Episode 25

Alpha Vitamin Women with Aurora Pérez-Vico

Published on: 2nd March, 2022

Originally from Spain, Aurora Pérez-Vico lives with her husband and three young sons in Munich, Germany, where she has experienced a culture of ‘mom-shaming’ of full-time working mothers. In this interview, Aurora talks about:

  • her drive to constantly improve her skills and knowledge and to learn new things
  • how she’s learned to adapt to the challenges of each day without trying to control everything
  • her local network of ‘Alpha Vitamin Women’ who help her recharge her batteries
  • the importance of saying ‘Yes’ to projects that push you out of your comfort zone
  • how she deals with ‘imposter syndrome’ and being judged by other women 
  • how she views the roles of men and women in the home

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Music: Pablito's Way by Paolo Pavan

Transcript
Maribel:

Welcome very, very much to our podcast, Aurora. Would you mind telling us what it is that you do and what are the audacious things that you have done in your life?

Aurora:

Hello Maribel, hello Helen. Thank you for the invitation to this podcast. I'm Aurora, as Maribel said, I work as a full time business development manager at a marketing agency. I have three kids at home. And I kind of study also in the free time, if we can call it free time, what you would have with a full time job and three kids. That's kind of challenging, you can call it audacious.

Maribel:

Yes, absolutely, that’s audacious. Especially also, because all your three kids are boys. And how old are they? They're under 10, right?

Aurora:

Yeah, the big one is 10, and then seven, and then almost four. And we are also in Germany, that is not our country. So we don't have any family support here. So my husband and me, we have to organise everything and try to fit all the logistic things at the millimeter to make everything work.

Maribel:

So was that one of the audacious things, moving from your country of origin, Spain?

Aurora:

Yeah, I could say I have a couple of audacious moments in my life. One of them was moving here. Because when I finished my studies, I studied Forest Engineering that had nothing to do with what I'm working now. But when we moved here, I tried to find out my first job here. I didn’t work because I didn't speak the language fluently. And then also, I didn't have any experience. That was the first moment when I said, Oh, that's not going to be so easy as planned. Then trying to reinvent myself to find a new way, or trying to find a new path that I wanted to follow that’s not in the engineering environment anymore. Then I started studying business administration while working, something that was something new. That was kind of challenging, to find my new place in something really, really new. The next challenging or audacious thing I think I did was decide to have three kids with my partner — we decided together, of course.

Maribel:

And in terms of finding that new path, because you studied forestry engineering, you said, and then you moved countries and suddenly that was not possible to find a job, or to have a job in that area here. How did you go about that, about finding what is the new thing, the new career that you would like to pursue?

Aurora:

I started working patchwork, so nothing I took at the beginning very seriously in a retail store. And then there, I discovered that there's a lot of things that I like about that, related with the business and organisation and leading teams. And I started growing in this job from salesforce to management, and co-leading a team of 20 people. And then I got my own department, a small one with just five people there. But I like that. I like leading people, trying to make people move forward to learn new things, to do all the things that we need to do in the shop on a daily basis. And there I decided I wanted to go to a new path and do this business administration study. But the beginning was hard for me to switch off and say, I'm not going to be an engineer anymore. I'm not going to be what I studied the first seven years, I’m not going to be that. I'm going to move to things really new. But this was kind of a fight with myself. And also I struggled a bit when I saw my university colleagues in Spain because they are working in that and I was like, Oh my God, why I'm not? But now I'm happy with everything. That's how everything went.

Helen:

That’s lovely to hear. Hi Aurora, I'd like to come in now. I've just been making notes while you were saying what you've been doing, and it does sound like you've done some audacious things in your life — moving country, you've studied two different things, you've led teams, having three kids. You certainly come across as if you have a lot of drive and I'm wondering whether this is something that you've always had? Have you always wanted to do something new and push yourself? Or is there a certain point in your life where this happened? I wonder if you could say a little bit more about that.

Aurora:

Actually, I think I've always been like that. But it just seems a couple of years when I realised that it all would have been like that. I am really conscious that this is why I really enjoy to do new things, to take new challenges, to learn many different topics, or to be able to, as Maribel said in the beginning, to make things happen or to move things forward. But the last two years were challenging for everybody, kind of disrupted years, and then is when I realised this is how I am. This is part of my personality, it’s nothing that happens because of external things. It's just inside of me that I'm like that.

Maribel:

I'm curious whether some specific situation happened that helped you create this awareness that this is you, and you've always been that way?

Aurora:

Yeah, the COVID made us change our mindsets. And I always like to have everything planned. And after that it's like, okay, it’s not what I wanted, it's not what I like, but I have to re-adapt myself. And there were some difficult moments, with three kids at home, both working. And then I tried to figure out what makes me more happy, or what makes me happy that is not an external situation, that has more with me, that is inside me. And then is when I realised, this is what I like. I like to learn, I like to move, and I like to accept new challenges.

Helen:

I wonder if you could say a little bit more about the challenges. You’ve mentioned a couple of them already, but what were the real challenges that you've faced, Aurora?

Aurora:

For example, when four years ago, I decided to leave the job where I was working, and start something new, and start working in this agency where I’m working now. At the beginning, I was an office manager. So I started working as an office manager. And then I started trying to do things more efficiently. And then the office manager task wasn't enough for me, I wanted to do more. And here I have the opportunity to say it out loud and they gave me more. And they asked me to support other teams in other projects and other things and allowed me to learn new things. For example, last year, I did a couple of data analytics courses and I rediscovered that this is something new, that I want to learn more about that. I like to take new things and learn, always something new that moves me forward.

Helen:

So it sounds like you're doing three main things — you've got your job, your study and the kids. Probably not in that order, but they are the three things that you’ve got. What advice can you give to somebody trying to juggle those things, particularly for a woman juggling those things? What's a typical day or typical week for you, how do you manage?

Aurora:

First of all, as I said, I like to have everything planned. That way for example, I used to batchcook and for example, we try to leave all the dinners ready for the week. One day we cook for 3-4 hours something that we have the dinners ready for the week. This is something that makes our evenings or afternoons a bit easier with the kids. And about the study — it’s always in the free time. So when the kids are in bed, and I think this is some motivation thing — I try to be very honest with myself, and if I'm not motivated, I'm not going to [?]. So that's why I only do it when I really, really am motivated. So I'm not paying for courses that I’m not taking, that’s what I wanted to say, because there was going to be a lot of pressure on me. And I don't want that. I don't need that.

Helen:

And are there days, Aurora, that you're feeling not so motivated? And if so, what do you do on those days? Do you just accept that you're not motivated or do you try to get yourself motivated? How do you deal with that?

Aurora:

Yeah, I discovered since one year I also deal with anxiety issues, because I think of all of my craziness in my life. And therefore I discovered how important it is also to stop and say, No, today is not the day. I'm not going to do anything, I'm going to take the day off, lie on the couch, watch Netflix, that’s also healthy.

Maribel:

Beautiful. You mentioned that in order to get so many things done, you need to have control and to plan. And what happens if you can't? How do you deal with situations, because we’ve had a lot of uncertainty in the past two years, how do you deal with uncertainty, with things that are not in your control?

Aurora:

I used to freak out. And I’m learning to accept that and say, Okay, this is how it is, we need to rearrange everything. For example, today we got the news that the kindergarten’s going to be closed for the next 10 days. So we need to adapt ourselves and say, Okay, I will work in the morning, you will work in the evening, maybe we will work together some nights. I have to learn to accept these things and try to organise myself as I can with this new constellation. But it's hard, I can tell you as a plan freak, as I am, it's hard.

Helen:

Are you on your own in this? I mean, you've mentioned your partner, obviously you're not completely on your own, but do you have any mentors or role models to help you navigate all of these challenges?

Aurora:

Yeah, so here I have a group of very good friends, a group of very Alpha women, so to say.

Helen:

What are Alpha women, could you explain what Alpha women are?

Aurora:

Yeah, they are women that just inspire me. And when we met for dinner, we used to meet once per month, something like that, and they are like an energy shot. They are my vitamin persons. So we recharge the batteries and we get some crazy ideas like you should write an article, you should write a book, you should do that. It's like pure energy. When I talked to them about this podcast, they were like, Oh, my God, it’s so exciting, you need to do that. You have to do that. Send me the link afterwards. Sure. Sure.

Helen:

That’s lovely. I think it's necessary to have that kind of network, to have this energy exchange where you're keeping each other motivated and full of inspiration.

Aurora:

I call them my vitamin group, because they are really like vitamins. You get really energized up.

Maribel:

So I heard something about writing. Would you like to tell us more of that audacious activity?

Aurora:

Yeah, that was something that I did last year, something that went out of my comfort zone. I did last year a couple of things like that, for example, I made a presentation for the company where I’m working about time management. I've never done a presentation in English about the topic and it's like, okay, if I can do that anyone can do that. This was one thing that I did last year. And also I wrote two articles — one about learning new skills and the other one about time management, like the presentation. And in this learning piece I gave advice or I wrote about how to start learning something new that was out of your comfort zone or something really new.

Helen:

What would you say are the key things that you've learned about yourself in pushing yourself out of your comfort zone?

Aurora:

That it’s important to say Yes. And also if you are not sure about what the outcome is going to be, but it's always important to say, Yes, I'm going to try that. Yes, I'm going to do that. And from then you can learn how the outcome is. Or even if you are comfortable doing that. I never thought about writing an article and then it happened. And it went well. The world didn’t explode, nothing happened, it was fine. And I felt well after that. So this is something I've learned, it's nice to say, Yes.

Helen:

Is there anything on the horizon that you're going to say Yes to soon?

Aurora:

Yeah, I said Yes to another article for this year. So it’s moving. And actually, I said yes to something new that is not defined yet, that is, I don't know how it’s going to be formed, but I said yes to something new that was going to happen here in the agency. And we don't know yet how it's going to be. But that's going to bring me again out of my comfort zone because so far I’ve done topics that I really know I'm in control. And now I'm going to do something new.

Helen:

Okay, and how does that make you feel?

Aurora:

Yeah, excited, excited about that. And curious.

Maribel:

It sounds as if you spend most of the time in the uncomfortable zone. Is that something that just happens or you want it to be like that?

Aurora:

I think I've spent so many years in my comfort zone that I think now, at my 40s, it’s time to go out.

Maribel:

What is the benefit of that?

Aurora:

I discovered that I really like that. It's like an adrenaline shot for me.

Maribel:

What does it give you, this adrenaline shot?

Aurora:

It gives me joy. It gives me the opportunity to see that I can do more. And it's kind of addictive, I have to say that.

Maribel:

Okay, okay, good. You said that you're in your 40s now and usually, well, we're always evolving. What advice would you give your younger 20 year old self?

Aurora:

You have to say Yes. And don't be afraid of going out of your comfort zone because it's never going to be the perfect time to do things. There’s always going to be something that disrupts it. It's all about the mindset. It's all about saying Yes to new things, to explore new paths.

Helen:

Why do you think people don't say Yes, or why has it only been recently that you have said Yes? What causes people to say No, do you think?

Aurora:

For me, I can tell about me. For me, I still have to fight with that. But I'm trying to overcome these issues. Like I always think that everybody else is more prepared than me to do things. It was like with the article, I always think, I'm not going to be able to write an article. I can't write, someone else is going to do it better than me. But then I started and was like, Okay, it's not so bad. I can do this as well as everybody else. And I try to think that I need to be much more prepared than everybody else to do things. I underestimate my capacities or my knowledge and now I'm learning that I'm as good as others. And of course, there are things I can do better or equal to others and the things that I can't do at all. But I need to be realistic with my capacities and what I can do good. And I need to say Yes to these things, because this is how I am.

Helen:

Do you think this is a typical female characteristic? To doubt?

Aurora:

Yeah, I think we have this, how is it called? The imposter syndrome. That we think we are not good enough, that we are not doing the thing so good as the others.

Helen:

Where do you think that comes from, Aurora?

Aurora:

I don't know. I think we try to put ourselves always in the worst case. And if we fail, the failure’s going to be harder for us, or the consequences are going to be harder for us, than for the man if we fail doing stuff. But it's like with the maternity — it's kind of the same. I mean, if I go with my kids to the playground, it's nothing crazy, but when my man goes to the playground, I told him they are going to build you a bronze statue because you are going with the kids to the playground, you’re the only father there in the playground. Sometimes it's like, Oh my God, they are doing something extraordinary, it’s a mom job.

Helen:

And how would you like to see it? What would be the perfect, or the ideal situation for you in terms of how we view male and female roles?

Aurora:

I would like to be equal and that there won't be any differences. It should be normal the father goes with a kid to the playground or a mother goes with the kids to playground. And it shouldn't be any fantasy why I'm working full time and my husband is working full time, why people are asking me, “Where are your kids?” when I’m out with my friends. And nobody asks my husband when he leaves for a business trip, “Where are your kids?” For me, the same, the kids are with their father, they have a father, they can stay with him, there’s no fantasy behind that. It should be the same.

Helen:

You have three boys, is that right? What are the values that you would like to instill in your boys as they're growing up?

Aurora:

I want to see that at home we are 50% for everything. So that it’s not like my husband is going with them to play football and that I'm saying at home cooking. So this is something I want them to learn — that we are 50% and we will do everything 50%. That's why we both work full time. Because then at home, everything is 50%.

Maribel:

It sounds from what you mentioned that you have to explain to people why you work full time. So are you living in a society that does not accept women who work?

Aurora:

It's accepted. But it's not the usual situation that a woman who is a mom works full time. It's not usual, I have a couple of friends, most of them are not German, that work full time and have kids. But it's not the usual situation in Germany, or here in Munich at least.

Helen:

Is it different in Spain, where you come from?

Aurora:

Yeah, in Spain it’s different. In the family, both parents work full time.

Maribel:

That’s the norm?

Aurora:

That's the norm, yeah. In Spain, also there is a lot of support from grandparents, that's also true in Spain. But for example here my kids are at school and kindergarten and they are there from 7.30 or 8.00 until 5.00 and they are the last kids in kindergarten.

Maribel:

So that means, do you have to deal with ‘mom-shaming’?

Aurora:

Yeah, there's a lot of judgment. I have heard, “Oh my God, you pick up your kid so late, poor kid!” I mean, he’s not abandoned under a bridge. He’s in the kindergarten.

Maribel:

But what is your advice? Because in listening to you what I'm hearing is, is it other mothers who have criticized you, mostly other women? What kind of mindset shift do we need, because I mean, it sounds to me like it makes no sense, a woman criticizing another woman?

Aurora:

Yeah, for me too. For me it doesn’t make any sense. I think we women need to be more supportive, more vitamin women, one for each other. But I try to switch off this kind of criticism and think about what’s good for me and what's good for my family, and if it works for us and we are good with that, then it's fine. They have their own way to do things. Maybe they love to stay home with their kids. It’s fine, I respect that. I like my job, I love to do things outside my home and I come to the office, even now with COVID and everything I come to the office. I need this kind of compartmentation — office is 100% office and home is 100% home.

Maribel:

That helps you. So what I hear is then your strategy is to accept whatever choices other women make, and you surround yourself with like-minded Vitamin Alpha Girls.

Helen:

I love that expression!

Aurora:

This vitamin person is a psychiatrist in Spain. And she has a book, it’s called Find your Vitamin Person.

Helen:

It sounds like you have to be probably more audacious being a Spanish woman living in Germany than maybe in other situations?

Aurora:

Yeah, can be. This is something challenging, because the mindset is different here, especially for the man.

Maribel:

Aurora, it's time to ask our last question, which is always the same question. And it has to do with the name of the podcast, which is audacious on the one part and that relates to having the audacity to take new opportunities or big goals. And the word ‘ness’ has to do with like a spit of land and it's about having a solid grounding, where you do, or perform, all your audacious tasks. So our question is, while you are pursuing your goals, or as you were pursuing your goals, you have so many, right, where did you get the solid grounding to continue while everything else was in motion? How did you stay grounded in your vision, despite everything that life is throwing at you?

Aurora:

I think one of the places where I found my ground actually was my husband, because we are a team. And I have the inspiration also of my mom, who is a very strong person and strong woman. I like that, having especially these two persons around me, that kind of helped me — one to be strong enough and the other to keep a touch to what we have.

Helen:

Lovely.

Maribel:

Super. Thank you very much for sharing your experiences and your knowledge, Aurora. It was a pleasure to have you with us.

Aurora:

You’re welcome.

Helen:

Thank you so much, Aurora.

Aurora:

Thank you very much.

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About the Podcast

AudaciousNess
A solid grounding on which to practice your audacity.
AudaciousNess showcases individuals who have set themselves bold, audacious goals and have worked to achieve them. Our purpose is to inspire people to act with the courage to create a positive impact in the world.

Through interviewing 'regular people' about their audacious goals, we highlight the fact that role models are everywhere. Each and every one of us can have an impact in some way. Our goal is to enable a courageous community that honours their genius and lives their calling.

The name 'AudaciousNess' has two components: audacious, meaning 'bold', and ness, meaning 'a strip of land projecting into a body of water'. We believe having a solid grounding on which to practice your audacity is crucial, or, in the words of the great philosopher king Marcus Aurelius (Meditations, 4.49):

"Be like the promontory against which the waves continually break, but it stands firm and tames the fury of the water around it."

About your hosts

Maribel Ortega

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I help women find their worth and be confident so that they can use their voice, speak up, take new opportunities and ultimately lead fulfilled lives.

Helen Strong

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I run an eco-friendly, vegan B&B in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. This is just one of the many audacious goals I've pursued in my lifetime.