Steph and Holly are a modern, platonic love story for the ages. Both solo mums and Parents’ Group dropouts, they followed each other on Instagram for a while before deciding to take the plunge and arrange a playdate IRL. The timing was perfect, and the group chemistry was just right. From that moment, they knew they were going to be important people in each other’s lives. A few months after moving in together, Steph quit her job to run Goodspace – a secondhand furniture selling business – with Holly full time. The rest is herstory, and a triumphant one at that.
As a child of a single mum, Steph and Holly’s story is close to my heart. The world can be a hostile place for single parents, and particularly for mothers, who make up the vast majority of the demographic. A recent report shows that solo mums in Australia are twice as likely to live in poverty as solo dads. The reality is, until there’s more support at a systemic level, solo parents have each other to lean on.
“If living together has taught us anything, it’s that when we come together as a team we’re capable of just about anything,” Steph says. “The way that Goodspace took off after we started working together is truly a testament to that.”
I’m so interested to know how you share the parenting load. How does it work in your house?
Steph: We live and operate as a family, but are still two separate mothers with two separate children. The way we share the load is more about supporting each other; so we can then support our children. Holly and I work so well as a team, which at the start really surprised us because as people we are so opposite. I think the sharing of the parental and mental load is what initially drew us toward wanting to live together, rather than continuing to try and do it on our own.
Holly: In all honesty, bringing our two families together has been life-changing. We have all been able to thrive in an environment where we can really hold and support each other. It’s also really special for Frida and Lola, because there’s always another mama there to be physically and emotionally available in the times where one of the mamas needs a minute. There is something so magic about two mothers living under the same roof.
What made you want to go into business together?
Holly: After watching Steph coming home every day totally burnt out and unhappy living out her corporate dreams (insert sarcasm here), over a nice big glass of wine, I proposed to her to quit her job and for us to do Goodspace together. We realised that for us the most important thing was to spend more time with the kids and also be able to make our own money.
Steph: Goodspace isn’t just a business venture for us. It’s an opportunity to build a life for us and our girls in a world that doesn’t usually create easily accessible working opportunities for single mothers. We feel so privileged and lucky to be existing in this space and are super excited for what’s to come.
Did you feel a lack of support in more traditional workplaces?
Steph: The world’s come a long way, but we’re also kidding ourselves if we think that there’s a lot of support for mothers in all workplaces, and particularly single mothers. As a sole carer, I felt the need to explain my situation in job interviews and overcompensate for my “hindrance” as an employee. I felt support in some spaces, but I definitely felt unsupported too. At my last job, if Frida was sick and I had to leave to pick her up from care, I’d be met with eye rolls. Right before I quit, it was brought up that my parenting commitments were “getting in the way.” I was glad to move out of that kind of work environment and into one where I was fully supported. And where I could make it work for me.
My mum was paid child support from my dad, but it meant she couldn’t work without being penalised financially. That was back in the 90s. Is it better now?
Steph: I don’t think much has changed in that regard since the 90s. Society likes to think of single mothers as less than, poor and uneducated however the truth is so far from that. I would say that single mothers are some of the most resourceful, strong and incredible people in our communities. The entire human population would not exist without mothers, but as a society we still have a long way to go when it comes to making space for them.
Holly: The system is set up in such a way that it does act to penalise mothers who are either trying to work or study. Then you’ve got to find a job that works around the kids’ school hours and supports you having to leave for the never-ending parenting commitments. It’s crazy.
I think women often stay in bad relationships because of how punitive the system is. I’m so glad you guys found each other and are flourishing. What’s the chemistry like between Frida and Lola?
Steph: It takes a lot of work. We’d be lying if we said it wasn’t challenging at times to meet our kids’ needs and their emotional needs, while also being in an environment where we’re all together. It’s a balance of togetherness and separateness. We parent very similarly, which helps. And getting that time at their Dads’ houses is great, because it means the kids get a little break from each other.
Holly: They think of themselves as sisters. They’ve got their own schools, which gives them their own space and their own lives, but they miss each other so much when they’re away from one another. It’s very sweet.
How does dating work? Don’t answer that if it’s too personal.
Steph: It’s challenging… Dating in the Melbourne circle is challenging on its own. Then you factor in being a single mum. Men are scared of mums. But the ones who are able to embrace the mum factor are generally able to embrace us as a family unit.
Holly: As long as they understand that we’re a package deal. And that we don’t need saving. Like, we’ve got it under control.
Everyday Coffee. We like to go there and pretend to have business meetings. Sometimes real ones.
Cam’s Convent for dinner. Great with kids. Better without.
Our disco playlist that got us through iso. It goes for 4.5 hours. Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, everyone you need!
Sunday morning breakfast ritual?
Coffee and croissants at the park with the girls.
Phillip Island for a local getaway. Also we like to get up to Queensland once or twice a year. Not this year, obviously, but hopefully in 2021.
Follow Goodspace on Instagram for a treasure chest of vintage furniture finds!