Merlin Norman is a mom of two boys and the Marketing Director for Ackermans. Here, she shares her lockdown coping mechanisms, the women who have changed her life and whether she thinks women really can have it all.
1. What do you think are the main pressures on working mothers today?
Creating a balance between professional and home life; flexibility within the workplace, working mom guilt, the time pressure of managing home and work (there just aren’t enough hours in the day!).
2. How can women support other women?
I am a strong believer in Women Empowerment because together we can bring change. I love the phrase “Women alone have power… collectively we have impact”. I read an article recently about a study that took place which showed that women who support women are in fact more successful in business – that’s motivation for us to support each other!
3. Do you think women really can ‘have it all’?
As with most things in life, everything is about balance. I do believe you can have it all but it is important to know your boundaries, understanding what you can and can’t influence and, as a result, creating a balance between home and work life.
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4. How did lockdown – with home-schooling and working remotely – affect you?
Seeing the glass as half full is already half the battle won for any challenge and, as a result lockdown taught me so much about myself and how much working moms can really take on. I embraced the challenge which also allowed me the opportunity to sneak a cuddle and a kiss from my young boys (aged 6 and 8) in between meetings – a privilege I didn’t have before. My boys have also loved having mummy around more often (even if I am on a zoom call, they still get to “see” me). Needing to do the cooking, cleaning and home schooling in between the busy days was tough but I am fortunate to have a hands-on husband, so all chores are our chores. My greatest learning is that being a teacher was definitely not my calling and I now, more than ever, have more respect for teachers.
5. What were your lockdown coping mechanisms?
Managing my work diary, prioritising projects and empowering my team. Being disciplined to log off of my computer at the end of the work day and spending quality time with my family.
6. What would you want to say to women who may be feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope?
Know that you are not alone – these are trying times for many but know that this too shall pass. Consider joining a women’s support group where you can talk openly about how you feel, without judgement and – most importantly – surround yourself with positive people.
7. Who is one of the most important women in your life?
My mum. Growing up in the Apartheid era come with its challenges, but despite the financial struggles and limited opportunities my mum worked hard to put herself through nursing school. From a young age my mum instilled the importance of education and how it has the power to change the world. My career is testament to that.
8. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The power of positive thinking. Life is short: forgive and let go. And the best bit of career advice is: Work hard, stay humble – you can achieve anything you put your mind to.
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9. Why did Ackermans launch the Baby Competition?
As moms we love to show off our babies because we’re so proud. As a brand for moms, we know that every baby is adorable so we wanted to create a platform for mom to celebrate her baby with us. This year’s competition will see us announce 30 finalists across 5 categories (cutest cheeks, cutest smile, cutest hairstyle or headpiece, cutest outfit, cutest pose) and each category will have 1 winner.
10. What was behind the decision to extend the Ackermans clothing ranges up to a size 50?
Inclusivity has always been important to Ackermans. We were one of the first retailers in South Africa to offer our lingerie in sizes up to a G-cup, demonstrating our ongoing commitment to the women of South Africa. Now with our wider choice of sizing we are able to stay true to our promise of continuing to strive to add value to the lives of all our customers.