Jessie Jarvie is a unicorn. Intelligent, compassionate, giving and gorgeous as ever!! Founder of online business, delivery service The Baby Bag and mother of three under five it is an absolute treat to steal a few moments of her time. (Not that it felt like theft… If she has too many balls in the air you would NEVER know - Did we mention she is also managing the build of their new home?)
Read more about Jessie’s journey from corporate life as a lawyer, her passion in helping new mothers, raising babies, her husband’s Chinese heritage, The Baby Bag and of course we couldn’t help but be inspired by her style along the way….
A laywer!? Talk to us about your journey navigating the space from motherhood to working - mother after you had your son George.
I was a lawyer at a health software company, Orion, when I fell pregnant with my first little boy, George. I was throwing up in the rubbish bin while we were preparing for a court case! When I was on mat leave, I started doing some research and I was quite surprised at the lack of infrastructure that existed to support the multitudes of women like me who were returning to work with young children. Over 70% of parents in New Zealand with children under one are engaged in the workforce or actively seeking employment. Orion was quirky, as software companies often are, and it didn’t take much to persuade the board that fostering female talent by having an onsite daycare would ultimately reduce their bottom line. About a year later, Milky Way opened its doors, and George was about 150m from my desk, in a beautiful oasis in the city environment. We believed what we were doing had the potential to change the childcare model – all of the kids and the parents were like family and mums and dads would come and go throughout the day. The kids had day trips to the office and would sell cupcakes and do art displays. It was magic!
This led you to start your own consulting business – tell us a bit more about it?
I become fascinated (okay, obsessed) with this swelling demographic – people working with young children at home or in care. Something that continued to interest me was that lack of support available to them. You could get a strawberry facial for your dog at the grooming salon down the road from my house, but nobody could help a mum transitioning back to work with the practical stuff despite the fact that there were thousands of other women doing the same thing. What the difference was between a nanny, an au pair, a kindy, a daycare, a crèche? How was I going to continue breastfeeding if I was based in an office? How would my baby fare through all of this? At the time, the retention of female staff was a big issue within the legal profession. I got together with the president of the law society and established a small consulting service designed to help transition female lawyers back into the workplace once they had children. It was here, within this consulting work, that the idea for the baby bag was born. Baby supplies were a constant niggle for busy parents, whether they were working inside the home or outside of it. Food delivery services like My Food Bag had dinner covered - but the supermarket still beckoned for baby basics. I launched The Baby Bag when my second boy, Franklin, was 6 weeks old. It was ridiculous.
The Baby Bag has grown rapidly since its birth in 2015 (a shy six 6 weeks after you had your second son Franklin) tell us how it all came together and what motherhood looked like to you in the moment?
We could only afford to launch a pretty basic website, but the vision was big. The basic website promised our customers same day delivery of everything and anything they could possibly need each week as parents. We’re focused on consumables – so food, formula nappies and baby care. We were aggregating all of this stuff together to save mum and dad multiple stop-offs with a baby or tired toddler in the backseat, and better yet, we were bringing it all straight to them within a few hours of them needing it. I remember the first day the site went live – I was so surprised that there were no orders. But of course there weren’t, nobody knew about us! And so started my first big learning curve: marketing, and in particular, social media. As a side note, our first order was placed by a friend purchasing a baby shower gift for Anna, who is now our Key Accounts Manager.
More than a business, it is evident that The Baby Bag is a support service. Tell us how social media has influenced this.
Mums are super engaged on social media, but to be frank, I’m focusing our marketing efforts this year in other places, because motherhood is extremely isolating and social media doesn’t help us with that. Y’all know what I’m saying?
Fast forward a wee bit, add in a third child, daughter Maggie, and the past 12 months have been MASSIVE! (elaborate on business / motherhood with THREE)
Being a parent is the most simultaneously wonderful and exhausting experience, right? The Baby Bag was my third baby, born six weeks after my second. Then early last year, we welcomed Maggie. And, well… straw… camel’s back… or something along those lines! The postnatal blues got me good, and I was bone tired. We were living in a tiny little 1.5 bedroom place and although my heart was exploding, my head was too. And right there, as I cooked once again in the cauldron of motherhood, this little delivery service was reborn again, and we started to conceptualise a new service, which we’re launching at the beginning of April.
Tell us your thoughts on this idea of “balance”.
I don’t believe in the work-life balance thing much. How can you have any form of balance with a 5yr old, a 3yr old and a 1yr old?! I think striving for balance creates more stress than it’s worth. Women constantly beat themselves up because if they’re being a good mum, they can’t possibly be doing a good job at work. If they’re successful at work, they mustn’t be seeing enough of their kids. The key is to accept that there won’t always be a balance. I think the most important skill a mum (working inside the home, or outside of it) can have is to realise when things become too imbalanced. That’s when she needs to sit down with her support network of people who care about her, and her children, and make some changes.
Talk about walking the walk: three out of five staff welcomed new babies last year?! That must have been some well-coordinated tag-teaming?
Not at all! I have a saying - there’s never a right time for babies, but when it is time, everything will be just right. Our superstar Anna (one of those ‘does-all-of-it’ kind of people) told me she was pregnant with her number three, and I had just started suspecting I might be pregnant with my third too. It was hilariously frightening. But we are all bang-smack in the middle of our own target market, which is a very powerful tool for our business. When Anna speaks to a sleep-deprived mum who’s babe has cracked three teeth in two days, she gets it. When I rock up to the doorstep of a mum with mastitis and a hungry baby, I get it. This is real life. We are real people.
And back on the business end we have seen The Baby Bag celebrate, The Nappy Drive, and open PlunketShop – tell us more about the social initiatives and why that’s so important to you.
For sure. It’s to do with the universal nature of parenting. The demands of motherhood are uniquely universal, meaning at some point we all face the same stuff - whether we’re a single mum, a married mum or something in-between; whether we have one child or five; whether we’re employed full time or we’ve never worked a single day outside the home. Even if we’re the Prime Minister of New Zealand - yeow! We mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s easier for some, or harder for others, because it’s simply motherhood. When a baby is born, all of a woman’s layers are stripped back to reveal something raw. The details may differ, but for all of us, becoming a parent will be more commanding than anything we’ve ever experienced. Sadly for many, it’s a massive financial burden too. Knowing what I know now about the challenges, I can’t imagine not being able to afford food or nappies or basics, so I’m deeply motivated to help other parents in that predicament. Also, isn’t there something magic about mums helping other mums?
Most recently, we saw The Baby Bag celebrate it’s 15000 th order. CONGRATULATIONS!! The 15000 th shopper received their order in a Saben Freddie nappy bag, the same style you wear. Tell us why you love it
Oh my goodness, I love it. I really do. It’s such a treat to feel a little bit glam… all the while hiding three muesli bars, two packets of (opened) raisins, a dirty nappy, two bibs, a car, a digger, a bottle (milk not wine, surprisingly), a change of clothes, a cup of sand, and my Tilly. I keep all my mum stuff in my Tilly, inside my Freddie. Otherwise, I’d lose my stuff… and my remaining sanity!
Three babies!! Tell us about George, Franklin and Maggie.
George has just started school. He is outgoing and sweet, he likes to do ‘the right thing’. Frank is my firecracker. He’s a ball of fun and a force to be reckoned with. He’s the spitting image of my husband. Maggie is so loved. She is by far my most demanding baby, and she gets away with the most, too!
What has it been like adding a little girl to man-land?
Oh it’s hilarious. “Mum, where’s her penis?” “Mum, girls have no teeth and no penis, aye?”. “Mum, will Maggie stand up when she goes wees in the toilet?”. It’s been a big learning curve, to say the least.
And home-life, who does what?
My hubby cooks. I clean. It works!
Your kiwi husband is part Chinese, can you share the cultural influence in raising the kids? “Sitting the month” - Did you adopt the traditional Chinese practice of confinement during the month after childbirth?
In stark contrast to this atypical western lifestyle, sitting the month is a Chinese custom surrounding rest, which involves a new mum being confined to the four walls of her home for the first 30 days proceeding childbirth. The idea is that she recovers, usually in the full-time company of her mother or mother-in-law who looks after the baby (although none of our grandies lived in with us, they were certainly a key part to the whole operation!). I decided during my time sitting the month that parenting is a lot about your mindset. Having those 30 days indoors (okay it was 25, I went back to being a kindy mum on day 26) gave me time to bond with Maggie but it also gave Maggie time to bond with me - which in turn made me reflect on the kind of mum that I want to be for her. It’s up to me, and me only, to give my children a happy mum. I am the only person in control of that. It doesn’t really matter what external influences exist - there will always be stress at work or stress within your extended family, one of your children will probably be keeping you awake with worry because she’s being teased at kindy or he’s exhibiting aggression - it’s endless! I now know this, and I’m proud to be able to say it, because motherhood is a whole lot of learning. As much as there’s sleep deprivation and exhaustion and squabbling overnight feeds and housework left undone and too many visitors, these early days are the easy days in many ways, and it’s important to stop and to take that in. I would encourage anybody, even busy-bodies like me to have 25 to 30 days at home with your new baby. To smell your baby, stare at your baby, sleep next to your baby, drink tea while your baby is feeding and marvel at your baby’s ears and fingers and toes and get used to the sound of your baby’s cry and know the smell of your baby’s full nappy because the next few years will be harder than that, of course they will be. You’re doing your best to raise your children into good people, and that’s hard - that requires us to dig deep and to command more of ourselves each day as the wind changes and so too do the challenges. Motherhood is such a gift. As a result of the stillness I spent with Maggie, I allowed myself the head space to think about just how easy it is to stay in bed and snuggle a newborn baby and just what a deeply wonderful thing it is to mother a child.
Mama mantras you live by?
Love dearly, breathe deeply and rest easy. The exhausting, exhilarating days of early childhood are simply too short to do it any other way.
Ok, one more (we could seriously chat FOREVER) – looking forward, on the home and business front, what are you looking forward to.
At the beginning of next month, we launch our repeat deliveries. Oh my hat, I’m excited. I recently paraphrased Phil Knight’s words to describe my deep desire to create, to contribute to parenthood. When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is – you're participating more fully in the whole vast human drama. More than simply alive, you're helping families to live more fully. This, in essence, is what we’re striving for at The Baby Bag. Watch this space!