How do you manage as a career-oriented woman within your Iranian culture?
So many readers’ questions are about work-life balance for the Middle Eastern woman. My heart goes out to all who are juggling young children, careers, traditional values and the innate feminine desire to please. In many ways we live in the age of the female: more women than ever climb the professional ladder; they are mothers, wives and goddesses all rolled into one. This comes at a cost. My number one rule is to stay in tune with one’s instincts no matter what the pressures. Somewhere in our 20s we start to develop a sense of who we are. Have you always dreamed of being a great mother and housewife? Then do not be ashamed to own that choice. Is your fantasy to realise a professional ambition? Then go for it. The women’s movement is about offering us choices. The how lies in a viable, reliable support system. In the Middle East we are still generally blessed with extended families offering invaluable childcare support, which along with trusted friends and neighbours, good quality childminders, nannies and pre-schools are all part of the arsenal of the successful working woman. I found the most challenging times were during my children’s illnesses where even a minor virus made them more fretful and clingy. If you can’t take time out to be with them, then FaceTime, a special comfort sick teddy or a treat saved in a cupboard for just such a moment can work miracles. Above all, an understanding partner is key to managing the work-life balance. Make sure he knows your aspirations before and not after childbirth! And while respect is always due to the in-laws, don’t allow your values to be dictated by them.Women all over the world grapple with their femininity, family pressures and personal space. In the meantime however, it is always possible to find moments of deep gratitude for everything that we do have: Carpe diem.
I have a modest budget yet want to look chic and classy. What three items should I invest in and where should I save?
Choosing how to spend a modest budget well is one of the best ways to get creative in life. After all, where is the art and the cleverness in blowing money indiscriminately? I love this question because it shows strategic thinking. For many, shopping usually ends up being impulsive. But the true stylista (not necessarily fashionista!) thinks carefully about what defines class, elegance and personality. As all three of these tend to be innate qualities, it is difficult to pinpoint what three specific items reflect them most readily. Most women would say style is reflected in things that are unique to you, and which endure. Here is what I would suggest: with a modest budget, concentrate on a formula of your pleasure factor against a scale of amortisation – in other words, what will get you the best investment value and give you the most enjoyment over time? Go for real quality, even if it means sacrifice elsewhere. I would hardly advise cutbacks on healthy living, but where possessions are concerned, every woman swears by a lovely and enduring piece of jewellery – a meaningful item that is the best your budget can offer. A high quality statement handbag can also become your faithful friend, and end up as a vintage item. The third thing I recommend is the best haircut in town. Never stint on your locks – tend to them like a field of flowers and you will be richly rewarded. Every morning in the mirror, the true stylista needs to see beautiful hair framing the face, offset at the neck by a necklace that does you justice and a fabulous bag to carry your essentials. Three choices equalling pleasure and lasting value.