By Narelle Coulter
If you are going to literally lose track of a child then Disneyland is a great place to do it.
That’s the tongue-in-cheek advice from Australian entrepreneur and global CEO of Business Chicks, Emma Isaacs.
The mother of five was in Australia earlier this year to speak at a women’s business lunch in Melbourne.
“Yes, I have five lovely little humans waiting for me in LA. It’s a completely crazy life. They are all under 10 years of age. My youngest turns two next week. We are having a party but nothing is organised but I will get onto that as soon as I arrive home,“ Emma told the audience.
Emma bought Business Chicks 14 years ago when it was on the verge of collapse and has turned it into Australia’s largest networking community for women. The company produces over 100 events annually, publishes a magazine and has a 250K plus social media following.
She employs a team of 40 women spread over three continents and four time zones.
Emma and husband Rowan moved their five children, Milla 10, Honey, 8, Indie, 6, Ryder, 4 and Piper, 2, from Sydney to Los Angeles in a bid to expand the Business Chicks empire into the United States.
Emma spoke candidly about the myth of achieving a perfect work/life balance and gave the largely female audience her take on juggling work and family.
She admitted she regularly fails at both illustrating her point with an anecdote about a family trip to Disneyland during which she lost two of her brood in one day.
“The first time we lost one we didn’t know for 20 minutes. In a group of 12, five adults and seven kids, you think someone else is always watching,“ she said.
“Suddenly my phone rang and it was a call from Anaheim, California. I thought that’s weird, I’m not going to take that. Next thing I get a text message from Shannon in Guest Relations saying ’I have your daughter, Honey, with me’.
“If you are going to lose a child, lose them at Disneyland. They are very, very good.“
On another holiday to Hawaii this year she and Rowan forgot how many children they were taking with them.
“The Isaacs en mass are quite a sight. For a start you have five children running in five directions, and we have 4000 suitcases. We’re not the shy and retiring types,“ Emma said.
At a security check the official questioned why the family of seven only had six boarding passes.
“We had forgotten to buy a ticket for our four year old boy. We didn’t leave him there, that would be weird, but it was definitely one of those Kevin Home Alone Moments,“ Emma said, laughing.
Emma gets asked all the time how she juggles her large family and demanding career.
“People see five kids, they see an international business, and see me travelling a lot for my work and think I have all the answers,“ she said.
“I’ve leant a thing or two about trying to balance it all but I certainly do not have the answers. I just try to be the best parent I can when I am home with my kids and try to be the best when I’m working.
“There are lots of weeks when I drink all the kale smoothies and take my make-up off and go to the kids’ schools for their school concerts. Equally, there are weeks when I work way too much and the kids haven’t brushed their hair in days and the only thing I’ve eaten is the crusts off their grilled cheese sandwiches.
“It ebbs and flows like it does for all of us. I try to bring an awareness to it and be okay with the fact that sometimes I fail at work and I regularly fail as a parent.“
Through her work with Business Chicks and her book, Winging It, Emma said she aims to empower women to take risks and dive in before they are ready.
“I really believe in doing what feels right, not always what we think is right. I am passionate about encouraging women to take on that mindset and give things a go before they are ready.
“Winging it doesn’t mean do whatever you want, but it does mean back yourself and have a quiet confidence and explore the things that scare you. Fear is not a reason why you shouldn’t do something.“
When she’s not working or parenting Emma has a simple wellness routine involving massages, the odd glass of wine and a determination to be mindful in every single moment.
“I don’t do that much exercise. I mean running after five small children that’s a sport and is better than a treadmill.
“I keep a gratitude journal and try to get a massage when I can. We are very lucky in the US as we have amazing technology and apps. I go to my soothe app and say ’I want a massage’, suddenly there is a knock on the door.
“I have a drink of wine, I am not a great drinker, but I certainly enjoy a glass of wine, and I drink a tonne of water. That’s what I’m capable of right now.“
Emma said she and her family were committed to the US for the foreseeable future despite Business Chicks not growing as successfully as she would like in the US market.
“In lots of ways we were misfits in Australia,“ she said of her herself and Rowan.
“We never kind of fitted in. America is a very creative place and I am confident we have a future there, even though I am not sure what it is yet.
“All our kids have American accents and the older ones go to school in LA.
“(Since we moved) there I wrote a book and had another baby. It has been a really beautiful time to recalibrate, sitting with it, how to fail and being proud of that and working out the next steps forward.“