Rashida Tayabali is all too familiar with the struggles of women trying to maintain a career while raising their family. And she’s used her experiences to launch Project Mum – a project matching service for skilled mums in Australia. She explains why it’s important to her.
What’s your career background?
I’ve worked as a marketing coordinator for ten years, supporting marketing teams in promotions, branding and other marketing projects.
What is Project Mum, and what inspired you to start it?
Project Mum is a project matching service for skilled mums who have taken time off from their jobs to look after their children, but are still looking for short or long term projects suited to their skills and knowledge.
I was inspired to start it after talking to a mum who’d launched her own business after having children because she couldn’t find flexible work even though she’d been a senior marketing manager for a company.
I was also motivated by my own experience – after I decided not to go back to my old job full time I used to search for part time work that would allow me to use my marketing skills, but struggled to find anything.
What’s your vision for Project Mum?
Ultimately becoming the go to service for both mums and businesses looking to start and implement a project cost effectively in Australia. I want to place as many mums into projects as possible so that they feel their knowledge and skills are being maximised fully, and provide them with a confidence boost and income.
How can you help mums realise their ambitions?
By letting them know that there is a service in the market that lets them do work they enjoy without sacrificing time with children, so they remain employable if they ever decide to re-enter the workforce.
Is Project Mum your first business, and how are you finding it so far?
Project Mum is my second business. I started freelance/content writing when my son was four months old. I’d always wanted to find time to write more, and because I’d been working full time, I’d end up doing it sporadically or not at all.
It’s definitely more challenging than my writing business and very different because there are more aspects to Project Mum in terms of how active I am on social media, coming up with ideas for blog posts and actively networking to get the business name out there.
Results are also a lot slower and I have to put more time in to it than freelancing, though I’m still doing that too!
What learnings have you brought from your writing business to Project Mum?
One of the learnings I brought to Project Mum was that I have to stop being shy about telling people about my business and become an active networker.
I didn’t do any networking while freelancing as most of the work is pitched via email. But through Project Mum I’ve realised the value of getting out there and actually talking to people. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about the business from various people including mums and that gives me the confidence boost to keep going.
I’ve also learned the value of persistence – when I started freelancing I didn’t get commissions straight away. In fact my first two clips were done for free but I kept persisting, pitching and picking myself up from rejections and now two years later I have a business that gives me a part time income and feeds my creativity.
How important is it, do you think, to have resources like Project Mum for women?
It’s crucial because people don’t realise the magnitude of the transition that happens from being a career woman to a mother for the first time. It is earthshaking. It turns your life upside down and while it’s rewarding, nothing prepares you for the journey of becoming a stay at home mother.
I questioned my worth many times while I stayed home with my son and worried about my skills going to waste – my rational mind knew I was doing an important job raising a child, but I also knew how hard I’d studied and worked to get where I had been before bub came along.
I’ve had many conversations with my husband on this topic! Earning my own money is also very important in terms of independence, but I didn’t want to sacrifice my time with my son either.
The idea of flexible work is touted by organisations but few walk the talk. Businesses like Project Mum offer mums the chance to keep their skills current while working around their families.
How has being a mum impacted your own outlook?
It’s forced me to explore non-traditional ways of staying ‘employable’, including doing volunteer work to get relevant experience. I’ve learned to be patient too – if working one day is not happening for whatever reason I leave it for another time.
I’ve also realised that once you become a mum it doesn’t mean sacrificing your own individuality. You can still do what you want to do but in a non-traditional manner – progress is often slower but you’re happier.
How important is it for you to continue your career?
It’s not so important at the moment as I’m focused on running a business, but then I’ve always taken on career roles in the past that haven’t paid me well in terms of money but where I’ve learnt so much!
That’s what I’d continue if I ever did decide to go back into the workforce. I’d focus on finding work I loved doing.
How do you maintain your own business-family balance?
I’ve learnt that I need to focus on one thing at a time rather than trying to do everything at once – something I’ve been guilty of in the past. So if I’m spending time with hubby then that’s all I’m doing.
I also need to look after myself and devote at least a couple of hours to ‘me time’ every day, whether that’s having a coffee or reading a book. Taking the time to rest when I need to – and asking for help rather than doing everything myself and getting frustrated and overworked. I’ve chosen to stay and work from home, so I prefer to control my pace of life.
What are your tips for mums looking to balance a business with their family?
- Set only two to four goals for a year and break them down into three weekly tasks.
- Reduce time on smart phones and spend time playing with your kids.
- Accept that progress will be slower than what you’re used to and don’t do anything which will not build your business – spend maximum time on a maximum value project as the results will show up quicker.
- Find a time slot where you’re most alert to work on your business, preferably when the children are down for a nap.
- Look after yourself and take time out to relax or exercise on a regular basis.
You can learn more about Project Mum on their website.