An incredible story of how two Mum’s are Changing Long Day Care Centres.
grew up in the UK but my mum is Australian and I have family here, so I moved here in 1999. My first stop was Byron Bay where my aunt lived, and that’s where I met my daughters’ dad. We moved to Sydney and then to Brisbane where I worked at Griffith University for about eight years in a range of positions, from admin to working with students. I ended up working with the School of Criminology which I loved.
I had about six months off when Sophie was born and then went back to work part-time, doing three days a week in the office. My parents moved to Brisbane in 2004 so they helped out with Sophie. And then two years later, in July 2009 when Sophie was two years old, I had Ruby – and within four months my life turned upside down.
Ruby was a beautiful, easy going text book baby, but at about nine weeks old something went off, like a light switch really. She went off feeding, she started going really rigid in the body and there was non-stop screaming. I was told it could be colic, or reflux, and we tried different medications. As the weeks went on she started having little eye rolls, and we went from the doctor to the paediatrician to the neurologist. The MRI’s started, the EEG’s started – and at first she was diagnosed with epilepsy. My world just fell apart – I felt like there was a huge hole and I had been sucked up into it. I didn’t know anyone who’d had epilepsy so I didn’t understand it, but I thought she could have medication and it would be manageable. We trialled medication but nothing worked – it would make her sleep but the seizures didn’t stop. She screamed for four years, 24/7. Non stop. There were times when Sophie who was so young would have her hands on her ears crying ‘mummy, please make it stop’.
The nurses couldn’t do anything, the doctors couldn’t do anything and at that moment I made the decision – I had to have faith and just keep going. It would have been easier to just run away, to give up. I just didn’t want to see her in pain. The months went on and we tried all sorts of medication until I saw a naturopath – and she was like an angel who’d been sent from heaven to help me. She said ‘it’s okay, we can do this’. And she gave me hope.
We have seen improvements in Ruby over the last few years. The screaming stopped on the 28th of May 2013, just like a flash, and we still don’t know why the pain stopped. She’s now more aware of her surroundings. When I walk into her room in the morning and she’s just lying there, she hears my voice saying ‘hello Ruby’ and she has a huge smile. While she doesn’t make eye contact she knows that you’re there. She adores her sister and knows when she’s around. They’re beautiful together and Sophie’s really protective. She sees the differences that are in front of her, but that’s all. That’s what I love and that’s what I teach, and that’s why I established Ruby & Ollie’s – so that siblings can be together and can learn and grow together.
I was looking after Ruby full time but I did need some time out. When I looked around there was nothing. What I wanted, and what a lot of parents in similar situations wanted, was somewhere where the siblings could be together. Purely from the frustration of not having anything like this available, I started Hummingbirds Early Intervention and Education Service in February 2013. Everything fell into place and I found a home where I could live upstairs with the girls and we could run a family day care service from downstairs. It all happened really quickly. Over the next 18 months we helped 16 families, and one of the mothers was Leah who is now my business partner in Ruby & Ollie’s.
In late 2014 Leah and I decided to make a fresh start. We wanted to leave a legacy for our children – and so Ruby & Ollie’s was born. Our aim is to have a centre that offers a holistic approach to education and care for children under school age and for children of all abilities. It’s all about children learning at a pace that’s natural for them. It’s encouraging them to feel safe, to feel listened to, to be heard. We have one large centre but we are looking to open smaller centres to meet the needs of families all around Brisbane.
As a mum, having two children and running a business has its challenges. I’ve always been a good multi-tasker. I have lots of to do lists. I work at night when the girls have gone to bed – I’m a night owl so I love working at night. I’m currently studying as well, training as a professional life coach so I can help parents and care givers who have a child with a disability. So they can move forward and not dwell on their circumstances. A lot of parents do reach a stage where they just get it, they accept it, and they just want to get their life balance back.
Sometimes it still doesn’t register that I have my own business. I feel so fulfilled in what I’m doing that it doesn’t feel like work. I’m writing a book and I write a blog, about the journey of Ruby and realising there’s a Ruby is everything. No matter how hard things can get and how down you feel, if you look for even the smallest thing, there’s always a hidden gem somewhere that you can choose to just grab and go with and see the beauty in it.
The Shark Tank experience was amazing. It came at a time when we were banging our heads against brick walls trying to get funding and recognition in the local community, working through the policies that just didn’t work for what we wanted to do. We just did it – we had a reminder about the closing date and sent in the submission on the Friday and then on the Monday we had a call from them saying that they loved our story. It rolled on from there and it was kind of surreal at the time. We had a few months to prepare ourselves for the show which we filmed in early December 2014 and then it aired in March 2015. It was a daunting lead up but on the day everything just happened so quickly, and we were so used to telling our story that it just came naturally. I didn’t even see the cameras, I just saw the chance to tell our story to five amazing people. We had two Sharks invest with us, and they are great mentors and we’re learning so much from them – it was definitely a life changing moment because of the exposure.
Ruby & Ollie’s All Abilities Childcare stems from our passionate hearts. Irrespective of a child’s developmental requirements we welcome all children. We celebrate the enjoyment of life and lightness of being. We believe each child who is challenged with a disability is just trapped in their body, and we will do all we can to help them come out of their shell. We stand by our vision that children are all unique and we will work with each child to encourage them to reach their full potential… and then aim for the stars.
Interview courtesy of Business Mamas (www.businessmamas.com.au)
For the full interview and the stories of other inspiring mums in business: www.fiftytwoweeksblog.com.au
Written by: Melanie Quirk
Photos: Someday Somehow Studios