A single mama of two, Chelsie re-launched her career five years ago, and—despite huge changes in her personal and professional life—now feels happier than ever. We sat down with Chelsie to talk about going it alone and her tips for success.
Tell us briefly about your career journey.
My background is mostly in travel where I had some incredible roles. I met my children’s father in 2002 and, after a whirlwind romance, moved to the Gold Coast and was pregnant with my first child. When my son was born in 2003, I decided to study and obtain my Certificate 5 in real estate and transition from the travel industry. I had two small children and my relationship was under stress, so it was a very difficult stage in life for me. 2009 should have been exciting as I was finally preparing to launch my career in real estate, but the GFC hit and then my relationship ended, so I never got the chance to start.
I returned to Melbourne worn out, no money, self-esteem at an all-time low. I was only 32 and now had two kids to support on my own. Their dad married very quickly after we separated and had two more children. He was never good with money and now had a whole new family to support, so it was really up to me from there on in.
In 2012, I was given the opportunity to start in property management, and I had a rocky start—actually awful. But five years on, I have established myself in my favourite area of Melbourne, Albert Park, and have incredible clients, work colleagues and friends. And the financial stability gets better every year.
What are the best and worst things about being a single mum?
I didn’t plan to be a single mum, but it happened. You enter survival mode and you do what you have to do to get by. You start by doing what’s necessary just to get through the day; making sure the kids are okay, how they get to school and ensuring they are fed. Then step-by-step, you grow on your own and take every opportunity that comes your way. I have an incredible tribe of mums around my neighbourhood, through my kids’ sporting activities and local school that just “pick up” where I fail and remind me where my kids have to be, and even get them there. My kids actually have become a part of these families and it has enriched their lives. Slater says he is a “brother from another mother” and Madi is Kathryn’s second daughter. Such support is necessary as a single parent.
Your returned to work five years ago when your daughter started school. How did you find this after having time at home?
In the first two years, going back to work took organisation, determination and perseverance. At some points I was so stressed I would break out into a rash all over my body or almost pass out with anxiety. I really had to prove to myself and my employer that I was capable of the juggle. I really wanted to quit in the first 12 months as it was incredibly hard and I really didn’t think I was any good at my job or that I was being a good mum. It was my family that pushed me through to keep going.
Did you find it hard to re-enter the workforce?
Yes, and I had to go back to further study and prove myself again and be prepared to learn and get up to speed with technology. It’s different from play dates and discussing children, so you have to get back in the groove. It’s hard but so worthwhile, and five years on I would be so depressed staying at home and not having my independence or such diverse interactions on a daily basis with people from all walks of life.
What tips do you have for other single mamas?
- Don’t try and be perfect.
- Step-by-step, baby steps and grow.
- Have good people around you, other mums that will step in and help.
- Don’t focus on what went wrong—just how you are going to make the future better for your children and yourself.
It’s a great feeling when it all comes together and it’s very satisfying when your kids appreciate how hard you work for them and become little interesting people.
Do you work flexibly?
My work is fantastic but that’s because I work hard. Sure, sometimes I have to dash off and get my son to basketball training or be there for a performance, pick my daughter up from netball, but I give it all back. In the earlier days Madi would sometimes tag along to open for inspections. Most people were great about it and they could see I was a working mum trying to juggle everything.
How important is your career now?
My career is going from strength to strength and I now really enjoy my work. My kids are also very proud of me, I am needed and wanted.
What do you still dream of doing?
Being a writer. And I was able to buy a country property two years ago and have plans to build.
Do you feel like a zombie a lot of the time?
My kids say I talk to myself a lot. I am constantly running situations through my head and sometimes my head feels like it will explode. I am normally in bed by 9PM week nights, exhausted from running around from 7AM to 7PM.
How do you stop the mama guilt?
If I don’t work and build a career, I cannot give my children what they deserve. They understand and are accepting of this. My kids are doing well, happy in school, are sporting stars and are surprisingly resilient, which I think should help them in the long run.
My top three tips for managing your career through parental leave are:
Perseverance, flexibility, adaptability.
What has being a working mum taught you?
It’s incredible what you can achieve and do if you have to, and how easily the children adapt and how much fun a really busy life can be. It’s all about passion and a real love for my children—they’re the reason I get up every day and do what I do.
Lastly, at the end of a busy week, how do you positively reenergise?
Every second weekend is my saviour as the kids go to their dad’s place. Sometimes I’m happy to do nothing but I love a long walk along the bay and reading the paper in my favourite café. I am dating again so that is fun! My children’s father is getting divorced again and is in a real pickle as he now has two ex-wives and four children. What a nightmare.
I must say I feel my life is starting to come together and I have never been happier. I believe this is because I have been true to myself, and my kids encourage me every day to be a better version of myself.
Favourite time of the day is … one hour in the morning at 6AM as the house is quiet and I potter around.
Instagram sites that inspire you … I am a Facebook girl.
I’m happiest when … my children and I are laughing with each other.
I’m addicted to … red wine and French champagne.
Favourite wardrobe staple for work … black pants and a good pair of comfy high heels.
Favourite wardrobe staple for weekend … blue jeans and sneakers.
My role model is … actress Goldie Hawn actress.
Heels or flats? … I carry both with me at all times during the working week—heels with clients and flats when I am hard at work in a property.