Yeah, but HOW do you do it??

08.08.11 | Posted in Entrepreneurship General



I interviewed Catherine Harris, Chairwoman of Harris Farm Markets last week. We’ll be running that interview in the next edition of the Business Chicks mag, Latte (which incidentally is shaping up to be a bumper issue. If you’re not yet a Business Chicks member become one here so you can receive an annual subscription.)

Anyways, I digress. There are at least twenty reasons I could give you as to why I think Catherine is incredible – she chairs a business with annual revenues of over $300 million; she works in the business with three of her five sons (yep, no typo there – she has five sons) and her husband, David; she’s on too many boards to mention; and during our photo shoot at their Potts Point Sydney store called the staff by their first names (they have over 1000 employees.)

Catherine’s mum was another incredible lady, Mary Rossi. She was the first Aussie woman to have her own television show in the 50s and then went on to found her own business, Mary Rossi Travel. But here’s the clincher. Mary had ten children. Again, no typo.

Now as the mother of a mere two little tackers, I sat dumbfounded across the table from Catherine as she recalled how her mum worked full time and ran a household of ten children (plus gave back to the community – the Premier at the time, Neville Wran, asked her to be on his Women’s Advisory Committee, among other community initiatives she was a part of.) It wasn’t appropriate for me to ask during our interview last week, but the real question I wanted to ask was this: “ok, but HOW did she do it? What did she specifically do to make it work?”

It’s the same question I find myself asking of other super successful working women who have the majority responsibility for running their families/homes. I just want to get the inside scoop into what things they did differently to make life work. To make it a bit easier.

I’ve recently had my second child and so far so good. I’m managing. I could do with some more sleep, but I’m managing pretty well. Friends (mostly those without kids) are the ones now asking me “yeah, but HOW do you do it?” so I pondered that for a minute this morning and came up with a few ways that I’m making the juggle work.

1) I don’t do housework. Well I do a bit of it (tidying up, packing/unpacking the dishwasher and picking my hubby’s clothes off the floor is inevitable) but as a rule I try to hold back and not do it, which in itself is a discipline. I certainly don’t clean (not that I have anything against it – I actually find it quite therapeutic – but it’s just a stupid way for me to spend my time.) So, I have a housekeeper/cleaner come in three mornings a week to organise us.

2) I don’t strive for perfection. This is hard for me but I’m training myself not to correct my typos, spelling, grammar etc when communicating internally with my team on email/skype. Just saves time. I also don’t write lengthy messages. If something needs length then it’s better to talk. I try find as few words as possible to respond. Then I hit delete and move onto the next message. Obviously communication with our members, partners etc requires more polish, but the same rule – short and sweet where possible – applies there too.

3) I do all my shopping online. Each week I do a grocery shop online and a shop with the local fruit & veg market online (sorry Catherine – you guys have got to go online!) and it saves me a heap of time. I have lists saved in my profile and shopping for the family is generally a 5-10 minute task.

4) I have amazing family support. Love my mum. Love my mother-in-law. They save my life each week with the support they give us. But if I didn’t have them around I’d hire someone else to fill their shoes (sounds cold and mercenary but it’s not – I’m just trying to say that if someone else can do a job at say $30 an hour, I’d do better outsourcing it.)

How about you? Tell us your secrets and tips so we can all go on to live happily ever after. And have our own television shows. And businesses. And ten children.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Kirsty Spraggon

    Love it ! I agree with ‘don’t do housework’ and haven’t cleaned a toilet since the 90’s. I outsource anything that I don’t enjoy and anything I can pay someone less for than my hourly rate. It’s important to know what your time is worth. In terms of how I juggle. I integrate work and play. I walk with clients (kills to birds with one stone) a meeting and excersise. I eat out with clients often and I use ‘time gaps’ where ever possible such as being in a taxi, or at the doctors office, to listen to an audio book, check emails or update my linked in.

  2. Josia

    I still do the housework – but I have a strict routine I stick to. For me running more than one business with kids (I have two and one on the way and i’m launching two more businesses over the coming year) requires a lot of planning. A lot of organising. And a lot of self discipline. I agree with Kirsty – I outsource where I can and time gaps are a godsend. You always have plenty of hours in the day to do everything if you know how to use them.

  3. painterdeb

    Great post. Thanks for sharing how you manage both your jobs.

    I think if I could take your lead I could seize back some of my time. Currently I’m working 6 days with Sunday being ‘family’ day.

    Who wants to spend that valuable time and the evenings cleaning up constantly. My kids seem to care more about me spending time with them anyway.

    I’m going to work on that this week.

  4. Emma

    So true huh? They don’t seem to mind if the house is messy but they care if we’re stressed and tired!

  5. Ivana Matic

    Hi Emma, I also don’t do housework. I’m only tiding up, packing/unpacking dishwasher and washing machine. And that is taking too much time. I’m glad that you’re also picking up hubby’s clothes from the floor :-).
    I have two girls, 4 and 16 months. For me the most important thing is to find “me” time, which is in my case exercise, then I’m filled withe the energy to do everything else. Also, doing the job you like is very important.

  6. Gen

    I really don’t mean this to sound snarky, but it seems the answer of how to do it all, is to earn a hell of a lot more money than I, or most of the mothers I know, do, and spend a lot of time away from your babies with someone else taking care of them for you.
    If you’re not in the position to ‘outsource’, even for $30 an hour (which is a LOT of money to a large chunk of society), then what do you do?
    Are there any tips for the mothers out there still working on their careers and aiming higher for themselves?
    Starting from a position of wealth before having children seems to be a common thread in the examples of these women, It really does seem incredibly to get ahead AFTER the babies come along, with all it takes to maintain these careers.

  7. Emma

    That’s what we’re trying to uncover Gen – do you have any tips to share with us that you’ve found? We’re all in this together, no matter what our situation or what we earn….Emma

  8. Sara Lucas

    God, so true, Emma! I have 3 kids and an early stage business, which ironically helps women to be more savvy about money.

    Women’s ability to manage and outsource where possible without doubt, plays a big part in our success but what of the associated costs, as Gen mentions above? Let’s assume the cost of outsourcing and support is say, $50,000 pa with childcare, housekeeping, outsourced meals etc. How much would you suppose a business needs to earn in revenue (before tax etc) to land the equivalent of $50,000 in post tax dollars in your hot sticky little hand for the cleaner’s wage? Depending on the nature of your business, its cost base and your capacity for smart tax management, the range is a staggering $85,000 to $400,000! Yes you did read that right.

    No wonder this working parent gig is like facing the West Face of K2, especially when we run our own businesses! The costs of even getting out of the door are absurd.

    I’ve written more about this, and why the range is so high, in this month’s Latte magazine. You’ll need to have it to be in the know!

  9. Emma

    Perhaps I had your Latte article in mind when I wrote this Sara (which by the way is brilliant – thank you! I know our community will love reading your findings and case studies when the issue comes out.)
    It sure does seem like an insurmountable cliff face at times!
    Onwards and up to you and all the other women in the same position…

  10. Monica Griffin

    I run a business from home, we have 2 young children that are primary school & my husband is a police officer so when he isnt working he is hands on with the business & house work. We have been married for 14 years & we have always shared the load of the chores. Sure sometimes it is hard but the house work still gets done, I make a “work to do list” in the morning get the kids organised for school, tidy up then hit the office. Sometimes though I have to admit there isnt enough hours in the day, but it still gets done & if there is a pile of folding/ironing well it will get done eventually :)

  11. Jenny B

    Having been in business for 30 years ( helping over 1 million consultants and raising 4 great kids (that have now given me almost 13 grandchildren) I have been there — done that! Yes, hiring someone to clean house was liberating! (Mainly because I don’t enjoy house cleaning) I found I could either hire someone to do computer work, or hire someone to clean house. I’d rather do the computer and creative work so that was easy. I was fortunate to work from home for 27 years. My kids ALWAYS had someone to come home to, even if I wasn’t there because I hired my best friends and neighbors who loved my kids too. However, the thing that helped me the most was advice from my Aunt (who had 9 kids) who said. “I mop the floor once a week whether it needs it or not.” This taught me to keep things in perspective and not worry about being perfect at everything. Enjoy your life! Enjoy your contribution to society and your family. Most importantly, enjoy being who you are!

  12. Kaaren P

    Ah welcome to the dilemmas of the Age Of The Superwomen! (imagine rousing anthems and silk superhero capes)

    My generation I think were the first to think that we could have it all. Babes, perfect marriages, not just a career but an empire…. oh and everything else that the men aspired to could now be ours too.

    I think we sold ourselves a mirage.
    I can share a couple of tips to help you find some balance in this madness that we seek but remember the word ‘BALANCE’ is the key.
    Give yourselves a break girls, it is a juggle to take on the superwoman role & one which has huge implications for our whole society. Nice if you have the resources to outsource but most just don’t have that luxury. Though in past times I have been blessed to be in the first category.

    Rule 1. The best thing I ever learned from my mum when babes arrived was to only ever do 1 hr of housework a day. After the hour whatever isn’t done is left and yes you get over perfection. I completely concur with Gen that when funds are tight it is hard to do that “spend your way out of trouble girlfriend” dance which was my mum’s second lesson. (thanks mum :-))

    Rule 2: It is not ‘Quality Time’ but ‘Quantity Time’ that really reaps the rewards in our parenting. You can’t schedule brilliant moments with your kids as you can with your work time. You just gotta put in the time.

    Having done it all from running several businesses & having a huge disposable income to losing it all and starting again my priorities with my babes are now quite different. I’ve only one left at home and she is a delightful 17 now but I have certainly given up my drive for perfection on the home front.

    I think also it’s an age thing. The good news for those of you at the beginning edge of the superwoman thing is that yes it does get easier.
    These days I work smarter not harder & likewise I live smarter. It’s not about how much can I pack into the day, but how connected and balanced do my family & I feel.
    I give myself permission to just ‘be’, rather than to chase the ‘high achiever’ tail of so called success.

    I feel an Aunty Kaaren blog developing here so will stop. Oh no finally ..

    Rule no 3: Your girlfriends are the golden cup to drink from as often as you can. Treasure them wisely.

  13. Kate Weiss

    Hi Em and all others who commented!
    I fully concur with the not perfection comment. That pile if washing will eventually get folded.
    For me it is also about outsourcing at work. As a small business owner it is too easy to work in and not o. The business. I take the attitude applied to housework to my business to free up my time and delegate liberally!
    I work from my home office a lot and have my laptop in the kitchen as I really wanted my children to have me there when they come home from school. No one can replace Mum and I don’t want to miss those moments. I love to have a home cooked meal on the table but I DO have a cleaner – thank goodness! It is still a juggle – but there is no way in the world I would go back to a job :)

  14. Kelly

    I think you’re all incredible! I’m yet to start a family and find myself struggling to keep up with my work, looking after my pets, cleaning and my final year of study at uni.

    I’m often wondering how women juggle everything in their personal lives and still manage to be successful professionally.

    Thank you for all of your tips for when I finally do settle down to start a family and try to balance everything!

    Keep up the great work.

  15. Emma

    Don’t worry Kelly – you’ll find time and energy and resources you never knew you had and you’ll do great. Running a busy life before starting a family is fantastic training!

  16. Peter

    Be careful ladies, you can’t put a price on raising and enjoying your own children. When you are in your 70’s you will not look back on your life and say “I wish I had made more money or outsourced the care of my children” instead you will regret the years you gave up/missed. No one can have it all. You choose whats most important, in one way or another somthing must give. Im sure if you asked your kids they would choose to have mum around more.

  17. Emma

    Hello Peter, I’m not sure anyone’s advocating outsourcing their children or parenting responsibilities – parenting is not a decision made lightly and I take my role as the mother and role model to my girls very seriously.
    I am an advocate for women doing the activities that energise them and make them happy (whatever that means – working full time or being a full time mother or the tens of variations of that).
    Funny you should mention women in their 70s…When my grandmother was in her 70s she confided in me that she wished she had had a career (she chose full time motherhood, or it was chosen for her) as she found her role monotonous and very difficult and wished for more.
    Thanks for your comment Peter.

  18. Marina

    Quite the hot topic! I’m staring out on a new career while watching my amazing sister (she’s a stay at home mum of 2 and I don’t know how she does it!) all the while considering when we might have children!

    Trying to get my own life in order (house keeping is not a priority for me either but can’t afford a cleaner!) I discovered FlyLady, she’s been a godsend! For those of you who live in CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome) her step by step instructions and daily emails mean you do as your told for a few minutes a day and once a week do a ‘Weekly Home Blessing’ (now doesn’t that make you think differently about your housework?!) for an hour or two… leaving your head available to worry about more important things.

    I’m hoping this new routine will leave people whispering ‘I don’t know how she does it!’ about me in a year or two when my business is thriving while I raise my own kids… I’ll let you know how that works out!

    Thanks for another great post Em!

  19. Big EMMA K.

    Absolutely true, housework is a thankless task, that always needs doing and NEVER goes away. I enlist the entire family for a “10 minute tidy” morning and night. If it isn’t in it’s rightful place, it gets thrown out. Tough love, but I loathe clutter & too much to do, and no budget for outsourcing!
    I also do laundry at night, utilise my dryer in off peak and fold and put away immediately or hang it – no ironing required!
    Spare minutes are very precious and I’d rather do something fun than clean!