INDOOR PLAY CENTRE

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When my children were young, our local shopping centre decided to expand to include an entertainment precinct. My sister in law and I saw an opportunity to start an indoor play centre to service all the young families in the region.

This business venture was totally outside our realm of experience as I had previously worked in advertising and marketing and my sister in law was a solicitor. Having said that, we both had small children and had visited many play centres and so we knew what appealed to us as parents and what pleased our children.

We created ‘Fair Play Café’, with fairground themed play equipment. We also hoped the name would direct kids to play fairly with each other! We designed the centre from scratch and sourced equipment from overseas. We were determined to ensure the equipment was kept clean, as we had visited many centres where we were concerned for our children’s health as they sucked on dirty balls and slid down grubby slides.

We incorporated a ball-cleaning machine into our ball pit, where the kids could feed the colourful plastic balls into the clown’s mouth. After being cleaned, the balls would whizz around in clear pipes above the kid’s heads then periodically the balls would rain down on top of the kids. This fun activity was helping to keep the environment clean for the kids. To ensure every ball got washed, once a week we had a staff member put every ball through the machine then they would vacuum and mop the floor. It’s amazing the things we found in the ball pit – lots of hairclips, plastic jewellery, coins and little action figures.

Having small kids, we thought it was an ideal business, as we could take our kids to work with us. They were happy to play whilst we reviewed the running of the business. The only problem was that my then two year old became a bit territorial. She started to tell other kids this was her playground and let them know whether she wanted them to play there or not. I had to make the decision to leave her with her grandparents when I went to work so that she wouldn’t upset the paying customers, as she wasn’t following the ethos of playing fairly!

I believe the business model of our business was sound, but we found it hard to succeed in a large shopping centre as our rental was so high. We also never had the passing customer traffic that was predicted when we signed our lease. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when our landlord decided to put a free playground at our front door. They tried to infer this would help our business, but realistically, who is going to pay for play when you can get it for free?

We entered into a David and Goliath battle against our landlord and eventually were allowed to get out of our lease. The whole experience was draining, so we chose to sell our business rather than relocate.

I don’t regret having the indoor play centre as I was proud of what we created, plus it provided a great learning curve and was a good experience to have when my kid’s were young. The business is still running today under its new owners who moved it into a warehouse space, which is where it should have been in the first place!

The way our landlord dealt with us wasn’t, in my opinion, Fair Play, but I gain satisfaction knowing that a generation of local kids got enjoyment out of our fairground themed play centre.

(Photo courtesy of kongski, freedigitalphotos.net)

THE REAL PRICE OF BEING A SAHM  

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As much as being a stay at home mother (SAHM) is a privilege for those fortunate to be able to afford this luxury, there is a greater cost of being a SAHM than just the wage that the mother used to earn.

Choosing to be a SAHM of course means sacrificing a wage, but it also means losing out on superannuation (pension savings). It also translates into missing out on working experience, the ability to keep up with changing technology, it means missing the promotions that may have come your way had you stayed working and leaves you with a big blank space in your resume, making returning to the workforce challenging.

There is a wealth of experience, education and intelligence locked into a group of women where there is little opportunity to return to the workforce. Ideally there needs to be better working prospects that offer flexible, family friendly hours that allow a mother to be there to raise her children whilst still remaining relevant, useful and well remunerated in her chosen career.

Interestingly, becoming a parent doesn’t seem to affect the career prospects of a father, as he usually continues to reach new professional heights, gains added experience and in turn wage increases.

In the unfortunate case where there is a marriage breakdown, the man often has higher capacity to earn, better superannuation savings and better job security, whilst the woman struggles to find work and make ends meet, after sacrificing her career in order to raise their joint children.

In an ideal world, I think both parents should work part time, so they can each earn independently, can each be hands on parents to raise and bond with their children and can each have the ability to continue to feel relevant in their chosen career.

At the end of the day, someone has to take on the responsibility of raising children – whether it is the mother, father or a paid caregiver. The individual financial circumstances usually have a large role to play in deciding how this care is provided.

The cost of being a SAHM is often underestimated, but the pay off for this role can’t really be counted in dollars and cents, rather in hugs and kisses.

 

 

(Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.net)