A beating heart laid upon your chest can alter your entire outlook.
Before parenthood, I was heading on a certain trajectory with purpose, clarity and confidence. I had been working towards goals, accomplishing career milestones and felt a great sense of pride and satisfaction within. Then I welcomed my baby boy Jude into the world and all those intentions that I had sewn through years of study, commitment and serious hustle, seemed rather aloof and insignificant compared to the beating heart I held close to my chest. I was unsure of where I was heading next – which is so not me – but all of a sudden, it was so deeply and incomprehensively me. I didn’t realise it at the time, but motherhood had handed me a golden ticket: a remarkable opportunity to completely reimagine, redefine and reshape my purpose in a way I had never considered before. It just took me a while to see the writing on the wall.
That wall was met with sleepless nights, dawning deadlines, class plans, team management and a flurry of unanswered emails and phone calls. In between feeding, burping and loving my little being, I was a small business owner and a community of yoga students and teachers relied on me – my decisions, my time, my wellbeing – to find their way to the mat. I found my groove and accepted the juggle and reality of being a full-time mum and yoga studio owner. Some days were a breeze as I multitasked like a queen. Other days, I smiled outwardly, but was internally suffocating with anxiety and guilt as I tried to be the present and attentive mother and wife I wanted to be while meeting the unremitting needs of a small business. I was in the thick of an identity crisis and once I openly admitted to how lost and overwhelmed I was feeling, it was abundantly obvious that I was not alone; that mothers everywhere were reconsidering, adjusting, shifting and evolving into new, different, and dare I say, better versions of themselves.
Renee Mantle lives in Newcastle with her husband and three children, Lola, seven, Arlo, four, and Tully, two. Renee describes becoming a mother as a total dream come true. “It was like a little light had been switched on in my soul. Lola was my everything and I was hers. We were a total dream team and I leaned so far into my motherhood bubble that I didn’t think I ever wanted to come back out of it.” But of course, like so many other mothers, Renee had to, to feel a different kind of happy and fulfilled, and because her family needed a second income.
“When Lola was around 18 months old, I went back to my agency role on a part-time basis and watched my rosy view of returning to work after a baby crumble before my eyes. The next five or so years brought with them some of the biggest challenges and moments of growth in my life. Navigating marriage, pregnancy, children, work, career crises, and life with a husband that works away is no joke!”
When Tully made his way into the world, life started to fall spectacularly apart, as Renee put it. “I started to retrofit my old self around motherhood… My old job. My old expectations. My old priorities. My old sense of purpose that was so connected to my career. I realised then that I had been doing it all wrong; that I could use my experience to reimagine my life and create the fresh start and slower, more mindful existence I was desperate for. I realised that I needed to rethink my approach to work and redefine what would fulfil me during this intense and beautiful season of parenthood.”
With that, Renee left a toxic workplace, found a more aligned and flexible part-time job, set in place some much-needed boundaries and self-care practices, and rediscovered who she was and what she wanted. Renee quickly realised that one sole occupation wasn’t going to provide everything she needed personally and for her family, and so with her friend Candice, they launched their online nook, purposehood, in 2018; a safe space for women to share their stories and experiences of motherhood and their ever-evolving purpose. “It’s a place to find connection, support and inspiration. When you’re feeling a little down and out or confused, the knowledge that you’re not alone can be so powerful,” said Renee. Since becoming a mother, Renee has learned that your purpose isn’t fixed. “It evolves with you as you move through the different seasons of life.”
Former flight attendant Brigita Millard fashioned a creative career when she was pregnant with her first daughter, River, who is now four. After 10 years of travelling the world, she had fallen out of love with the up-in-the-air nature of her career and was yearning to express herself in a different and more meaningful way. Step by step, and with the support of her fiancé Nathan, her in-laws and her employer’s generous maternity leave policy, Brigita began to build her first business, children’s clothing label Indah Designs. “It was really important to me that I put the wheels in motion for a more creative career while I was still flying. It was initially intended to be my fallback if things didn’t work out,” shared Brigita.
Skip ahead four years and Brigita has another little girl, Lakey, two, and a brand-new baby boy, Rocky. Since launching her first business, she now also co-owns the homewares and lifestyle boutique, House of Lita, with her friend and business partner Lauren Powell and is the co-designer of their in-house womenswear linen clothing brand, LITA. “Becoming a mother has honestly been the best thing for me. I work so much harder and strive to become the most successful version of myself for my kids. I have little eyes watching everything I do, and I want them to be proud of the mum I am. If I’m going to spend time away from my kids for work reasons, I want it to be because I’m building something that will better our lives in the future.” Brigita admits that it’s been no easy task running three businesses and being a mother. “There have been times when I have questioned if I could juggle it all… I’m blessed though that I’m the boss in both my roles so at the end of the day, I decide when enough is enough.”
Seldom spoken about is the taboo topic of what’s easier: raising children or having a career. In Renee’s words, “My career has been physically and mentally exhausting, absolutely. But never have I had to put my whole heart and soul (plus all my free time and disposable income) into a job. Motherhood is such a personal experience and no two women will ever experience it in exactly the same way. So I think what we each find ‘easier’ will come down to what challenges us, what fills our cups, what our priorities are and what choices we make. The beauty for so many women is that we are the architects; we get to choose what works for us and there is so much privilege in that choice.”
Fortunately, I am one of those mothers who gets to choose what’s right for me and my family during this season of parenthood. With that golden ticket in hand, I can see the possibilities are boundless.
Words: Leah Davis