I was excited this week by Kin & Kind’s Re-shaping After Career Breaking workshop, which brought together four experts in their fields to talk career advancement post-parenthood (I’ll be trying out job sharing platform Puffling, and have ordered Jayne Anderson’s Working It Out: Career, Family and You). Being realistic about who you are, where you’re at, and what you need was underscored as important – something designer, stylist, and mum to Goldie (three) and Clover (one) Simone Haag has down pat.
Today we catch-up with the in-demand creative on climbing new career heights with tikes.
After what I can only imagine was quite a wild time working in extreme sports, events and PR, you started at Hecker Guthrie as a receptionist – leaving eight years later as design and communications manager to have your first child and go freelance. Can I write your biography?!
Yes, please – it’s quite a story, with one incredible job leading to the next. It all started with a season at Mt Buller, where I met the crew from a Canadian heliboarding lodge. Before I knew it, I was working there, in Chamonix for two seasons, then at London’s Sanderson Hotel organising parties for the likes of Elton John, Madonna, and Sting.
After a chance meeting with Quiksilver’s CEO, I joined their boat, The Crossing, and sailed around the US for two years – doing events and PR with surfing legends like Kelly Slater. A spell spent working on private jets (my first flight involved escorting a Hollywood heavyweight to Fiji) led me back to Melbourne; I was ready to lay down some roots after reuniting with my now husband, Rhys.
I cold-called Hecker Guthrie in the hope of landing a comparatively settled job in a creative environment, and with enthusiasm, a sponge-like disposition, and hard work, my role grew from administration to design and communications. I found my mojo in the furnishing and layering stage of high-end residential projects, and today can’t quite believe I have a business completing client homes – my passion and livelihood rolled into one.
You’ve said, ‘I knew I couldn’t do the work in the same way and it felt like the right time to start out on my own.’ With mothers of young children being the fastest growing demographic of freelancers, you’re not alone. Do you think there’s a sense that it’s up to us to create roles that suit our families, not workplaces to become more family-friendly?
It’s an interesting question, and there’s no one-shoe-fits-all solution. I was certainly offered a flexible return to studio life but, like retiring after winning gold, I left when I knew I had given it my all. I was genuinely nervous that I wouldn’t be able to ensure the same commitment with a small person in tow.
As many would attest, being a freelancer is a blessing and a curse. I have the freedom to attend activities like Bush Playgroup with my girls or take a six-week summer break. But work follows me everywhere and, with the budgets I spend on behalf of my clients plus the expectations I place on myself, switching off isn’t easy.
I recall when Goldie was crawling, I’d pop her at one end of the hallway then race to the other to send a work email; when she caught up with me, I’d repeat the process. Luckily most of my clients are at ease with my juggle, and are happy to take calls after hours.
Work has been incredible – at last count, I had close to 20 projects on the go. Things really turned a corner when I employed my design assistant, Sarah Shinners; she’s allowed me to take time to work on my business, not just in it. I try very hard to provide a high level of customer service, and having Sarah assist with client support and supplier liaison has been a game changer.
Just back from a sourcing trip to New York, about to move into a shared space with Fred International, a new focus on high-end residential, plus a trip to the Milan Furniture Fair in April – you’re besieged but in a good way. Do you have any advice for other parents on career expansion with kids?
I found The Mother’s Mind Cleanse by The Broad Place an excellent tool. It encourages banishing words like ‘busy’ for phrases like ‘I am engaged in some exciting projects,’ and reframing the idea of ‘juggling’ with mantras such as ‘these are the moments that make up the hours, that make up the day, that are my life.’
I’ve also learnt I need to schedule time for me. In the early days, the guilt I felt about working meant I spent every non-billable moment with my babies – which was like having two full-time jobs (on very little sleep!). On my work days, finding balance can be as simple as coming home to have a shower, make a cuppa, and take a moment before crèche pick-up; it helps so much with compartmentalising my dual roles. I also try to make time for health and wellbeing, be it a Pilates class, health retreat, or dinner with the girls.
I would say the way to expand your career is to surround yourself with people who know more than you do; I am in the process of working with a business manager/mentor, and I can’t wait to see things through her eyes. Also try not to track what your competitors are doing – it will only spark insecurity. Rely instead on intuition, and realise at the end of the day what we do should be joyful.
Your Melbourne and Philip Island homes count among the most popular we’ve featured on TDF. Has your aesthetic changed at all since Clover and Goldie arrived on the scene, and is there anything you’ve had to sacrifice, or come to appreciate?
I won’t lie, I was a little scared pre-baby, but by the time you come out of that initial fog, you’re re-wired to lean into it. We have a cleaner once a week who restores balance, but what happens in-between is not a bother to me – as long as I can see the floor at the end of the day. Our house is not abundant with kid’s stuff, and when I do have a guilty shop for toys, they tend to be tossed aside for playtime in the garden anyway.
One thing I find interesting is the ‘we will wait until the children grow up and then buy such and such’ mentality. My advice would be to instil respect from the get go; invest in the pieces you love, and teach your kids the boundaries around those pieces. I’ve an open shelf full of ceramics, and the more special pieces are that little bit out of reach, but the girls rarely notice they are there.
I have come to appreciate our over-sized Carl Hansen Wing chair which has room for us all and, funnily enough, I can’t think of a thing we’ve sacrificed per se. Now that the house is feeling a little small (with the queue for the toilet a little long), we’ve engaged our friends at Kennedy Nolan to help us with creative solutions to expand on what we already have – and it’s all being rolled out by Design Orr Build as we speak. My aesthetic is changing all the time, and for the renovation I’m bringing back some vintage Italian pieces – I can’t wait to share some work-in-progress pics on Instagram!
Can you give us a glimpse into how your days start and end with Clover and Goldie?
I am not a morning person, so they never start early. One or both girls will make it into bed with me, and I’ll try every trick in the book to get a little more sleep. Breakfast involves porridge and a dance party and, because it’s almost impossible to get yourself and two toddlers ready for the day, I’m generally bra-less and in trackies for the bi-weekly crèche drop-off. I then head home to prepare for work – so much easier without two thigh-huggers bickering over the equal distribution of sultanas!
I very much look forward to the end-of-day routine, which is why I can count the number of times I’ve been out for dinner in the last three years on one hand. Our dining table has, up until now, served as my desk – so we often eat around the kiddy table (this always makes me giggle). I like a bath with the babies at the end of the day (until it all goes south when one of them does a number two), and like most parents enjoy the sound of silence when they go down. After that, I pick up some magazines, and start what we affectionately term ‘the night shift.’
Moving across time, what kind of adults might you like the girls to grow into? How would you like them to remember you to their own families?
Kind, inquisitive, and soulful. I would like them to remember that cuddles were a never-ending resource, and that growing up with a dog the size of a horse was normal.
Hubble + Duke is a favourite for the little ladies in my life.
A new use for an old item. As mentioned, we’re renovating, so the girls are sharing which is all sorts of fun – particularly when the baby monitor lets us listen in to what they ‘chat’ about before sleep.
Activity or outing
Heading to our beach house on weekends; the girls play shop in their cubby house by Castle and Cubby.
We’re very happy with a picnic dinner in the backyard. The girls think it’s fun, but it’s really my way of avoiding wiping the high chairs and sweeping the floors again!
Book, film or show
The girls love any Disney film where there’s a red-headed heroine, a bit of Pig the Pug, and putting on their own shows for the ‘grown nuts.’