic leadership and consensus-building Photo Credit: Shakti via WikiCommons

Worship the Goddess in you: Step fully into your feminine powers of communication, empathetic leadership and consensus-building Photo Credit: Shakti via WikiCommons

Next, push back on the bully of overwhelm by declaring yourself sovereign and take the time and space you need to enjoy life. You are not a victim, you are all powerful and valuable – treat yourself accordingly!

2 Live in a long house

Many pre-agricultural women lived together in one, long house and shared the work of rearing children. Think of a larger version of HBO’s “Big Love,” but while camping.

There is no shame in needing help outside your nuclear family! It’s actually the oldest tool in the mommy kit and it’s called “collective mothering.” Proudly embrace help like daycare, sitters, helpful neighbors and sleep away summer camp so you can both raise your kids and earn the money to feed them!

Want to achieve life balance? Live in a "long house" to tap into your support system.  Photo Credit: Doron via WikiCommons

Live in a “long house” to tap into your support system.
Photo Credit: Doron via WikiCommons

3 Ritualize your life

Ancient people didn’t have television, so they used their free time to create elaborate rituals to educate, stabilize and motivate the group. You, too, can use the power of ritual to lead your tribes.

At home, light a candle at mealtime, honor an accomplishment by serving dinner on a “red plate” or establish a special morning goodbye.

At work, celebrate accomplishments, host a weekly check-in with subordinates or “sundown” all smartphones at 9PM.

4 Teach others to shape shift

While most indigenous societies did have gender-specific division of labor, both girls and boys were taught all skills because, when it comes time to impale the impala, you can’t be picky about who holds the spear!

Insist that the men and boys in your clan not only know how to do housework, but that they actually do it.

This chapter of the Neanderthalic double burden on women so needs to be over!

5 Strap the baby to your back

It’s a snow day, the sitter is sick (again) and your husband is out of town. Don’t despair, just do what any self-respecting Kung, Inuit or Aboriginal woman would do: strap that baby to your back and get to work.

Interested in achieving life balance? Stop trying so hard to deal with work life separation. Strap the baby to your back!  Photo Credit: Shannon Falkenstein

Stop trying so hard to deal with work life separation. Strap the baby to your back!
Photo Credit: Shannon Falkenstein

There is no shame in bringing baby to work (as long as it is safe and your work culture supports it!) Indigenous children learn all about life and survival by accompanying their mothers and fathers in their day-to-day duties. Why not teach your children about work life by proudly bringing them along when necessary?

Let’s face it: work life separation was possible from about 1750 until the invention of the beeper, but now it is not. And that’s ok. And like Mary Barra and the long line of grandmothers before us, most women use modern and ancient ways to achieve life balance so that we can be present and loving mothers, excel in our careers and somehow manage to look like Greek goddesses – even with a baby tied to our backs.

Best women supporting women quotes? Here they are!

Women supporting women quotes are hard to find yet critical to change the conversation on the topic. Here are the best and a challenge for you to submit one!

Given that our motto is “Women supporting women for career success,” it was only a matter of time before we collected the best women supporting women quotes. You wouldn’t believe our surprise when we realized that there weren’t that many great messages out there. (We found lots of great low self esteem quotes, though.) We wonder if it has to do with the old idea that women aren’t each other’s best supporters of with the fact that people don’t think women supporting women quotes are even necessary.

Always remember to extend one hand up and one down the ladder #MarielaDabbah women supporting women quotes

Always remember to extend one hand up and one down the ladder

Why women supporting women quotes matter

We beg to differ with those who don’t believe women supporting women quotes are important! In this age of everything-is-better-if-it’s a shareable quote we need powerful ones that encourage mutual support. We need new messages that help change the perception that women allow jealousy, envy, or other such feelings get the best of us when it comes to supporting other women. We need to actively change the public discourse and as silly as it may sound, flooding social media with women supporting women quotes is an effective way to contribute to that goal.

Be a visionary yourself. Support other women's career success! #MarielaDabbah women supporting women quotes

Be a visionary yourself. Support other women’s career success!

Challenging you to create women supporting women quotes

So we are putting out a challenge. We have decided to become a repository of awesome women supporting women quotes, the place where you can go to cheer you up when you need an extra dose of confidence. Or when you are looking for something to share with a colleague, a friend, or your sister.

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

We invite all of you to submit your women supporting women quotes to We will share the best ones via our Red Shoe Movement social media platform. We will also create future blogs with this topic where we will continue to feature the best of the best women supporting women quotes. What are you waiting for? Send us your women supporting women quotes now!

Best women supporting women quotes


Why It’s So Hard to Fulfill Your Dreams & How to Do It Right

If you really want to fulfill your dreams you can’t just dream and hope for the best. You must have a clear vision, courage and the perseverance to turn it into a reality.

There’s no lack of motivational speakers out there ready to tell you that you should set your sights high, that you can fulfill your dreams regardless of how lofty it is, and that all you need to fulfill your dreams is willpower. Maybe. But you also need a clear vision, courage, a good dose of luck, and loads and loads of perseverance.

To fulfill your dreams you'll need a clear vision, courage, perseverance and luck. Read on to find out how! Photo Credit: Le Reve by Pablo Picasso

To fulfill your dreams you’ll need a clear vision, courage, perseverance and luck.
Photo Credit: Le Reve by Pablo Picasso

It’s not that unusual to feel frustrated or downright depressed a couple of days after you hear motivational speakers share their advice. Because when someone insists that all it takes is willpower to fulfill your dream, and you’re working as hard as you can, it’s easy to feel inept if you fail to get what you want. The truth is more complex. It’s hard to persevere if it your dream is not aligned with your inner most desire. So if you really want to fulfill your dreams, it behooves you to identify your own dream.

To fulfill your dreams you need clear vision

Make sure you have a clear vision for your dream. That it is in fact your dream and not someone else’s, and that it’s doable. Regardless of what people in the business of inspiring others tell you, not all dreams are achievable by everyone at any given time.

For instance, if you are 40 and just started taking gymnastics classes, it will be absolutely impossible for you to earn an Olympic gold medal in this discipline. Now if you were to set your eyes on winning a local triathlon competition after some intense training, that could certainly be doable.

Discover how to fulfill your dreams! Music Fight by Leonid Afremov

Identify your own dream so you can achieve it! Photo Credit: Music Fight by Leonid Afremov

To fulfill your dream you need courage

No question about it. Courage is a key ingredient in your quest to fulfill your dream. Many people give up before they even start, because their dream is not aligned with old familiar mandates and they are afraid to disappoint their parents, grandparents, spouses, etc. Or because it’s too big. Or because they think they don’t have what it takes to achieve it. Or worse, they don’t want to put in the effort it will take. Here’s the thing, though. Few experiences in life are as satisfactory as fulfilling your dream. It’s a boost of confidence and an adrenaline rush like no other. So if you’re feeling a bit insecure about how to fulfill your dreams, call a friend. Share your goals with her, ask for her support, ask her to walk along your side on this journey.

Identify people who may derail your ability to fulfill your dreams

When your intent is to fulfill your dreams, you have to expect that you will meet people along the way who might interfere with your goals. Who are they?

  1. People whose goals conflict with yours. Share as little as possible about how you plan to fulfill your dream and limit the amount of time you spend with these individuals and their allies.
  2. People who sell you a bill of goods and don’t deliver. Test these offers as soon as possible by asking for simple deliverables such as a specific contact they had mentioned. If after a couple of times they fail to come through, stop wasting energy expecting their help and move on. There are plenty of people in the world ready to help you fulfill your dream.
  3. People who ask for your help time and time again and never reciprocate. If you really want to fulfill your dream you will have to aim for reciprocal relationships where everyone benefits.


Perseverance is probably one of the most important ingredient in your journey to fulfill your dream. It’s tightly connected to your desire. In other words, if your genuine desire (dream) is to become an entrepreneur, you will be able to overcome all obstacles you’ll find along the way. You will be able to persevere in the face of adversity. But if becoming an entrepreneur is what your family wants for you, not what you want for yourself, it will be hard to sustain the level of perseverance required. You won’t be able to put up with the “fail and fail again” attitude so typical of the entrepreneurial journey. And in the end, you wouldn’t fulfill your dream but someone else’s dream! That’s why I suggested early on that having a clear vision for your dream, knowing what you want is critical for your success.

Perseverance is a key ingredient to fulfill your dream

Perseverance is a key ingredient to fulfill your dream

More perseverance

There will be days when you don’t want to continue with your dream, days where anger, frustration or impotence will make you doubt whether it’s all worth it. Your challenge is to turn these negative situations into positive ones and keep forging forward until you see the light. Until you reach that exhilarating moment when you finally fulfill your dream. When you savor the fruits of your efforts and are ready to go after a new challenge.

Lead and inspire women to live their best lives by supporting their gender mates - Click to Connect with the Movement!

Lead and inspire women to live their best lives by supporting their gender mates

Why so few people fulfill their dream

There is no lack of dreamers out there. (You can check Posibl., an online platform to help you fulfill your dream and see how many thousands of people all over the world have uploaded their dreams.) That’s not the reason why so few people fulfill theirs. But it takes determination, vision, courage, and persistence to see your dream through. It takes working along with others to contribute to their dreams so they contribute to yours. And most importantly it takes never giving up. Despite the bad days, the naysayers, and the hoops you have to jump through. The only way to fulfill your dream is to take it as seriously as Olympic athletes take their journey. They know getting a medal is a difficult goal and that it will take a huge effort to attain it. It’s a big commitment. Do you have what it takes to fulfill your dream?

How to Ace the Interview & Handle Tough Interview Questions

Everyone who’s looking for a new job worries about handling tough interview questions and figuring out how to ace the interview. The key is to be ready for anything the interviewer might ask you. We show you how to prepare to ace the interview.

Most people think that there’s a magic formula to handle tough interview questions, but, unfortunately, there isn’t any insider’s secret that will guarantee you ace the interview. And there is no way to predict what interview questions you’re going to be asked. There are, however, a lot of things you can do before the interview so that you’re ready for almost anything the interviewer might ask you.

The best way to ace the job interview is by preparing to handle all questions. Rehearse with a friend or in front of a mirror. Photo Credit:

The best way to ace the job interview is by preparing to handle all questions. Rehearse with a friend or in front of a mirror.
Photo Credit:

Ace the Interview – Be ready to discuss job transitions

When you’re asked interview questions about your work or education history and you stumble and stammer, it sounds like you have something to hide. Questions about why or when you moved from one company to another shouldn’t require a lot of introspection. So you need to be completely prepared for interview questions about your job moves. Even if it was a long time ago, you should still be able to answer why you left your first job and moved to another company. That’s not the sort of thing that people forget.

If you were fired from a job and/or have a gap (or gaps) in your history, you can expect the interviewer to ask about it. So you need to work out a comfortable way to present whatever happened before you walk in the interviewer’s door. Practice explaining all of your job transitions in front of a mirror or with a friend. Or write them down and read them out loud until they sound natural and unrehearsed. If you sound uncomfortable with a particular question, the interviewer will likely think there is something more that you aren’t telling. And saying, “Oh, it was just time for a move” doesn’t cut it.

Also, “Why did you leave Company A?” and “Why did you join Company B?” are not the same interview questions. And you need to be able to answer both. When an interviewer asks, “Why did you leave Company A?” she wants to know what wasn’t working at Company A that made you consider another position. Were you “blocked” from further advancement by a boss who wasn’t moving up? Was the company doing poorly? Something else? And when an interviewer asks, “Why did you join Company B?” she wants to know what was attractive about Company B. Was there an opportunity to do something new that you had always wanted to do? Was it a new industry that was exciting? Something else?

Ace the Interview – Be ready to explain how your skills fit the job requirements

Take a risk! You don't need to be a perfect match to be a great candidate for a job. Read how to handle tough interview questions and ace that interview!!

Take a risk! You don’t need to be a perfect match to be a great candidate for a job.

Read and re-read the job description before the interview. You should be prepared for questions about anything mentioned in the job description. For every responsibility or requirement, think about what specific skills and experiences you have that make you qualified for that job. Think of specific examples for each skill and experience you identify. If the job description says that the company wants someone with multicultural marketing experience, be prepared to describe specific programs you’ve been responsible for – including quantitative details like size of the programs and impact on revenues.

And if there’s something on the job description that you haven’t done, then think about experience you have that is similar and how that will help you. Or be ready to describe a situation where you hadn’t had specific experience but you were able to get up to speed quickly. This is particularly important for women, who tend to think they need to match the job description 100% before they feel qualified to interview for a job. Going through this thought process will build your confidence that you’re really right for the job. And that confidence will be visible to the interviewer.

Tough Interview Questions – Tell me about yourself

This is a typical interview question, so make sure you’re ready to answer it. Sometimes the interviewer is using this as a test to see if you can present yourself clearly and concisely without rambling on and on.(Bilingual professionals should practice this trait given that in stressful situations it tends to be harder to communicate in a second language.) . But sometimes this is just how the interviewer chooses to break the ice and get the conversation started. Either way, be prepared. Your answer should include a bit more information than your “elevator pitch,” but it’s just an introduction. There will be more questions, so don’t go on for 15 minutes answering this first one.

You might talk about your current position – how many years you’ve been with the company, what position you started in, how you moved in the company to get to your current role, your key current responsibilities, what you’ve found challenging or exciting, etc. Or you might give a very brief chronological overview – where you got your degree, where you started your career, how you got to where you are today. Be sure to practice your answer to this question, so you don’t stumble around as you decide where to start.

Some interviewers ask oddball questions to test your creativity and whether you get flustered. Expect the unexpected. Read how to handle tough interview questions and ace that interview!! Photo Credit:

When asked “tell me about yourself” focus on your career and not on your kids, the sports you love or your last vacation.
Photo Credit:

And keep in mind, when the interviewer says, “Tell me about yourself,” she isn’t asking about your personal life. It’s OK to include something personal, but she’s more interested in your career than your kids, or what sports you played in college. I once asked this question, and the person I was interviewing said, “I’m really fun at parties!” That’s not a bad trait, but it isn’t the first thing I want to hear about during an interview.

Tough Interview Questions – What are your strengths and weaknesses?

One of the easier typical interview questions is, “What are your strengths?” When you pick which strengths to highlight, be sure to choose strengths that will be relevant to the job you’re interviewing for.

A somewhat tougher interview question is, “What are your weaknesses?” Personally, I don’t ask this question, because I think most candidates don’t answer this honestly. But a lot of interviewers do ask this, so you should be ready for it. There are a couple of ways to answer. You can pick something that you don’t have experience with or aren’t very good at but isn’t a requirement for the job anyway. For example, speaking in front of large groups. Or you can pick something that is a weakness you are working on improving. “In the past I’ve had some trouble with delegating, but I’ve been working on that and it’s helped me meet objectives faster.”

Oddball Interview Questions

Sometimes you’ll be asked oddball interview questions. There’s a great list compiled by Glassdoor ( that includes, “How many cows are in Canada?” and “Which kitchen utensil would you be?” There is absolutely no way to prepare for interview questions like this. What the interviewer is trying to do is observe your thinking process. She wants to see if you get flustered or if you come up with a creative and/or thoughtful answer.   So just have fun with oddball interview questions and don’t let them make you nervous.

There’s no reason that you can’t ace the interview. Just understand the details of the job and then prepare, prepare, and prepare.

Would you like to comment on how you successfully handled tough interview questions?

Using Color to Dress for Success for Women

Can you influence your company’s professional dress code?

Most articles about dress for success for women are either interview tips for women on appropriate professional dress code or advice on how to project executive presence (Want to find out how? Take this Executive Presence Quiz). Yet in an increasingly multicultural workforce, what does it mean to dress for success? Whose professional dress code are we all following?

If the “inclusion” side of the “diversity and inclusion” effort is to succeed, workplaces will need to become more accepting of other cultures’ version of dress for success. In other words, multicultural employees must start influencing what dress for success for women looks like in a 21st century work environment and not only be influenced by it.

Dress for success for women —One professional dress code doesn’t fit all

It’s a fact that the first thing anyone notices about you is not only the color of your skin but also the color of your clothes. Colors have a physical and psychological impact both on the wearer and on others. So it’s important to understand the subconscious messages you might be –unwillingly- sending out.

Dress for success -Know your colors

The following section was adapted from Colour Affects, a London-based company specialized in color psychology and its effect on people. The chart below focuses on color’s impact on people regardless of their culture, and not color symbolism (“the conscious associations that we are conditioned to make”[1]).

Nothing like knowing the psychological effect of color in people to dress for success. FInd out how to do it here.

Nothing like knowing the psychological effect of color in people to dress for success

You’ll notice that there are positive and negative aspects to each color. Being aware of both will help you make the right choice for the right situation.

RED –Positive: courage, strength, energy. 
Negative: Defiance, aggression, strain.

BLUE – Positive: Intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, serenity. Negative: Coldness, aloofness, lack of emotion.

Positive: Optimism, confidence, friendliness, creativeness. 
Negative: Irrationality, fear, emotional fragility, depression.

Positive: Harmony, balance, refreshment, reassurance, peace. 
Negative: Boredom, stagnation, blandness.

VIOLET – Positive: Vision, luxury, authenticity, truth, quality. Negative: Introversion, decadence, inferiority.

ORANGE – Positive: Warmth, security, passion, abundance, fun. 
Negative: Deprivation,frustration, frivolity, immaturity.

PINK – Positive: Physical tranquility, nurture, warmth, femininity, love. Negative: Inhibition,emotional claustrophobia, physical weakness.

GREY – Positive: Psychological neutrality. 
Negative: Lack of confidence, dampness, depression,lack of energy.

Positive: Sophistication, glamour, security, emotional safety, efficiency, substance. Negative: Oppression, coldness, menace, heaviness.

If you love to wear bright colors, it can be intimidating to walk into a room filled with men and women dressed in black. It can feel oppressive. Likewise, showing up with a bright orange dress in such an environment might shock people not used to such displays of boldness. They might make assumptions about you (that you are immature, for instance) that could affect your career opportunities.

Dress for Success for Women – When to introduce your ideas

When your own take on dress for success differs substantially from what you see around you, figuring out what to wear can be daunting. The newer you are in a job, the more careful you must be. As people get to know your ideas, values, and work ethic, they will naturally become more accepting of your dressing idiosyncrasies. That’s the perfect time to introduce your version of dress for success for women!

Each woman at Scotiabank in El Salvador has figured out how to make her own professional dress code work within the corporate culture

Each woman at Scotiabank in El Salvador has figured out how to make her own professional dress code work within the corporate culture

Should you adjust to a professional dress code that differs from your culture?

The answer depends on your career goals, your organization, and the industry where you work. In more conservative industries such as banking, finance, or accounting, it’s harder to break away from the professional dress code. If you work in a more progressive industry such as technology, fashion, or publishing, you will have less trouble carrying out your own version of dress for success for women.

Small tweaks can go a long way

If projecting executive presence is critical for you, you might need to adjust to the dress code favored by your industry. This means that you will have to turn down the volume on anything that clashes too much with the reigning fashion.

For example, I’m partial to bright blue, but when I present to a corporate audience I choose a more subtle shade. Or I’ll carry a purse in a brighter shade of blue. My main concern is to avoid taking the attention away from my message. And here is the key. Dress for success for Women is about dressing so that people can focus on who you are beyond the clothes you wear. What makes you relevant for their teams? Why should they think of you when there’s a great opportunity?

Feeling comfortable is key in dressing for success for women

You can’t dress for success if you feel like a prisoner inside your clothes. (Why wear black if it depletes you of energy?) When it comes to dressing for success for women, you have to strike a balance between the colors, look, and fit that express your culture and personality, and the professional dress code at work. (And this is likely to be an unwritten dress code!)

Three tips for using color to dress for success

  1. Check your closet and determine your color palette. Identify the colors that you feel most comfortable with and evaluate how appropriate they are for your work environment. If you decide that they’ll make you stand out in a less than beneficial way, consider wearing an accessory or a lighter hue of your favorite color.
The RSM Signature charm allows you to make a subtle statement about your style

The RSM Signature charm allows you to make a subtle statement about your style and you can buy them at our online Shop.

  1. Wear your accessories with pride! A lot has been written about the impact that accessories have when it comes to dress for success for women in the workplace. And yes, it’s true that less is generally more. But for Latinas and other women of color, it is particularly difficult to leave our accessories behind. I have a huge (and I mean HUGE) collection of custom jewelry from all over the world. It’s my trademark. I use my necklaces as a way for people to start a conversation with me. But I’m aware of how distracting these pieces can be, so in certain situations I chose a smaller piece. Dress for success for women is always about what works for you and your career goals.
  1. Observe high-ranking women at your job, then tweak. Does the professional dress code of female executives closely resemble the dominant male style? Is there room for you to grow in the company with a “tweaked” version of the “company-sanctioned” dress code? Try it! If you want to be part of a new breed of leaders who are changing the workplace you’ll have to start by pushing the boundaries a small push at a time. (If you need extra help to change the culture, you can always lead the way by implementing Red Shoe Tuesday at your company!)

It’s all about keeping your career goals front and center. If you are new at a company, test the waters. If you have been at your job for a while and have a more established personal brand, you can be more daring. But if you want to change things for you and for generations of women to come you need to influence the established professional dress code currently in place. You don’t need to do it all at once. Small steps go a long way in gaining acceptance.

[1] Colour Affects