Seeing Mom in a New Way

Five Victoria mothers redefine the term 'work'

Victoria business moms Alice Bracegirdle (left), Jo-Ann Way, Carolyne Taylor, Michele Powell and Rosie Bitts are redefining the work-life balance.

Five Victoria mothers redefine the term ‘work’

The mother is the most precious possession of the nation, said Ellen Key, a 19th century Swedish writer. “So precious, that society advances its highest well-being when it protects the functions of the mother.”

Her brandishing was updated less than a century later by American writer Jane Sellman, who said simply: “The phrase ‘working mother’ is redundant.” The functions — and the work — of mothers have perhaps never been so assorted as they are in 2013, yet five local business women are proving that all the sentiments are in need of a refresher.

As Mother’s Day arrives on Sun., May 12, now is the perfect time to see Victoria’s mom in a whole new way.

Rosie Bitts, 38Created: Best Bitts Productions, 18-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter

It’s hard to live in Victoria very long without hearing the name or seeing a poster of Rosie Bitts. Bitts has been a leading beacon in the local burlesque scene, has created countless women-honouring workshops from “The Art of Sexy” to the celebrated “Naked Girls Reading” and has most recently authored a new erotica serial, The Lady Corsairs, with her husband. She’s also been a mom for the last 18 years.

Few might guess the bodacious 38-year-old started out as a children’s music teacher, with a strictly conservative mom-and-wife lens. “In the early days, I was immersed as a parent. I felt my job was to be focused on my children and on being a wife, in this really non-sexual role,” says Bitts. “But there was just so much more I needed in life, and I had to find a way to include it.”

She did. Now labelled as “the Libido of Burlesque” and named a “Notable Canadian Woman” by the National Post, Bitts has created an empire out of her Best Bitts Productions, both for herself and for women interested accepting their bodies. “Amazing things have unfolded through this, and being in a position now where my son is willing to come and talk to me about his own love life is quite incredible,” says Bitts, who is developing a workshop on how to talk about sex with kids. “You learn a lot along the way, like letting your kids lead the conversation and being willing to drop everything when they are ready, because you might never get that chance again.”

Bitts says the one piece of advice she would offer parents is to “bite your tongue” when they tell you something you don’t want to hear. “You have to be really open and be willing to answer these moments with ‘How can I help you?’ and ‘What can I do?’” she says. “You let them see it’s OK for them to come to you.”

To learn more about Bitt’s upcoming workshops, visit MissRosieBitts.com.

Jo-Ann Way, 39Created: Nuttycake Photography, 20-year-old daughter, 18-year-old son, 15-year-old daughter and a soon-to-be.

Jo-Ann Way can’t remember how she got the nickname Nuttycake, just that whenever anyone hears it, they seem to remember her. It’s also helped raise her professional photography, which started as a distant hobby, then an educational dream, then her own business now four years strong.

“I really wanted a career change, and I was a single mom with three kids and I wanted to find a place where they could grow up, so we moved to the Island from Kelowna and I started going to Western Academy,” says Way, whose calm smile and sing-song voice makes the move sound like a decision to have banana bread or apple pie for dessert.

Yet Way was met with some surprise from friends and peers who would tell her, “I could never have done what you did.” But her success, and her ability to now live solely from her photography, speaks to her conviction.

“The thing is, I was never worried about making a million dollars. I thought, if I can pay the bills, and do what I love, I’m really living,” she says. “And, if you do what you love, the money will follow.”

Way says her trick has always been to involve her kids as much as possible. Even in the photo shoot for the cover of this week’s Monday — with Way just two weeks away from delivering her fourth child — she asked 20-year-old daughter Amanda to assist.

“This really is my dream job, and I would have to say my father is who inspires me,” she says. “I know it’s mother’s day, but my dad has had his own company since he was 19 years old, even through three moves. He’s in his 60s now, and is still running it.”

To see her work, visit JoAnnWay.com.

Alice Bracegirdle, 40Created: Bellyfit, 12-year-old daughter

Not so long ago, Alice Bracegirdle was a single mom living on welfare, and was escaping from a violent, abusive situation. She had fallen into a dark depression, droned her days out to the TV and had no idea how to pick up the shambles of her life.

But it wasn’t until she realized her slothfulness was affecting her then two-year-old daughter, Shalom, that she knew she had to try something. She got up, turned on her stereo and started moving.

What may have at the time been a desperate attempt to dance back her long-history of body movement would soon become a force of female empowerment that would affect women around the globe: Bellyfit®.

Fast forward to 2013, and Bracegirdle’s fitness program company is about to celebrate its fifth birthday. Now, with more than 350 trainers leading classes throughout North America and Europe, Bracegirdle teases that her next step is to take over the world.

“What’s really incredible is to realize that my daughter is entering her adolescence at the same time as Bellyfit® is entering its. Things are changing really fast, we’re going through self-esteem issues, we’re wondering ‘are we on the right path?’” says Bracegirdle. “A lot of the answers come down to your relationship with yourself, and recognizing how that relationship has changed.”

Bracegirdle says that while she and her daughter don’t partake in the fitness program together, they have created their own important rituals, like spa and bath evenings.

“I’m almost 40, and I feel stronger and better in my body than I ever have my whole life,” says Bracegirdle. “I think it’s really important for my daughter to see that, and for her to realize that I am doing something I love and I’m willing to take time for myself. As women, we are so often trained to put ourselves last, but we have to prioritize our own wellbeing for the wellbeing of our friends and family.”

Find a class at BellyFit.com.

Michele Powell, 45Created: TellMia, 14-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter

Many will recognize Michele Powell better as TellMia — leading lady of one of Victoria’s most sex-positive businesses that offers adult toy parties, workshops and coaching.

As a trained counsellor and group facilitator, Powell spent most of her adult life working with youth, families and couples, but it wasn’t until she started a side business selling sex toys that she realized her passion for the industry — and that people began to pour out their more intimate details to her. Whether it was women who had never had an orgasm, couples that were no longer connected sexually or people who wanted to explore something new, Powell’s support slowly turned into a business model.

“Family will still come first, as it should, but the business and the excitement and rewards that come with it add to the flavour of the family,” says Powell. “Life is busier, less organized, sometimes chaotic but it is vibrant and alive and the kids see me doing what I love.”

Powell says that, for moms who are afraid of pursuing their dreams, she would advise: follow your passion, but be organized and have a strong foundation in place before you get into the mayhem of doing it all.

“The rewards of following your passion far out weigh the challenges,” Powell says. “I’m inspired every day by the women and men that support and encourage me, the customers and clients who confide in and trust me … people are making pleasure a priority.”

Ask it all at TellMia.com.

Carolyne Taylor, 48Created: 24 Carrot Learning, yoUnlimited, Victoria Yoga Conference, 24-year-old son

This month, Carolyne Taylor is nominated to win a prestigious Women of Worth (WOW) award at the annual conference in Vancouver. In order to get such a nod, each nominee must be known in the community for: valuing and respecting herself and others, leading through empowerment and inspiration, learning from challenges with fortitude and grace, standing as a role model with authenticity and courage and bringing the spirit of collaboration and celebration into the world.

Those who know Taylor wouldn’t be surprised by her nomination. The corporate-leader-turned-women-inspirer is hard to nail down with accolades: Taylor is responsible for 24 Carrot Learning (a personal and professional development resource), yoUnlimited (an organization for women’s education and networking) and the Victoria Yoga Conference.

Yet Taylor’s priorities are in stone: family comes first. “I left my corporate job because I could not get the flex time off I needed to be there for my family, so I created something that did work for me,” says Taylor. “It takes a lot of commitment, but it means setting the hours that you want so the work gets done.”

Taylor’s corporate job was formerly as a 911 operator with VicPD. She became keenly aware of what was going on in the city, and many issues that affected children. As a single mom, she needed better shifts as her son grew. She also wanted to find a way to stimulate her own desire for lifelong learning. Still, the success of her programs has surprised even her.

“I don’t know how I knew this would work, I just knew there were things I was supposed to do in my life, and everything evolved from there,” she says. “It was all about listening to my intuition. That’s the best advice I could give any woman.” M

Learn about it all at CarolyneTaylor.com.

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