Amanda Abergel, 31, fledging Realtor and first-time new mom, figured she was killing the multi-tasking thing. Then, grocery shopping while speaking via headset to a client, she looked down and noticed that a breast pad was stuck to the bottom of her shoe.
Score one for mayhem, and a penalty for multi-tasking.
It certainly wasn’t the first time, nor the last, that Abergel’s well-ordered plans took a nosedive. Take the example of her birthing experience, which turned out to be far from what she’d expected.
“You spend your whole life imagining and planning for having a baby,” Abergel says. “We had a midwife. We did so much planning. But none of that happened.”
What did happen was COVID-19.
“It was a scary experience. Our birth plan completely fell apart,” says Abergel. “My husband could barely join me at all in the delivery room. Everyone in the hospital was wearing hazmat suits and masks. So many areas of the hospital were closed off. You couldn’t even go and get a tea. I could not share the experience, could not be visited by family. It was just me and my little guy going through it ourselves. And a chair. And a clock.”
Abergel got her start in real estate at the beginning of this year as a new member of the Allin Real Estate Group, an all-female team with Royal LePage Your Community Realty’s Richmond Hill, Ont. branch. “People asked me repeatedly how I would balance having a new baby and starting a business. My husband says he didn’t get that question once. Men don’t,” she says.
Fortunately, Abergel’s advance planning for her new career panned out better than the baby preparations had. She hopes her story helps “young mom-preneurs who might feel discouraged by the isolating experience of becoming a mom during the pandemic and trying to start or run a business.”
As she sees it, “A lot of new moms work 24/7. You have to have the ability to say no, to put strong boundaries in place. Focus on your mission and self care. There will always be some juggling. Babies are unpredictable…Sometimes it comes down to getting enough sleep!”
She continues: “You can read up so much that you feel overwhelmed. Just take the nuggets you need. Organize your home in a way that makes sense for your business. For me, that was having a workstation next to the nursery so I can pop between the two.”
One big benefit of joining the six-member Allin team (led by Desiree Tomanelli-Allin) has been that the necessary resources for working mothers are already in place. Abergel says that she chose to work with the team because she recognized the value of having like-minded women to bounce ideas off, “rather than trying to balance the entire world in one hand.”
She was able to turn to the others for mentoring and to lean on them when she needed someone to fill in for her, and even for occasional childcare.
“We understand each other,” she says. “Working with other young professional women a few levels up has completely opened up opportunities.”
Among these is the chance to do a good turn for other entrepreneurial women in the GTA via #ALLIN4WOMEN, an initiative recently launched by her team, which regularly selects an inspiring and community-minded businesswoman to profile and promote on all the team members’ social media platforms. Giveaways of the profiled businesswomen’s services/products are part of the promotion, helping to build community connections.
“We want their stories and voices heard. We’re selective in who we choose to feature. We’re looking for women with amazing stories,” says Abergel. “In a world laser focused on Zoom meetings, clicks and impressions, it’s so important to bring a very human experience to business. We launched #ALLIN4WOMEN to share the stories of local female entrepreneurs who help strengthen our communities.”
Her advice to other new agents is that if you find a way to meet people and help them, “it will benefit both of you.”
#ALLIN4WOMEN is a new venture and there have only been a few profiles so far. Among these is Fitmom’s Jennifer Rogers (“my find,” says Abergel), a certified birthing and fitness instructor.
Abergel says, “New moms really need community. Many think, ‘Am I the only one going through this?’ Jennifer works with new moms and understands their struggles.”
Abergel’s son, Isaiah, is now just over a year old and is thriving. Abergel worked on getting her real estate licence “through the crazy period” of late-night feedings and recovering from a rough delivery. She had plenty of previous experience in sales and marketing and was drawn to a career in real estate because of the autonomy and income potential. (“Just getting by was not enough for me. I wanted to have more for my son.”)
As if she didn’t have enough on her plate giving birth and launching a business in the midst of a global pandemic, Abergel had all the standard new working mom considerations around everything from time blocking, childcare and maternity benefits to feeding and breast pumping.
Balancing professional and family life can be tricky. Be gentle with yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help, she says.
“Step back and celebrate the little wins, like getting through the day and having happy clients,” she says. “In times of despair when things seem to be falling apart – they’re not.”
Susan Doran is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has been contributing to REM since its very first issue.