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Naomi Simson Family

Parenting and small business success

This article first appeared as part of my LinkedIn Collection.

We are all ‘busy’, but when you add parenting to the mix.. that adds a whole new dimension to the definition of ‘busy’ – chaos springs to mind. I have often reflected that my 30s (when my children were small) were a blur. I had started my own business, was working all hours, but the one thing I wondered was “will my kids be okay?” Every parent asks themselves that question. Most new parents idealise about being the ‘perfect parent’.

I was interviewed recently for the I don’t know how she does it podcast. My intention was to tell it warts and all… Talk about things that I have never spoken about before. As my kids are away at university, I still worry, but it has given me the opportunity to reflect. I can now acknowledge that I did the best I could.

Here are a few of the things I cover in the 39-minute podcast… Whilst it uses the feminine gender in the title – really it is equally relevant to all parents who are juggling jobs, family life and somewhere in there a moment for themselves.

This is what Holly Wainwright had to say:

“Naomi Simson is one of Australia’s most successful women and her parenting ideas are a bit out-of-the-box.

Here are some highlights. Consider getting them tattooed on your body:


1. Flexibility does NOT mean less work. Naomi left a big corporate career in marketing when her kids were little and she was chasing flexibility. After a short stint freelancing, she and her then-husband started RedBalloon, which, for years, ran from their living room. “The reason I started my business was because of my kids, I just thought they were great. My kids used to gang up on me…’Why do we have to go to bed at 5.30?’ Because Mum’s got work to do. As soon as they went to bed I was working again, until 11 or 12 at night.”

2. If you’re a leader, do not get too cosy with your employees. “You cannot be their friends. You are accountable for leadership and for challenging people to greatness. And you do that with love and respect, but it means you cannot go out drinking with them on a Friday night.”

3. Don’t lean out too far. “I absolutely encourage women to stay connected to the workplace somehow… The way we are working is changing so quickly that if they give up their network, their professional associations and have no connection to the workplace, they will literally feel like an alien when they come back. It’s like you’re a newbie.”

4. You’re not imagining it, your boss is pissed off that you’re pregnant. Just a tiny bit. They know all the right things to say… but any news and people always think “What does this mean to me?” “As a manager, you’re like ‘Oh I’m very excited for you’…. but in your head you’re going ‘How long have I got? How long have I got?'”


1. Learn to say no to your children. “What I want is resilient children, who are respectful and responsible… My job is to give [them] their value set and their work ethic so they can get a sense of accomplishment and achievement. How did I do that? By pretty much saying no to everything they ever asked me to do for them.

“Mum can I have a car?” “No.” “But all the other kids when they turn 18, their parents have bought them cars.” “Oh those poor people, they’ll never understand the value of money.”

2. Pick your battles. There are plenty of people who can change a nappy. “You can’t have it all and nor can a man. There’s a time and place for everything [on deciding what to be around for and what not to miss]… There are plenty of people who can change a nappy, but maybe being there at the school sports day, and being there when they cross the line, maybe that’s the important thing. I always chose what my children would remember. I say ‘Remember how I used to be at the canteen…’ and my son says, ‘nope’.”

3. Learn to mono-task. “Be present in what you choose to do. Make sure you put away your mobile phone when you are with your children. Otherwise, you will wonder why they don’t talk to you when they’re teenagers. You have to put away that phone.”

4. Choose a partner who had a working mum. “I have young colleagues, 25, recently married, finding themselves doing everything for their husbands, and I am alarmed. And guess why? Because that’s what their mothers did. And breaking that cycle of expectation is very, very difficult. It’s more than a conversation. It’s really, really ingrained, and it’s subtle… until we shift this role modelling, it’s very difficult.”

5. Do not indulge mother guilt. “I’m going to sound heartless, but… I’ve never struggled with mother guilt. They’re their own beings. I am not responsible for them. I did my bit, I fed them, they grew up, I sent them to schools and now it’s completely up them. I don’t like all the choices that they’re making, but it’s up to them.”

Okay so I clearly would never make ‘Mother of the Year‘ Life is no longer a blur – I have got many years ahead of me to contribute to society and a constructive and worthwhile way… and so far it appears that my offspring will do the same… Yes I have done my job… but we never stop worrying, that is a job for life.”

With Holly Wainwright after our interview.

PS if you do know a Mum who should really be nominated for Australian ‘Mother of the Year‘ entries close 26 Feb 2017

Reader Interactions


  1. One of the best articles I have read – thank you! We have 3 kids under 10 and we are absolutely in the thick of it with a growing business. Some days I don’t know if we are coming or going. Lucky to have a partner who shares our values and together, somehow with our little crew in tow, we are making it work.

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