Poppy Barley

Magazine  v

Founder's Letter

How Becoming a Mom Changed Me—and My Company

At the end of 2016 I’ve arrived at the same place as Kendall—focusing again on the long-term vision for Poppy Barley—but had a different journey to get there.

Last January, ten very long days overdue, I had my first baby, a beautiful boy we named Jude. In the weeks leading up to his birth I wondered how much like Sheryl Sandberg I would be; would I be checking my work email in the hospital, hours after giving birth? Or would having a baby make Poppy Barley seem unimportant and insignificant and make me not want to go back to work at all?

I have always wanted to be a mother. So, when starting Poppy Barley, the implications for motherhood was something I thought about a lot. (In fact, you can read all about it in our series, “Moms Who Run Businesses”.) The biggest thing you lose as an entrepreneur is the fabulous “year-off” we Canadians get to just focus on the baby. (This isn’t just entrepreneurs—most women in client-based businesses, like hairdressers and chiropractors, are in the same boat, as are single mothers and women who are the primary breadwinner in their household.) As entrepreneurs go, I was luckier than most because I have a co-founder (who can make decisions without me) and a great core Poppy Barley team. They gave me the gift of having weeks rather than days off. I was aware of, and am still grateful, for this gift.

In the end, I checked my email a few days after I got home from the hospital and in the first 6 weeks rarely worked. What worked well during this time was Kendall coming over weekly to update me on the company and get my input on important decisions. She could cuddle Jude while I worked furiously on my laptop. (Babies are indiscriminate cuddle-monsters in the early days.) What did not work well is committing to attending anything. For example, for some reason, pre-baby, I thought it was a good idea to commit to modeling some of our shoes and outfits for a blogger five weeks postpartum. This was a bad idea on many fronts, but one mainly in that young babies have no schedule and many, like Jude, are bad sleepers. Every time I had to leave, I had just gotten him to sleep. I ended up cancelling a lot and came across (or maybe just was) flaky.

When Jude was eight weeks I came back to work two afternoons a week. The first week back I was skipping to work I was so excited to have a place to go, people to talk to, and a reason to put on real pants. I missed the team and the business and it was an easy transition because I was still with Jude 95% of the week. (I also did another 10 hours per week during nap time once I was able to get Jude to sleep solo—before that I walked or held him for naps and watched a lot of HGTV and Hockey Wives.)

When Jude was 3.5 months I started sharing a part-time nanny with Claire, power force behind Flatter:Me Belts, and her baby Pen. Our schedule was Monday to Thursday 9 am to 2 pm—good for breastfeeding and for spending some summer afternoons in the park. I kept working during most naps (instead of working out, sleeping or cleaning) and did start to feel that common working mom feeling of feeling stretched and thus somewhat inadequate in every area. I couldn’t devote myself to Poppy Barley like I used to, but I also missed a lot of time with Jude. And working out and seeing friends took a backseat to both.

In September, at 7.5 months, Jude started daycare and I went back to work full-time, though I work 9 am to 3 pm and again most evenings so I can be with him for the long afternoon stretch. (An upside to owning your own business is the ability to create your schedule—for life.) For the most part, this works well and when I start to feel out of balance I adjust.

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For me, the upside of this year has been two fold. First of all, I am really happy—happier than before Jude, albeit busier. I love being a mom and I love being a mother who works outside of the home.

It was also a great year for Poppy Barley and I think we learned some good lessons. Sometimes when you can’t work harder, you have to work smarter. This means figuring out what you need to do and what is a great development opportunity for an employee. It means asking yourself “What would this look like if it was easy?”, focusing on what matters the most, and then nailing the execution.

At the close of 2016 I am grateful for my Jude baby and my Poppy Barley baby (and our team has many things they’re grateful for, too) and I’m excited to see how 2017 unfolds for both. 

Justine Barber

Co-Founder, Poppy Barley
Justine started Poppy Barley with her sister Kendall in 2012 after a seemingly endless frustration with boot shopping. An avid runner and reader, Justine shares her life in Edmonton with her husband Connor, son Jude, and puppy Quinn.