Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hasn’t gone unnoticed lately as she leads the cultural shift towards acceptance of gender equality on the global stage. An inspiration to many working mothers, Ardern is back in charge after taking just six-weeks maternity leave.

Her recent debut speech at the United Nations General Assembly drew global attention not only for its content but for a certain person in the audience. Ardern’s baby, Neve, was there with stay-at-home dad Clarke Gayford supporting her — a move unseen in U.N. history, setting a precedent for working women Doing It All.

To celebrate our PM’s modern approach to life, we spoke to three women in the fashion industry who inspire us every day. Karen Walker, Kristine Crabb (Miss Crabb) and Rachael D’Alessandro (One Teaspoon), tell us exclusively how they balance being charge in the workplace and motherhood.

Their honest and beautiful answers reveal the challenges faced by women in their careers, as they raise a family and simultaneously run a business.

JAcinda Ardern holds Neve at the U.N. Summit with Clarke Gayford in his supporting role. | Photo credit

TLFB: How do you achieve your work/life balance of career woman and mother?

Karen Walker: I’m not sure that I do achieve a balance but in my attempt to, the few key things I do are: I keep in mind the amount of time I’m prepared to have away from home and family when making decisions around projects and deadlines I’m considering taking on, blacking out certain key dates in the calendar that are “must be at home dates” at the beginning of each year, and build travel and projects around those and, whether I’m at home or at work, aim to be there 100% and not half/half and distractedly.

Kristine Crabb: I find spending time with my kids and my friends essential. Also looking after myself, getting enough sleep and trying to keep stress in check. It’s really tricky – I think I’ve only managed to feel that I’ve achieved this balance in the last year or so, maybe because the kids are at such a great age too (my kids are 7, 10 and 11).

Rachael D’Alessandro: It’s definitely difficult trying to give both 100% but what I find works is when I’m at home with Venice [my daughter], before and after work, it’s Venice’s time, and then that gives me time to focus on just her. When she goes to bed, it’s email time again!

What were or are the biggest challenges you faced going back into the workplace after children?

Karen: Having to get a whole lot sharper and smarter around how every minute is spent and allocated whether at home or work. I’d always been that type of person but having a child added into the mix meant taking that up several notches.

Kristine: The stress and tiredness was killer. I wish I had had a more support on all fronts.

Rachael: The biggest challenge was sorting out the right daycare options. What works for one child doesn’t always work for another. Venice didn’t get on well in a big corporate daycare centre so it was definitely trial and error. However, me personally, I enjoyed going back to work. I definitely couldn’t be a stay at home Mum!

If you could give your past self one piece of advice about being a working mother, what would it be?

Karen: For the first few years don’t expect the child to understand or care about what your planned schedule for them is. It’s not like being in a professional environment – just because your plan for the day says it’s nap time doesn’t mean they’re going to oblige. So, relax a little.

Kristine: If I had the choice or forethought I wouldn’t do it. Its actually too hard, making clothes, being in business and having kids. Looking back, it was a really unhappy time for me.

Rachael: Try and enjoy maternity leave more! I struggled with it at the start. Everything becomes very overwhelming at the beginning. It’s a massive overhaul going from working women to a stay at home mum. I had a year off and I think it probably took me a good six months of that before I really relaxed and became comfortable just having the one job of being a mummy. Also, get to baby classes. They save your brain from dying! Connect with other mums from the very beginning.

Have your career goals and aspirations altered since becoming a working mother from that prior to your children?

Karen: No, but my personal goals have become clearer and sit alongside my professional goals any time there’s a decision to be made.

Kristine: I think you kinda get special powers being a mother, and I have always had this desire and drive to make clothes that people love, I think having my babies made me more creative.

Rachael: Nope! Some of the biggest career goals I’ve achieved are since becoming a mum. I’ve always been very driven in work, before and after. Nothing has changed.

If you had the power to change one thing in the business market for working mothers, what would you change?

Karen: I really only see what it’s like for working parents within my own professional landscape, whether it’s my own company or those I work alongside, and most of the companies I work with day-to-day are female drive, small, nimble and modern so a sense of parenting being in conflict with work is quite rare.

Within my own company we’re very flexible with our team when it comes to how they manage their work life alongside their family life and, whilst we may not have an in-house crèche, we certainly allow our team to rewrite their job descriptions and schedules so they can be the kind of parent they wish to be and have the career they want alongside that.

Kristine: Equal pay and two days menstrual leave each month would the dream for sure! Also, realising how women’s productivity works – it’s not simply an eight-hour day, it’s much more dynamic.

Rachael: More flexible hours! Not enough companies support this, and even when they say they do, you still end up feeling guilty somehow for flexing your hours to suit the family.

Thanks to our inspiring designers for their insights. Thanks to all the mums out there for their hard work!

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