Nicole Eckels is the American founder and driving force behind Glasshouse Candles and Circa Home, two highly successful, quality home candle/fragrance brands that are perfectly positioned in the Australian market as ‘desirable, achievable luxury’.
She is also the proud mother of 24 year-old son Gregory, who she had at the tender age of 20 and brought up as a single mother in New York.
“Gregory is the best thing that ever happened to me and with only a twenty-year gap between us, I now have both a friend and a son.”
“There were tough times. When you start working you have no money, there are bills to pay, a child to look after and a career to build.”
While Nicole’s friends were dating and having fun in New York, she was working and being a mother. She felt too young to talk easily with the other parents and on the other hand, ‘too responsible’ to relate to people her own age.
“You don’t fit in,” she says.
You never hear anyone say they regret having a child
On the plus side, having Gregory at 20 meant that Nicole was only 20 years away from her own childhood and could relate more easily.
At the same time, she cautions other young single mothers against turning their child into a kind of surrogate adult ‘team mate’.
“Remember you’re the parent. You’re the teacher. Your child will have many friends but only one mother.”
Who mothers the mother?
Nicole says her mother was an absolute saviour – especially in the early years in New York when the long summer holidays meant Gregory and his grandmother spent a lot of time together.
“You have to have a second person if you’re a single mum. If you don’t have your mother, you need to build a strong bond with someone you trust. You just can’t do it alone, especially if you get sick or have to be away from home.”
Nicole's job in Sydney enabled Gregory to make frequent trips to the US during school holidays and he even thought about moving back there permanently. After doing a lot of travelling at 19 though, he decided to come ‘home’ to Australia.
“He’s an Aussie now,” Nicole says.
Now, a bit of freedom
While other parents of Nicole’s age are busily coping with 10 and 12 year-olds, Nicole can enjoy her adult life. Older parents had their freedom in their twenties and Nicole has hers now, with the bonus of a strong friendship with her adult son.
Gregory has a happy, stable long-term relationship and a flourishing career as a cinematographer. His mother is justifiably proud of her handsome, healthy, creative son and observes that he is loving, generous and caring and has a real respect for women.
“I’ve noticed that is often the case with children raised by single mothers,” she says.
About: 'Those who mum' series
Meet 40 women across Australia, from as far as Cairns in North Queensland to Baldivis in Western Australia, as part of a 40-part editorial and portrait series that celebrates the faces of women and mums from across Australia.