Partner Content, Provided with the support of Juggle & Thrive
How do you thrive when you’re juggling work, kids and everything else life throws your way? This series supported by Guardian Early Learning Group takes a look at the daily lives of women tackling it all.
At PRATTEN’s headquarters in Sydney, kids are as much a part of the office as the furniture.
All four kids, ranging in age from one to six, are very well catered for. Playpens, cots, toys, arts and crafts, and everything a child could want or need to stay entertained is scattered amongst the workspace.
For PRATTEN’s co-founders, sisters Justine and Monique Pratten, it’s simply how it’s done when you’re juggling two kids (each) and a business. Some weeks it’s about survival, but mostly the set up enables the business and the families it supports to thrive.
Designing and manufacturing collections of colourful bags, totes, wallets, purses and clutches that are sold online as well as in boutiques across the country, the pair started the business well before having children as a means to create a strong iconic brand together. Kick-started with a $10,000 loan from their parents, and after initially opening a small store in Paddington, the sisters then took PRATTEN online in 2011.
They now own a warehouse and office in Sydney where their products are designed, marketed, picked and packed. The collections are manufactured in China.
The business has grown along with the co-founders’ families – but both sisters agree that working was easier prior to having kids.
“Kids take a chunk out of your business and work, that’s just the way it is. One kid is easy. Two is OK. Three is pushing it,” says Justine. “Four is really, really hard. Between us, we’ve been adding a kid to PRATTEN every year. It can be exhausting.”
They say the key is being flexible with your expectations, and keeping your to-do list adaptable to the needs of you kids. It also helps having as many toys and distractions available as possible.
“I’m often working around Rosa’s schedule, rather than her working around mine,” Monique says referring to her youngest child, who has just turned one. “Things that need full concentration, I do during her sleep, and thankfully she’s a great sleeper. When you know that distraction-free time is limited, you use it wisely.”
Monique’s youngest child is currently the only “full-timer” in the business, but the older three have all had a full-time stint at some point, particularly as newborns.
On Thursdays and Fridays, three kids are in the office – four during the school holidays. Justine and Monique merely plan their work accordingly, preferring to focus on projects like product shoots during the latter part of the week, rather than deep design work.
“They are loud days. And really, they can be great days, fun days, or really distressing days, depending on how it goes. Basically, we experience every emotion possible during those days! You can never pick how it’s going to go, but it’s mostly good.”
To help, they’ll also often start the morning at Maroubra Beach which is close to the office. Here, the kids can run, play, and burn off as much energy as possible.
From Monday to Wednesday, the two middle children are in childcare – a balance both Justine and Monique decided would best work for them to run the business while still spending time with their families.
“We’re trying to do both, motherhood and business. At times, we’re probably not getting both done particularly well. But we want to run this business, and we want to be mothers too. So we do whatever’s required to make it work.”
Both Justine and Monique also agree that the way they define success has changed since having a family.
“For me, it’s really about trying to find a nice balance between work and family, in being happy in your home life,” says Monique. “My priorities have changed. It’s not about champagnes and big nights. What I want to be doing with my time is now so different to what it was ten years ago.”
As for sharing an office and business with your sister? “We both made a pact that we had to stop running and dobbing to mum when we didn’t like what the other one was doing. We decided to always keep it between us,” says Monique. “Work is work. The end goals are always the same. While we both may have different ways of achieving that which can cause friction, we know we need to end up in the same place. Also we understand each other completely, we have each other’s’ backs and know we can trust each other 100%.”
Inspiration is important in an accessories business – but while much of that inspiration used to come from extensive travel prior to having kids, the pair concede their “wings are clipped” a little at the moment and they rely on other sources. Going for early morning walks alone can help, as well as any pockets of quiet time you can access – even if that’s being awake for hours during the night with a newborn.
Although she wouldn’t refer to her erratic sleep schedule as ‘handy’ per se, Monique admits that “it can sometimes help the business.” “l will often come in and say, ‘Jus I’ve just come up with this idea, given I was up for four hours with the baby’”.
PRATTEN’s office may at times look chaotic, but it’s also decidedly modern in that it provides a space to facilitate both office and family life.
Both sisters agree they’re thriving – despite the sleepless nights and complex care arrangements. They say they’ve learnt to not be too hard on themselves regarding what they get done, and to simply enjoy the moments they’re having with their young families.
“We laugh and say ‘We need to take the kids for a run at the beach this morning!’, but we also know we’re seriously lucky to be able to that.”
And they’ve learnt that working mothers are rarely “doing it all” even if it looks like they are – they have help and often a wide range of caring arrangements in place that they juggle and sometimes struggle with, depending on the week.
“And if they don’t, then they’re amazing and have a secret that they need to tell us about,” says Justine.
Guardian Early Learning Group operates 96 high quality early learning centres across Australia. Guardian’s Reggio Emilia-inspired Curriculum places importance on the unique interests and developmental stages of each child and focusses on literacy, numeracy, creative and social skills to create lifelong learners. With custom-designed environments, nature inspired resources and passionate educators, we invite you to discover your closest Guardian centre today.
Read other stories in the ‘Juggle Thrive’ series: