How Coffee, a Humble 4 Cup Drink Tray and Recycled Plastic Changed My Life

by Kate Stewart

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE 

In late 2017, I decided to leave my secure corporate role of 17 years to develop Stay tray Cup Holders. At the time I was commuting 3 hours each day from the Mornington Peninsula to Melbourne. Logically, I was in a great job, but every day I would leave at 5:00 am before my kids were even awake.

A couple of months earlier I had the idea of packing it all in and designing a sustainable 4 cup drink tray made from recycled plastic. I was wondering, would this even work?

I was literally on my way to work in Melbourne, sitting in traffic drinking my morning coffee, keep cup in hand, when it hit me! 

What am I doing? This isn’t sustainable. The mum juggle was really starting to get to me. I had to make my idea of a sustainable drink tray not just a reality but a way to make my life more sustainable too.

THE MUM JUGGLE 

The corporate commute made for super long days. I would find a café open near me on the way to work and have another couple of coffees a day just to get me through. So much coffee!. I wouldn’t get home till 6:30 pm at the earliest. During the week, the best I could hope for was to be home in time to put my kids to bed. The weekends were great, but it just wasn’t enough quality family time.

Thinking back the writing had been on the wall for a couple of years prior. In January 2014, I was living in Melbourne’s inner west when I went on maternity leave with my first child. A beautiful baby boy! He was born during a 10-day period of 40 plus degree weather in Melbourne. I can still remember it like it was yesterday! I recall dropping into a chemist to pick up some supplies on the way home from the hospital.  My husband was waiting very nervously in the car with our new baby boy. He was trying, unsuccessfully I might add, to balance keeping our new son cool with the air conditioning and trying to conserve what very little petrol he had left in his car. He really should have been a bit more organized!

We lived in a double story apartment at the time. I remember we slept on the couch downstairs for a week because we didn’t want our new bub getting too hot upstairs in our bedroom! Got to love an Australian made summer!

When I returned to work a year later it was a challenge. I had a strong female boss and a really supportive team who welcomed me back and made the transition from nappies and no sleep, to client meetings and presentations as easy as it could have been. I really enjoyed the people I worked with, but I felt that something had changed inside of me. I remember reading lots of books and articles at the time about the stress of the Mum juggle. Looking back now with hindsight I probably should have made a change back then.

Stay tray Drink Tray

Years later in 2018, I remember reading an article about former Studio 10 presenter Jessica Rowe and her struggle with the mum juggle.  Jessica would leave for work so early in the morning that she would miss her two young daughters every day. This resulted in her oldest daughter setting her alarm clock early in the morning to catch a glimpse of mum before she jetted off to work. Jessica ultimately walked away from her TV career to spend more time with her young girls.

Was this where I was headed? How many new mum’s struggle with this every day? Did I have work life balance?

NO WORK LIFE BALANCE

Back in 2014, life was super busy juggling a new baby and work commitments. To make our lives even more complex, my husband decided it would be a good time for him to build a house an hour and a half away on the Mornington Peninsula on weekends. It was weekends only because he was still working a 40-hour week, Monday to Friday, in Melbourne as an Environmental Engineer. Life was getting nuts and I could feel it starting to creep up on me. I liked my job, but I loved my new family life, I also wanted a little sibling for my 1-year-old son.

In September 2016, I went on maternity leave for the second time with my brand-new baby girl! We brought her home, my husband had thought ahead and had enough petrol in his car this time! Life was good. Albeit I was not getting any sleep and I now had 2 little ones clinging to me 20 odd hours a day. My husband was also still working 6 days a week. Five in Melbourne during the week and he was getting up at 5:30 am on Saturday morning, fuelled by a morning coffee or 3, to drive an hour to Mornington to build, returning exhausted from a day on the tools. Our family really had no work life balance.

It was only a month later my husband told me that the company he worked for in Melbourne, during the week, had lost the contract they had. He was being made redundant. When I look back now I really think that is the point where things started to significantly change for our new family. I was on maternity leave, we had two very young kids, my husband had been made redundant and we really did not have a plan. After 6 long months of him looking for a new job with no luck, he came to me a suggested he leave his career behind and become a builder fulltime.

The next part of his plan, I never thought I would hear come out of his mouth. You see we had no money to pay our mortgage with neither of us working, what we did have we had spent over the past 6 months. We were at a coffee shop near me, when he looked at me point blank and suggested we move out of our apartment in Melbourne’s inner west, and move an hour away to the Mornington Peninsula, and in with my Mum! This would allow him to work full time as a builder where there was plenty of work.

Stay tray Recycled Plastic Drink Tray

And that was it! It all happened super quickly. We up and left our house, put all our belongings in storage and moved into my Mum’s small three-bedroom house with a two-year-old and a three-month-old bubba. My 2-year-old son was sleeping in my old room and my husband, new baby daughter and I, squeezed into my brother’s old room.

It was not long before my second maternity leave was over, and I was planning to go back to work. When I returned to work it just was not the same. I was not the same. Yes, I still enjoyed what I was doing but the business culture had changed immensely in the 12 months I had been away. I wasn’t well supported in my return to work, I was commuting 3 hours each day from the Mornington Peninsula and I no longer loved the role.  

FINDING THE BALANCE

My husband and I had made a really significant decision, albeit it quick, to move away from the city for a better life. Life was great on the Mornington Peninsula; things were a little more relaxed. Friends and family were closer, time seemed to slow down a bit (they call it island time in Fiji). My morning coffee even tasted better.

Perhaps I had more time to enjoy it?

This was only on the weekend of course because during the week things were hectic. Every day I would leave home at 5:00 am, morning coffee in hand, before my kids were even awake and I would not get home till 6:30 pm at the earliest. The best I could hope for was to be home in time to kiss my kids as they went to bed. The weekends were amazing, I loved it, but it just was not enough! It was not sustainable. I remember thinking at the time what does our future look like?

The stress of the mum juggle was getting to me. I needed to escape bosses and boardrooms, commuting to work, and travelling interstate. It was out of all this craziness going on in my life that Stay tray was born! Its kind of ironic that Stay tray, the sustainable, practical 4 cup holder I developed, helps you juggle your daily coffee run. Just like running the business helps me juggle my life as a mum and provider for my family.

I needed something for myself, I needed something where I could be my own boss and could set my own hours. I needed work life balance.

I want to drop my kids off to school each morning. I want to go to their concerts, sports days and after school activities! I want the best version of my life for myself and my young family!

All I had to do to get it was take a leap of faith and not look back!

Stay tray Sustainable Drink Tray