I spoke at Swinburne University’s Women in Business yesterday about combining work and parenting, along with Renee Mayne, Amanda Cox and Alli Price. This is what I said in my presentation.
When I started working in my dream job as a cadet journalist, I assumed I would work my way around a few newsrooms and eventually become an editor. I never thought I would be running my own business where writing made up one part of my daily duties, among tax, recruitment, administration and marketing obligations.
In 2004-5 I was working in a marketing role at the British Franchise Association, where I met some incredible women who had started businesses and franchised their operations, or became franchisees so they could be their own boss. Many were mothers and managed both jobs with efficiency and class. During the 18 months I worked in this role, I started thinking about whether I was cut out to be my own boss and what sort of business would I run if I were.
Less than a year after leaving the UK to come back to Australia, I was freelancing for a magazine and about to be a mum. Initially I worked while my first son slept, but when my workload increased my parents stepped in and looked after him one day a week each. By the time our son turned one, he was also spending one day at childcare so I had three days a week to run the business. He loved the social interaction – and I loved the freedom to work uninterrupted.
By the time my eldest son turned two I was working almost four full days a week around him and the housework. When I had our second son, I realised my office in the third bedroom would have to go and set about creating my own office space by converting our garage. Not scared to be upfront about being a mum in business anymore, I took my baby with me everywhere, including to client meetings and networking events – and was pleasantly surprised by the reactions I received. My youngest son quickly became a hit with existing and new clients, and I started referring to him as my ‘business partner’. He thrived on the attention, and I thrived on being able to be both a mum and a business owner.
When our baby was seven months old, things changed again and my husband and I swapped roles. I worked full time, while he became the primary carer for our two boys. This arrangement was in place from 2009 until our youngest son started school this year.
I relied heavily on social media and networking to help me make contacts and build my business. It can be isolating working on your own so both of these tools are very important to ensure you’re connecting with people, but also letting potential customers know about your business.
Where does the book factor into all this? Early on as a business owner I started writing about my own experiences as a working mum, weaving my stories into conversational articles about time management, social media marketing and me time. These were well received and several people suggested I take the content and turn it into a book.
Initially I dismissed the idea, but the seed had been planted and I started thinking about what it would be like to write a book about starting and running a business while also bringing up children. I thought about who I’d like to interview and the names Janine Allis from Boost Juice, Carolyn Creswell from Carman’s Fine Foods and Naomi Simson from RedBalloon popped into my head. These women all inspired me by what they had achieved as business mums.
It took just over four years to bring Business & Baby on Board to fruition because I wrote it around a head injury, moving interstate, running a business and my family. I interviewed 21 inspirational women including the three ladies sharing the stage with me today.
Although each woman I interviewed had a different story about combining work and parenting, there were some common threads, such as:
- Enjoying being away from office politics
- They worked around their children’s sleep or during day care or school hours and then sometimes at night
- They had back up plans with family and friends when care options failed
- We all love the flexibility to work outside the standard 9-5
- Some days just don’t go to plan
- It’s important to establish working parent and non-parent networks
- Always factor in me time.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Business & Baby on Board I have copies with me for sale today.