It’s ok to drop a few balls

Steph Trethewey is the founder of Motherland. Like many of our community she is seriously mumbitious and a key thing she’s learned along the way is it’s ok not to do everything all at once.

5 minutes
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If you had to champion just one solution for the cohort that you are currently representing, what would it be?

“As a business owner and as a mother, the minute I started being vulnerable and the minute I stopped trying to fit into this mold of trying to be resilient and a tough rural woman, the minute I let that go and started to really be me, to talk about the hard stuff was when my community started growing rapidly, when my business started growing rapidly and when me as a mum, as a partner, as a wife started to come into my own. 

But there were many years that I really struggled. Struggled with my mental health and just struggled to be me in a world that is constantly telling women and mothers in particular everything they should be and often that's not our authentic selves. So, that would be my little piece of wisdom that's really helped me.”

What becoming a mum has kind of taught you about ambition and work?

“Motherhood is the most transformative journey I have ever been through and will ever go through in my life. It totally shook me to my core. It was a complete baptism of fire and thrown in there was this deep yearning to have something of my own because I am ambitious. I wanted to start my own business and project. It was really tricky trying to be both trying to be a mum  and business owner and wife and all these things. 

It's been a real journey of being vulnerable. Being a mum has forced me to face myself.

I was running the rat race in the corporate world, all over the country as a TV reporter. I never really stopped. There was never time to stop and actually face myself. That's what motherhood has given me, a massive handbrake on my life at a time when I was like a bull at a gate.

But I crashed. I was in a really bad place mentally. But then you're forced to save yourself and pick up the pieces. I've put this new stuff back together where I'm still Steph, and I've still lived by the values that I've always had within me. But I've reinvented myself into the type of person that I want to be. That's affected my leadership qualities. I would not be the leader that I am today if I wasn't a mother, and if motherhood didn't break me. 

So often we don't want to talk about the hard stuff because it's negative, but sometimes adversity fuels innovation. It is because I struggled as a rural woman, it's because I couldn't access something as simple as a mother's group when I moved here that fuelled my business. Motherland started as a podcast and then I launched Motherland Village, which is Australia's first online rural mothers group program, because I don't believe your postcode should dictate your ability to access social connections. 

So all that struggle it's been the biggest blessing. For any mums, who have struggled, how can you turn those struggles into innovation or little tools that will improve you as a business leader and embrace that?  Leaders don't have to be tough. We don't have to be women in a man's world. We just need to be us. And so that's been the biggest learning for me as a business owner.”

How would you describe the shape of a good life for you?

“I am in the trenches. There's no two ways about it. I have a four year old, a two year old and between my husband and I, we have three businesses. We have Motherland, our beef business and we also run an abattoir. So it's a lot, probably too much but that comes with being mumbitious. 

So I think we're told as women, we can have it all. We can, but I also realize not all at the same time. I've spent the last couple of years killing myself to try and have the best of all the worlds, to be the CEO, to be the mum, to have the veggie patch, to have the social life, to have the relationship with my husband. I can't do all of it now. That's not the chapter that I'm in. 

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So for me, it's picking the glass balls that I can't drop and letting go of the other ones right now. That can be really hard. When you love something and you want to do it, it can be hard to have the self-discipline to say no, because you know that that's not going to serve you right now, and it's not going to create harmony in your life. That's where I'm at now. 

I don't like hearing people talk about how they have balance in their lives stresses me out because it just reminds me how I don't have balance. I can honestly say that I run around like a headless chook most days, but I love what I do. I'm just dropping a few balls, my house is not clean. I don't cook perfect meals every day. My veggie patch I love, but I've killed a lot this season and that's okay. There's a few cucumbers that sprouted the other day. I was very proud.

It's not my time. I've got a two year old and she's a two year old and I want to be there for that. I don't want to wish the time away. But harmony, I do love that word harmony because like work-life balance, I don't think we'll ever have it. I think we're always going to be out of whack in some ways but that harmony is something that I'm getting better at understanding what will get me there and that's dropping balls and being totally comfortable with saying that's not the right season for me.”

Ready to harmonise your ambition, livelihood and wellbeing? Join Australia's network for business owning mums. You’ll find experts, business advice, member directory and events. Sign up to Mums & Co today

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