THE SINGLE MUM DIARIES founder, and amazing single mama Leila Stead with baby Ever.
After Leila was left pregnant and alone, she realised the need for a support group for women in her position. After her daughter Ever, The Single Mum Diaries was also born.
How would you describe yourself in 5 words? Raw, Authentic, Bold, Daring, Loving.
What is the long version of how you got to where you are today? I was in a beautiful and loving relationship with a man that I adored, and we were pregnant with our first child together. All was a beautiful haze of excitement and fear all rolled into one. I thought I was one of the lucky ones that was getting the happily ever after, until I realised that might not be the case.
The date December 14th 2015 is still etched into my brain, it was the day he walked out on us and the day that I lost my relationship, the dream of a family life, and the person that I thought I would marry all in one day, and that memory still hurts. But fast forward 8 months into motherhood with my beautiful daughter Ever, and I realised that life was always going to draw these cards, and so to the lessons that have come from this experience. Somehow I was always supposed to walk this path and be there for the women that have needed me. I began my blog The Single Mum Diaries in the days after he left when the reality hit that he wouldn’t be coming back. I found it cathartic to write it out, and in doing so it helped women resonate with me on a level that could really change lives.
Since beginning the blog, it has gone from strength to strength and it now reaches an audience of over 25 thousand women on Instagram and nearly 40 thousand via the blog, and we’re only in our first year. My story has been told in MAMA DISRUPT magazine and spoken about by Lisa Messenger in The Collective Hub – to say I am proud of how it has unfolded is an understatement. The blog has given my daughter and I a quality of life that, as a single mother, I would have struggled to provide had not been for the immense generosity and kindness of amazing women and companies along the way.
I think it is really important people can explain their main message in a concise paragraph. What is your elevator pitch on what you do? I spend my days helping women get through one of the most emotionally traumatic events in their lives. Some of the women have been left pregnant and some have left a partner while pregnant. Others have willingly entered single motherhood by sperm donor or IVF, and a small amount have contacted me to get help fleeing a domestic violence situation. What matters to me most is that I am there for the women that need me; they are first and foremost the WHY behind it all and will always be my reason for doing this.
I still remember scouring the internet with a fine tooth comb, sniffling through tissues, eyes red from crying, looking for a single mother, a pregnant single or a woman out there that had been what I was then going through. All I wanted was a speck of hope that I could get through it, that I would be okay. I wanted to know that someone else had been there and come out of the other side and when I couldn’t find it I decided to become it for all the other women out there that I knew were probably looking for the same thing that I was. The short of it is this: here I am today doing it, being her, showing women that it is possible. It is gravely important to me to make sure that no woman in the world feels as low, as ashamed and as horrible as I did after my partner walked out.
Are you doing what you thought you would be doing 10 years ago? No, not at all. If someone had said to me 10 years ago that I would be a single mother, doing it in front of the world and willingly putting myself in the public eye, I would have laughed uncontrollably. I studied interior design and I was working as an Interior Designer prior to mama life, which I was extremely passionate about. I lived and breathed interior design and I really felt like I had found my career and my life’s purpose, but nothing compares to what I do now.
What does ‘success’ mean to you, and do you consider yourself ‘successful’? I feel success means having the ability to wake up every day with a smile on your face and be in love with your life and what you do in it. Life is nothing without having a clear sense of purpose and passion for what you do in your life. I definitely love my life and what I do at the moment, I feel content in my purpose and confident in where the road is leading me. So, despite not having millions of dollars and my blog not being the most profitable one out there, all that matters to me is that I am happy, passionate and that I am living out my life’s purpose, and most days I definitely feel successful!
What do you still want to achieve (personally and/or professionally)? I feel like the blog could still be reaching more women in need, and I feel I should be doing more to help the women out there that could really use a helping hand and someone to lighten the load. I want to finish writing my book and get it published because I feel that the book could get out to a wider audience, it could reach more women, resonate on a deeper level and it could really change lives. I have so many incredible ideas to Connect + Support + Inspire the women of the world and I am always spending late nights (like right now) working on something to do with the blog. I am so excited for the incredible milestones that I know I will reach.
Did you study anything specific for the career you are in? No I haven’t yet but it is on my to-do list because as the blog grows I want to be able to evolve with it. I want to always make sure that it is reaching the women it needs to, and I want to always be at the top of the game and to always know how to move forward, so I think in business you should always be learning and evolving and growing with the business and within yourself too.
What have been the most rewarding things in your career to date? I think helping single mothers or mothers in need that are battling illness have been the most rewarding. I have cried many tears over reading their stories, and being able to help them (even in the smallest of ways) really fills my heart with joy. Nothing makes me happier than seeing smiles on the faces of the women that need it the most, no career accomplishment will ever top that.
Tell us about your workspace, and what about it inspires you? I have a home office area so that I can spend maximum time with my daughter. It’s filled with gorgeous gratitude-filled notes of love from companies I have worked with and women that have written in, and lovely comments about the blog that I have written down. Those little notes throughout my office inspire me to keep on going on the days when I don’t feel inspired to get to work. I have meaningful prints, vintage pieces that make me feel at home, photos of my daughter, and books (SO many books littered around the place!)
I am on the lookout for a warehouse space that is bright, airy and calming but I am finding it hard to get that eclectic vintage feel on the Gold Coast! The perfect space for me will find me when the time is right. I also love sitting in cafes in Burleigh when I am feeling indulgent; the beauty of my job is that I can work from my laptop so I can take my office with me wherever I go.
What are some frustrations you have experienced on your career journey? I have definitely had moments where I’ve thought that maybe I’ve been too “out there” as far as sharing my emotions, thoughts, feelings and opinions on certain topics. It leaves people very open to feeling as though they know who I am because of what I share via my social accounts, many people make judgement based on how they perceive you through your posts etc. and at times you can feel as though you need to defend your character. It can be a little tiring at times, but I always try and remind myself that the good outweighs the bad and that’s all that matters.
When was the last time you were overwhelmed & cried from something provoked by work/workload? I cry a lot but I think that comes with being a single mama, sleep deprivation is a killer and I am someone who feels a lot so I can get overwhelmed easily especially because I am quite the perfectionist. Sometimes you can be your own worst enemy and toughest critique and that’s definitely true for me – I have found that trying to keep myself in a routine and managing my time and business better has helped me stay on top and in control.
Would you say you put pressure on yourself? Has this increased or decreased as you progress in your career? I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself which is not always a good thing, I run the blog completely on my own so in the future I will be needing to outsource so that I can spend my time on what matters most. I think putting a little bit of pressure on yourself is a good thing but I do suffer from octopus arms (trying to grab everything and do everything all at once.)
If you are a business owner, and you often can’t just check out/ have a week off when you are dealing with personal things, how do you keep on keeping on with your business when things get tough? I think in being transparent with my audience and the women that I connect with, this has helped me through some rough patches. I let them know when I feel I need to take a time out to reconnect and rejuvenate myself and it is always welcomed with open arms. I think as long as you let people know where you are at mentally or emotionally then they can understand your need for some time out and many people can relate to that feeling of wanting to unplug and disconnect so they are always supportive – that’s what I have found so far.
Has your career affected your personal life/relationships? I have definitely felt the ripples of my career in my personal life, so many people don’t have a grasp on what a blogger does and many don’t consider it “real work”. Being so open about my situation has definitely impacted my relationship now as a co-parent but I try not to focus on the negative. I have also found those ‘snake in the grass’ people who befriend you only to benefit themselves and see what they can get from the situation. I am a naturally very giving and open person so I am slowly learning to hold my cards closer to my heart and to be very selective on who I share my successes with.
Has your journey at times felt lonely? At the beginning of this journey there was no other single mama blogs out there sharing their experiences like I was, and I was really nervous about how it would be perceived and how people would judge it. It was almost like stripping myself bare and sharing the most intimate and traumatic events in my life. It definitely felt lonely because I was coming into an arena in my own category, doing something that I don’t feel had been done before, but now I am so glad that I persisted and kept going even though at times I wanted to run and hide and drop off the radar.
What causes you anxiety/sleepless nights? If I have bitten off more work than I can chew, or If I am up all night working after putting my daughter to bed. I try to live by the mantra “I can only control what is within my power”
If you had your time over again, from when you started your career to right now, would you do anything differently? No, I really feel like my journey has unfolded exactly the way it should. It’s been a process of stepping back and really letting the universe guide me to where I need to be, it’s not always been a easy thing to do but now that I have the hang of it I am happy to let it unfold organically. What ever comes let it come and whatever leaves let it leave, and all that jazz…
What advice would you give your 21 year old self? STEP AWAY FROM THE EYELINER and from the guys that love the gym. I would tell her not to date that guy, or get that loan, not to say yes when you want to say no, also travel more and drink less. I spent a lot of time drinking, in clubs, at festivals and on holidays. Hindsight is a beautiful thing; I definitely got the partying out of my system in my 20’s and I don’t regret having the fun that I did, but if I had been a little more in touch with myself and my WHY then I would be further ahead in life at the moment.
Who are some women in business you admire & why? I love Lisa Messenger. She is my ultimate entrepreneur crush because I feel as though she is ballsy in every aspect of her life and I really look up to women that chase their dreams without rhyme or reason, it’s as though they are being lead by heart and not by head. It’s the life’s purpose at play there for sure. I also love Kelly Cutrone (so cutthroat and to the point) which I resonate with because I am quite similar in a few areas of my life. I also remember watching a documentary once on Samantha Wills and I couldn’t believe her incredible journey from a market stall to the brand it is today. It was awe inspiring. I love women that lead the pack, that are unapologetically themselves and who are daring enough to back themselves in business and in life.
What traits do you admire in people you surround yourself with? I have had the same group of girlfriends since high school and I love having them around me because they are all different with unique opinions and personalities, but our values are pretty much the same. I think it’s important in life to keep people around you who care about making your soul shine, who lift you up, who share the same values, who see you by heart. I surround myself with strong women who have an internal compass that points in the same direction as my own. They are all independent, creative and deep (I call them my angels) and without them my life wouldn’t shine as brightly as it does. I am blessed with amazing women around me and two beautiful sisters that are always there for me through thick and thin, I am very lucky that’s for sure.
You become the average of the people you spend the most time with – choose wisely.
Work life balance; does it exist (I don’t think it does!) and how to maintain it, or a sense of it? I feel like work life balance is like a see saw; it’s never truly even, especially when you are a mother! I am always describing it as full-time juggling, and the balls that you are trying to keep in the air are motherhood, work, ‘you’ time, friendships and relationships. There will always be something that doesn’t have your focus, something you feel you are forgetting, something that’s lacking and something that’s excelling. I just try to do the best I can and make it work the best way I know how – which nowadays means; if it’s not on a post-it, or in the notes section of my phone, it doesn’t exist, haha!
Have you ever thought about giving up/quitting? If so, does that feeling hit from the same triggers? I have definitely thought about it, mainly because I struggle with being in the ‘public eye’ as such. But there is no way I can quit because there are women that need me, and that’s all there is to it.
What is the biggest misconception about what you do? Umm, I feel as though many people look in from the outside and think that I have it perfectly handled and organized, when in fact I am like every other single mama. I have my good days and bad and I am still learning how to get through this experience and this whole single mama world. I definitely know my strengths but just like everyone else they are always a work in progress. So many people say ‘I am not strong like you’, little do they know… Strong is a mindset that requires constant hard work, dedication and self exploration.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your industry? BE AUTHENTIC – So many people see blogs or bloggers or even influencer Instagram accounts and they think ‘I can do that’ then they subconsciously begin to copy without knowing they are. You must be authentic to your lifestyle, who you are, what you are about. Know your WHY, your reason for doing it. If it’s because you want free stuff, more followers, or just to ‘be like her’ then it won’t be successful. Let your passion lead you towards your purpose and you wont go wrong.
If you knew what you know now, about how much work was involved to get you to where you are now, would you do it again or do something different? I would continue this path exactly as I have. I am right where I am supposed to be. I am not the most successful blogger, I am not the best, but I am evolving as I should and the universe has a plan for me and I trust in that.
I like the quote ‘Don’t just have a job, have a purpose’ - What do you want your legacy to be? I am always saying to aspiring bloggers and single mamas that are looking for that shining beacon of hope to ‘let your passion be what leads you to your purpose’ and that line seems to really resonate with them. I just want to leave the women that come to me in a better way than what I found them, I want to Connect + Support + Inspire them to be better, to do better and to be the best mothers and women that they can be.
The SAMANTHA WILLS FOUNDATION is about bringing women in business together – why do you think this is important/(why did you want to be involved in this interview)? I think the only way for women to succeed is to keep lifting each other up and connecting, supporting and inspiring one another. I saw the name “Samantha Wills Foundation” and it wouldn’t have mattered what was in the email, I just believe in her... I believe in women and I believe in women in business, and I feel honored to have had the chance to speak with you today.
What are some of your favourite quotes?
I have so many quotes that have really helped me through some hard times in my life. But I would have to say one of the most favourite things I have read is
“You are the books you read, the films you watch, the music you listen to, the people you meet, the dreams you have, the conversations you engage in. You are what you take from these. You are the sound of the ocean, the breath of fresh air, the brightest light and the darkest corner. You are a collective of every experience you have had in your life. You are every single second of every single day. So drown yourself in a sea of knowledge and existence. Let the words run through your veins and let the colors fill your mind until there is nothing left to do but explode. There are no wrong answers. Inspiration is everything. Sit back, relax, and take it all in.” – Jac Vanek
That beautiful collection of words sits in my office and I read it regularly when sitting in there – funnily enough I find now it relates a lot to my journey and experience through this.