It was while she was teaching "consciousness raising" groups for women that Diane Giles realized that she was 40 and still searching for her own career. Mrs. Giles, a liberal arts graduate from the University of Texas, had put in time working in a children's day school when her children were young. She had been director of a church school for two years.
"I did not want to be at home and doing volunteer work," she remembers thinking. "I was tired of all of that. Every other direction I was interested in, I'd have to go back to school and get graduate degrees. . . .
"Women always think they have to go back to school and get more credentials to feel comfortable. We do a 'number' on ourselves about that."
At about this time Mrs. Giles and her husband, Ralph, who works in personnel for an oil company, were fascinated by quilts. Diane says, "I took classes and got involved in the founding of the Quilt Guild in Houston."
The guild had its first show in 1976. At the show Mrs. Giles interrogated the seven dealers in the show about their businesses and took their encouragement to start her own quilt shop. She decided to go into business for herself.
Mrs. Giles and her mother got into the car and from Dallas drove for three weeks through quilt country, talking to dealers and buying quilts. They came home with 75, but had no place to sell them.
She found space to rent near the Rice University-Museum area of Houston. The old-fashioned apartment had to be almost demolished inside to bring out large, simple rooms with lustery oak floors. It took not only the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Giles, but also six weekends of help from two other couples. The Quilt Collector opened in August of 1977.
Mrs. Giles, now a seasoned businesswoman, buys quilts and purchases fabric to sell to quilters. She organizes classes in quilting, oversees a sales staff of two, and spends most of five days a week on the floor herself. "I'm president and janitor of the company," she says.
What has interested Diane Giles about the business has been making personal adjustments. "I've had to face into some of my weaknesses -- like procrastination of unpleasant tasks," she notes.
The business has meant changes in family life style. Son Colby, 22, is at the University of Texas, but Anne, 16, and Neil, 14, have roles in the home now that their mother works five days a week.One night a week each of them must plan and cook a meal. On Friday night everyone is on his own, and Mr. Giles takes over culinary chores on Saturday night.
"My 14-year-old son even irons his own shirts," Mrs. Giles boasts.
Even though her working puts added responsibilities on the family, she is frank to admit, "They wouldn't take it away, but they would like the mothering they get when they have a full-time mom. I tried for a long time, so everyone got lots of all-stops-out mothering for a long time."
Mrs. Giles feels she now has a good balance as a mother-businesswoman of the 1980s. But, she adds, "There are days when I think I have a tiger by the tail. I have an enormous investment now. I can't change my mind and say, 'I don't want to do this now.'"