They say parenting doesn’t get easier, it just gets hard in different ways. Probably true emotionally, but logistically, once you pass the relentless needs of the preschooler stage, you might just find yourself with extra time (and a clearer headspace!) to pursue personal or career goals.
Enter Nicole Meredith. Since kissing all three daughters goodbye at the school gates, Nicole’s ambition has been reignited and her time freed up to launch her own business. It’s not always easy—some days the juggle with parenting is so real tears flow—but Nicole is living life to the full and reaping the rewards.
Can you tell us about your career journey?
I have worked in the advertising and marketing industry for as long as I can remember. My first job was as a receptionist in an advertising agency and I was instantly hooked. I had a fantastic, fast-paced career throughout my 20s, and worked my way up quickly in some of the top agencies in Brisbane and Sydney. I loved everything about agency life—the people, the creativity, the opportunities, the social life. When I fell pregnant with my first child I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain the pace and made the switch to a client-side marketing role. Since having my three children, I’ve been fortunate to find part-time consultancy roles or project work that mostly worked around them.
At the end of last year, I launched my own business teaching women how to grow their small business or side hustle through affordable and easy to implement marketing ideas. Three days after I launched, I received my first enquiry that turned into my first client session. I couldn’t believe it! Although I know what I’m doing inside out, there was still that horrible doubting feeling that it wouldn’t work. I’m still working in my corporate marketing role part-time while I build the business, so it’s a hard balance but I want to make it work.
After the birth of your first child you were yearning to be near your family, so you relocated. Can you tell us about this time in your life?
Six weeks after having my first baby I knew I had to return to Queensland to be near my family and close friends. We went from living in Paddington, Sydney (where my husband and I both had action-packed work and social lives) to the Gold Coast, both without work. Postnatal depression kicked in soon after—we were burning through our savings and we moved in to my husbands’ parents’ house. On top of feeling like I wasn’t doing a very good job of being a mum I felt so lost after having a fulfilling career, but I also knew I couldn’t be away from my baby.
My husband got a job in Brisbane where he commuted daily. When our baby was around 12 months old we agreed that we would move back to Brisbane so he could see her more and I could find some part-time work.
You suffered from postnatal depression after the birth of your first. Can you tell us what this time was like in your life? How did you get through this challenging time?
I really struggled being a first time mum, although I was so in love with my daughter. It was such a massive change to my previous life. I felt quite anxious when my husband would leave for work, unsure how I would cope. Although it was so busy, I felt like I didn’t achieve much and certainly wasn’t enjoying it for what it was.
I visited a health clinic each week to weigh my daughter and get help with breastfeeding, and the lovely nurses flagged something wasn’t right with me. I remember thinking I didn’t have much to look forward to and woke up every day with a nervous feeling in my stomach.
My husband was very supportive and went beyond his dad duties to help out and give me a break whenever he could. I was also lucky enough to have my best friend live a few streets away, and we walked and talked through those first six months until I started to see the light.
What are your words of encouragement to anyone currently going through postnatal depression?
Get help and talk to a professional—those baby health clinics are fantastic and a great place to start. It’s also where I joined my mothers’ group and found women who were at a similar stage with their babies. You need to talk to mums who are experiencing the same thing and can understand what you’re going through.
Lastly, exercise. Find something you and your baby can do like baby exercise groups in parks or mummy and me yoga—I walked and pushed that pram absolutely everywhere—it makes the world of difference.
All these years later and you now have three beautiful children aged 7, 9 and 11. How has parenting changed you and your career aspirations?
I absolutely still have that drive and motivation to succeed, but it definitely dimmed when the girls were really little. I had such a strong desire to spend time with them, and I didn’t want to miss out on too much. I was, however, realistic that I needed to work to keep my skills relevant and to have some extra income.
As the girls got older and more independent, I enjoyed getting out of my mum clothes, going to work and having adult interaction. I think it’s important for our girls to see women being successful, and that if you work hard you can have a fulfilling family life and a career.
My youngest daughter started school two years ago and, while it’s a different ‘busy’ with all three girls at school, it gave me the headspace to think about what I really enjoyed doing. I began helping friends with ideas to grow their businesses and found it gave me that same creative outlet and feeling I had when I was in agencies. It took me a while to get my business off the ground, partly because I have three children, a husband who works interstate and a part-time job, and partly because I was scared to put myself out there. I feel proud that I’ve done it, and really excited to see where I’ll be in a few years’ time.
Do you ever miss your pre-mum-life career?
I used to miss parts when the girls were little—you take for granted the freedom, and being able to do or go anywhere you want personally and for work. However, although it can be very challenging at times, I feel so fortunate to be a mum to our three girls and my perspective on what’s important has certainly changed for the better.
Congratulations on starting your business. How did you get it to launch phase whilst juggling motherhood?
I’m lucky that my husband has helped me both physically with all the ‘work’ that comes with three children, but also mentally with being confident and proud of what I’m doing. I did so much research and lots of thinking about what I wanted it to look like, my offering and who I wanted to work with. There have been lots of early mornings and weekends working, but I’ve felt so motivated that I haven’t minded doing it. There were certainly some stressful moments leading up to the launch, but that anxiety has subsided and I’m enjoying it now.
What does your ‘work’ week look like now that you are running your own business from home?
I’m still working part-time in a marketing role, but on the days that I’m working from home, I try and get my exercise and work done while the girls are at school.
There’s lots of calendar planning between my husband and I. We have a babysitter who helps out with pickups, and friends who we share activity drop offs and pickups with—it all helps! I make bulk meals to freeze, use a meal delivery service when my husband’s away, and at least once a week we have toasties or eggs for dinner.
I try to keep a couple of afternoons a week free from activities so we can do homework, jump on the trampoline or walk the dog and just chill out from the busy lives we lead.
Some days I feel like I’ve got it all together and everyone is happy, and others I want to lock myself in the bathroom and cry!
We try to get most of the house jobs done during the week so we can spend time with family and friends on the weekends.
What are your tips for others in the midst of trying to launch their own businesses whilst juggling motherhood?
Know when you are most productive and use that time wisely. I’m a morning person so most nights I make lunches and do any school organisation, then I can exercise and work in the mornings. Although in launch stage I had to work a bit at night, going forward I will try my best not to work or look at my phone after 8PM as it messes with my sleep. I’d rather go to bed early and get up before everyone is awake.
If you have small children and no help, do the chores with them where possible and work when they sleep. It’s always a juggle and some weeks are better than others, but having a routine certainly helps me.
I also make sure I write everything down. I probably have too many lists and calendars but it makes me feel more under control and I love to cross my tasks off!
What is one dream of yours that you have yet to accomplish?
It would have to be to see my business succeed. Success is different for everyone. For me it’s having flexibility and enjoying what I do.
Favourite time of the day is…first thing in the morning.
I’m happiest when…I feel organised, everyone in my family is happy, or when I’m near water.
I’m addicted to…shopping and chocolate éclairs (sometimes together!).
Favourite wardrobe staple for work…I love anything feminine and comfortable.
Favourite wardrobe staple for weekend…flowy skirts and dresses.
My role model is…professionally, I feel inspired by strong women like Mia Freedman and Emma Isaacs, raising families, having successful businesses, but keeping it real.
Heels or flats? I want to say high heels but it has to be flats these days.