When I chose to exit my marriage, my ex chose to exit the country.
I was suddenly the sole parent of – and the sole provider for – my 15 month-old son. I still actually had a job at this time, albeit in London. We had returned to Australia on extended leave whilst I was still receiving a maternity leave payment from my corporate job for an oil major in the UK (yes, maternity leave is uber generous over there!). But as my ex flew back to London, I knew I didn’t want to follow suit.
I had lived abroad for thirteen years, but I was Australian. My family were Australian, and my son would be raised in Australia. That part of the decision was easy, so I emailed my resignation, hung up my frequent flyer card and resolved to stay even if it meant parenting alone.
The next bit of parenting alone was harder. Much, much harder. I needed to provide a source of income for us to survive and thrive.
I tried a corporate role in Melbourne for a while – and was miserable. I woke at 5am, my parents would take it in turns to arrive at 6am to be there when my son woke and take him to childcare. I’d arrive in the office in Melbourne around 7am, so that I could leave at 4pm. The hour long journey home to the Mornington Peninsula would take twice as long as it did in the mornings, and some days I’d be lucky to get to the child care centre to pick up my son before it closed at 6.30pm. Then it was dinner, bath, stories, bed – for both of us. It was exhausting. I was existing, not living – and I missed my baby.
So, I considered my options and decided I could either outsource parenting to a live in au pair. Or I could ditch my corporate career and find new path. One that could sustain my little family and provide me with that elusive work life balance everyone blogs about these days.
I already knew that the most important thing to me was being the best parent I could be for my son. So, I quit. Quit before I had a plan. Quit before I had an alternative source of income.
“It was hurting my heart and my health being away from my baby. Which meant that, whatever I did next had to be flexible and I had to be able to work from home.”
I’m nothing if not a pragmatist, so I sat down, and I drew up two lists; things I was good at and things that I needed from a role in order to be happy.
Why parenting alone has made me the best version of myself (cont.)
Then I took a good hard look at the opportunities and industries in my local area. I read the local papers cover to cover, I read every shop hoarding, scanned every branded car, talked to as many people as I could and researched local industries.
One thing that kept cropping up again and again was an advertisement to train as an authorised Commonweath Marriage Celebrant.
I was already living on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula, which is known for its wineries, farm gates and beaches – and for its thriving wedding industry. And it’s only a one-hour drive to Victoria’s other top wedding destinations; Melbourne city, the Dandenongs and the Yarra Valley. On paper, the wedding industry was the answer and, having spoken at carbon conferences across America and Europe, I was no stranger to public speaking.
But, being a celebrant? Really?
The trouble was I didn’t have a very high opinion of wedding celebrants. I had always thought of the ceremony as something to endure whilst an old lady in a twin set rambled on about love being as old as time, or as deep as the oceans. I wasn’t even that into my own wedding – let alone other peoples. It was definitely not my jam. And I definitely couldn’t put that on LinkedIn.
Yet it literally ticked every box on both of my lists.
So, eventually, I flipped it. Why wouldn’t I want to be a celebrant? I could be an awesome celebrant. I could change the way people get married.
But it wasn’t just the LinkedIn announcement holding me back. My Dad, who to this very day could not even describe what my job was in the oil industry, was seriously unimpressed when I told him. And both my parents told me that I’d fail. Small business was hard. It was too risky they said.
The real barrier, however, was that – quite without realising it – I’d wrapped up my sense of self worth with my career. The two had become inextricably linked. I was always proud of what I did. It seemed important.
Which is similar to getting divorced in a way. I still felt a nagging sense of judgement. That choosing to go my own way and fly solo was somehow something to be ashamed of. Hell, I was ashamed of it for a while.
Why parenting alone has made me the best version of myself (cont.)
Decoupling my sense of self worth from how I chose to earn money took time. Lots of time. A year, ok, more like two in all honesty. Just like reconciling myself with the label of “divorced single mother” took time. Time to realise that getting divorced was the best thing to ever happen to me. Time out to be best the best god damn parent I could be for my boy. Time to realise that ditching my corporate career in favour of the wedding industry actually made me the happiest I had ever been at work.
“I developed my own unique brand of authentic, cringe-free weddings, and I did it all whilst working at home with my son. And weddings were fun! It turns out that creating amazing memories for happy people is a pretty good gig. Plus, there’s always champagne.”
Then I started to notice a gap in the industry. Couples are expected to spend a fortune on their wedding; and no one was serving the couples who wanted an affordable, but still fabulous wedding. And, being a parent of a toddler, I noticed that engaged couples with kids were particularly affected by this, because parents have completely different financial priorities, compared to young couples.
So, I set about disrupting the wedding industry, and launched a ground-breaking, all-inclusive, pop up wedding company. We offer pop up weddings and elopements that are easy to organise, beautiful and affordable – without sacrificing that luxe feel – for couples who didn’t want to start their married life with a financial hangover. Importantly, we don’t just save people money. We save them time. Hundreds of hours of time. Which, as a solo parent, I value above all else.
This not only makes me feel good – like I really am changing the way people choose to get married – but I have been able to grow my businesses to support my son and I. We come first.
“The lifestyle I’ve created is all about us. We ride bikes or walk the dog to school. I don’t work between after school time and bedtime. We escape winter to explore a new country together for a month each year. Most importantly, we have an amazing relationship.”
Just last week my son made me a video which can only be described as a love letter, thanking me for being the best mum who he could ever wish for. It made me realise that parenting alone was the catalyst that made me the best version of myself – for both of us.