Career aspirations come full circle and Sandra McGaw always wanted to be a teacher. Work experience in a primary school changed her mind and she ended up becoming an Accountant. She now owns her own accounting firm, BMS Accounting, which she founded in 2007.
Every person has a creative soul and self-expression comes from the soul of the person. Working with numbers, for Sandra is just one part of the person that she is. Being creative is not just about drawing, painting, music or writing – it is doing something that allows you to get lost in the flow, push boundaries and feel passionate.
She started her business because her husband is a shift worker and she needed flexibility for her family – a seemingly universal mothering experience. So even though she decided teaching wasn’t for her, life has a funny way of leading you back and she ended up teaching Accounting in Tafe for several years.
Combining part-time teaching with building her business, gave her some of the flexibility she needed, but the plan was to eventually work full time for herself. Throw another three kids in to the mix, and Sandra now has four children (aged 10, 7, 4, and 18 months) and a successful accounting business.
Like all working mothers, it is an ongoing juggle, trying to find that sweet spot in between work commitments, career ambition, being available, involved and present in our children’s lives. Much of her energy goes into her business, but she is now finding a balance between her family and her work.
Born in Melbourne to Portuguese parents, food and her Portuguese background inform her life outside of work, and this is where her creative outlet resides.
“Cooking for me is the mediterranean celebration – regardless of whether you are having two people over for dinner, a family or a party with a houseful of people, it is always about the food.”
She is an embodiment of her parent’s culture, which is her culture, and has become her children’s culture also. Having people around, entertaining and cooking beautiful and vast amounts of food is what makes her creative soul sing, and provides the deepest sense of happiness for Sandra.
This connection to food and family, for Sandra provides the balance between work and the frenetic pace of our modern age. Life is a bit manic; with four children, a busy accounting firm to run and a husband that works shifts, coming together for food provides respite from the ‘crazy’, as well as a daily connection with each other, something that our modern lifestyles have encroached upon.
An extension of Sandra’s general love of food and the pleasure that it brings, she started exploring cake decorating. Going against her accountancy instincts, Sandra explains that when learning something creative like cake-decorating, you need to take risks. Her learning has been intuitive, by trying different things, seeing what works (with a little bit of help from YouTube along the way).
Sandra’s work speaks to a part of her personality that enjoys strong boundaries; accountancy has strict rules in place and you can’t be successful in that role if you don’t follow those rules. But the renegade in Sandra means that life outside of work is fertile ground for exploring things that make her feel alive – pushing the boundaries in the kitchen is incredibly exciting and life-affirming.
On a rare weekend day, when they have no plans Sandra will spend the day baking, and cooking with the kids. Her favourite kind of day is an apron over her PJs, all the kids in the kitchen together, making a mess and creating something beautiful – the process is binding, and sharing the end product over dinner or afternoon tea, is a celebration.
Sandra’s cake decorating endeavours are only ever for gifts; for friends and family. For her it’s part of the memory-making. Spending the time planning what they want, researching how to make it, and presenting the final creation is all part of the celebration.
Work can be all consuming, and Sandra has recently reduced her work hours to bring back some balance in to her life. When she reflects on what her and her husband have created, she feels proud about how they celebrate life. They celebrate loud, and big, and happy – but never hungry!!
Sandra shows us that you don’t have to change the world; in life, in career, in creative endeavours.