On my quest of finding working moms to interview, Desirée Steinamnn has long been very high up on my list. The reason is that because together with Mrs. Moneypenny’s book and a couple of other elements, she has had a big impact on my life. And the best part? She doesn’t even know it.
My first attempt at professional networking was with the PWG Success Group. At that time, she was leading this session in down town Zurich. The goal of the discussion was to brainstorm around an idea or project one of the participants brought to the table. I was fascinated. The discussion could go from “how to open a physiotherapeutic studio”, to selling jewelry online. She lead the discussion with passion and professionalism, squeezing coaching advises in if and where it was needed whilst keeping the mood high.
A year later I approached her to ask if PWG was searching for volunteers. A couple of weeks later I end up on the Executive committee.
An important agreement
Desiree now has grown up children – “the empty nest” phase. With her husband busy in his corporate career , traveling all week and with several relocations involved, she knew from the beginning that she would had to be in charge of the family and kids. Fair enough, he told her as such and she started her family life very conscious of this fact. What impresses me while speaking about her early years as a young mom, is her clear and determinate vision she had for herself.
Desirée: “ I did an agreement with myself. I liked working and I knew I could not be a stay at home mom. But at the same time, I had a clear picture of what kind of mom I wanted to be for my children as well. I wanted to have the freedom to be at home when they came back from school and when they needed me. So I decided to be mom when the kids were around, and an entrepreneur while they were away. I started my coaching career at that time, because it was the best way to combine my wishes and the inevitable relocations. I held conferences and workshop, wrote articles, and developed individual coaching sessions which I could arrange easily around my children’s schedule.”
Interestingly enough, her mother had made a completely different decision. She was a stay at home mom. Apparently, this topic generated some discussion between them at one point, but Desirée was adamant: she kept her decision to work, and tried her best to manage family and career. She had a very clear long-term vision for her career as a coach. Once the children grew up and needed less of her time, she plant to have a full fledged company and let her business fly.
D: “I’m a strong advocate of feminism but I don’t think that all women have to be dedicated in the same fashion to this cause. Every woman has to make their own decisions, based on herself and her family’s needs. Not every woman wants to keep working once children arrive on the scene and we have to accept that. There are not good or bad decisions when it comes to the family – business equilibrium. The most important thing is to make conscious decisions as mothers and fathers and be happy with those.”
I totally agree with this. It is the essence of why I have started this project. At this point though, what I have realized is that the “extreme” choice of working full time with children is judged as “bad” only in Switzerland. But as Desiree said, women should live as they believe is the best for them and their families. My question is: Is it really true that fewer than 10% of moms in Switzerland want to work full time? Is this a conscious decision or a cultural pressure?
Desiree recently further develop her skills by adding a certificate in Purpose Economy . I’m very interested in the whole concept. We speak about what drives people to do what they do, the real purpose which motivates individuals, teams and organizations. I quickly realize we go into coaching mode when we start speaking about what drives me as a professional in the pharma industry and as member of the executive committee at PWG, and I smile. She is so natural in this role and I feel privileged to take part in this free session. She tells me she is currently investing her energy in team development, after many years of individual coaching. I ask her if she prefers to have an impact on more an individual rather than a societal level.
D: “I want to change millions of people’s lifes, but one person at the time. My purpose is to drive people and teams towards their best. And to do that I have to dig into what motivates people, each individual person.”
A long term vision
Coming back to the family organization topic and speaking about her empty nest… what do her children think about her way of managing work and family?
D: “Recently my son told me he was very happy to have been raised the way he has. This made me so proud and happy, because it has not always been easy. It shows it was worth it and that they are appreciating the efforts and sacrifices we made. My daughter now is in the stage where she has to decide what to do as a grown up. She wants a family, a good job, good life style and also work in charity… I’m helping her to define what is the best way to achieve this by herself and she appreciates the mum-coaching approach. My children saw two completely different career types at home: the international corporate path of my husband and my entrepreneurial approach to combine family needs. They have to figure out which is their way.”
How nice it must be to grow up in such an environment? Having two different types of role models at home and having a mother who consciously chooses to dedicate a part of her time completely to the family without letting go of her entrepreneurial ambitions?
Sitting in front of me I have a mom who knew from the beginning what she wanted, had a long-term vision of herself as a professional woman, as a wife and as a mother. I wish all women knew so early in her life what their path really was and to go for it!