Loss, lockdown and loyalty...and recovery
Raising young children and running two businesses almost broke this family, but loss, lockdown and loyalty has set them on a path to recovery.
It’s easy to assume that this picture- perfect family has it all together, and in many ways they do. But Ashley and Tane Allen are quick to admit the juggle is real. Raising four kids and running a thriving business certainly hasn’t come without sacrifice.
They’ve experienced their fair share of challenges, but with determination and dogged resilience, the couple has achieved incredible success in the business world while navigating the demands of a growing family.
They married 14 years ago, when Ashley was 18 and Tane was 21, and waited five years before starting their family. The couple now have four girls: Saylee (9), Cleo (5), Piper Rose (4) and Meadow (8 months).
Ashley is the founder of Ashley Allen Lashes and manages 28 staff across her three stores. She concedes it's been a hard journey getting the business to where it is today, one which placed incredible stress on the couple's personal lives and relationship.
Becoming parents has been amazing, but it took the pair time to figure out how to make family life and work, work! Over the past nine years, Ashley has had four babies and a miscarriage, while simultaneously running a business – a juggle she says she couldn’t have managed without support from her mum, Shirley Phillips.
“When I had my first baby, Mum was over every day helping me as I was still recovering from my Caesarean section. She offered her support so I could continue focusing on my work and building the brand. I worked from home at the time so it worked well.”
At the same time, Tane was working in construction and both he and Ashley worked 12- to 13-hour days most weeks, juggling childcare, babies and night feeds. They saw little of each other, which inevitably took a toll on their marriage.
Ashley is forthcoming when asked how they managed it all. “Honestly, the pressure has been huge. Juggling work, the kids and our marriage has proven to be stressful at the best of times. And I feel like I’m speaking for so many other couples when I say that." There is a lot of pressure on couples these days, she adds, as it’s rare to be in a financial position where one parent can be home full-time. Ashley and Tane have always worked, but Ashley's parents stepped in to support them with the children. "Making each other a priority and looking after kids and keeping on top of work and the house in between the chaos ... It’s not the easiest task,” reflects Ashley.
Ashley admits she and Tane became quite separate from each other, without realising it. "It’s hard trying to keep that same bond and energy when you don't have much quality time. Our conversations got smaller, our love languages weren't being met, and it put a lot of strain and tension on our marriage. It’s a tough gig. We had become two separate people living in the same house.”
The strain was so intense that seven years ago they almost separated. "I had a mental breakdown due to the stress, and I found comfort in alcohol," Ashley recalls. "Tane was so patient during this time. He stuck by me and I worked it through and now I have a really healthy relationship with alcohol."
Tane admits that this time was a real low point in their marriage. “It was really hard for me to see Ashley drinking the way she was, it wasn’t [like] her. I had faith in God that she would see the light, I knew who I had married. And slowly she learnt how to cope with the stress better. It was a hard time for her.”
WHAT TRULY MATTERS
Last year the couple realised things had to change; they knew their marriage couldn’t withstand much more at the rate things were going. Tane was now co-owner of his own concreting business, and Ashely’s stores required a lot of her. With three young children they were fairly stretched. As well, Ashley was pregnant with their fourth child, but tragically suffered a miscarriage.
“We tried for ten months for that baby. It was heartbreaking,” she says. “I had depression in high school as
a result of childhood abuse, but had never had any issues with mental health as an adult. It was so hard to feel such sadness and heartache, but it showed me what is important and I'm grateful for what I have with my beautiful girls and Tane.”
Ashley found it therapeutic to share her story on social media and connect with other women who have gone through the same thing. “There is so much power in being vulnerable. I had so many women messaging me words of encouragement and I was able to help them in return.”
Experiencing this difficult loss and running their businesses was a huge feat for the pair, but it helped intensify their belief that family is everything.
“We were both pulling ridiculous hours and not able to be as present with the children and each other,” Tane explains.
“I was starting work at 6am and not coming home until late.”
After much discussion, the pair made the call to close Tane’s business so he could take on the full-time role of parenting. “Tane is so good with the kids," Ashley says. “At the time I had leases at two malls so it wasn’t an option for me and honestly – I was so happy that Tane wanted to do it.”
Tane adds, “It was a big decision to walk away from my business, but we knew in our hearts it was the right one. Just after I shut it down, I was offered a really tempting contract to work on 300 houses in our area, but I didn’t feel peace about taking it. I knew I needed to stick with our decision and focus on our whānau. So many other families don’t have that opportunity.”
Says Ashley, “Money isn’t everything. Going through hard stuff, like grief, brings you back to real life. I think grief and loss teach you a lot about keeping things in perspective.”
With Tane at home full-time, Ashley could focus on growing her business – and another baby! Just three months after the miscarriage the couple fell pregnant with Meadow. Tane still wants to have a boy, says Ashley, "But we’ll see about that!” she laughs.
With serendipitous timing, Meadow was born a week before New Zealand's seven-week national lockdown, and the family spent it reconnecting and resting. "It was beautiful," says Ashley. "Yes, it was intense, the kids were full-on, they were out of routine initially, but we managed to find our groove.”
Since Tane took on the role of stay-at-home-dad, Ashley says she no longer carries a burden of guilt and worry about the kids; she feels as though a huge weight has been lifted from her shoulders. She describes Tane as a hands-on dad who runs a tight ship and is incredibly gentle with his girls. Tane, who is used to a hard day’s work, concedes that, “Nothing is harder than being a stay-at-home parent. It’s full on!”
TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK
Ashley says she always knew she would open her own stores, even while working from home with her firstborn, Saylee, and establishing herself as a business woman. It has been a big dream and has taken a lot of hard mahi and family support. Ashley says that her faith and her determination to succeed has helped her to stay focused on reaching her goals, and she has exciting plans in store for 2021.
“My parents have been an amazing support to me with our girls," she reflects. "Once I had established the business, my mum jumped on board as a business partner. Also, communication is really essential for me to keep focused on my business goals, and I talk to Tane and Mum often and hold close the dreams and visions I have had over the years.”
Ashley says she had to learn a lot – and fast – but again, family helped. “Early on I hired my awesome aunty to manage the administration side of the business, and I also focused a lot on establishing strong systems and procedures."
A tough but rewarding part of her job is staff management. “I really love giving people a chance," she says. "I’ve hired some people going through incredibly difficult circumstances and they have been amazing.”
While great lashes are the main drawcard for clients, Ashley also puts a lot of effort into ensuring her business is grounded in showing kindness and respect. “It’s a personal service we are offering and working with integrity is incredibly important to me. We strive to do our best daily. I really love what the beauty industry has to offer – making women feel beautiful every day. And giving them a boost of confidence is the absolute best.”
Ashley is particularly proud of Petal Charity, a part of her business that helps women who have lost their lashes due to cancer treatment.
She and Tane are confident that this year they have got the balance right for their whānau. It’s not a walk in the park, but having Tane at home means the girls are happy and supported and that Ashley can focus on her business and enjoy her girls when she gets home.
Tane says, “I love seeing Ashley thriving in her business. She works hard and gets a lot of satisfaction out of it. We both came from big families and it’s awesome to have more time to spend with our own now.”
PHOTOGRAPHY: Alice Veysey • Words: Holly Jean Brooker
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 52 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW