Over the past few weeks, Hafsa Pattan has chatted with several working moms in various fields to get a feel for how they balance, well, everything. Their home life, their personal life, their social life and their work life. Oh, and the lives of their little ones (and sometimes significant other), seeing as the mother figure is responsible for so much in many families (ever wondered why they call it the motherboard?). One of her first meetings was with the ever-talented Trina Boos, president of Boost Agents, a now 6-year-old recruitment agency in Toronto that specializes in matching professionals with careers in digital, advertising, creative and marketing.
By Hafsa Pattan
Trina has accomplished a lot in her career: she has started two successful businesses; she worked in one of Canada’s largest and most successful advertising agencies; she helped to grow a startup digital agency that was then sold to Arlene Dickinson’s Venture Communications; and she also sold customer experience, insights and strategy to companies across Canada. In addition to this, she’s a mother of three kids aged 6, 2, and 7 months.
How does she do it all?
Almost six years ago, Trina started Boost Agents in her living room while she was still breastfeeding her first child. She has memories of planning a business, sticky notes covering the living room wall, meeting with the bank, accountant, designer and web developer, and launching her business in the industry, all with a baby in tow. Two more babies later, she’s seen Boost Agents take shape in ways she never thought possible.
Her growth plan for the company and herself included having three children by 2016. This equated to having a child almost every two years, which meant that the business needed to either grow or remain stable while she left to nurse each one.
Trina knew that she would never be able to take a full 12-month maternity leave as is typical for many mothers in Canada. She was able to take almost four months off after both her second and third children, but any more than that would have left her team back in the office in need. That said, she set up a temporary nursery in her office, breastfed during meetings with staff, and pumped between interviews to juggle things as the nurturer of a newborn baby, and the leader of a growing business.
While many entrepreneurs understood the challenges of balancing family and work, many others in the community did not. A fellow mother asked her, “Don’t you want to be with your baby?” Another looked her up and down on a Friday afternoon and asked, “Why are you so dressed up? What?! You’re going back to work ALREADY!?”
The outward criticism was a little surprising, but Trina had known that not everyone would relate to her experience. What she does by juggling her two major priorities works for her, but it’s not something she would wish for most people. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” she says. “Juggling is just part of the job. If I were to listen to what everyone thinks about how I handle my life, I would be crippled… I wouldn’t do a thing. It’s important to stay strong, and stay focused on your goals, what’s best for you, your kids, your business and your family as a whole.”
She was nursing her eldest when she signed legal papers during the launch of her business. She’s given speeches to groups of entrepreneurs with a newborn in her arms. And she’s brought each child in to meet the team of eleven employees currently employed at Boost Agents. She jokes that she’s got little recruiters in training.
“If I were to listen to what everyone thinks about how I handle my life, I would be crippled… I wouldn’t do a thing. It’s important to stay strong, and stay focused on your goals, what’s best for you, your kids, your business and your family as a whole.”
“It’s been incredible to see the business develop and reach these key milestones, and to see that with each milestone I’ve managed to have another baby while the business continues to grow.”
After baby number two, Trina realized that in order to focus on Boost’s management and growth initiatives, she needed to remove herself from the day-to-day tasks of her business and hire a team that could support the client management and business development aspects. Doing so has helped tremendously, and given her employees more confidence. She says that “it’s been exceptional to see how empowered they feel.”
She had hoped to take six months off after her third child, but three months in decided that the business needed her back part-time. She set benchmarks and guidelines for the team and for herself, so as to be more disciplined around when she would work and when she would be more hands-off. It’s changed the whole vibe of her maternity leave, providing some structure to her time away, and as a result she’s really been enjoying her time with her newborn, while also being available to the team.
One of the most important things Trina told me was that she designed her life with one key word in mind: simplicity. She’s only responsible for the things she wants to be responsible for and those are her kids, her husband, and her business. That’s it. When she and her husband aren’t working, they’re spending quality time with their kids, rather than dealing with household chores. “I was forever exhausted when I came home from work, and I dreaded doing the laundry, cooking and cleaning, so it made perfect sense to bring in some extra help.”
Trina hired her mother to clean, cook, and maintain the house. Her mom also plays a part in raising the kids (alongside Trina and her husband, of course). It’s popular strategy — I spoke with a handful of other moms who say that they, too, have hired a cleaning service or grocery delivery service to get these mundane tasks done.
Trina also believes that a working mom is invaluable to her children. She describes her 6-year-old daughter like this:
“She’s fierce, she’s independent, she’s a strong little woman. She has opinions about life that she’s willing to stand her ground on. She’s not a fighter — she’s a very cooperative person — but she has principles. She’s only ever known a life where her father is as equally as involved as her mom — in fact, he sometimes handles 70% of the household stuff. She has a progressive way of looking at her world; she hears a lot about business and its challenges, and I can attribute that to her having a working mom.”
Another key takeaway from my chat with Trina: a happy parent leads to happy kids. Kids want to see their parents happy, and this in turn makes them happy, whether they realize it or not. Trina also stresses that it’s so important for new moms to know that their children are adaptable.
People often talk about how children feed off the negative energy of their parents, and how running a business can feed into that. But by structuring the time she devotes to her family and her business, Trina brings her positive energy to both, and has been able to see both her family and her business thrive.
Hafsa Pathan is a PR Account Executive at 88 Creative, and also the founder of Honey Lemon Events, a party styling and planning business in Toronto. She spends her time trying to balance motherhood, her career and entrepreneurship. She even manages to take a shower daily. (Ok — every other day.)