When you’re a mother, taking time out to reflect seems near impossible. How could pondering life possibly compete with the mental load of motherhood?
The washing pile, the excursion forms to fill out, the dress up day to prep for, bottles to sterilize, Lego to sort, missing school hats to locate, babies to settle, lunch boxes to make, birthday parties to plan, sibling fighting to mediate, kids’ meals to prep – who has the time to reflect? But the older I get – and the more sleep I get – the more reflective I’m becoming (I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer, so drifting off into deep thought comes naturally to me). It’s almost as if after six years of motherhood, I’m only now processing the journey I’ve been on. This reflection has come about partly because life finally feels a little more settled and manageable. There are still plenty of sleepless nights, but now my girls are almost 5 and 6, life is unquestionably easier. I still stare at my firstborn and can’t quite comprehend how she’s suddenly six years old, with long legs and wobbly teeth. It feels like just yesterday I had a tube of Bonjela in my hands trying desperately to soothe her sore gums from those sharp little baby teeth that were arriving. And now, she’s finished her first year of school and is asking if she can walk her sister to school when she starts in a year’s time. While life with young children is never quiet, our household is different to how it was a couple of years ago. There are no more nappies or cots or baby books or prams – there was a time when I thought we’d never be without these things. It’s still messy, chaotic and stressful, but even with all of this, I want to press pause.
The most significant event of 2018 for me was the passing of my dear nan.
While we knew it was coming, in the end, it seemed to happen so quickly. Even though I have 36 years of memories with her – memories ranging from my first trip to the Eiffel tower to feeding my newborn daughter solids for the first time – it felt like our time was over too quickly. But time is mean like that – it moves far too fast. That chapter of my life is finished. I used to post photos of all of us – my nan, my mum, me and my girls with a caption along the lines of “four generations together”. I always knew how lucky I was to have my nan and my girls in the same room. There was a time when I had my dear grandmother too. They called her “little nanny” because she continued to shrink until the day she died. Now that she’s gone, I’d do anything to have another moment by her side.
“ But instead, I’m entering the New Year with a grateful heart. ”
Grateful for what I have right now and grateful for the memories I have with those who are no longer here. And grateful that my life has been filled with women like my nan, who always supported me and told me I could do anything I put my mind to.
2018 was, without a doubt, the best year yet for The Grace Tales.
Now my girls are a little older, I’ve had more time and energy to invest in the business – I’ve always kept our growth at a manageable pace. There are only so many hours in a day and things always take longer than you anticipate – just go with it. It’s incredibly frustrating at times, but you’ll get there eventually. At the end of last year, I finally felt that after five years of working late into the night, the hard work was starting to pay off. I’m proud of what we’ve built, and the team we’ve created. The women who bring this site to life every week are exceptionally talented, but more than that, exceptionally fun to work with. They’re also based all over the world, which proves that you need little more than a laptop to keep a business like this running, no matter where you are.
I’ll remember 2018 as the year we held an event in Brisbane with one of my role models, the Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce – a morning I’ll never forget.
We produced our first book, out next year. And we launched our membership platform the GRACE Collective. The latter was a huge step for us. It was a little nerve-wracking, but mostly empowering to put a value on what we do. We now offer both personal subscriptions and also business memberships for women out there running a small business. It wasn’t a move we made quickly – it had been in the works for two years. Since we launched – five years ago now – we’ve produced a unique magazine-style site filled with content that is not only costly to produce but also incredibly time-consuming. When you run a business, relying on one revenue stream is risky. I also knew I didn’t want an Instagram feed filled with sponsored posts. And given the current publishing landscape, I knew it wasn’t sustainable to keep producing such premium content and relying solely on advertising revenue. The business would burn out and this wasn’t as an option for me – we’ve come too far and have too many plans in the pipeline to just call it a day.
Media has had a tough past year.
In Australia, Cosmopolitan magazine closed after 45 years of publication and Elle and Harper’s BAZAAR merged their teams. In New York, Vanity Fair put up a paywall and Conde Nast announced it was selling more of its titles. The magazine days I remember so well are over. I feel lucky to have experienced them during their heyday. It’s a time in my life I’ll never forget, but I’m excited about the future. I love the challenge of trying to keep up with digital media. While many people complain about the decline of magazines, I find it exciting. Wouldn’t it be boring if we did the same thing forever? I get bored easily and change has always excited me. So instead of panicking, I’ll continue to look forward, I’ll continue to try new things and I’ll continue to grow this brand. I’ll continue to focus on what we do best: create brilliant content. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you try something and it doesn’t work out? I’ve tried plenty of things since I launched this business, which haven’t worked. You just move on and make sure the risk isn’t so big, it costs you your business. Our GRACE Collective community spreads every single day and that is what makes me really inspired. It feels like this business has only just begun.
There have also been moments throughout this year where I’ve felt so overwhelmed, I’ve wanted to call it quits.
Running your own business, while it brings mountains of flexibility (and late nights in equal measure), is not the easy option. I can hear myself now: “it’s too hard”, “I don’t want to do this anymore”, “I don’t want the responsibility of running my own business – I want to go back to corporate”. I often feel flat, but we can’t expect to be happy all the time. I’ve learnt that the key to feeling motivated and positive is surrounding yourself with inspiring women who want you to succeed. I’ve learnt that scrolling through Instagram isn’t always inspiring – in fact, it can be quite the opposite. 2018, you’ve been full of highs and lows. Most of all, you’ve taught me to be grateful for my relationships – my family and friends – because they’re all that matter in life. Don’t ever take them for granted. 2019, I’m ready for you. Image by Bridget Wood