[Column] Maria Auma: Women in Business - Success does not demand giving up everything
I am writing about this subject because not enough is said about the personal challenges we face as women in business. Ever since I got into business I have always had a “tug-of-war” relationship with the people in my personal life. At times they can be supportive but every so often they are unforgiving of my ungodly work hours.
It might get easier over the years, but the most likely scenario is that it will always be a work in progress, sort of like a push-and pull. I used to let it get to me but then I realised that the frustration was getting the best of me and I didn’t have enough energy to deal with work and personal misunderstandings at the same time.
I work in a field where I have to constantly network and manage teams. My parents often times do not get it, and neither does my soon to be significant other. Well, sometimes they say that they do, but then I guess at times I get so carried away with a project or business transaction, I forget about them for just a while. Sometimes I come back exhausted from work I just want to collapse on my bed and fall asleep. When I really am too tired to open my eyes I just let it happen and I pray to God that all those affected by my selfish action understand and forgive me.
It’s no wonder that the most successful women these days are single mothers or just not married. It really is hard to maintain a relationship and pursue a successful career or build a successful business at the same time. I could have opted to take the easy way out too. But I keep asking myself, if men have found a way to be successful and still hold a marriage together, why can’t women?
I know lots of women who just decided to forget about dating or getting married to focus on their careers. But the thing is I love the man I am engaged to now. We have had some hellish times, and some fantastic times as well. My situation is compounded by the fact that we live far apart from each other – so many issues and challenges that come with that. I could have elected to throw in the towel many moons ago. But I think true success in a woman is the ability to hold her own and still have a heathy relationship. I am an extremely ambitious woman; sometimes I hardly sleep working late nights on new and existing projects. I love what I do, but I don’t want to reach the peak of Mt. Everest and realise I have no-one to share it with. I want to be able to sit back in my golden years and enjoy it with the man I love and the people close to me. What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul?
Taking all that into perspective, I am actively looking for solutions to give more time to my family and friends without making them feel like they are not important. I also need to communicate to them more clearly that I work like crazy now so that we can enjoy the fruits of my success together later. But I absolutely refuse to give up the possibility to be in love for the rest of my life because of work. I strongly believe that the two can work in harmony, may be not always in sync, but they can work. Just look at Mark Zuckerberg. I desire success as much as I crave happiness. I am probably upsetting a lot of women activists with this post but this is my little truth.
I am blessed because my mentors are actually all successfully married and still successful in their careers. So I gather I am doing something good there. Happiness is a choice that I choose to take. I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself with regards to my growth. In the end, the most important thing that will matter is whether I was satisfied with my life. It may be a narrow-minded approach to some people, but to me it is everything. After all that is said and done, all the money being given away, all the jobs created, all the lives impacted, will I be happy with myself by myself? Will you be happy by yourself?