Ever wonder how you can balance it all as a mum? This is one interview in a series talking to mums who have found a way to make it work. Meet Anna Barber, founder of Scribble Press and mum to August (6), Edwin (4), and stepmother to Christian (13) and Locke (11).
As Anna Barber boarded a plane seven months pregnant and sat down next to Darcy Pollack, she had no idea that the conversation she was about to have with her seat mate would launch her into an entirely new career. After five hours of discussion on their cross-country flight, the two parted ways with a handshake and the intention of becoming business partners. Post birthing and two years later, the duo’s vision has developed into three Scribble Press stores – one in Los Angeles and two in New York City – where kids can write, illustrate and publish their own books.
What do you love about being a mom?
I love being able to experience the world as though for the first time through the eyes of my kids. What we take for routine, they think is thrilling. My son just discovered Monopoly and now he wants to play it all the time.
What do you enjoy most about working?
I like the challenge of being slightly in over my head and constantly learning new skills – what Daniel Pink referred to in his book DRIVE as the “pursuit of mastery.” I also find the process of taking an idea and turning it into an actual business very exciting. It’s creative in the most basic sense. Because Scribble Press is dedicated to inspiring and celebrating kids’ imaginations, I get up every day feeling like I’m helping to create something positive in the world.
What’s your biggest challenge in juggling both?
Like most mothers in my situation, I never feel like I am giving 100% to my work or my family. At the end of the day, I feel like there is a long list of things that went undone. The challenge is learning to be ok with that. My husband also runs a small company, so between the two of us and four children, we have a lot of logistics to work out.
How do you deal with it?
I know that I am a better mother because I am so engaged in building Scribble Press and I bring the energy and fulfillment I get from work home with me. I also practice triage as much as possible. It’s freeing to accept that I don’t need to go to that fundraiser or be at every school pick-up. Someone else can handle those things. The important thing for me is to be there at night to read with my boys and make up stories, and for the morning routine.
Also, the great thing about my work is that my kids can join in. My family spends a lot of time at Scribble Press and I love that they understand and appreciate what I do. It makes my whole life feel knitted together rather than work and home being in opposition.
How do you re-charge?
I enjoy alone time because it’s so rare. I love to read novels and go for walks.
What advice would you give other women considering being a working mom?
It’s important to sift through what you think is expected of you and figure out what’s going to make you most content and the most effective in your various roles. Your way of doing it isn’t going to be anyone else’s way. Often, we mothers are so hard on each other and judgmental. Whatever works for your family and for you is a great plan. My husband and I work long hours, travel a lot and share child care duties. That’s what works for us.
Who inspires you?
My mother has always inspired me and I’m incredibly lucky that we are so close. She came from a small town in the south, got her Ph.D. in English, and started her own literary agency in New York City. She worked happily throughout my childhood and I never saw her tearing her hair out about her choices. It was always so clear that working made her happy and I never wished anything different for our family. She’s always supported me 100% in all my choices. I hope to be for my kids what she was for me.
What one thing can you not live without?
Bluetooth in my car. I live in Los Angeles where half my life is spent driving and that’s where I have my most focused conversations.
If you had an hour of time to yourself, how would you spend it?
I would get together with my girlfriends or talk to them on the phone. One of my closest girlfriends is a dancer and a choreographer, and has the same challenges in juggling that I do but such a different experience. I just love hearing what’s going on with her and discussing our lives.