Latest Stories

Pregnancy Closed Work Doors, But Motherhood Pushed Me to Kick Career Goals

Latest Stories
Latest Stories

This article was originally published in 2022

I was a big dreamer as a kid, my only goal in life was to bump Sandra Sully off her newsreader chair and take over. I wanted nothing more than to read a scrolling teleprompter and deliver the most important news of the day to my adoring fans. I also wanted the glamorous contouring and big hairdo that came with making telly. It just felt so jazzy from the outside. I made it kind of close to securing that dream - I landed a job in the newsroom at Channel 10 as a junior, worked up to a haphazard and totally clueless cadet journo position and did my first, and only, live cross on a windy bridge about Derryn Hinch going to prison. Pretty much in that moment I decided that commercial news was certainly not for me. (Sorry, Derryn). I then shifted over to production working as Chase Producer on a network television program. That turned out to be my actual dream. My job was literally to chase stories and talent and all the things that make a TV show, present it on a platter in the morning meeting and then make that shit happen. It was exhilarating and thrilling and all the dreamy things you fantasise about when you’re a kid growing up in the country. I loved it — it ticked all the boxes, apart from the 5am wake ups, long working hours and chest-tightening stress that comes with producing live television. It was brilliant.

And then I got pregnant.

The minute I announced I was pregnant with my first child, I witnessed doors physically close for me. Meetings I had sat in for years were no longer in my calendar, responsibilities were shifted “off my plate” and the walls felt as though they were closing in on me and my unborn foetus. I was blissfully dumb and felt it was all just because I was becoming all squishy around the brain as my belly grew. I thought the team were trying to protect me from working too hard but the reality was it was a harsh level of discrimination that myself and many other women experienced and continue to experience in roles across every industry to this day. I don’t think I really understood this until recently. This isn’t a TV-specific thing — I have best mates who literally gave birth in exchange for their career.

After I brought my son Arthur into the world, something within told me I would never return to television. I wanted to be my own boss but just didn’t know how or what I would be bossing over. In a way that blissful newborn phase gave me wings and let me explore my creativity and who I was deep down.

So I picked up a camera.

I begged my husband (who is a commercial photographer) to let me lurk in the background of his shoots and do some (really terrible) behind the scenes. I did a lot of work for free (delivering videos into client’s inboxes and begging other people to let me shoot videos for them).

When Arthur was 8 months old I had a meeting with the HR department from my TV job to talk about me returning to my old role. I sat down to lunch with the HR woman and, just when she thought I would be announcing what days I wanted to return to work, I told her I would never be coming back.

In that moment, Tiny Disco was really born.

I don’t recommend trying to build a business right at the moment you are starting a family but what do they say? Shit always happens at the worst possible time. I had a lot of freedom — I didn’t have a lot of work or shoots at the beginning of Tiny Disco (it was just an odd thing here and there that would pay me a couple of hundred bucks and help me feel slightly independent/able to contribute to the rent). But then, by the time Arthur turned one, I had a couple of steady clients and one full time employee, Remii. She’s still with us to this day, almost 5 years on.

My relationship with work quickly evolved into an obsession. I worked tirelessly and with a level of passion I had never felt before, it was frenetic and consuming. I did stupid things — missed important dates and friends' events and focused solely on the business. Looking back now, I honestly feel like Tiny Disco became an extension to me as a person — perhaps a part of my identity in a lot of ways. Suddenly I was in charge and I called the shots. I couldn’t get enough, it was addictive.


For the first two years of my business I worked until 2am or 3am every single night of the week. There is a photo of me at one of my close friend’s weddings and I don’t actually recognise the person in the picture — I was a zombie, all caved in eyes and dark circles. I wasn’t functioning properly. It wasn’t ok.

When my second child (Audrey) was 2 weeks old, I stepped onto set and started filming things straight away. I could still feel the blood gushing from between my legs. I felt like I needed to prove something, to be impressive. But it was horrendous. I was up 10 times a night breastfeeding — I even emailed a client from the hospital an hour after giving birth. I hate myself for it now. But that time allowed me to build something remarkable and now I am starting to step back and let the team run the show. It’s an astounding feeling — interviewing someone who wants to work for the little business you started on your living room floor. I could seriously cry thinking about it. We now have 27 staff and a long list of clients that I love, many whom I personally adore as people which is an incredible thing to be able to say about your working relationships.

The reality of being a working mum with a blooming business is that there are never enough hours in the day. I don’t know if my brain actually ever rests and I never, ever answer emails within an appropriate timeframe, but I’m getting more and more ok with this. The challenges are also endless: COVID rocked us to the core. I thought we were going to end. But then we opened / closed / opened / closed and I quickly realised that it’s a scary time but survival is essential. We’ve adapted, we’ve had fun, we’ve cried a lot. And we’re ok. I think in the past 6 months I’ve finally learnt to push the “mum guilt” to the side. My kids are so happy, healthy and cool. They’re inspiring to be around and they are intrinsically part of what we do. I want them to see our business from the inside out. I want them to witness mummy having a stress cry and the arguments that happen between my husband (who is also my business partner) and I. I want them to celebrate with us when we have a big win. I want them to dance at the beginning of the Christmas Party (and then promptly go to bed at 8pm). There are so many joyous moments. Our team is family. I’m watching beautiful friendships between humans evolve in front of my eyes and it’s gorgeous. Sometimes when childcare has fallen through or something has rocked the boat, I’ll be running Peppa Pig on repeat in order to finish a shoot and I’ll look over and one of my staff is delicately tying Audrey’s hair into a ponytail or bandaging Arthur’s foot after he’s had a fall. It takes a village, ours just looks completely different to what I ever imagined.

The day to day is difficult. Our son starts school this year and I’m struggling to wrap my head around a 3:20pm pick up time. It’s all a bit too much a lot of the time but shit falls apart, you get your period, you shout a lot, a shoot goes badly or a client hates all over you, then a weekend with sunshine hits at the impossibly perfect moment, you pick yourself up, drink a bottle of wine, squeeze in a hot yoga session and get back on track.

I look back at pre-child Chelsea and I laugh. How much time she wasted! What a brat! Eat more pizzas at 2am, girl! Watch another film — sit beneath the stars and drink more champagne in Paris. But then I also look at mum-Chelsea now and I understand her so intrinsically. It’s sickening how fulfilling my current work and life is. Kids, bandages, tears and all.

To make it work, it’s crucial to ask for help. Ask for help! I always wanted to be the woman that “can do it all”. The truth is, you fucking can’t. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect — to have fresh flowers in the house and a fully stocked fridge and be a great boss and still find time to preen, get my hair done and buy a birthday present for Angus at kinder who I always get confused with Jax. And you just can’t be perfect. Scream it with me now! “We can’t be perfect parents! We can’t be perfect parents!" My mum is the biggest help and a remarkable woman. She’s watched me stress and grow and writhe around this storm of motherhood and business and she’s always had the best advice for me. It’s a ride. She always says to me: “One day you’ll wake up and your kids will be gone and the house will be quiet.” I think about that a lot when I’m tripping over Beyblades or cleaning a human shit off the floor.

If you asked me if life with kids is what I expected, I’d say, “Hell no”. But then, “Hell yes”. I think I expected it to be a lot cuter and cleaner. I bought a huge white couch which is actually the biggest mistake of my adult life. Turns out a white couch is not good with kids. My husband and I have always been very proactive in bringing our kids into our world, not changing our world to accommodate them. They can sit at a restaurant and eat a meal with us and have a vivid and entertaining conversation about their day (they are 2 and 5). It’s something I totally live for and enjoy with every fibre of my being. I can honestly say though, my husband (Stu) is the reason it all works. He’s my voice of reason when I’m losing the plot and crying and screaming and wanting to move to Spain and throw it all in. Sometimes I just can’t deal with how good he is as a dad. I’m pretty jealous. I’m the screechy, unreasonable parent and he is the one listening intently to every word they say and quietly helping do an Elsa jigsaw puzzle with our 2-year-old right when we need to step out the door to something we are already late for. He says he is the punchline of our marriage but he is also the charming and totally beautiful man who scrapes the homemade slime from our ceiling, sets the mousetraps, enroles our kids in school and childcare, and has learnt how to adequately mop up a toddler poo while simultaneously cooking dinner. I don’t tell him enough how great he is.

Motherhood boosted me towards the direction I needed to be, both in a work sense, a physical sense and an emotional sense. I’ve never felt more “Chelsea” than I do now. And I think the evolution of me really helped my business flourish into what it is today in a strange way. I value human connections and I bolster and support women (25 out of our 27 staff are female) endlessly, probably due to many of my own professional experiences.

Related Products