‘I never feel as if I’m actually succeeding at achieving a balance between art making and motherhood, and I struggle with constant low-level anxiety about the choices I make from hour-to-hour and day-to-day. I had a major epiphany when I realised it is impossible to be both the mother I want to be and the artist I want to be. Both are full-time occupations and if you throw in needing to make a living (which really does inhabit third place for me, emotionally) then all bets are off. So the most important ingredient in the balancing act has been to accept and embrace that I will fail. This realisation has been incredibly liberating.’
Shirin Pulitano, Founder and Managing Director of Melbourne’s epically creative event production agency, Dot Dot Dash, is supported in doing both motherhood and her career by her sister, General Manager Diba Beylie. Ahead of their second Emporium Melbourne Opening Night Runway for Melbourne Fashion Week, we speak with Shirin about working with family, cross-cultural parenting, and raising kids in the inner city.
You started Dot Dot Dash nine years ago, with Diba joining you a year later; you run a small business with family, while at the helm of your own. How do you think working closely with your sister has shaped your experience as a mother – and what continues to excite you about work, and indeed parenthood?
Motherhood has changed the way I work with Diba. Since having my first child, Oscar, I’ve developed a softer approach in dealing with challenges; being a mother has made me better at my job.
Diba is a loving, supportive sister, and I’m forever grateful that she joined my business – not many people have that person they can trust completely with their work baby so they can take time out with their newborn ones. She is just so good at her job and is such an enjoyable person to be around (most of the time!) As our business grows, I don’t think I’d be able to balance work and family if I didn’t have Diba in my life.
I am so inspired by our small, strong and nimble team at Dot Dot Dash, as well as our clients who trust us to think outside the square and deliver the extraordinary. And while I am ensconced in managing the business, what I really enjoy is providing creative direction on our projects.
At home, I’ll always be excited by the three people that drive me: Dan, Oscar and Matilda. My husband, Dan, never ceases to amaze me – he was the one that supported me in starting the business (the first four years were tough and we sacrificed a lot), and now he is the most awesome Dad. He is so invested in our family and puts in 100 per cent – we have a true partnership. Oscar and Matilda, they surfaced a capacity to love I didn’t know I had, bring so much joy, and have shaped me into a better version of myself.
I’m not sure I’ve encountered as strong a sisterly bond as the one shared by you, Diba and Dana – looking back, can you uncover how your parents cultivated this closeness, a love as well as like?
From an early age, my parents placed a very strong emphasis on the three of us sticking together and sharing. To this day, we share clothes, friends, jokes – and unsolicited advice. We have fun together, and I think that old cliché rings true – a family that plays together stays together. Oscar loves nothing more than making Tilly laugh, and Tilly loves nothing more than laughing with Oscar – I can already see them sharing a similar connection.
We’ve both started families with partners who share in common migrant parents; Malaysian and Polish backgrounds on our side, and Iranian and Italian on yours. Has this had an impact on how you approach parenting together, the values and traditions you try to instil?
Dan and I have very similar values around raising a family and generally how we enjoy life, which has been key to the children having a loved, harmonious and very social upbringing.
For more than 10 years, we’ve shared Christmas and Nowruz celebrations with both our extended families, with my Mum inviting Dan’s family into her home and vice versa. The centrality of family is, I think, common across both clans – and this is something we want to emphasise to our children.
You and Dan are committed to raising Oscar and Tilly in an urban environment, and have recently completed work on a new home – a residence built within an original warehouse in North Melbourne. What influenced this decision, and how would you say it has contributed to your wellbeing as a family?
Dan and I have lived in North Melbourne for more than 10 years; this is the second house we’ve built on the same street, and we both work less than five minutes away. For a very long time, we felt that the area was our little secret – so close to the city, but with the community and facilities you might expect from somewhere farther afield. We know our postman, walk the kids to school, have great cafes and parks, and our favourite restaurants in the city and Carlton nearby. It’s so easy.
Can you give us a glimpse into how your day starts and ends with Oscar and Tilly?
One of our human alarm clocks goes off, and Dan and I argue over who will get the milk (he loses most days). Then it’s a scramble to get everyone ready for child care, school and work.
I get into work, and the next thing I know I have to leave to pick-up my babies. Bath time involves the vicious cycle of convincing Oscar to take a shower, then getting him to hop out. We’ll cook a 15-minute dinner, an art Dan and I have perfected (more below), then get some playtime in before taking one each to bed.
Each Thursday, my Mum comes over to cook and everyone pops in; her food is so good that she has fans. On Fridays, we eat out as a family – usually sushi with cousins, or pizza with friends. The Pulitanos love to socialise, and this generally revolves around eating!
Moving across time, what kind of adults might you like them to grow into?
It’s simple, really: I want them to be happy and kind.
Oscar and Tilly have so much love, the chance to explore the world with us, and access to a great education – they’ll have opportunities Dan and I didn’t. Our job will be to make sure they don’t take all that for granted, and have the mental and spiritual strength to tackle life’s unexpected challenges.