Celebrating Moms: Emma Isaacs

Mum of five (yes, FIVE!) and global CEO and founder of networking and mentoring company Business Chicks Emma Isaacs explains how it all works

Emma Isaacs was 25 when she went to a Business Chicks event and decided she wanted to buy the company. Now, just over ten years later, the entrepreneur has hosted speakers like Sir Richard Branson, Nicole Kidman, Jamie Oliver and Arianna Huffington and Business Chicks has more than 40,000 members worldwide. The powerhouse businesswoman also has five children, all of whom were born at home under the guidance of midwives and a doula. This is Emma’s story.

“My husband I always knew we’d have a big family. We talked about having five kids, but honestly, I don’t think either of us ever really thought we’d do it! Three is the tipping point, really. Once you’ve had three kids, you’re already outnumbered. So you think, ‘OK, let’s have another.’ And then another. It’s chaos, of course, but it’s managed chaos. The house is never quiet, but I love that. And I think our personalities complement having such a big family – we’re both very chilled out, and we don’t hover over our kids. I mean, you can’t, not with five of them!

I’m lucky that I love being pregnant. I’m a very intense person – I really love highs and lows, they’re the times when I do my best work. I love the intensity of it. I’m grateful I never got morning sickness, so I could always work while pregnant. That’s something not everyone can do, I know.

I first fell pregnant when I was 28. It happened quickly and easily, and my husband and I were over the moon. Sadly, I miscarried at 11 weeks. It was the first grandchild on both sides, so there was a lot of excitement. I was devastated. I remember being at a café the next day, and a woman sat down next to me. I smiled at her and then realized she had a little Moses basket next to her with not just one baby, but two. It felt like a gut punch, like the universe was laughing at me. I’m not the type of person to get down, but that day was very dark.

Luckily, I fell pregnant again a few months later, and now that little girl is eight. It’s incredible how the time just goes. My first pregnancy, I honestly didn’t know anything about birth or babies or even being pregnant. I learned it all as I went.

I was just so petrified of giving birth. My mom had three very traumatic births, and I was very eager not to repeat that experience. About halfway through, I did a calm birth course, which made me feel a lot more positive. I made a conscious decision not to listen to any more negative birth stories, either; not because I wanted to diminish the experience of those women, but because I wanted to set myself up for something good. Somewhere along the way, I stumbled on the idea of home birth, and it just clicked: that’s what I needed to do. It’s not for everyone, I get that, but I love it. I’ve now had five babies at home, and they’ve all been delivered beautifully.

The crowd has grown over the years at my births – from three of us at my eldest’s birth to about 15 or so at my youngest’s last year. I felt like I was on a stage! It was surreal; I was surrounded by my kids and my husband, a doula, a midwife and more. My two oldest girls had their hands on my shoulders, supporting me. It created the most wonderful family memories which I’ll treasure always. I felt very safe and very loved, which is how every woman should feel when they’re in labor.

In terms of my career, I have an intense job, and people are always asking me how I do it all. The answer has changed over the years – for my first four kids, I kept my work and home life very separate. I breastfed each of my kids for at least a year, and I’d have my nanny bring them in for their feeds in the privacy of my office. I really wanted to appear ‘professional’ and keep my kids away from work as much as possible, but now, with five, that’s not really something I can do. And besides all that, I want to foster a workplace that supports moms and dads and their kids. That has to start with me, of course.

Nowadays, I work a lot from home and blend my work and family life more. And the lovely thing about that is that my two oldest girls are much more cognizant of what I do – supporting women in the workplace – and they’re really proud. That’s an incredible feeling.

At Business Chicks, we’ve always had a culture focussed on people. My thinking is that if you focus on the person, they can focus on their work. We are 100 percent flexible with our employees, which, I’ll admit, is not always easy. It’s a constant back and forth conversation between us and the employee, but that’s what it takes to work. It mostly works, though, because both sides are invested in making it work.

I don’t get a lot of time for myself with five kids and a business, but when I do, I cherish it. Sometimes I just tell my husband, ‘You need to put them all in the car and go around the block a few times!’ And I have a cup of tea and recharge and when they come back, I’m good to go again!

It’s a full life, a busy one, but that’s OK with me. We don’t take life too seriously – you can’t with five kids! – and we try to lead by example always. We try to be kind and generous; I want my kids to learn that life can be tough, but you can get through most of it with kindness.”