Working mothers: Why I started my business


What inspired me to start my own business?

For me this question has one, easy answer: Lifestyle.

At one point in time, it seemed I did nothing other than work or think about work. Nine to five was really 7.00am – 6.30pm if you factor in Melbourne’s public transport. But the nature of marketing is that you are continually in campaign mode. Most of the time, it’s multiple campaigns at once, so I never really got a break.

I will never forget when I had my first tough day at a corporate job. The human resource manager warned me about two things: “Never bring crying or something you baked from home…it will make you look fragile.” I’m not particularly prone to doing either of those two things much, but it left a stigma.

With that idea of “weakness” in mind, I made sure that I rarely talked to or even had time to think about my children from the moment I walked out the door each morning. It was as if they didn’t exist.

This was always a strange existence for me since, as any parent feels, my role as their mother was 24/7 whether I acknowledged it or not. I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to be there for my children because I was afraid of looking “weak.” Switching to part time didn’t work for me either. Employers just wanted the same amount done in less time and for less pay.

My vision was to contribute positively to the business world I adore so much, but to have no regrets concerning the other aspects of my life. The day I started my own business was a turning point; suddenly I was actually “present” in my life. I worked from home.

I worked as hard as ever, but in this simple transition, I let real life creep back in. Many, if not all, of the service providers we use are women in my same situation. I’m biased, but I personally think I get a better calibre of work from people who do not feel that work takes away other important aspects of their lives.

My first-born is now in her second year of high school. In many ways, she needs me more now than when she was young — just differently. Back then, it was easy to spot the needs of my 3-year-old; she was very vocal about it. In comparison, as a teenager my daughter can conceal anguish brilliantly, and I would never be the wiser without taking time to observe her. Teens need understanding, patience, and a friend who shows up in their lives — firsthand.  And I need to be that person.

I’m by no means a perfect mother. The thought of hanging out in a playground bores me to tears. I may still wag parent teacher interviews occasionally, but it’s now by choice. I still try and get out of school concerts, too — blah!

I recently read a terrific article that really sums up how I feel about the notion of women trying to have it all.  Over the years, I have certainly busted myself into the ground trying to do just that, but ultimately, I agree with Anne-Marie Slaughter. She doesn’t suggest we can’t have it all, only that something has to give. For anyone struggling to find the work-life balance, this is a long, but worthwhile read.

  • What a great article, Natalie. Your comments sum up how many of us are feeling. Last year, I tried to ‘have and do it all’, but I found I was just more exhausted and with moodily teenagers! This year I approached my boss to ask to work from home half time, and it has been such a pressure reliever. It’s definitely good to put family first again.

    • Thx Juliet – Family is so key and I believe long term – it is what truly matters!

  • Starting your own business is one of the most frightening things I have done. I hadn’t really thought about it until I read your article and I agree thta it has given me more freedom to ‘be myself’ and I think this relates, potentially, to all people and not just parents.

    We need to allow people in our community to work when they want … whether they are single, married, or whatever the situation. If it makes them happier then they will be more productive when they are there.

    As a small business owner, I know it is hard to accommodate this in all roles – so there has to be some flexibility – but if there is a way to do it – we should all help find it. Articles like this help to get the conversations started – thanks Natalie!

    • Flexibility is the keyword here. The technology is there to allow for it – but old mindsets still remain.