Naomi Simson is one of Australia's most successful women and her parenting ideas are a bit out-of-the-box.

Naomi Simson has an empty nest. And a new husband.

Happiness is peeling off her in waves.

The RedBalloon founder arrived at Mamamia HQ – dressed in her trademark red, of course – beaming, and stayed that way throughout our conversation about work, life and the nonsense idea of work-life balance.

It had only been two weeks since Naomi married businessman Stuart King on the fifth anniversary of their first date.

Naomi Simson discusses leadership with Holly Wainwright on ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’. Post continues below.

Her kids, Natalia and Oscar are all grown up and away studying in Melbourne.

And being a woman at the top of her game –  Naomi is now the most-followed Australian on Linkedin, and she’s the infamous Red Shark on Shark Tank – with the juggle of kids and career behind her, she is full of wisdom for those of us still in the trenches.

Here are some highlights. Consider getting them tattooed on your body:

1. Flexibility does NOT mean less work.

 Naomi left a big corporate career in marketing when her kids were little and she was chasing flexibility. After a short stint freelancing, she and her then-husband started RedBalloon, which, for years, ran from their living room. “The reason I started my business was because of my kids, I just thought they were great. My kids used to gang up on me…’Why do we have to go to bed at 5.30?’ Because Mum’s got work to do. As soon as they went to bed I was working again, until 11 or 12 at night.”

Out and about with my brand new #husband #party #celebration #xmasparty #saturdaynight

A photo posted by Naomi Simson (@naomisimson) on


2. Learn to say no to your children.

“What I want is resilient children, who are respectful and responsible… My job is to give [them] their value set and their work ethic so they can get a sense of accomplishment and achievement. How did I do that? By pretty much saying no to everything they ever asked me to do for them.

“Mum can I have a car?” “No.” “But all the other people, their parents have bought them cars.” “Oh those poor people, they’ll never understand the value of money.”

3. Pick your battles. There are plenty of people who can change a nappy.

“You can’t have it all and nor can a man. There’s a time and place for everything [on deciding what to be around for and what not to miss]…  There are plenty of people who can change a nappy, but maybe being there at the school sports day, and being there when they cross the line, maybe that’s the important thing. I always chose what my children would remember. I say ‘Remember how I used to be at the canteen…’ and my son says, ‘nope’.”

Naomi Simson and I. Image supplied.

4. If you're a leader, do not get too cosy with your staff.

"You cannot be their friends. You are accountable for leadership and for challenging people to greatness. And you do that with love and respect, but it means you cannot go out drinking with them on a Friday night."

4. Don't lean out too far.

"I absolutely encourage women to stay connected to the workplace somehow... The way we are working is changing so quickly that if they give up their network, their professional associations and have no connection to the workplace, they will literally feel like an alien when they come back. It's like you're a newbie."

5. You're not imagining it, your boss is pissed off that you're pregnant.

Just a tiny bit. "You're like 'Oh I'm very excited for you'.... but in your head you're going 'How long have I got? How long have I got?'"


6. Learn to mono-task.

"Be present in what you choose to do. Make sure you put away your mobile phone when you are with your children. Otherwise, you will wonder why they don't talk to you when they're teenagers. You have to put away that phone."

7. Choose a partner who had a working mum.

"I have young colleagues, 25, recently married, finding themselves doing everything for their husbands, and I am alarmed. And guess why? Because that's what their mothers did. And breaking that cycle of expectation is very, very difficult. It's more than a conversation. It's really, really ingrained, and it's subtle... until we shift this role modelling, it's very difficult."

8. Do not indulge mother guilt.

"I'm going to sound heartless, but... I've never struggled with mother guilt. They're their own beings. I am not responsible for them. I did my bit, I fed them, they grew up, I sent them to schools and now it's completely up them. I don't like all the choices that they're making, but it's up to them."

You can listen to the full episode of I Don't Know How She Does It, here.

Naomi Simson is the author of Ready To Soar.

You can buy Ready to Soar, here.

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