After meeting her now-husband while both working at Hub Parliament Station’s coworking space, Ruby Assembly founder Iolanthe Gabrie took on a new role in 2020 by becoming a mother for the first time.
We asked Iolanthe to share her experience of becoming an entrepreneurial parent, and how her ever-growing skills fit hand-in-hand with growing a business.
“After barely three months, I returned to work and our workweek rhythm began to find its groove.
While life is certainly more complex, it’s all the richer for it. Like many new parents who are business owners, I wondered how my relationship to work would change courtesy of our new charge. I’m happy to report that becoming a mother has empowered me to level up as an entrepreneur.”
Four lessons I learned:
Being a parent makes you hyper-efficient
You’re likely to have altered working hours when you’ve got kids, resulting in less time (or different time if you’re a night-owl) to get everything done.
This means less time available to chat around the water-cooler, and a need for intense focus when you’re allocated to work. This has helped me become an efficiency superhero, and have more control over my focus.
You’re forced to become extremely selective about the kind of business you take on
When you need to make the most of your workday, letting someone ‘pick your brain’ becomes far less appealing, as does working with clients who take hours out of your diary whilst complaining about invoices, or with folks who don’t share your values.
When you want to invest in your family, you become greedier with your time because you have to.
Being a parent helps you develop priority and productivity, as you don’t have extra hours in the week to burn.
It amps up your feminism and focus on equality
Good business is feminist, family-friendly, and diversity-friendly.
When you have a baby, it feels like you’re introduced to a previously invisible world of childcare, playgrounds, breast pump apparatus, and prams.
Unfortunately, many workplaces and spaces are not parent-friendly (and I’m not just talking about parental leave pay), without consideration of parent’s rooms and appropriate privacy and facilities (breast pumps, fridge, microwave, sink).
Becoming a mother has enhanced my feminism and made me more keenly aware of structural inequities in the workspace/place.
I am grateful that Ruby Assembly’s HQ at Hub Parliament Station has a dedicated parent’s room with all the bits and bobs I need to pump milk during my workday. It’s a relief to have the privacy and acknowledgement of such a space.
I am increasingly of the opinion that not having a parent’s room in a workplace is a serious oversight. Many workplaces have media rooms, but you’re far more likely to have employees with children than with their own podcast.
It highlights the need for flexibility and empathy in business
In the last month, we’ve had a couple of bouts of illness with our daughter. When your child is ill, they cannot go to childcare – and they get ill quite regularly as their immune system learns to defend itself.
As the often-primary carer, a woman will begin to think differently about returning to work when they have a child. Caring for an ill baby is bad enough without contending with the guilt of having to stay home from work, potentially feeling as though you’re letting down colleagues or clients.
As a society, we need to accept that the vagaries and responsibilities of parenting are core to the health of our community. Parents should not feel guilty or worry about prioritising the care of their children.
It’s not just a shift within businesses that needs to take place; society needs to adopt a social worldview that values caregiving.
Whilst I’ve not yet had an employee at Ruby Assembly who has had a baby, I like to think that when the time comes I will provide flexible, friendly, and feminist working conditions that simultaneously honour their skill and responsibilities at home and at work.
I am confident that when a person becomes a parent, they can become even more valuable to a business, becoming superheroes of efficiency and making decisive and goal-driven business moves.