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Meet BubbaDesk St Leonards Member, Natalie Grainger

Introducing Natalie Grainger, a Speech Pathologist at NSW Health & her own business, SPIN Clinic, working remotely from BubbaDesk at our St Leonards location. Natalie is a mother to a 3 year old and 11 month old.

Can you share a personal or professional achievement you’re particularly proud of since returning to work?

Following the birth of my second child, I consciously embraced the many facets of motherhood, opting to dedicate time to slowing down and reflecting on my purpose and goals. This introspection fueled my decision to step outside my comfort zone, trusting my instincts in both personal and professional realms.

Amongst this I also wanted to do build a business for myself; professionally, this translated into extending my expertise in neurogenic speech and swallowing through the launch of SPIN Clinic, a venture that has become a source of immense pride and accomplishment.

How have you overcome challenges in balancing work, business, or parenting responsibilities?

I feel I am constantly learning to be more realistic of my expectations and to celebrate the wins. I think the high standards and expectations in a professional and personal sense, can’t quite be applied in a parenting role.

For me, parenting has been the most profound, visceral, loving learning curve. Moments of pure joy, laughter, chaos and constant discoveries about yourself. This all comes as an acute reminder that I am parenting two little beings, that are simply learning and changing at a faster rate than I can seem to adapt some days. The balance can be tricky, I faced the challenge of a busy hospital role around little ones, constant daycare sickness, feelings of mum guilt, judgment, post-natal anxiety, and separation anxiety.

I am a classic multi-tasker, over-scheduling things, never slowing down and I had to overcome the notion that slowing down meant underachieving. Looking back I wish I’d spoken about it more, and given myself more grace, both at home and in the workplace. I was more capable than I gave myself credit for, so I now try to acknowledge the little daily achievements and follow a mantra of – ‘small, actions every day’, and ‘only this, in this moment’.

Motherhood hasn’t changed my drive or love for my Career as a Speech Pathologist, but I am clearer on my values, and gladly reminded that time is precious. This led to SPIN Clinic which I built to fill the genuine demand for quality inclusive services, support disability and contribute to the advancements in the field of Speech Pathology within public and private health spaces. I am still very much in the thick of the delicate balancing act between work, business and parenting responsibilities, and so for now I am just embracing it all.

Are there specific strategies or tools that have helped you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Returning from maternity leave can be daunting, a shift in responsibilities requires you to adapt and rebuild your confidence. I find inspiration from my patients, many whom are re-learning to swallow and talk. I am reminded to practice patience, embrace the chaos, never take life too seriously and strive for progress over perfection, all while finding productivity in random moments of the day.

Amy Taylor-Kabbaz’s quote in Mama Rising, “only this, in this moment,” deeply resonates with me and serves as a personal mantra. It’s a reminder of the importance of balance, offering a chance to reset, especially in those fleeting everyday moments.

I have also rediscovered the joy of running. Currently, I’m training for Run2Cure Neuroblastoma and recently completed Stride4Stroke. Engaging in passions and hobbies outside of work and parenting allows me to maintain a healthy balance in life.

Can you recount a challenging moment and how you successfully navigated through it?

Navigating the challenge of sleep deprivation, post-natal anxiety has been an honest and raw journey, one that begins before the day has fully unfolded. There are those mornings when coffee doesn’t quite touch the sides, and you find yourself showing up, giving 110%, even when exhaustion lingers. It’s the reality of juggling workplace demands and home responsibilities while running on minimal sleep. In the healthcare sector the complexities of working during a pandemic were challenging, especially whilst pregnant. I remember seeing a patient in emergency who needed an urgent assessment, and had just tested positive for COVID. I was pregnant, yet the only clinician around to help so I did my job and I got on with it. I think this example is similar to parenthood in ways – an unwavering commitment to providing care despite all.

Being transparent about the fatigue and vulnerability that comes with sleep deprivation, compounded by the complexities of a pandemic is hard in a workplace, but embracing that vulnerability has been a source of strength. I’ve learned to communicate openly, seeking support when needed, and to take pride in my contributions both in the workplace and at home.

What advice would you give to other working mothers or families facing similar situations?

Navigating the challenging journey of parenthood often means neglecting everything else in life, as your heart and soul is poured into your children. For me, there is nothing I cherish more, but it’s also easy to become overwhelmed and stretched too thin. Realistic expectations and celebrating even the small victories are crucial in this journey.

The wisdom gained from acknowledging “this phase will pass” is a beacon of comfort. My heartfelt message to fellow parents is to recognise their immense capabilities and find pride in their journey.

I believe that the experiences of parenthood gives you a relatable and realistic type of resilience that shapes you for better success in the workplace, however the demands of life and work is a complex challenge that requires a deep understanding of your evolving identity and a focus on your core values. Granting yourself grace and kindness, setting boundaries based on what’s best for you and your family, and listening to your gut are invaluable practices that I am still learning.

How do you envision the future of your career, business, or parenting journey?

Building SPIN Clinic has been a dynamic and empowering chapter in my journey – it’s not just a business; it’s a genuine desire to improve the lives of Australians with swallowing and communication disorders. SPIN Clinic is an adjunct to my public health work, emphasising that accessibility to quality and specialised services is key to creating a more inclusive future.

In leading SPIN Clinic, my commitment goes beyond professional endeavours; it’s about being a present mum and actively building a future for my children. I strive to be their biggest ally, guiding them with boundless enthusiasm and love. Looking ahead, my aspiration is to reflect on this journey and know that I was not only present and empowering but also contributed to raising happy, thriving humans. Together, through SPIN Clinic, we’re shaping a future where everyone can access the specialised care they deserve, fostering a community that values inclusivity and well-being.

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