Sometimes you just need to hear women who’re managing big careers with small kids telling it like it is.
That includes outlining their flaws, acknowledging their mistakes, conceding they don’t feel as ‘maternal’ as their numerous children might suggest, and celebrating the many nits they’ve dealt with.
A couple of weeks back, I heard this direct from a number of high achieving women, while moderating a panel on the ‘Juggle is Real’ at Business Chicks’ 9 to Thrive. The panel included journalist Jessica Rowe, ELLE Editor in Chief Justine Cullen and Twitter Australia MD Suzy Nicoletti.
The Sydney session was on Friday and another was held Melbourne the following week, which included Business Chicks founder and CEO Emma Isaacs, and The Young Mummy’s, Sophie Cachia.
Below are some of my favourite moments and comments from these sessions.
Jessica Rowe told the crowd in both cities that she’s a “crap housewife” (she even has a website by the same name) and shared her very personal story of mental illness. Once in a job that was linked to her identify, she said she struggled to figure out who she was when she lost that role shortly after having her daughter (now 10). She was at a crossroads, and had to reinvent herself.
“We need to give ourselves permission to say we don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to be great at everything, because no one is,” she said. “I take anti-depressants daily. I feel open about that. That is what helps me manage my life. I’m an oversharer, and I think it’s important.”
Suzy Nicoletti openly questioned why she was on the panel in Sydney, given she’s still figuring out how to handle the ‘juggle’. She’s managing the Australian operations of Twitter with two kids under two, constantly wishing she had more hours in the day.
She said she believes it’s important that she and her partner make time for each other, and that’s it’s worth investing in finding that time if it means you can have a healthy and sustainable relationship long-term.
Emma Isaacs said she got through four kids without learning how to properly collapse a pram. “I’d just chuck it in the car whole,” she said. “I’m one of those mothers who’d go to Westfield, the baby would poop everywhere and I wouldn’t have any nappies or wipes.”
Emma recently (as in days ago) had her fifth baby. Now living in America, she says she has help at home, which is much more affordable than what’s available in Australia. At one point while living in Sydney, childcare was costing her family $2700 a week.
Sophie Cachia said she’s managing her juggle (with two kids including a newborn) because she and her husband made the decision that he would stay home with the kids. Sophia added that many people struggle to comprehend the dynamic of her marriage, and continue to ask what her husband does for work.
“I wasn’t that mum who loved it. I didn’t embrace the newborn period,” she said. “I took every opportunity I could, to get out of the house.”
In Melbourne, Justine Cullen urged more businesses to appreciate the potential and power of new mothers, saying many women come into their own professionally after having kids. “It sparks a creativity and a hunger in a lot of women that shouldn’t be denied,” she said. “It’s important that the realness [of the juggle] doesn’t put people off continuing in their careers and striving for what they want … We need women in the workforce. And families need women in the workforce.”
Asked what gets her through, she said it’s wine and girlfriends – and being open about needing help. “We need to keep going,” added Justine. “Hopefully by the time our daughters are parents, it won’t be as shit. It’ll be a little easier for them and society will have caught up.”
Emma added that she’s learnt a lot of lessons in business that she’s brought into parenting. “The first being that you need to have good people around you,” she says. “I meet women who say, ‘I tried a nanny and it didn’t work out so now I’m doing it all myself’. I say, ‘keep trying to find the right nanny!’”
Emma later said women should “run their own race” and quit comparing and despairing over other people. “Everyone’s got the press release on their lives. But I look at families with toddlers and think, everyone’s in the same world.
“They might be looking glamorous in their hats, but there are nits underneath.”