There is no secret sauce

Earlier this week, I spoke on a panel hosted by She Talks, a new forum for women entrepreneurs. The event was held in conjunction with Fashion Tech Week 2013 in San Francisco, and the other panelists were from the fashion technology industry. I felt like a fish out of water! I’m not a fashion blogger, I’m not developing innovative fashion apps, and I’m not working on wearable technology. Yet, here I was on a panel to speak about using social media, the future of the fashion tech industry, and work-life balance. And I enjoyed it!

The panel moderator, Lili Balfour of Atelier Advisors, asked me the following: We see many working moms in the media. From Marissa Mayer to Rebecca Minkoff. What do you think the secret sauce is to ‘having it all?’ Can you give us some tools to achieving success and balance?

With my 17 years of experience of being a mom while growing my career to the executive level, with a husband who is addicted to tech start-ups, I’ve had my fair share of work-life balance challenges. I could have talked all night about this topic! However, I had only a few minutes to answer, during which I did my best to provide just a few practical tips to the audience. Here is a summary of my points:

It’s important to note that work-life balance is not just a concern of working parents. We tend to push ourselves into challenging, rewarding careers. Whether you have kids, are taking care of aging parents, going back to school, or doing anything outside of work that is time consuming, it’s hard to get it all done.

But, it is the working moms in the media, like Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, who are bringing a lot of attention to this issue. With their success, we can only imagine that they are in a different economic situation than we are. They can use their financial resources to address work-life balance in ways the rest of us can’t.

Even with their wealth, I don’t think they have a secret sauce for achieving balance. But, don’t lose hope! There are some ingredients we all can afford:


There are many options for hiring people to help you with running your household. Depending on your budget and your personal values, outsource as much as you can. I emphasize making sure you keep in mind your values. If I had all the money in the world, I wouldn’t hire a chauffeur to drive my kids to school. Others might decide to do this, but I enjoy spending time with my kids in the car. By contrast, if money weren’t an issue, I would hire a personal chef!

Here are some ideas for outsourcing:

  • Housekeeper?
  • Catered or partially-prepared meals?
  • Dry-cleaning pick up and delivery?
  • Wash & fold service?
  • Grocery delivery?
  • Auto pay as many bills as possible?
  • Personal shopper?
  • Gardener?
  • Bookkeeper?

Family Chores

Your partner needs to do his or her part. Many women feel we have to do it all. Yet, our partner can and should share the household responsibilities. I know someone who split the chores by whether they were inside or outside of the house. She handled all the inside chores (cleaning, laundry, cooking, etc), and her husband took care of all the outside work (gardening, running errands, etc). While this approach might not be right for you, I share it as one example of how chores can be divided.

Your kids need to keep learning new responsibilities as they grow. One tip I got from a friend is to teach my kids, when they turned 12, to do their laundry. Sure, initially it’s going to take more time than doing it yourself, like when my daughter left lip gloss inside a pair of white jeans and I then spent about an hour treating stains. But, eventually it will be more efficient than if you were to do it all yourself.

“To Stop” List

We all have a to-do list, what about the to-stop list? Here are some of the things on my list: I stopped sending Christmas holiday letters. I stopped worrying about cleaning out the garage so I can park my car in it. I stopped one of my volunteer activities because I wasn’t getting enough satisfaction from it. Having a “To Stop” list can be liberating!

What are your ingredients for work-life balance? I’d like to hear from you!


© 2013 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “There is no secret sauce

  1. The “to-stop” list is a nice one. It reminds me of a presentation Jason Santa Maria gave a few months back about the importance of saying “no” to free up time for “yes”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s