Is being an entrepreneur the modern working mums equivalent to selling Tupperware?

Growing up I had a stay at home mother, as did most of my friends. One friend from high school had a mother who worked at a bank four days a week. This was so far out of the norm for me that for years I assumed she was the Bank Manager as there could be no other explanation as to why she worked so much!

I admit that I had very few working women as role models when I was younger, but I have always been incredibly driven and ambitious. I guess that drive is part of my personality, because it wasn’t something that I witnessed and wanted to emulate as a child. Perhaps it was the lack of financial freedom and little money that my family had that has ensured that I want to avoid financial stress.

During the 80’s my own mother and her friends would often have side projects to give them ‘pocket money’ as they often referred to it. This was usually as part of a multi level marketing business such as Tupperware or Mary Kay. Some of these women were very successful with these businesses and continued with them long after the children had gone to school.

I started my business, The Tenant Company, when my daughter was a little over a year old, as working full time in my corporate job put a lot of pressure on my home life. The job was very demanding with little flexibility but I was paid well for it. I had the business plan done, the financial forecast and website up and running. I didn’t intend to earn the six figures that I previously had, but I anticipated that by working around my daughter I would still make a comfortable income. Fast forward two years and I will honestly say that the financial predictions I made have not eventuated. So what’s going on? I see entrepreneur’s spruiking themselves as having made a fortune almost overnight – how giving up the corporate world set them free (and let them tell you all about it – for a fee). Is it just me going through this?

Instead of beating myself up about this I approached a group of female entrepreneurs and asked the question “Who earns enough money from their business to support their family?” It might surprise you – perhaps it doesn’t – but most don’t. Most of these women are working to cover business overheads, pay staff or pay themselves ‘pocket money’.

So why do we do this to ourselves? With my own adventure into running a business, and sharing insights with other mothers doing similar I wonder

“Is Entrepreneurship the modern day equivalent of selling Tupperware?”

Why is it that women are busting their arses to run businesses that aren’t making any money? Some of the women I spoke with told me it gave them a level of freedom they wouldn’t otherwise have working for someone else. Others are laying the foundations of a good business whilst their children are young, with the intention of expanding on this when the children go to school. The very few who told me that their businesses are providing them with a substantial income are those that have been operating the business for a number of years and their children are now older.

It seems that some women are spending 4 -5 years running businesses making very little money instead of working part time for someone else because very few part time positions exist. These women are highly skilled and want to make a contribution to the work force, but their request for part time or flexible working hours aren’t being fulfilled.

I would love to know your thoughts on this topic. Do you think it is possible to pay yourself a market wage from a business whilst working flexible hours? Are we just working for ‘pocket money’. Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

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What in the world were they thinking?!

Whilst flicking through my Facebook feed this morning, this little gem popped up. It’s an advertisement for a real estate company in the US with a picture of a mother and her children with mess and chaos around her on one side. On the other side are two men in business suits casually smiling. The slogan reads “Part Time Agent VS Full Time Professionals”.

What idiot thought up this campaign?
What idiot thought up this campaign?

I can sometimes overreact (ok, perhaps often), and shouted a tirade at my computer whilst reading about this ad, which of course is not the creator of such foul, chauvinistic and narcissistic thinking – it is the idiots who drafted this flier and actually thought it was smart.

I considered drawing up my own meme, possibly with the Agents at a long lunch, at the strippers, a marquee at the races or cruising around in their car but realized it would only feed the demon. To pigeonhole anyone is not going to make the world a better place. The Agents, or Marketing Company or whoever the bright spark was that came up with that ad were trying to suggest that Time = Quality and this is very far from the truth.

Not surprisingly, the Agents of this advertisement have received considerable backlash on social media and have since shut down their Facebook page.

This advertisement isn’t just disrespectful to every working mum out there, but to anyone who works outside of the 9 – 5 norm. We need to free ourselves from this ridiculous ‘clock on-clock off mentality’ and a culture where turning up to the office means 80% of your work is done. A study conducted by John Pencavel at Stanford University last year found that increased hours led to decreased productivity, especially beyond a 50-hour work week. We should focus on productivity whilst at work, rather than how many hours get clocked up.

Let’s hope that we see fewer of these ridiculous stereotypes and more acceptance and implementation of flexible working conditions.

Venturing Out of the House With a Newborn

As I sit here at the cafe at David Jones amongst the designer women’s wear, I’m reminded of how much department stores can be a refuge for new mums. In the half hour I’ve been here working on my laptop enjoying my coffee and almond croissant (you must try one) I’ve seen at least four prams go past pushed by mums with a relaxed smile and a sleeping newborn.
I remember how hard it was, in those first few weeks after having a baby, to get out of the house. The preparation required to leave the house usually outweighed any requirement to go out.
Our first time taking Eva out was to a specialist appointment when she was a couple of weeks old. We allowed so much extra drive time in case we needed to pull over and change a nappy, and I expressed enough milk to feed her for three days! I was so nervous about breast feeding in public as I found it so difficult. When we finally found a park and made our way to the appointment we realised she needed an urgent nappy change and panic ensued. Where do we change her? Do we put her on the grass in the park?
My anxiety only increased when I asked at a cafe if they had anywhere to change a baby and they told me I could do it on the toilet floor!
We made it to the appointment and thankfully they had a baby change table. This seems trivial now but it was a sweat inducing drama at the time.
Shopping with Eva at eight weeks old
Shopping with Eva at eight weeks old

When Eva was eight weeks old I took her on a shopping trip to Highpoint, as I needed an outfit for an upcoming party and none of my pre-prenancy clothes were fitting me yet. This was my first adventure on my own with Eva and I was both nervous and excited. A few stops on the drive to find her dummy but we arrived safely and content. That is, until I discovered that I had not brought any bottles with me. I was no longer breastfeeding (that’s another story) and I would pre-fill sterilised bottles with boiled water and then add the baby formula as she needed it. On this particular day I had forgotten the bottles. I knew she would be needing a feed within half an hour, and the drive home was one hour so I had no chance of getting home in time. I went into the centre and to the first pharmacy I saw. In between tears I explained my dilemma to the sales assistant. She assured me that it was ok, took me to the baby section where the same brand of bottle was stocked and pointed me in the direction of the parents room where I could wash, sterilise and fill Eva’s bottle. Coincidentally, I walked past that same pharmacy only last week and had a little chuckle to myself as I remembered this event.

To the women pushing their prams through David Jones, well done! I know the effort it took you to get out of the house. I promise you, it gets easier.

10 reasons why travelling with kids is awesome

Anthony and I were avid travellers prior to having our daughter, although we expected this to slow down once we had kids. After the initial newborn baby ‘far out, what have our lives become’ stage, we settled into a routine, life became a little easier and we started toying with the idea of travelling with Eva. She was great on long drives in the car to visit her grandparent’s interstate; surely she would be the same on a plane? We tested this theory on a short trip to the Sunshine Coast. Like most four month olds on an Aeroplane, Eva slept for most of the flight and then screamed on the descent. This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that I was terribly embarrassed and worried what the other passengers were thinking but I wasn’t. All I cared about was that my daughter’s little ears were hurting and, thanks to my short stint as a flight attendant, I knew that her screaming was actually helping ease the pain. It only lasted a few minutes before the screaming stopped and we started what was to be a fantastic family holiday.

Always watching the planes. I wonder where she gets that from?
Always watching the planes. I wonder where she gets that from?

A few months later when Eva was eight months old we decided to take a trip to Singapore and I’m so glad we did, as it has been the start of some amazing international holidays for our little family. At not yet two years of age, Eva has travelled to Singapore, Dubai and visited California twice. When contemplating travelling with a baby or a toddler the thought of juggling bags, bottles and prams might seem overwhelming but the benefits you will get from experiencing new countries and adventures with your child will far outweigh these short-lived concerns. Here are ten reasons why travelling with kids is awesome:

  1. Cultural Experience Experiencing different cultures and races is something that you can’t teach from a book. This is the making of a real ‘worldly’ human being. Try to immerse yourself, and your children, in the culture of a new place as much as you can.
  2. Organisational Skills Understanding the process of getting ready for travel, including packing is something you should involve your children in. It’s also a good idea to explain the process of going on an Aeroplane and having to be at the airport on time!
  3. Improve food palate Eating a range of different foods and trying different flavours is always fun to experience with your child. Eating out everyday is also great for teaching your child how to behave in a restaurant.
  4. Learn Generosity There is no doubt that seeing the poverty and daily life struggles in some countries is eye opening for adults, and we should allow this to be a learning experience for our children. We all know that children learn from our actions, so a few gold coins to a homeless person or a generous tip to a driver can set our children up for how to share with others.
  5. Processes and Procedures Waiting for your suitcase at the airport isn’t fun for anyone, but it teaches your children about processes – we take our suitcase to the airport, it goes on the Aeroplane, and we get it at the other end. It may sound simple (and tedious), but it will only take a couple of times of doing this before your child understands the process and won’t whine so much next time you’re watching suitcases on the conveyor belt.
  6. It’s Fun People like to tell you that a two year old won’t remember visiting Disneyland (I’ve heard it so many times now!), and that might be true, but riding the teacups and meeting Mickey Mouse is so much fun anyway. Why wouldn’t you want to have fun with your child now? Why wait until they can remember it?
  7. Acclimatisation Few of us are fortunate enough to experience extreme temperatures in the city where we live (except if you live in Melbourne where we seem to get it all in one day!). How wonderful to be able to experience the wonders of the snow and tobogganing with your children one year and the heat of the Dubai desert another.
  8. Confidence When travelling we tend to speak to more people, more often than we do at home. This is the same for your child. In the hotel, in restaurants and at tourist attractions your child will meet so many people. Teach them to say hello back, say their name and where they’re from. You might be surprised how much excitement your child gets from the response of new friends.
  9. Hard work = Reward It’s a good lesson for children to know that when mummy and daddy go to work it is to earn money (among other things) and that with money we can treat ourselves to holidays. Buying experiences rather than material items is always a good lesson in value for money.
  10. Hunger to Learn Enjoying holidays and different cultures with your children will encourage their natural desire to learn.

The other day I was in Eva’s room folding her clothes and she came in, grabbed her little suitcase and wheeled it toward the door with a swift “bye mum”. I asked, “where are you going Eva?” “I go Singapore” was her response and off she toddled. I wonder how old she will be when she does say goodbye to me to travel on her own? I’ll continue to enjoy our family travels until then. Have you travelled, or do you plan to travel, with your children? Please tell me all about it – the good and the bad – in the comments below.

I Hope You Die

About five years ago I was negotiating a make good with a Landlord on behalf of my client who was the Tenant. The expected payout for the make good was around half a million dollars, however the Landlord was wanting more than $2 million. It’s easy to become blasé when dealing with numbers like this, and I won’t bore you with all the ins and outs of what was being negotiated. This would have been another negotiation like any other, except it has stuck in my mind years later because, during a heated telephone conversation with the Landlord he said to me “I hope you die”. The Landlord wasn’t a struggling pensioner or inexperienced – he was a professional property investor. He knew how negotiations worked and would have done this numerous times but I was astounded at his emotional and unprofessional response. He never allowed me the opportunity to tell him that his wish would probably come true one day, as he hung up the phone after screaming those four words at me. I hope for his benefit he was using a desk phone so he had the added bonus of getting to slam the phone down, which is lost on the next generation using iPhones.

Am I the only one who allows these types of comments to get to me, even years later?

Last week I posted my article 5 Myths About Working Mums to LinkedIn where, to my incredible surprise, it went viral. At last count it had 57,000 views, over 1,000 likes and almost 200 comments and has been shared over 250 times (yes, my twitter feed has gone crazy!) I have read every one of those comments, some applauding the article and a small few completely trashing it. I know that I should be very pleased with this kind of feedback on something I wrote, especially as I am not a professional writer, but I can’t help but go back to those few comments that described my article as “wishy-washy” or “feminist propaganda”. What irks me most are the comments that suggest I have no regard for working fathers, which is so far from the truth and quite hurtful as I have an amazing parenting partner in Anthony and my father was an incredible single Dad. But I’m not going to explain myself here, as that only diminishes the numerous wonderful comments that I have received.

I’m not the type of person who usually cares a lot about what people think of me; I accept that not everyone is going to like me. When you own a business and you put yourself out there, you need to be prepared for criticism.

“To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing” – Elbert Hubbard

From now on I will take Taylor Swift’s advice and “Shake it off”. This is how:

  • Accept that people are projecting their own issues onto me and it’s not personal. Would they say the same things they write if they were to meet me in a social setting such as a BBQ?
  • Select some of the best comments from the article and put them on my office wall to remind me that my article had a positive affect on people.
  • Turn up “shake it off” and dance around the living room with my wonderful family.
Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 11.12.53 am
This now hangs on my office wall

How do you deal with the naysayers, the haters, and the negative people? Please share your tips in the comments below.

Mummy go gym…or work?

Our daughter is learning to talk, and we’ve been making an effort to tell her where we go when we leave the house. The other night I was telling her that Daddy was at work – “Daddy go work fly airplane” was her response and I was very proud of her for being able to put a sentence together and she obviously understood what ‘work’ meant. “That’s right Eva, Daddy is at work flying an aeroplane. What does mummy do at work?”

“Mummy go gym do excise” That was her very cute response, and my body would be grateful if it were true, but it made me question why my daughter seems to think that I’m going to the gym when I tell her I’m going to work.

The next morning as I was getting dressed ready for a day at the desk Eva asked “I go gym Mum?” I explained that I wasn’t going to the gym, looked down at my outfit and realized what was going on. As I work a couple of days a week from the home office, my attire has become very relaxed, to the point of looking like I’m heading to the gym. I am making a conscious effort to improve this, but my leggings are just so comfortable.

After years in the corporate world of suits and shirts, I like being able to express my personality with the clothes I wear. Being relaxed and down to earth also matches the brand of my business. You don’t have to be in a matching pant suit to look professional.  Here are some of my picks for gorgeous, affordable work wear that’s currently available (and not a legging in sight):

H&MDress
Let’s be honest, it’s going to be a while before we can wear short sleeves in Melbourne. I love long sleeve dresses with tights and boots at the moment.  This is from H&M
Seed top and skirt
Having separates in your work wardrobe is essential, and this top and skirt from Seed Heritage are fantastic. You can wear it together or mix it up with other items from your wardrobe
This skirt is great for Winter or Summer and the asymmetrical lines means it works well with boots or sandals. This is from David Lawrence.
This skirt is great for Winter or Summer and the asymmetrical lines means it works well with boots or sandals. This is from David Lawrence.
This Kardashian Kollection camel shawl collar coat can be worn for work or casually. Having the tie up front means you can tie it as tight or as loose as you want and change up the style. Available from The Iconic.
This Kardashian Kollection camel shawl collar coat can be worn for work or casually. Having the tie up front means you can tie it as tight or as loose as you want and change up the style. Available from The Iconic.

What are your ‘go-to’ work pieces this season? How do you deal with the cold weather whilst trying to stay stylish?

Let me know in the comments below.

*I have not been paid to endorse these products, I genuinely like them. If anyone wants to give me free products though, I’m happy to take them 😉

5 Myths About Working Mums

Last week one of my good friends resigned from her corporate job. She had been there for a number of years and is now going to pursue a career in natural medicine.  We caught up for coffee and were talking about other people’s perception of you when you resign and you are also a mum. We were laughing at how the response from colleagues is often “it will be nice for you to rest at home with your kids”. Clearly they have no idea, as no mother who is at home all day with her children is ‘resting’! My friend certainly won’t be resting, as she will be studying full time, raising children and setting up a business. How exciting!

I had a very similar experience when I left the corporate world to set up The Tenant Company. Most people assumed that I was leaving to be a full time mum to our then one-year-old daughter. I almost viewed it as a game to see the reaction on people’s faces when I informed them that I was actually setting up my own business.Mother embracing her little girl before leaving to work

Quite a number of people that I have come across in my career seem to think that most working mums are only there because they have to be, not because they want to be and this is not always the case.

Here are five other misconceptions about working mums:

  1. They always take sick days. There seems to be a kind of loathing towards parents who have to take a sick day to look after their child, and I cannot understand why that is. I have worked with colleagues who have taken days off work because their dog had to go to the vet, they needed to wait at home for a delivery or even because they had a hangover, and no one batted an eyelid but the moment a mother takes a day off work to take care of her sick child people are up in arms. Women don’t choose for their children to get sick forcing them to take time off work, society just seems to notice a lot more when they do.
  2. They come in late and leave early. As any mum will tell you, you learn a new level of efficiency the moment you have a child. Whilst a working mum may not always be in the office for as many hours as her childfree counterparts, she will be astoundingly efficient in the hours that she is there. No more long lunches or gossip sessions by the water cooler, she wants to get as much done as she can so she can head home to her family.
  3. They only want to work part time. For some parents, working part time can make a big difference, especially if you have a partner who travels or you need to pay for childcare however not all mums want to work part time. I work full time (actually as a business owner, it’s more like 24/7) but I allow myself the flexibility to work around our daughter, which means I am often working weekends and at night. Perhaps we should be looking at ways to allow women to work full time hours with flexibility rather than a nine to five mentality.
  4. They don’t care about the work anymore. This is insulting to working mums everywhere. To suggest that we don’t care about our work simply because we have a child at home is unfair. Yes, our child is a higher priority but it doesn’t mean that work has dropped right down to the bottom of the list; something has just slipped in above it.
  5. They will just have another baby and leave. I once had a boss tell me that he was disappointed that a colleague of mine was pregnant with her second child as “she promised me she would wait three years”. Within a few months of that discussion, two other colleagues left to go to other employers but nothing was said of their departure going against any promises. There is never any guarantee that anyone will stay at any job, irrespective of him or her being a parent.

What other misconceptions do you think people have about working mums? What have you experienced in your workplace? Most importantly, what do you think we can do to change these perceptions? Let me know in the comments below.