It’s a woman’s world now … we have more power and opportunities than ever. And although it’s  2018 and having a baby no longer means career suicide, for expectant and working mothers, figuring out your rights in the workplace can still be challenging. That’s why Kate Pollard and Jodi Geddes created Circle In, an online resource to help empower working women. Consider it the career version of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”.  The Delivery speaks to the pair about their journey through motherhood, their Circle In business and why you should lose “mum guilt” from your vocabulary. 

Congratulations on creating such a fantastic resource for mothers, take us back to how was Circle In born?

K: Circle In was quite a while in the making and we really had the idea about two years ago, even though we launched in October last year. Jodi and I had held each other’s hand through two lots of maternity leave. Our second time on maternity leave, we started to question the lack of real career support available to help women manage parental leave and returning to work and had found through our own experiences that we’d lost our confidence. We spoke with over a thousand women and knew the need was real. So we launched last October and haven’t looked back. But it doesn’t stop there…we are in the midst of launching our latest offering, Circle In for Business, where we will provide organisations with best practice parental leave programs.

You must’ve provided so many mothers with direction and clarity, is there a particular success story which most moved you?

J: Gosh we receive emails every day from amazing women we have touched with Circle In. And this is what we are really proud of because we know that we are really making a difference to so many women. One of our favourite stories is from a Circle In member who wrote to us and told us that by reading a few of our articles, she gained the confidence to face into career conversations she had wanted to have for 10 years. She told us she was now more confident, which enabled her to ask for what she’s always wanted. And you know what, she got it!

What’s your vision for Circle in?

K: We want to help 50,000 women back to work with confidence over the next three years. It’s a big audacious goal but we are well on our way! At a practical level this means helping women have the right conversations and clearly setting expectations with their workplace so that they take control of their parental leave and return to work experience. Everyone will have a different experience, but it’s about being clear with what you want.

Would you do anything differently starting over knowing what you know now?

J: We always knew that there was a real need for something like Circle In, but it took us quite a long time to actually land the idea. We spent quite a long time early on reworking our offer, changing our name and rebranding numerous times. This process was really quite frustrating and we wondered whether we would actually ever get there. Maybe if we had known how hard the daily grind of getting a start-up up and running actually was, we may not have embarked on it. But we are pretty glad we did now!

“I really felt like I’d lost myself for a while and I think not having the structure of work and people telling you that ‘you’ve done a good job’ was all a bit confronting.”

What’s been your proudest moment in business?

K: When we launched we had 5k hits to Circle In on our first day. We were also covered nationally in the media and gained a lot of amazing support. From day one we knew we’d started something pretty special. My proudest moment was when Annabel Crabb retweeted us. We have a bit of a lady crush on Annabel and think she pretty fabulous so her re-tweet meant the world to us.

Golden piece of advice for working mothers? 

J: Drop the mother guilt and don’t entertain it! I’ve learnt this the hard way but at the end of the day every working mother is doing her best. This quote really resonates with me: “It doesn’t matter if a mother goes to work, stays at home, or sips coffee at her favourite coffee shop. When she’s doing what is best for herself, she’s doing what is best for her children”.

Tips from Circle In founders for other mothers keen to start their own business?

Make sure there is a real need in the market and make sure you do your research to validate it. Make sure that you are not too in love with your own idea that it becomes your blindspot! Be prepared to get feedback and pivot.

Know your strengths and weaknesses. Our initial idea was heavily based on an expensive technology solution. Neither Jodi or I have a technical background, so we needed to find a way to solve our business problem with a solution that was within our capability set.

Be clear on your values. One of our values is about always putting our family first. There have been times when the work involved in a start-up is overwhelming and Jodi and I realised we weren’t really living our values. So we stopped, took stock and worked out a more sustainable way of running our business.

Please tell us a little about your journey into motherhood…

K: I’ll be honest. I found motherhood a bit of a shock, especially with my first. I don’t think I was prepared for how overwhelming it is to have a newborn dependant on you 24/7. I felt a bit broken after having a c-section and it took me a long time to feel like ‘me’ again. I really felt like I’d lost myself for a while and I think not having the structure of work and people telling you that ‘you’ve done a good job’ was all a bit confronting. But as time goes on, you adjust and thankfully I had a fantastic husband, family support and an amazing mother’s group to get me through those first 12 months.

“I don’t look at my phone when my kids are around and try to have a few nights a week with my husband, as opposed to working every night. You just have to set boundaries, stick to them and be very clear about your to do list.”

J: Unfortunately, I lost my first (quite late at 15 weeks) and it was quite a traumatic period of my life. After that, I took some time out and then thankfully, fell pregnant quite easily and had two great pregnancies and births. In fact, my second birth was incredible, and I would love to go back and do it all again. Crazy I know! It was like a movie… due date, cramps started at 4pm, arrived at hospital at 7pm and Eloise was born at 9pm. I was 100% sure I was having a boy and so I only took blue clothes to the hospital. When Eloise arrived, I asked twice to ensure they were right. We even decided to name her after our midwife who was incredible.

What has been your greatest challenge in motherhood?

K: Struggling to find any real ‘me time’. It’s amazing how we seem to put ourselves and our own happiness last as mothers. Now that my kids are starting to get a little bit older and a tiny bit more independent, I’m really trying to change this and give myself regular ‘me time’.

J: Not being in control. I am a control freak and I have always struggled with the fact that from the moment you become a mother, you lose the ability to control everything. Which is pretty much everything in motherhood! But in other ways, it has forced me to let go and realise sometimes you just have to go with it. I am really trying and getting better as the years pass by.

What’s the biggest lesson motherhood has taught you?

K: It’s incredible just how much love you can have for a child. Those beautiful unexpected moments you have with your children are just so incredible and precious (and make all of those sleepless nights when they were newborns worth it!)

J: How selfless you become when you become a mother. All of a sudden, these beautiful children mean everything, and you would do anything and everything for them. It has also taught me to never judge another mother.

How do you perform the balancing act between motherhood and running a business like Circle In?

K: When you have your own business, it’s harder to separate work and family life, so you just need to be disciplined and make sure you take time away from work. Sometimes I get this right and at other times, I don’t. It’s a constant juggle that I just need to be conscious about it and make sure I spend enough time with my gorgeous husband and kids. And also make time for myself too. It’s quite challenging sometimes but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

J: I really struggled with this initially as I tend to throw myself into my work. Of late, I have worked with Kate on pulling back and separating work and family. I don’t look at my phone when my kids are around and try to have a few nights a week with my husband, as opposed to working every night. You just have to set boundaries, stick to them and be very clear about your to do list. There is no time for procrastination or long lunches! We have found that the more time we spend on setting goals and deliverables, the more productive we are and the less hours we need to actually spend on the business.

Time management tip for busy mothers?

K: Outsource as much non-important stuff as you can afford. Things like cleaning and ironing are the first things to go for me. It then frees up time to spend with your kids.

J: It’s about prioritisation and organisation. If you have both, then you can try and manage the juggle as best you can. It’s never perfect, but it’s as close as it can be!

What does the first hour of your day look like?

K: I get up about 6:00am and then try to fit in some exercise (this doesn’t always happen!). I’ll often check our social media etc before heading into our office. I’ll also have some cereal and a cup of tea to start the day.

J: I am addicted to F45 and try to get to four classes a week, so am up at 5.45am. My husband leaves at 7.20am and I am usually out the door by 7.45am. The benefit of working for yourselves is that if the kids sleep in or need more time, then we can slow down and it doesn’t matter if we are a little late. I’d like to say my mornings are peaceful, but in all honesty, they are pretty hectic!

“It doesn’t matter if a mother goes to work, stays at home, or sips coffee at her favourite coffee shop. When she’s doing what is best for herself, she’s doing what is best for her children.”

Do you have any evening rituals?

K: I always sit down with my husband each day to have dinner (generally when the kids are in bed). We turn off our phones and the TV and just chat. It’s so important and it helps us stay connected and to support each other.

J: I love my evening shower and take the whole routine quite seriously. I shut the door, often light a candle in our room and spend a good 15 minutes pottering around. It’s my time and I love it. I read recently that a good meditation technique is to stand in the shower, shut your eyes and let the day fall off you. I am loving this and the letting go of whatever happened during the day!

When you are feeling overwhelmed with the demands of motherhood and life, what do you do?

K: I try to get some sleep. If I’m tired, I just don’t cope with things very well. So a nap or a few early nights seem to do wonders for me.

J: I stress. I’m not going to lie. I don’t deal with it well at all and my body tells me so. I usually start with ulcers on my tongue followed by cold sores. Looking after my health is now my number one focus as a working mum and 2018 is the year of getting my health right.

What’s your style of parenting?

K: I’m quite an organised, routine type of person, so I quite like setting clear boundaries with my kids. I’m also big on manners and making sure that they say their ‘pleases and thank-yous’. I have two boys, so I’m also really conscious of helping them understand and articulate their emotions.. Oh and I love lots of cuddles, so there’s lots of ‘squeezy cuddles’ in our house.

J: I asked my husband this question and we both laughed. Our parenting style has changed a lot over the years but what I am proud of is that we are a team and we are always on the same page. Our kids have different personalities and different needs, so our style differs slightly for each. Overall, we are proud to say we are on the stricter side and believe in respect and manners at all times. Our girls are creative and don’t like playing with toys. They would prefer to be imaginative, play outdoors or do art. I love that! I just want to raise strong, independent girls who embrace life.

Favourite family friendly holiday destination?

K: Noosa and Bali

J: Bali. We went for a month and lived like locals. Even the kids attended a local day care.

Beauty secret for busy mamas?

K: I never thought I’d say this, but I use dry shampoo a lot. I also use an under-eye concealer and mascara. But that’s about it! It’s got to be easy and quick for me.

J: A good protein smoothie in the morning, lots of water (I’m addicted to sparkling) and sleep.

Who is your ultimate mama muse?

K: Sarah Murdoch, she’s such an inspirational lady who genuinely cares for others and gives back.

J: My mother’s group. 12 of the best mothers you could ever meet.

Book recommendation?

K: Annabel Crabb ‘The wife drought’ – It’s a great read and one you will keep thinking about for a long time after you’ve read it.

J: I just bought The Healthy Life by Jessica Sepel and am loving the practical approach to everything. I am really trying to focus on my health and so far, this book is seriously working.

Ted Talk/Podcast recommendation?

K: Simon Sinek ‘The golden circle’ – I love his talk on the power of why.

J: Instagram: Kevin Systrom & Mike Kriegar – great insight into how they built Insta!