You read that right—two businesses on parental leave. We’re still wondering how that’s possible, given raising a child is hard enough let alone building and launching two businesses at the same time. But Lauren is a go-getter and once she sets her mind to something, there is no stopping her.
Lauren’s career started at Coles Myer followed by four years at Marks & Spencer, doing the London thing. Since returning to Australia, she worked for ANZ and is now with NAB, in a senior role in the Corporate Responsibility team. Lauren lives in Melbourne and has children Harrison, four, and Lucy, two.
We loved chatting to Lauren to find out how she did it and what life looks like for her now that she’s back at work after her second child.
During your first parental leave experience, you set up two businesses. How?
I’ve always loved a new challenge. I get bored easily and I’m a very self-motivated individual. I was lucky with my first born and used two hours of each day researching how to set up a small business. I’ve always had a dream to run my own business but never had the time and resources to do it.
What’s your advice to women considering starting a business on parental leave?
There are so many great resources and forums online to learn from. I highly recommend your state government website for all things small business related. I attended any free seminar or short course that I found. It is important to narrow in on your passion and what’s going to make you really happy. I set up two businesses, but in the end knew only one would work. Secondly, be curious and ask a shameless number of questions of others. Have fun playing around with business ideas, talk to friends, and read.
How did you feel when you returned to work?
The first time I was ready. I had the perfect child and was looking forward to returning to work for the social connection and stimulation. Second time around, I was less keen. I’d outgrown the job I was doing and wasn’t ready to get back into the routine of a full-time job. I also felt sad that I had no intention to have any more children so this was my last opportunity to enjoy maternity leave.
How do you deal with mama guilt?
Not well. My four-year-old has started to ask me every day who will be looking after him. I know he’s asking because I’m less present than my husband as I’m the full-timer in our house. I just try my best to be present for the kids whenever I am around and know that me working hard is helping to set us all up in future.
So you are full time and your husband is at home?
Sort of! My husband runs one of the businesses I set up whilst on leave. I call him the director and I’m the managing director! Luckily for us, his schedule is reliant on tour bookings and so during the off-season he has a lot of time at home and takes on the role of managing the house, kids and everything else. If he is busy, we rely on family or nannies to help us out ad-hoc. I work five days and am really happy with the way it works for our family.
How do you handle tough days in the office?
By trying to remain upbeat and positive. I’ve had a lot of hard stuff thrown at me in life so I’ve got a lot of perspective. My dad died of a hideous and heart-breaking illness, my mum has had breast cancer and my son nearly died when he was six months old. A tough day in the office can’t ever really be that bad. And if it is, a big glass of red wine helps!
What do you most love about being a working mum?
Pulling it off. And just the little things like getting a little bit dressed up each day and being in an office environment with colleagues who make it fun to come to work. And every day is different at work.
What are your top three tips for managing your career through parental leave?
1) Keep connected to your peers at work. They give you a much better insight to how the world has changed than your people leader.
2) Attend any team days or team-based events.
3) Spend some time advancing your career ambitions in other ways than being in the office. I threw myself into setting up the two businesses and it has helped to round me out professionally now I’m back in the office.
What are your tips for creating balance in your life?
I’ve gotten into podcasts lately and I’m going along to more and more ‘Women In Leadership’ conferences, and the resounding message is that work life balance is bullshit. I’m now focusing on work life integration. I work hard in my role and feel comfortable logging off early occasionally or rolling into the office at 9AM. Funnily, no-one asks any questions and I don’t feel guilty about it.
Lastly, at the end of a busy week, how do you positively reenergise?
It might sound lazy and unhealthy but red wine and Netflix and just tuning out from the world for at least one night!
- Favourite time of the day is … around 8.30PM. Kids in bed and me time.
- Instagram sites that inspire you … any sites that feature cake decorating.
- I’m happiest when … I’m with my family and everyone is in a good mood and no fights are to be had. Or when I’m in my zone creating baked goods.
- I’m addicted to … cake decorating! I love sharing my baked goodies with others and it has the same feel as Christmas joy for me.
- Favourite wardrobe staple for work … black, black and more black. And a pop of colour through a scarf or chunky necklace.
- Favourite wardrobe staple for weekend … tracksuit pants. Mum life isn’t as glam as Facebook or Instagram might have you believe.
- My role model is … my mum. She’s beaten breast cancer, she’s cared for and farewelled my terminally ill father and she’s continued to live an amazing life beyond these tragic events. She’s shown me that life doesn’t need to take control of you. You are in the driver’s seat. And to live every day as if it was your last. She’s also my rock in raising my little family and my kids adore “Darma”.
- Heels or flats? … flats! My feet grew through pregnancy and my tolerance for any form of bodily discomfort lessened through pregnancy at the same rate.
Lauren works in Corporate Responsibility and is mother to Harrison 4 and Lucy 2.