Meet the woman who made it safe for me to finally take risks
By Eleanor Beaton
It was my father who suggested I invite one of my Fijian cousins to come and work for us as a nanny.
“Running a household and running a business is an awful lot of work,” he said. “Youreally should get some help.”
I’d just told him I was expecting another baby. My business was growing and demanding a lot of my time. He could do the “work/life balance” math. And he knew how I get when my plate is overloaded.
So Alisi came to us when my youngest son was just five weeks old.
For the next four years, she lived with us as part of our family, running the household and helping to take care of the kids while my husband and I worked on growing our careers.
Having Alisi meant that I could work until 4pm and not have to worry about what to make for supper.
It meant I could take time to work out a couple times a week, and briefly fall apart after my father died.
Knowing she was holding down the fort, and that my children were being cared for by a relative who loved them, I was able to commit to increasing amounts of business travel.
And when I returned, it was not to a chaotic, messy house, but a clean and (relatively) calm one.
My business grew and I grew because she provided much needed support at home.
Was my husband in the picture? Absolutely. Running his business, hanging out with the kids, shuttling them to their activities. Just like me.
Me, Alisi, my husband. For four years, we all worked side by side to do the things you do in your thirties….raise kids, prepare meals, build the home, get groceries, make dough.
Yesterday, I took Alisi to the airport. She is returning to Fiji to start her own business and build an exciting new life.
I’m rarely at a loss for words. Almost never. But when I was bidding her an emotional goodbye, I found myself grasping for the right words to tell her what she gave me.
It was more than the nourishing meals, the babysitting, the chores…all the practical supports that make a household with two working parents run smoothly.
What Alisi gave me was the safety I needed to take risks at a stage in my life where my career needed me to risk, but my home life tugged me the other way.
I, like so many working women, need to first feel safe in order to take a risk.
Travel to California for a week to study with a world-renowned sociologist?
Yes. But only if I can be sure my absence won’t wreak havoc on the home and place undue stress on my husband and kids.
Say yes to that last minute speaking gig?
OK, but only because I know I have some backup on the home front to help make sure the homework gets done/dinner gets made/children are bathed.
Having a stable anchor at home gave me the courage to put myself out there and take professional risks.
For a woman who spent a good portion of her 20s hesitating to act until I could ensure everything was perfect, the ability to feel safe enough to start taking calculated risks was so very crucial.
Alisi helped me to do that.
If you’ve read my stuff, you know how I feel about women and leadership. I believe with everything in me that the world will be made a far better place by women who lean in and play that bigger game.
That involves taking some risks.
And often, women need support to take risks.
For four years, Alisi was a profound source of support to me.
I will miss her incredibly, but I am so excited for her to start her new life. And our family and businesses are at a stage now where we can continue to flourish without quite so much practical support.
But inviting Alisi into our home to temporarily share our life has taught me something profound about feminine leadership:
To achieve what we want to achieve, we need to be willing to ask for, invest in and receive help.
For us, the choice to hire someone full-time for four years was a major investment in our family and in our businesses. We simplified and cut back in many aspects of our lives in order to be able to make that investment.
The investment was totally worth it. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Alisi.
I literally have thousands of things to thank her for. But at the top of my list is this:
She made it safe for me to lean in, step up and take risks.
She helped me see that investing in help – asking for it, paying for it, receiving it – is a powerful tool for not only personal and professional growth – but also in overall happiness and health.
Over the years, I’ve spoken to women who felt torn about paying for help – either in their business, or at home. Often, they wondered if the expense was a smart financial move – especially in cases where hiring help took a healthy cut out of their own salaries.
It’s a personal choice, but I always saw the cost as an investment.
Now that Alisi is building a new life, my own life will undoubtedly change. More organization required. More work on the homefront.
I’m ready for it. She helped me through the tough years when the kids were both really-really small. I think I’m good from here. And I’ll hire more help as I need it.
Besides – I learned what I needed to learn.
That behind every hard-working woman who is taking risks, putting herself out there and leaning in – there is usually a team of people – including some very special women -- cheering her on and helping her out.
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