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The Balancing Act – Business Woman and Caregiver

The day had finally come. Over fifty women sat in a large circle at the inaugural event of our group, Conscious Exchanges. In addition to opportunities for networking and showcasing their products and services, they were able to engage in a discussion on the theme, “Women Can’t Have it All?” It was during this session that I realized that women of all ages, and different circumstances, all strive to achieve that balance between family and work, whilst remaining true to their own sense of self.

Being part of the conceptualization of Conscious Exchanges, I was grateful to contribute to something that aims to economically empower women and, at the same time, recognizes that earning money is not the only priority. In our preparations for the event, I came face-to-face with my own anxiety around whether I had the strength to fulfil my professional and personal goals. At 30, I am happy to have had many experiences in my professional life, but it is a part of my life that consumes me. Despite the fact that having it all for me includes a husband, children, worldwide travel and business success, I worry whether I will have to choose between profession and family, when the time comes to assume an increased role as caregiver to immediate and extended family. I am concerned as well that I may not be able to financial provide for those under my care.

As a woman, I receive constant messages about who I should be and what I should do in order to be a ‘good woman.’ A good woman keeps a clean house, can cook, takes care of her husband and children and is always well dressed. In recent times, she is required to be smart and charming, able to make her own money and excel in her field. I have been brought up with the promise of the happily ever after, with sitcoms originating from outside of my country promoting the nuclear family model as being the ideal. When I reflect on the Cosby Show, I marvelled at how the character of the mother maintained a successful legal career, a loving and supportive relationship, raised five children without help and was able to miraculously solve any challenges within an episode. Most days I feel like I missed the memo that would offer the secret to that particular version of success.

The reality

Kimtara is a wife, mother of three who runs a business with her husband. “My life is extremely hectic.” It is 9pm and she has finally put the three children, ages two, five and six, to bed. Although her family takes priority in her life, she works just as hard as her husband to ensure that their business grows.

The United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research, in a report in 2012 on female entrepreneurship in developing countries, highlighted the trend for married women, particularly with young children, to be entrepreneurs as opposed to waged laborers. To me the route of entrepreneurship offers the flexibility to better manage the dual roles but often signifies great challenges in the management of time and energy towards making sure that the business stays afloat.

Kimtara enjoys being an entrepreneur and running a business with her husband has had many positives. However, there is the added pressure for the business to work, as it is the bread and butter to provide for the family. Speaking to her it is apparent that her weeks are very structured, with timetables and work schedules built around the activities of the children. She is able to keep on top of her professional obligations with the use of her smart phone. She is fortunate to have a husband that shares work and home responsibilities but stresses the importance of the extended family in offering various forms of support in caring for the children, particularly in times of economic stress. This support, coupled with open communication and inclusion of all family members, have been contributing factors in helping to manage her various roles.

The role of women, and men, in our new societies is a discussion that needs to be explored in greater depth. I find it difficult to encourage economic empowerment and completely ignore the fact that women’s lives include their roles as mothers and caregivers. World Bank statistics highlight that between 1980 and 2008, there has been an increase of 50.2 to 51.8 per cent respectively. Women are slowly but surely gaining access to education and are participating in the economic spheres of many economies. Nonetheless, the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development confirms that there are still barriers to economic opportunities for women, particularly given caregiving responsibilities, amongst other factors. As a Caribbean woman, the figures presented leaves me to ponder on how many of those women are actually married women and how many are in alternative family structures that may place women as the sole provider for the family.

Caribbean societies have historically been characterised by alternative family structures. Sheila Stuart, a Caribbean researcher on gender issues, in 1996 observed that the region has family structures ranging from married, common-law, visiting spouses, single parent, and extended family. The role of women in our society has almost always been that of provider and caregiver. This has been explained to derive from slavery, however since the era of industrialization the increase of alternative family models and the participation of women in the workforce in even developed countries have exhibited similar trends.

A culture of female-headed households

I am often asked when I will start my family. As a single girl, I am advised to go it alone as many older women take a view that being a single mother is a viable option in my society. As a report by the United Nation’s Economic and Social Council in 2007 noted, in Barbados 44 per cent of households and headed by women. Many of these households may, at the same time, include multigenerational or extended families, which increases financial and social obligations for women.

Maria, a proud single mother of a beautiful two-year-old son and a budding entrepreneur, laments not being part of a formal nuclear family unit. She sees the value in what she describes as “building an empire” with a male partner to combine resources and ensure economic growth and assistance in raising children. Building her business over the last year has been a rewarding experience and it has been able to sustain her enough to pay the bills, but not enough to fulfil her desire to own her own home for her and her son. A Report published in 2008 titled, ‘Child Support, Poverty and Gender Equality: Policy Considerations for Reform,’ noted that the existence of female headed households demonstrates that women can have a relative amount of autonomy but at the same time, it discusses the fact that many women in these households have a higher likelihood to experience poverty.

Her extended family plays an important role in providing economic, financial and physical support and she is blessed to have her son’s father play an active role in his life. The agreed visiting agreements she describes as a “double edge sword.” Being an entrepreneur, she is able to use the days that her son is with his father to concentrate solely on her business and can work around her son’s schedule when he is with her. This is not always the case as the 2008 report highlights that, “the care of children necessarily then involves something of a struggle between mothers and non-residential fathers for defining and attaining adequate levels of financial contribution to the care of children.”

Providing care for the elderly

Yet another reality is the fact that, along with Japan, Barbados has one of the highest numbers of centenarians in the world. I have longevity on both sides of my family with my maternal great grandmother living until almost 105, and my paternal grandmother will turn 102, God willing, this year. The main responsibility of care has always fallen on the single woman in the family, with support from other family members. Being the only girl in Barbados, on both sides of the family, I contemplate how I will manage this responsibility when the time comes.

Like Roseann, I would want to be there for my aging relatives, particularly in cases where they fall ill. Roseann had just been called to the bar that would allow her to be a practicing attorney when her mother’s health declined due to her diabetic condition. She made the decision to rent out her home and moved back into her mother’s residence, along with her sister, to ensure that her mother had constant care and attention. Being a former social worker, she did not want her mother to suffer the same neglect that she saw in some of the cases during her previous career.

According to the Commonwealth Secretariat, “The time taken up and the emotional burden created by these dual responsibilities often interfere directly or indirectly with the conduct of business for women in ways that do not apply to the majority of men.” Likewise, Roseann’s journey has been an emotionally, financially and physically challenging one, but she is grateful that she has sisters and brothers that contribute where needed. This support means that she can schedule time to engage in exercise and other activities that enhance her emotional wellbeing to ensure she does not burn out.

The responsibility of care has meant that her professional obligations come secondary to her mother’s needs. Financially, she expresses that having her own business means that she is able to rearrange her schedule but that late payments from clients have an impact on her ability to manage financial obligations. She laments that there is not enough policy and legislative frameworks to support families that are taking care of elderly relatives.

Conceptualizing a new model for greater balance

In most cases, the responsibility for care takes priority in many women’s lives. Though economic independence is a necessity, I cannot ignore the fact that we as women cannot separate our role as caregiver from our professional life. Policy and legislative changes that encourage decent work and allow both men and women the flexibility to handle caregiving duties are essential. However, I have realised that there is a need to rethink the way societies and family structures are viewed to support the fact that women are increasingly becoming part of the economic structure. The inclusion of an extended family has proven to be a source of financial, emotional and physical support with and without a male partner.

I also recognize that we as women have to embrace the men in the society to encourage them to share the economic space and join us in the role of caregivers within the family structure. Roberta Clarke, Regional Program Director of UN Women in the Caribbean, made a powerful statement, “I think that we are recognizing that achieving gender equality is also getting to value each other and breaking the stereotypes, that say this is what a man should do, and this is what a woman should do. In fact, achieving gender equality is creating the opportunities for all of us to realize who we are and who we want to be without expectations that keep us confined”.

I view Conscious Exchange as being essential to creating the space for women to share perspectives on issues relating to family life and other social challenges they face, whilst also expanding their social and professional network. This will prove to be invaluable in these challenging economic times.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.


Stella Paul's picture


I will admit, prior to reading this, I had not heard of such a social transition taking place in Barbados, or for that matter, anywhere in the Caribbean region. Thanks for sharing the insights in the island society. And yes I also feel that empowerment of a woman need not come by total isolation or rejection of the man. Equity is the keyword to a just society.

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Juliette Maughan's picture

Thanks for your response

As I had highlighted in the article, the various family models have always been a feature of Caribbean societies. As I highlighted, over 40% are female headed households. I for one, along with a good few people I know, live in their family's homes.

Yes, I come from a very interesting society.

You must visit one day.

malba66's picture

Amen, sister! Right now I am

Amen, sister! Right now I am particularly moved by issues of work-life balance, and the nuanced ways in which women somehow always end up doing MORE! Agreed that our roles as caregivers (to our children, elders, and even nieces and nephews/extended family) have to be factored into new models of building sustainable economic growth models (among other things).

Thank you for this!

Juliette Maughan's picture

Extended families and men

I remember being on a radio programme where I mentioned the fact that it takes a village to raise a child. A woman with an American accent called in to say that she does not want anyone else raising her children but her etc.

I was saddended by that comment and I wonder how women that prefer to go it totally on their own manage. I believe that a lot of women love that badge of honour to say that they did it all (professional success, well raised children etc) without anyone's help. We do this to our own injustice.

We women want to at least try to be superwoman but to truly be empowered is to embrace the network that includes men.

On the topic of men, I love when I am out in the afternoon when the children are out of school and there are men who go to pick them up and walk with them home. It warms my heart and shows that men do have the capacity to provide more than money. We all know that. The new thrust would be to celebrate their care contributions and encourage them to value that part of their life just as much as they take pride in making money and providing financial support.

nasreenamina's picture

Juliette, I loved this

Juliette, I loved this article, because I can understand why the society where you live now is like it is, and that allow me to have a vision about the posibles path for change. Of course, being household is an important work and not all the times is well recognized and protected by the social system. Is told that the world could not move on if women wouldnt be willing to collaborate with the hard and unpaid work they make staying at home. But, in the other hand, entrepreuneurship is important in order to go over poverty and get development. The money cash transfer program are emergency solutions, but they are not the final solution. The final solution is in empowering the people in society who will bring the highest impact in develoment and those are women. When a woman goes over poverty and is able to cultivate her abilities, is the whole family who move towards progress. Xoxo

One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion

Follow me @DivinaFeminista

Juliette Maughan's picture

Love it

My sister,

I am humbled by you contribution as someone whose writing continues to inspire.

We women possess much power and we should continue to move towards progression... always.

Besos y abrazos,


Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture


What a timely story! I am also in my early 30s and I know that many women of our age struggle with the question of "how to have it all", or more likely "how to manage all of the expectations without wanting to pull our hair out". I think that you are right in that encouraging flexible working conditions and getting men to fully participate in family life as well as professional--are key. There are few companies that allow men to take parental leave, and if they do, it's usually a measly few weeks. This goes a long way in continuing to cement traditional gender roles. I would love to hear more about Conscious Exchanges and how it came about.

Keep up the good work,


"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

Juliette Maughan's picture

Constant state of evolution

Thank you for commenting Rachael.

I think we women really do try to be superwomen and we do not feel adequate if we are not seen to hold it all together.

I encourage female spaces like Conscious Exchanges. From our first event I see the value in having a women's only space. I look forward to discussing, however, how women can start encouraging men to embrace the home front. I know that some Caribbean mothers teach their sons how to clean, wash and cook, under the guise of "I don't want a woman to turn you foolish." Not sure I like the rationale but it is nice to see men that are not afraid to get involved in "care" activities without thinking that it is "sissy."

These are first steps.

Perhaps there should be a global campaign run by women that makes men that embrace home activities seem like "real men" in the eyes of women!


WILDKat's picture

All about Balance


For me the higher aspirations of women are as compelling a story as are those of poverty, rape, and abuse. If there are not those who will write of the most elevating of lives, then women everywhere are left to wallow in the economy of the uncaring that does not value the care they give freely.

Consider this to nurture your own higher evolution.

Naturally grateful,
Kat Haber

"Know thyself." ~ Plato

Juliette Maughan's picture

So true

Hi Kat,

Thank you for your post. Truth be told I feel as though the stories I bring forth pale in comparison to the challenges that many women face. Then I have to remind myself of the journey at each stage of our development and the fact that we are in a constant state of evolution.

We have free education here and women are participating in home and work life. Yet the access is futile if the society does not evolve as well. What good is access to work when a woman is still expected to go home and fulfill her duties at home without a support network? What of those women who are not in a nuclear family situation?

Overall, what effect does women's empowerment have if she still exists in a world with a patriarchal mindset? I see it all the time. It is my believe that legislation and policies is a first step but it is these perceptions and beliefs that are detrimental to the society.

I acknowledge all of our roles in tackling different issues at all levels to ensure a global society that recognizes our importance as women in the society.

Thanks for the links


Jan K Askin's picture

Effective article

Dear Juliette,

You selected perfect examples in Maria, Roseann and Kimtara to illustrate the conundrums presented to women trying to balance their modern lives in Barbados.

Well done,


Jan Askin

Juliette Maughan's picture

Thank you!

It was through interviewing them that I was able to really feel the story of women and come to the realisation that there is no utopia. In all situations it will be hard work. Women are striving towards that balance out of necessity but also because they value highly their roles as caregivers.

Thank you for your comment.

Juliette reading your story I did a swim in my own story. And thought:
Work for 40 years, always wanted to be a good professional. I was the best I could.
I wanted to be the ideal mother? Is it? I also did the best I could.
And the wife? This item of the three was the most affected and I ended up raising my children alone.

We move on through life driven, creating, working and sometimes not doing for ourselves.
I do not regret the past nor think I could have done differently. Needed to survive.
Today at 54 years old, I sing, dance, work, I am a mother, I'm student ... and I'm not a sliced ​​pizza, I am whole.I'm just a happy woman.

Grateful for the beautiful reflection and text.

Juliette Maughan's picture

Your story

Thanks for adding to my own understanding of the balance women have to strike as we move through live, constantly evolving.

What is the support network like for you? Would you say you did it on your own? Did you have help from family? What about the wider community?

During the event I mentioned the concept of being content or happy in the scheme of "having it all" came up. Similarly the fact that at different stages of your life you base your "success" or happiness on different things.

I believe this topic is one that demonstrates that there is no magic formula, it is the decisions that we make and make PEACE with that counts.

You summarised it perfectly in your title, 'Neither super not perfect. Only a happy woman.' I see that as a success story.

Blessings to you.


Valéria Barbosa da Silva's picture

Well said.

There are no magic formulas, we have evolved throughout the experiments. The support network is constantly behind our development activities. Depends on the need and timing for the woman to trigger your network. In Brazil we need to strengthen the network of public services so that women could have custody of children while they work with more kindergartens and schools full time. Offer options for recreation, health, in effect, each region has a specific need that favors or not the woman.

But the important thing is to recognize what may also favor the development of life and show the way, discussing, sharing knowledge and resources, empowerment them. A lot of times not even perceived as a woman.

Celine's picture

Thank you Juliette for this

Thank you Juliette for this insight. In my country working mothers called 'career women' experience hard time combining professional work with child caring. Women resort to trusting their children with childminders. Stories abound of childminders not taking good care of children put under their custody.

Again, I heard of the term 'women headed households' first time while I was in Indonesia. In Africa, where patriarchy dominates societies, I don't know if any family termed women headed will be recognized in the community. In actual sense, there are families where fathers are lost through death, that women take full responsibility of bringing up children. But in such families, the women are not recognized as heads. It is a bit complex.


Juliette Maughan's picture



My country can still be considered a patriarchal society, it is just that for various reasons women are left to raise their children alone. It can be in the case of death, the couple breaks up, divorce etc. It is just part of our reality. Some women choose to have a family alone.

noreens's picture

I think things are so tough

I think things are so tough for women. Work, house, family........and no time for ourselves. And when we do take some time for ourselves, we are thinking of the house and family. Too much stress and demands, and in the end it is our health that suffers. This is what I have noticed around from the women I speak to. No person can possibly be everything to everyone. Hard as it is, we need to slow down and enjoy life.

Good article, Juliette!'


Juliette Maughan's picture

So true!

Thanks for your comment and feedback Noreen.

I had shared the article with my colleagues for Conscious Exchanges and one of the ladies responded with a worthwhile comment. She asked, "How did work get to be at the other end of a discussion of women and child-care? Might it not be better to place men and child-care at that other end? The balance might be less about women's lives than it is about the needs of adults and the needs of children. In this case, I think that adult's needs do not revolve around work; that is a myth of capitalism that enables it to profit so few at the expense of so many."

I think I agree... why do we women, dare I say, struggle to manage it all when the whole society men, women and children should be involved in different aspects of life. The movement would therefore be towards having a society that seeks to collectively participate in work, care and play.

What a lovely community that would be.


Anne D.'s picture

Women everywhere can relate

Hi Juliette,

Women everywhere can relate to the stories you share here. These stories also show the importance of achieving gender equality, as Roberta Clarke says, and the importance of supportive groups like Conscious Exchanges. Well done!


Juliette Maughan's picture


Thanks for your comment Anne, humanity is in a constant state of evolution. I am idealist so I believe it can happen!

Ruth Beedle's picture

Thank you for this article

Thank you for this article addressing all the hats that women must wear in order to manage home and family and work and spiritual nurturing and emotional well being. This topic is as important as the other contributors that are speaking of fears and horrors in other parts of the world.

I am thankful you don't fear rape and abuse as a constant. And I am thankful you are able to step another rung up on the pyramid of Maslow and can consider the ideas of self-actualization that you so well address.

And, take heart. Men are incredibly capable to share the burdens that women are normally seen as shouldering. But it takes a special relationship and a special man (and woman) and a very real ability to plan and talk about all the ramifications.

I am blessed to have had a long career that supported our family while my husband chose to stay home with our children. It was HARD because it wasn't considered normal almost 30 years ago, or even manly (or womanly) and we both faced a lot of criticism from family and friends and even some of the people in my business. I was actually denied some promotions and raises because some of the men I worked for were insulted that I was working and my husband was staying home. They figured that men who were supporting women needed more resources than women supporting husbands.

And. Our children are happy and well and raised - 23 and 27 - and very proud of the parenting that they experienced. They are both proud of a mother and father who both followed a dream - that of raising a family and pursuing a life of love and family and work.

Thank you for asking the questions. My question of you for this assignment, what is your call to action? What do you want people to do differntly as a result of reading this article?


Juliette Maughan's picture


Dear Ruth,

I am most grateful for your post! Thanks for sharing your own experience as well. I am happy to hear of your journey and success.

In answer to your questions...

1. I want people to truly think about how we view family and community in shaping a new society that embraces the fact that women will increasingly participate in the working world as employees and as business owners.
2. I want women to embrace the fact that life and family take different forms and that it is ok to pursue your own journey.
3. I believe there is need to promote the involvement of men in home responsibilities. As you said, it is not that they cannot be fantastic caregivers, it is just not seen as 'manly' and as such policies are not created to promote it and the society has various perceptions of what is acceptable.
4. I want to encourage women to reach out to their networks. Too often I look around and see women trying to do it all by themselves. We have a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. I want to expand on that by saying that it takes a whole community to work towards creating a balanced world where women can fulfill their professional goals and share in the role of provider.

This is why I mentioned Conscious Exchanges at the end. It is a space for women to not only come together to promote their goods and services, but also to exchange ideas and also build on social networks.

Ruth Beedle's picture

Thanks for this response!! I

Thanks for this response!! I love your comment about women reaching out to their networks.... having networks to reach out TO...... I love the idea of a balanced world where men and women both feel the pull of home and family as well as the calling of our purpose and life. Thanks for writing this article and for thinking about that world!


sallyhedman's picture

A universal issue very well done

You touched the souls of many women in your article. Having been a single mother since my children were 5 and 2, I understand well the multi-directional pull on women who want it all, especially where poverty is in play. While I had the relative comfort of child support, I did not want to drop out of the professional world, so kept my skills alive while I was raising my children. My attention was constantly scattered among child rearing, work, volunteer projects, cultivating a network of friends, maintaining my home and garden, and trying to be a better person!

Had I grown up in a culture where the village/community really did help raise its children, I would have done things differently with my own children. As it was, I felt compelled to do motherhood on my own -- or at any rate, felt the majority of the responsibility for everything belonged to me alone. I don't recommend that path.

The idea of a cultural shift where men are an integral part of raising children will (I think) bring our social systems into a better balance. Sons will see the roles they must fulfill simply by watching fathers be fathers and providers. Of course, as I write this, I think of the many fathers I do know who are not afraid to be nurturers, to listen, and to guide their children kindly and thoughtfully.

Your article and the examples you chose capture the universal difficulties of achieving that balance women want in their lives. Such a societal shift will take time and education, and a cooperative society that values the contributions of both women and men. Thanks for sharing your perspectives.


Juliette Maughan's picture


Thanks for sharing your story and commenting on the post.

I am amazed by how much this topic resonates with women coming from different situations as it were.

The inclusion of men in family life does not come without its gender bias as a previous comment highlighted. We women must change that.

mrbeckbeck's picture

Brilliant work

Hi Juliette,

Your piece here really strikes a chord in my heart, and from the comments above, I'm not alone! The need for balance in life seems universal, and I love how you show us specific women in Barbados who are attempting to find that in different ways. The questions and issues you raise are all of ours to ponder and explore.

I'm curious if you've ever read anything by Riane Eisler? She has a book about creating a caring economy called "The Real Wealth of Nations". Her books are fascinating, showing a world based on partnership and how we might get there! She has some videos on YouTube I'm sure...check them out if you have time.

I have many more thoughts milling around in my head, but wanted to get a comment to you immediately! Great work.


Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

Juliette Maughan's picture


I look forward to hearing your perspective as a man and I shall look up Riane Eisler.

Thanks Scott!

Juliette Maughan's picture


I look forward to hearing your perspective as a man and I shall look up Riane Eisler.


MaDube's picture

Dear Juliette

Your story speaks to the lived realities of many women across the globe. I am one of them. I am in my late twenties now, making great strides in my career and none in my personal life and definitely at that stage when I ask myself if I will ever have it ALL. Yes because we have been socialised to want it all, even though we have now been educated to know that it is a matter of choice not design, we still want it all. I love one of your recommendations, about adopting and inclusive process in which men and women learn to perform social roles equally, with men also becoming caregivers. I am sad to say for most men my generation, at least in my country, that will be hard to achieve although a few individuals who are that sensitive can be found (I am crossing my fingers one of them is my future husband). I used to watch the series "Army Wives" and I could not help admire Roland, one of the male characters. He gave up his career as a Psychiatrist to take of his baby so his wife, Joan could pursue her career in the army. Men like that are few because that complete reversal of roles is usually unacceptable, but I don't know why meeting halfway is still not an acceptable option for men. Oh well, there is no harm in dreaming that someday it will be the norm, right?



Juliette Maughan's picture

We hope and pray

Thanks for your comment Madube.

It would appear that, even though we are on different sides of the world, we have the same challenges.

I decided a little while ago that creating equality between men and women has a lot to do with perceptions and behaviours. Perceptions because, if a women and men see women as inferior or occupying only one space in the society then anything that goes against that would appear to create an imbalance or be seen as anti-society. Behaviours because how we act also reinforces these trends.

Strangely enough, this topic has been coming up very often in local and regional magazines and in newspapers. Women often end up feeling unsatisfied or guilty. Some put aside everything for their family until the children grow up or someone passes on to finally be able to do what they always wanted to do at 50 and 60. I often wondered why I cannot do both.

To do it all, whatever that means, is an individual's journey. In the comments, I noted that women across the world have had so many different types of circumstances/ experiences. Some have reflected on the journey and would not change it for the world. Others are still searching for that happy place.

But yes MaDube, all of this is talk if men are not on board to say they want to be more involved and take action to be more involved. There are examples around. You just have to be open to seeing them. At least it offers hope to women like ourselves that dream about having someone to share the journey with us.

I pray that one day you write me and share your own success story. Remember that you are worth it!


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