What does it look like to be a working creative mother? For those of us living as mothers and creatives, we’re often stepping into our ambitions without a roadmap for success, sometimes wondering what effect our dedication to our work will have on our children. Our Publisher, Joanna Love, took this step when she founded her business 25 years ago. We talk to her and her children about growing up with CHILD.
Before the internet brought wider business opportunities into the home with the likes of online selling, publishing and sharing portals like Etsy, Big Cartel, WordPress and Facebook, Australian mothers who wanted to develop occupations outside of their children had a battle on their hands.
The division between the stay-at-home and working mother was more defined: you either worked out of the home at a paying job, or in the home, unpaid, with the children (keeping in mind that married woman were routinely asked to have a man to co-sign for a bank loan application, even when they were the main breadwinner, well into the 1980s).
It was in this environment that Publisher Joanna Love started her business, Copeland Publishing. “One of my earliest memories of the business,” Joanna’s eldest child, Camilla, recalls, “was of walking into the study after school and there was my mother breastfeeding my baby brother while selling advertising on the phone at the same time. The ultimate multitasker.”
Joanna had the benefit of a family who backed her when she came to them with her business plan, but raising her three children and growing the business, starting with the first publication, Sydney’s CHILD, was all still before her. She began by setting up a home office in the family’s study. “We set up a new phone and fax line and tried to work normal school hours – the kids walked home after school and sometimes our distribution person switched hats to be ‘child minder’ when they got home,” says Joanna. “There were kids playing in the backyard most of the time.”
Joanna Love, her granddaughter Esther Love, and her daughter-in-law, Sally Love.
Camilla was 10, Lachlan eight and James, now 25 and the Creative Director at CHILD, a newborn. It meant the kids grew up with a range of people at home all the time, “whether it was at midnight in press week, or meeting the accountant on the weekends,” remembers Camilla. While it may have been easier in some ways for Joanna to work completely out of the home, the children appreciated that she was there. “I really liked that she worked from home,” says Lachlan. “First in the study, then in the flat that was built for the business. I also loved that her next office was right at the shops. It was great popping in and out as kids.”
From the beginning, Joanna involved the children in the business, setting Camilla to work stuffing envelopes for pocket money, and later Lachlan and Camilla did paper runs to deliver the issues all across Sydney. All three children remember the distinct smell of the hot wax they used to stick the ads on the pages with rollers before sending them off to the printer.
“Mum worked so hard,” says Camilla, “but instead of giving herself a bonus, she and her business partner gave themselves a ‘cook’ once a month. I always loved the week that Kate the Cook came to our house. She stirred up a batch of spag bol or chicken curry and froze it. It meant we could eat something other than sausages or chops and microwaved veggies. Getting the paper out was more important than meal inspiration for my mum, and now as a working parent myself, I know exactly how this can be.”
“One of the hardest times as a family was when my father died. I was 19 and my youngest brother was 10. The business was in a huge growth phase. Dad was Mum’s biggest fan and number one supporter of the business. To lose your confidant and raise three children, while continuing to go to press month after month and build a better business – I just don’t know how she did it, but she did. Over the years, I have learnt not to question, just to admire.”
James credits growing up surrounded by the business for fueling his love of art, publishing and design; looking back now, those after-school jobs have more meaning. “When you’re young you don’t truly appreciate what your parents are doing, you just know that they’re busy all the time,” he says. “Now that I’m part of the business I can see how much work is involved and how many sacrifices had to be made to get the business to where it is.”
With Joanna’s granddaughter Esther, daughter of Lachlan and his wife Sally, also a creative business woman, appearing on the cover, the third generation of the Love family has become involved in the magazine. Sally hopes Esther will inherit the Love’s passion and motivation to experience everything life has to offer. “Like most parents we want her to be happy,” she says. “As a woman I hope my sweet Esther grows up with a strong sense of who she is, is confident and happy in her body, and that she deeply loves and respects herself. I want her to follow her dreams and feel compassion for everyone around her.”
When Joanna Love launched her paper for parents, she was working out of her home with two children racing in and out after school and a newborn in her arms. Twenty-five years later that first little paper known as Sydney’s CHILD has gone from 20,000 copies to more than half a million copies of six CHILD Magazines reaching across Australia. Her children are grown and infinitely admiring of the company their mother built from the ground up.
“I only now understand the risk that she took to start the business from scratch and I’m amazed and in awe of her achievements and accolades,” shares Camilla. “I only hope I can leave such a lasting impression on my children.”