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ARI CHÁVEZ

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Funny mummy Ari contemplates the value of play dough for kids.

The great existential question that has been bothering me lately is, who the hell invented play dough? And how do we punish them?I’ll be frank. Play dough is one of the great loves of my son’s life. He is the king of play dough, in fact, and I freaking hate the stuff.

In fact, I hate it so much I hide it in a big plastic tub behind walls of chaos in the labyrinth of things-that-need-to-be-sorted-out-but-I-cannot-currently-deal-with that I call our garage. I hide it so well that pretty much no one can ever find it, not even me.

Except the child.

The child has a sixth sense about both hidden play dough places, and hidden chocolate biscuit places, I’ll give him that. He does not have a sixth sense about where his shoes, socks, school hat, library books or swimming goggles are, which would be far more useful.

It’s all about motivation I guess. He can find that damn play dough tub in about half a nano second. He will never, ever find his school hat or his second running shoe. As far as play dough goes, his modus operandi is quiet stealth, which I should have cottoned onto by now. If ever my kid, who is in the habit of providing a running narrative of exhausting questions I am required to answer non stop, is ever quiet I know he’s up to no good. NO. GOOD.

 

He will ask me a series of stupendously tedious and exhausting questions, while he observes me sidle towards the teapot so I don’t lose the will to live.

Sometimes, however, I just need to sit down and have a cup of tea, stare blankly into space and not answer any questions. Heck, sometimes I don’t KNOW THE ANSWERS TO HIS QUESTIONS, ISN’T THAT WHAT GOOGLE IS FOR? The kid knows the game. He will ask me a series of stupendously tedious and exhausting questions, while he observes me sidle towards the teapot so I don’t lose the will to live. In these moments of weakness, he ever-so-quietly tootles up the hallway and slips into the garage, scales the pile of stuff for the council pick up, like a mountain goat, and seizes the play dough tub toot suite.

Then he drags it into the play room and sets about making a complicated sea anemone that he saw some deranged mother, who has nothing better to do, make on YouTube. Of course, his sea anemone looks nothing like the YouTube mother’s sea anemone. OF COURSE IT DOESN’T. That YouTube play dough mother has an online play dough making course she’s selling. Why the heck else would you make a sea anemone out of play dough?

 

 

My son, bless his play dough loving heart, is not wise to the ways of crafty-YouTube-mothers-making-a-buck-on-the-side. He will spend five minutes trying to make his sea anemone look like a sea anemone, and not like a lump of pink and yellow stuff, and then yell, “MAMA, CAN YOU HELP ME?”

Then he drags it into the play room and sets about making a complicated sea anemone that he saw some deranged mother, who has nothing better to do, make on YouTube.

Obviously, the only thing to do is to pretend not to hear. Never works.

“MAMA, HELP PLEASE! HELP PLEASE! MAMA! MAMA! MAMA! MAAAMMAAAAAAAAAAA!”

The point is, this could go one for hours – me pretending not to hear, and the child chanting my name like some sort of mantra. The other point is, I will crumble first. So the only way to deal with it, is to sit down with the child and try to make a play dough sea anemone while fobbing off questions about why our sea anemone looks so rubbish in comparison to the YouTube one.

Toot suite.

Holidays are meant to be a relaxing time, right? Hm, well perhaps not when travelling with toddlers! If you have ever travelled with little ones, this may be something you can completely relate to.

Once Upon A Time when I was young, and didn’t have any wrinkles, and used to flit around the world on a whim, I’d watch parents board planes with toddlers and glower at them. Ferociously. I’d will them not to trail their child and all its paraphernalia in my direction and sit next to me. I didn’t care how apologetic they looked. I had been very busy and I had some relaxing to do, and they looked, well, frazzled and un-relaxed. Jeez, couldn’t they put on some clean clothes and brush their hair? What was all that stuff they were carrying, anyway? Hadn’t they heard of travelling light? Of minimalism? They probably had a whole house full of stuff. They probably had ten houses, actually, bursting with stuff and toddlers. I hoped they never moved next door to me, with all their stuff and overflowing bags and their ten houses and 1000 toddlers. Ugh, what was the deal with toddlers and snot, anyway? Couldn’t they wipe the kid’s nose?

And, so it went. Sometimes those harried parents would sit next to me, or in front of me, or behind me, which was hideous, obviously, with the snot and seat-kicking and everything, and sometimes they’d move past me and sit someplace else. At which juncture, I’d heave an exaggerated sigh of relief and thank my lucky stars.

Ah, well. I was young. The world turns, and most of us become wrinkled up parents of toddlers some day, and Karma, as they say, is one hell of a Beyotch.

I know this, because I married the best guy in the world who, romantically at the time, grew up in two different countries on the other side of the globe. Fantastic, I thought. Not only do I get to marry the best guy in the world, I get to travel back to his two countries for the rest of my life, stopping at a couple of places en route because the flights are so Very Very Very Long. Score!

Ahem. That deluded-ness was before I had my baby, who has turned into a toddler who somehow has Energizer Bunny batteries running 24/7. Unfortunately, my husband’s family and friends still live a gazillion miles away and, unless someone can tell me how to close my eyes and zap myself there in an instant, like Samantha from Bewitched, we’re long-hauling for the rest of our lives. Hello, Karma!

Touchingly, a lot of parents think that flying with their toddler won’t be that bad because, well, it’s their child. They are wrong. Always. 110 per cent wrong. Unless, of course, they have a Freak Toddler with a throwback Good Behaviour Gene – and if they do, they should see a health professional about that. Flying with a toddler is just a bad idea. I figured as much when I was an entitled world-flitter and now, after ten flights in four weeks, two of them around the 35-hour mark, I know it in my bones.

We started out well, I guess. We clipped out lists from those “Happy Long Haul Flights With Toddler” articles, and packed our carry-on bags – about six, but who’s counting? – accordingly. We tried. We had milk and water and crackers and toys and books and a blanky and a sooky and a portable DVD player and DVDs and nappies and wipes and tissues and flannels and toiletries and changes of clothes and fruit and, hilariously, a Kindle for me, loaded with all the books I was going to read.

The Toddler did okay on his first flight, probably because it was a novelty. The second wasn’t too bad, either. By the third, in a terrible portent of things to come, he’d had enough. HAD ENOUGH! Especially when we entered Mexico City’s airport, which was about 500 degrees with no air-conditioning. The Toddler was not down with that. He had San Francisco layers on! He became the flailing, thrashing, screeching manifestation of the Terrible Demonic Twos. He yelled. He cried. He insisted on crawling up the baggage scanner towards our ten-tonne cases hurtling towards him. Every time I pulled him off, he arched his back and foamed at the mouth, and then flung himself on the floor and howled until his face turned purple. I kept waiting for his head to spin around and fly off and hit the Baggage Scanner Lady in the neck. Luckily for us it didn’t, but I think we were close.

People stared at us and frowned. They whispered and moved away. Couples nudged each other and grinned, grateful for the Family Entertainment. The Toddler obliged, ramping up the angst a few hundred notches and sweating profusely. The airport felt like it was 900 degrees. I tried to get his goddamn layers off, while he hurled himself around the baggage cart wailing. Our ridiculous mountain of luggage teetered. Those couples grinned some more, waiting for our cases, knapsack, travel cot, camera bag, hand luggage and random water bottles, books, crackers and tissues to spill all over the floor. Obviously, I wanted the Toddler’s head to fly off and hit them smack bang in the mouth. That would have been just fine with me.

Regrettably, he refused to oblige. The Toddler’s screaming head stayed well and truly attached to his flailing, kicking, furious body. Ah, well. Like they say, Karma is a Beyotch. We were three flights down, and counting. Only, ahem, seven more flights to go.

Ari takes inspiration from her own childhood when planning school holidays for her child.

Okay, so now that I’m a mother, I can see the flawed and horrible logic that is the summer School Holidays.

SO LONG! Why so long? And why so sunny? Not only do the weeks last forever, each day seems like about ten days because the sun never goes down so you can’t do the old, it’s-dark-now-so-go-to-bed-and-leave-me-in-peace trick until about 9.00pm. Gruesome. Badly planned. Too hot. Whoever decides on these things needs a couple of mothers on the committee to arrange things properly.

When I was a kid, I loved Summer Hols, even though they mostly consisted of going to swimming lessons. I mean, there were a LOT of lessons and they kinda sucked. We didn’t get merit certificates for putting our heads under the water, or anything like that. No, me and my three siblings used to front up to the fifty metre non-solar-heated pool and some Old Boiler would make us fling ourselves into the lap-lane and bitch at us about our stroke. Every. Single. Day. I joke not. The only day we didn’t go was Sunday, and that’s because we had to go to church. My folks liked structure.

All of us kids were at different swimming levels and each lesson lasted about an hour – no pithy 25 minutes in a heated pool for us – so we had to hang around the local pool for about five hours by the time we got through everyone. In between lessons my mother, who engineered the annual Swimming Lesson Bonanza, would instruct us to do about a million more laps for ‘practise’, while she leisurely swam about seven lanes away from us pretending, I see in retrospect, that we didn’t belong to her.

Anyway, all that lapping took us through to about 2.00pm every day, and after five hours of swimming in waters that felt sub-Arctic, we had a lot of our collective Energizer Bunny burnt out of us. Basically that meant we were too tired to whinge and fight at the level we were accustomed to. Plus, we were starving.

My mother is a wily woman, non? She was deliberately, and delightedly, onto something and, now that I am a harried veteran of School Hols myself, I can see she utilised this strategy shamelessly throughout my childhood.

Summer hols meant overdosing on swimming lessons and Old Boilers brandishing megaphones but I think our winter holidays were worse. In winter, we’d take a trip down to Bluff Knoll and have to climb the mountain pretty much constantly. Once was never enough.

I, personally, do not understand the point of mountain climbing. I know there is a point and people feel all I’ve-Conquered-The-Mountain kind of thing when they’ve slogged up the rock face and are standing at the top, but I am quite happy for the mountain to conquer me. The mountain can win and I am MORE THAN OKAY with that. There. I said it. Go mountain. Victory is yours. Unfortunately, my folks are conquering types so I have actually conquered Bluff Knoll – miserably and without grace – more times than I care to recall. Sorry ‘bout that mountain. Won’t happen again.

If we didn’t climb the mountain, we’d go on long bush walks – like six hours or something – with an apple and a vegemite roll for sustenance, and only one another for company. I am not sure why. My parents thought this kind of thing was Fun With A Capital F. I mean, they really dug stumbling along some bush track for hours playing ‘I Spy’ for kicks. There’s only so many times you can Spy a Tree, if you know what I’m saying.

And being winter it rained quite a bit. Basically it rained whenever we had to do a Challenging Outdoor Activity, which was every day. It did not matter if there were fecking hail stones the size of golf balls – we still went mountain climbing or roaming around in the wilderness. My mother packed an odd assortment of raincoats for such weather and flung them happily at us, along with random too-big gumboots, and off we went.

We did complain to our parents, of course. I might have, ahem, complained more than anyone else but they took precisely zero notice and we still had to do these God-awful Extreme Sport like holidays, except we didn’t look cool like they do in Extreme Sport commercials, we just looked random and mis-matched, dodging hailstones in our weird raincoats.

So anyway, this School Hols we had a few weeks of the child bouncing-off-the-walls and me and the other half were starting to get a bit desperate and tetchy. The days were sunny and hot and, above all, long. So, so long.

“I have the solution,” I said, one morning after trying and failing to persuade the child to bounce on the trampoline in the broiling son without Mummy.

The other half raised an eyebrow.

“He needs to know how to swim better than he does,” I gabbled. “Much, MUCH better. We need to book him into swimming lessons EVERY DAY for the rest of the holidays RIGHT NOW.”

I grabbed my phone and started dialling swim schools and, gosh darn it, I did not stop dialling until someone told me they would take him the very next day. Huzzah!

And so he went. And he put his head under the water and blew bubbles and stuff. And he got a merit certificate and a colouring in book and lots of high fives. Unfortunately, it seems Old Boilers are now extinct, but he still got tired-ish. Sort of.

Next hols, I’ve decided that we’re off to Bluff Knoll. I plan to nominate myself for tea duty, while my husband and son conquer the mountain.

Entrepreneur, model, Balinese princess and wife to Olympic Swimmer, Michael Klim, Lindy, shares why, despite her privileges, she is not immune to the challenges of being a wife and mother and why family support and maintaining a sense of self are crucial to the balance.

Lindy Klim is that most contemporary of things, a multi-hyphenate. She’s a Business-Woman-Balinese-Princess-Former-Catwalk-Model-Fashion-Designer-Wife-Of-Olympian-Michael-Klim-And-Mother-Of-Three, for starters. Her life appears to be a glamorous and blessed one, preposterously so. Indeed, observers could be forgiven for thinking that Lindy is living a veritable modern-day fairytale, complete with royal lineage, pots of gold and a handsome prince, who also happens to be a dab hand at fast laps in the swimming pool.

It’s certainly no ordinary life. Behind all the gloss, however, is a busy woman juggling the demands of work, family and a public profile, while navigating the joys and challenges of raising her children to straddle two vastly different countries and cultures, and call both places home.

Lindy, founder of the organic skincare range for babies, Milk Baby, was born to a Balinese father, a prince in the Denpasar Royal Family, and an Australian mother. She lived a royal life in Bali for her first three years until her mother, chafing at the restrictions of a duty-filled existence, divorced Lindy’s father, and took her daughter home to Tasmania to raise her. It was a long absence. Lindy didn’t return to Bali for 15 years, yet swapping Balinese ways for the chillier climes of the Apple Isle wasn’t always easy. And, despite the differences in language, culture and custom, the tug of her extended family grew stronger as the years passed.

“I’ve always stood out,” says Lindy, “especially in Tasmania. I was practically the only Asian”

“Now I’ve got this big pull to come back to Bali and be with my family I didn’t grow up with. And when I see my children here as well, they kind of belong, you can see it.”

They go to school here and when they come out I don’t even recognise them, I can’t see them amongst the sea of brown hair and brown faces. It’s really nice that they can identify themselves with their own little community.”

Lindy’s recent move to Bali, with her children, Stella (6), Rocco (4) and Frankie (16 months), was triggered by the demands of Michael’s comeback for the London Olympics. Michael, one of Australia’s most admired swimmers, with a string of records and medals, and an Order of Australia, to his name, was determined to make the 2012 London team, five years after retiring in 2007.

 

The ABC’s Race to London series documents his gruelling journey, giving an insight into the sacrifices elite athletes, and their loved ones, must make for a shot at medal glory. Lindy, who was filmed for the program, appeared a lonely figure, juggling family and the demands of the family business, Milk & Co, while Michael focused on an increasingly demanding training regime.

At the time, Michael stated, “Lindy made the biggest sacrifice of all. She was basically a single mother for the whole time…There were times I needed to be pulled back into line because I can get very obsessive about my sport.”

Michael’s much-anticipated comeback was ultimately unsuccessful; however it proved to be a game changer for the Klim family, which was beginning to crack under the strain of his Olympic dreams. It was a far cry from Lindy and Michael’s first meeting in 2004 backstage at a fashion parade. Presciently, they were told to strut the catwalk together, Michael wearing a tuxedo and Lindy modelling a bridal gown. Two years later they married, baby Stella in tow.

Fast forward a few years and two more children, and Lindy is frank about the recent difficulties the family faced during Michael’s comeback period.

“When Michael decided to go back to swimming…to make the London games it was really difficult on our family,” she says. “I was pregnant with Frankie at the same time. It was really hard, with work as well.

After I had Frankie and he’d finished and retired for good I kind of said to him, ‘I feel like we’re going to break if we don’t do something about it. How about we move to Bali for a couple of months and completely reunite as a family and get some kind of…I don’t know, just relax a little bit more’ because it was just so hard. And he said ‘yes’.”

 

The move, while temporary, appears to have worked, with the children settled and Michael, who is based in Melbourne for work commitments, visiting the family every month for an extended period. Even the Witching Hour of dinner-bath-teeth-bed, dreaded by parents everywhere, is easier.

“It’s hard for Michael, because he doesn’t see the children as much,” says Lindy. “But…we’re really happy here.”

“The children are happy, I’m happy. I’m not resentful towards him for not being around and helping at bath time or bedtime because I have people here to help me. And I can do my work easily…I can do the Asia and Europe side of things from here. I find it a lot easier to juggle the children-work thing here, to be honest.”

Lindy’s work includes her Milk Baby organic range, which sits alongside Michael’s Milk range of skin products for men (Milk is Klim spelt backwards). Lindy decided to develop the range after the birth of her first child, Stella, after failing to find skin care products she felt comfortable using on her new baby.

Milk Baby’s products, with names such as Snotty Grotty Room Spray and Milk Baby Toothy Pegs, are stocked in Australia, the UK, Denmark, China, Singapore and Malaysia, and sold in online stores in Switzerland, Hong Kong & New Zealand. Milk & Co has annual turnover of $4.5 million, and growing, but Lindy is careful to point out that the expansion of the brand overseas, where she and Michael are not well known, is not about having a celebrity profile. The products are successful in their own right.

“We’re doing so much export…which is fantastic for the brand. I think that’s really nice that… the brand is speaking for itself and the product is speaking for itself, not just the fact that Michael and I are behind it,” she says. “I’m really proud of our business and we have big plans for it to grow in a really big way in the next five years.”

Juggling three kids and a growing business is no walk in the park, but Lindy sees the opportunity to maintain a sense of self outside the role of ‘Mum’ as a key, even crucial, benefit.

“I think that being a parent can consume you so much and sometimes all you can think about is your children and you lose a part of yourself, which I didn’t like losing,” she says.

“I wanted to still be me and I wanted to still have a relationship with my husband and I still wanted to have a relationship with my friends. I feel like you can still do all of that and it’s just about managing your time, and try not to make yourself feel guilty while you leave your kids to go out for dinner.”

Dinners out aside, what of that old chestnut, possibly invented by a childless person, The Working Mother and Work Life Balance? Lindy sighs, sounding like every other mother when taking a mental inventory of the demands on her time.

“The worst thing is definitely that I’m exhausted all the time,” she says. “I’m sure a Stay At Home Mum is completely exhausted as well. Sometimes I find that I’m trying to be everything to everybody. Instead of ‘just take a breath and say no occasionally’, which is hard to do.”

Lindy may be well advised to inhale deeply, because the Milk & Co brand is about to get bigger with her new apparel collection, that has a sports luxe feeling about it, scheduled to debut in 2013.

“For me and our Milk brand, it’s about that easy living lifestyle. I spend a lot of my time in workout gear running around with the kids…It’s basic pieces that you can mix and match.”

“Apparel is a natural progression for me, I’ve always been into fashion so heavily,” she says, pausing to think for a moment. “I really do think it’s important…having  your own goals.”

There’s no doubt that Lindy Klim has goals galore. All her own.

Madonna’s ex-nanny, Perth-based Angela Jacobsen, chats to Offspring about the challenges and benefits of working for high profile families.

When Angela Jacobson decided to swap her dream of flying planes for a living for a career in childcare, she couldn’t have foreseen she’d end up dancing with her boss, Madonna, for the royal family in India, as a kind of cobbled-together entertainment. The down to earth thirty-three-year old laughingly describes the experience as her, “most bizarre nanny moment,” yet.

“When I was in India with Madonna on her family vacation, we were staying with a king and queen in a palace and all the women were forced to dance for the king, and the princes around them actually, because of the sexist world that they live in,” she explains.

“Madonna made me dance, and she made me wear a sari. That was my weirdest boss moment…I just had to. All the women had to get up and dance for the men. We were in the palace…so I, very begrudgingly, danced around in a sari.”

It was one of many strange celebrity encounters Angela experienced in her 18 months working for the Material Girl who, during her tenure, acrimoniously divorced film director Guy Ritchie. As the sole carer of Madonna’s adopted son, David Banda, Angela joined the singer’s entourage and toured with her, as well as jetting to far-flung locations from her New York base.

Madonna, famed for her discipline and work ethic, is also notorious for demanding her staff work equally punishing hours. According to media reports, the gruelling lifestyle eventually took its toll on Angela and, when she handed in her notice after a year and a half, the furious pop star told her to leave immediately.

“All Madonna’s employees work incredibly long hours, so it’s no surprise that Angela had had enough,” a source told a newspaper, at the time.

“If you work for Madonna you are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There’s no such thing as a weekend.”

Angela later refuted rumours of a rift with her famous employer, saying, “She was a great boss and I mean it was obviously quite a full-on experience. She was fantastic to work for and a big motivation for me…She’s very much a loving mother.”

Melbourne-born Angela’s experience as Madonna’s nanny was a far cry from her childhood goal of being a pilot. It was a dream she was forced to jettison after her parents divorced when she was seventeen, and she was left in charge of her brother and the family home.

“I didn’t foresee this path,” she says. “I wanted to be a pilot and I was in the Air Force Cadets…It wasn’t as though I set out to do this, it chose me. And as much as I’ve tried to move away at different times, it’s brought me back. It seems that’s what I am now. I’m a carer, and that’s what I do.”

“If you work for Madonna you are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There’s no such thing as a weekend.”

Nannies inhabit a rarefied space in families. They’re privy to the day-to-day interactions between spouses and parents and children, while being required to maintain a discreet distance from the inner workings of a family. It can be an uneasy mix, this intimacy with strangers.

“You learn a lot,” says Angela, diplomatically, of the trusted position most nannies hold.

“You learn how to treat your husband, how not to treat your husband, what to do with your kids, what not to do with your kids. It’s trial and error for everybody but you learn so much just by being in someone else’s family…I’ve got kids, now, all over the world so to speak…A lot of them are teenagers now and I’ve got them on Facebook…There’s so many positive rewards to come out of it.”

Indeed, Angela, who studied childcare, and has worked as a nanny for average families as well as elite sports people, royalty and celebrities, believes that working overseas as a nanny is one of the best options for young, travel-loving Australians, who might otherwise earn their keep toiling in a cafe or a pub.

“If you’re a nanny you get to live in a beautiful house, you eat lovely food, you go on lovely holidays…it’s hard work but everything in life is hard work. I think that for a young girl, it’s the best way to see the world and also save money. It can set you up for later in life.”

While Angela has used her earnings to invest wisely for her future, she reveals that working for a celebrity boss doesn’t necessarily mean getting paid a celebrity salary. Payment for working for a ‘civilian’ family is on a par with, for example, working for royalty in an Asian country.

“You generally get paid a weekly rate as a nanny,” she explains. “The saving side of it is just incredible. I’ve got two properties. One overseas, and one here in Australia in the city. They were from two different jobs…I basically just set a budget for both jobs.

You don’t pay for anything. You don’t pay for accommodation, or travel. I had a driver in Asia and I had a driver in America too. Or you have a taxi account. All the food is cooked by chefs and all the housekeepers are buying your food, and what have you, and they give you a phone and the internet, all that sort of stuff, so it’s a great way to save some cash. It definitely beats working in a pub!”

Not everyone is cut out for looking after other people’s children, however Angela cites flexibility and patience as the key qualities for being an effective nanny.

“She was a great boss and I mean it was obviously quite a full-on experience. She was fantastic to work for and a big motivation for me…She’s very much a loving mother.”

“You need to be very hard working, as all women do, and all mothers need to be. You need to be flexible, patient, obviously loving and caring. The upside is that it’s a job, so you can leave at the end of the day, or have the weekend free to yourself, and still have your own life, whereas mothers don’t get that break.”

The downside to the job that can offer worldwide travel, a luxurious lifestyle, numerous perks and a window into the cocooned world of the super wealthy, is leaving the children you have become so attached to.

“They’re not your actual children and leaving them would be the hardest part of being a nanny,” Angela says.

“I now put a two year maximum, because I stayed with a family in England for about three years and it just is so hard on me and the children. The baby had grown up just with me. She didn’t know anything else so it was really difficult for me to leave.

 

There becomes a lot of emotional blackmail with the parents as well, at that point, because you are going to upset their children and you are going to upset their life if you move on but, also, you’re a young person that needs their own life. So there’s a fine line.

So, now I like to go in and go ‘okay, I’m doing this for eighteen months or I’m doing this for two years’. It can’t be too short either because that’s not fair on the children to go in and only work for a few months and move on. So to have an outline of how long you’re going to stay for makes it easier…you can see a finish, because sometimes things aren’t that great. So… you…set a goal and say, ‘okay I’m going to work this long and I’m going to earn this amount’. ”

“The upside is that it’s a job, so you can leave at the end of the day, or have the weekend free to yourself, and still have your own life, whereas mothers don’t get that break.”

That focus and determination have seen Angela use her years of professional experience to develop a burgeoning, nanny-related, media career, as well as a number of side businesses. She has written two books, Baby Love and Baby Food, and is just about to start filming a new television show Family 360 (working title) in Singapore.

The show, which Angela describes as having a different focus to the phenomenally successful Super Nanny program, will see her work with local Singaporean families on any problems they may have.

“We go in at the top level, being the parents, and work out the issues that are going on there, because they obviously stem through to the kids,” she states.

“So whether it be nutrition or fitness, or what have you, we tackle it as a whole family and not just go in and put a band aid on and leave. We’ll do eight episodes with one family…and really make it more educational than drama.”

Family 360 is a concept she has discussed with Australian media personality, Steve Vizard, and Profile Talent Management, in the hope the show will be developed in Australia. It’s early days but, so far, the feedback on her idea has been encouraging. Along with her TV show, a project with Google and an interactive Nanny/Babysitting site, utilising Facebook, are also in the works.

Despite her budding media and business careers, Angela is keeping her hand in with the work she knows best and, this time, she’s staying close to home. She recently turned down a job working for the royal family in the Middle East, for a stint as a nanny for an ordinary family in suburban Noranda, Perth.

“I’ve been there and done that with the celebrities and that kind of lifestyle,” she explains, cheerfully.

“I’d much prefer to work in the suburbs of Perth…Everything’s just normal. The kids muck in and help you with the dishwasher unstacking. There’s no maids running around, and all that sort of stuff that I’d got used to.

She pauses for a moment, then laughs. “It’s kind of refreshing to be working back in Australia.”

Have you noticed how much you need to pack in your kid’s lunch box as well as to share with the class? What ever happened to the classic Vegemite sandwich?  Now, it’s fruit plates, sushi muffins and so much more!

There’s a lot of talk, this time of year, post-hols-and-with-the-schoolyard-looming, of the humble school lunchbox and what should go in it.

My son is going to Kindy this year, so I’m new to all this. I must admit, I’m a bit gobsmacked by the AMOUNT of food that’s expected to be packed for a six hour stint in the classroom and playground. There seems to be all manner of muffins, and snacks, and fruit platters, and sushi, and rice paper rolls, and bread rolls, and olives with cubed fetta and sundried tomato and some sort of marinated mushroom. Plus a drink, half a sack of popcorn and a tub of yoghurt. And some grapes, preferably seedless.

There are lots of fancy lunchboxes, with nifty little slide-out compartments, so you can send a veritable buffet of food options for lunch and your child can pick and choose. There are fabulous cool bags, and ice block-thingies to keep your sushi fresh, and neat little pockets to store a drink bottle in. It’s all terribly organised, and the expectations are clear. Buffet up, Mama, you have work to do.

I am a child of the 70s; a latchkey kid, with parents who favoured the Free Range approach before it was even called that. Basically, I’m so old I am almost desiccated. Even so, the buffet-lunchbox approach seems excessive to me. I hate to play the ‘in-my-day’ card but, heck, I’ll do it anyway.

In my day, I distinctly remember being sent to school with:

1. A vegemite and cheese sandwich on wholemeal bread.

2. An apple.

3. A mandarin or carrot.

4. Possibly a water bottle, if anyone remembered and usually they didn’t. If I needed a drink, I could find a water fountain somewhere or, failing this, a puddle. Like I said, Free Range. Use your initiative. Find your own way, even if it does involve slurping from a puddle to avoid dying of thirst. All of that.

My lunch was packed in a recycled paper bread bag, which more often than not retained a veritable avalanche of bread crumbs that stuck to everything inside. I did envy the other kids who had proper brown paper lunch sacks, clean and crumb-less, and always hoped that Mum might buy the same. Great expectations, and all that. She never did, by the way, being somewhat embarrassingly before her time in regards to waste and recycling.

If I needed a drink, I could find a water fountain somewhere or, failing this, a puddle.

My school also put on Dry Roll Days semi-regularly. On Dry Roll Day, the whole school abstained from bringing lunches and, instead, purchased plain dry rolls – white and fluffy as clouds – for about fifty cents. The reason for this was twofold. Firstly, it was an attempt, well intentioned but perhaps misguided, to make us comfortable middle class kids experience how it might feel to have limited food options and be a bit hungry. I’m not sure how successful this was, given we had breakfast before school and afternoon tea and dinner afterwards, and could buy as many dry rolls as we pleased, and we did. Secondly, all those fifty cent pieces we handed over for our dry rolls went to a charity, which provided food to people who needed it.

All well and good, but I’m not sure if Dry Roll Day would cut it today. There would be all sorts of worry about malnutrition and the like. Stern notes might even be sent home, reiterating the value of healthy food choices. It sounds dramatic, but I have heard of such things. Teachers policing lunchboxes and pouncing on illegal biscuits, only to have a tetchy word with Mum at the school gate about sending broccoli florets instead. That sort of thing.

It’s all rather daunting if you think too much about it. You can’t spend your whole life dodging behind the lavender bush near the school gate, because you sent a donut to school for your child’s morning tea. Or can you? There are fourteen years of school, counting Kindy and Pre-Primary. That’s a heck of a lot of dodging. Bad for the knees, I’d wager. It’d be better for everyone to Mum up to things, and learn to make rice paper rolls and the like. Even if your child turns up their nose at them and asks for a vegemite sandwich instead.

Not that I’m worried about my boy doing this, of course. No, not one little bit.N

Do you ever see yourself in your kids? This mum loved stray animals when she was younger, and now her own son can’t help but follow in her footsteps.

There are children who love animals, and wish for nothing more than a lion on the bookcase and a crocodile under the bed, and there are those who run screaming at the sight of a dog.

It goes without saying that I have the first kind of child. In very many spades.

The other day, he picked up a feather and ate it – I know – and then told me he was now able to grow his own feathers and turn into a bird. He would soon fly far away from me, he confided. Far, far away. Despite my preoccupation with possible feather-eating-diseases that the Child was no doubt incubating then and there, I was fascinated.

“What colour are your feathers?” I asked, wondering if he would choose to be a brightly coloured parrot, or perhaps a peacock.

“Grey!” the Child said, eyes sparkling.

Ahem. A practical choice, grey. It seemed out of character. The child would, if he could, festoon our house with dinosaurs and cows and pigs and penguins. Tigers in the garage. Otters on the roof. That sort of thing.

But most of all, the Child wants that most mundane of animals. A cat. Last year he brought home a letter from school, a letter to Santa, in fact, which he’d deigned to write for his teacher, whom he loves fiercely and who has a rather enviable way with him.

In sloping letters he asked for a cat like Slinky Malinki, no less, who would sleep on his bed, play hide and seek with him, and whom he would, unceremoniously, call Kitty. Obviously, this was terrible news. When I was young and stupid, I brought home a kitten and insisted on a dog, whom my parents had to look after when I went travelling. When I was older, and should have known better, I turned up with a ridiculous Labrador puppy, who was as skittish as a colt and as destructive as a hurricane. My own mother found me a great trial in this regard, clearly not wanting anything else to look after other than the four children she already had who were, just quietly, a Packet of Headaches for many, many years.

 

“NOT A GODDAMN HOPE IN HELL!” he bellowed. “ARE YOU CRAZY??!! WE ALREADY HAVE TO EMPLOY A NANNY FOR THE DOG!!!”

I have, of course, become my mother. Once a collector of strays and lost things, I now DO NOT WANT anything else that requires my time, care, attention, money or organisational skills. I do not want to pick up more poop. I do not want to be woken at un-Godly hours for food, cuddles, a heater, a blanket or just because. Nope, I do not.

I stared at the letter, the longing in it. My heart remained stone but maybe not stone enough. I called my husband, and put it to him. At this point, I should mention that the crazy Labrador puppy I bought is still with us, but she falls apart if left alone for more than an hour, so we have had to hire a Doggy Nanny for her for when we are at work.

“NOT A GODDAMN HOPE IN HELL!” he bellowed. “ARE YOU CRAZY??!! WE ALREADY HAVE TO EMPLOY A NANNY FOR THE DOG!!!”

Right then. Quite. Thank God one of us is being sensible.

I stared at the Child, all spider legs and innocence.

“Did you write this beautiful letter to Santa?”  I asked, heart sinking.

“Yes,” he said. “I want Santa to bring me a cat like Slinky Malinki. He will sleep on my bed.”

“Hmmm,” I said.

“I also want a goldfish,” said the Child, shamelessly. “The goldfish will sit on my bookcase and watch me while I sleep.”

“That isn’t in your letter,” I said, worriedly.

“I also want a rabbit,” said the Child, eyeballing me. “I will play with my rabbit outside.”

I stared at the Child, and saw myself. This is a Bad Thing.

“I think,” I said, “that Santa may have run out of animals this year. That’s what I’ve heard, anyway.”

“No, he hasn’t,” said the Child, his bottom lip jutting out. “He HAS NOT run out of animals.”

I looked at his beautiful sun of a face, his bottom lip quivering, and sighed.

“Let’s talk to Daddy about it when he gets home,” I said. “Daddy might have some bright ideas.”

“Really,” said the Child, hopefully.

“Really,” I said.

HA!

I kissed the Child’s soft head and told him to run outside and play. I grabbed an old shoe box, and tucked his letter to Santa safely inside for later.

Blood, guts, and shrieks, oh my. Child birth can be such a beautiful thing… But oh so terrifying. 

The Child and my Beloved had skedaddled to the park for an hour – THANK YOU, GOD – so I grabbed the stash of chocolates that no one else had yet found – THANKS AGAIN, GOD – and hit the sofa for some mindless net surfing and sugar-high-ing.

The first article I saw was about a woman who had just given birth but managed, somehow, the stupendous achievement of looking AH-MAY-ZING one hour later. She looked so amazing, in fact, that someone took a photo of her and flung it around the internet for the world’s admiration.

Ahem.

Okay, so she looked glorious, and she was half-naked and smiling in some frilly white-knicker concoction. Good for her. But for feck’s sake, she’d just spent nine months growing a human, who is probably the size of a couple of pumpkins, and then however many hours screaming and bellowing as she pushed that two-pumpkin-human out of her down-belows. Unless she did one of those silent birth things – WHO DOES THESE AND HOW? – and didn’t scream or bellow. It doesn’t matter, really, the woman had a baby and that is the shining achievement, not how she looked one hour later.

Isn’t having a baby enough, nowadays? I seem to recall, hazily thank goodness, that labour and birth was more than enough achievement for one day, but I am not one of those I-AM-WOMAN-HEAR-ME-ROAR types about birthing. I’m the one who went green as other mothers blithely told me their birthing war stories – blood, guts and zombies – and wished, hopelessly, that the goddamn stork was the delivery mechanism, not me.

In the birthing suite, before things turned all Horror Movie, I could hear another labouring woman screaming in agony.

“What is that noise?” I asked my Beloved, palely.

He looked panicked. “What noise?” he said, ridiculously.

“That HOWLING AND SCREAMING,” I yelled.

My Beloved put his best poker face on and stared at me unblinking. “Ah, that noise,” he said. “That noise is a cat.”

I began to pace, as the woman in the suite next to me erupted into a crescendo of auditory agony.

“That is not a bloody cat,” I said. “That is a woman giving birth.”

My husband said nothing.

“WELL GO AND TELL HER TO STOP,” I said. “She is making me VERY nervous, and it’s EXTREMELY inconsiderate of her. HURRY UP!”

 

Maybe she was birthing a seven-pumpkin baby, so I can’t really blame her, but, my good-ness, she set me on a terrible path.

My husband silently considered how to placate both me and the screaming Cat Woman. Cat Woman kept yowling. Maybe she was birthing a seven-pumpkin baby, so I can’t really blame her, but, my goodness, she set me on a terrible path.

“I can’t do this,” I whispered. “I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to go home NOW. I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE. TELL THAT CAT WOMAN TO STOP!”

My Beloved stood in front of the door. “You can do this, sweetheart,” he said.

“No,” I said, “I actually can’t. And don’t tell me I have to. WHY DON’T YOU DO IT!? WHY DO I HAVE TO DO IT!? YOU DO IT! YOU DO IT!!!! WHY DO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING? YOU HAVE THE BABY, I’VE DONE EVERYTHING ELSE!”

Clearly, it was the beginning of a very downward spiral. It went on. And on. For hours. It got worse. There was blood and guts and zombies. Some Dracula and a few clown masks. Basically, it was all your horror movies rolled into one.

And then, at the end, there was him. The Child. Our Grace. The most beautiful thing we’d ever seen. As beautiful as the day. A couple of pumpkins’ worth. Amazing.

And I looked like hell, for days, years even. I spent all my time in ugly flannelette PJs, feeding the Child, who had an abnormally large appetite, and not sleeping because he never slept. Ever. And I didn’t give a hoot, because I’d grown my own pumpkin, survived the horror movie birth and he was mine.

Well, I probably did give a hoot, actually, but I was too sleep deprived to do anything about it.

So there’s that, I guess. All of that.

 

Mama Kin opens up to Ari Chavez about music, motherhood and being married to John Butler.

Mama Kin, aka Danielle Caruana, has just woken her bewildered child and the two are creeping through a Blair-Witch-Project-style undergrowth towards a menacing river, their path lit only by a small, wildly swinging, lamp.

It’s an unnerving scene, Mama Kin’s pale face and lank hair reminiscent of someone possessed, her child’s naive trust troubling to witness. All this set to the haunting sounds of Mama Kin’s latest single, Redwood River, from her new album, The Magician’s Daughter.

It’s a cracker of a video clip and a deeply haunting song about that most primal of fears, losing a child. Ethereal, hypnotic and eerie, it worms its way into your consciousness, the wailing lament of a woman possessed, a fragile soul.

It is something of a surprise, then, when I call Mama Kin for this interview, to hear an earthy Australian voice explain that she’s doing that most mundane of things: grocery shopping. She sounds frazzled, her voice dipping and crackling with the poor mobile reception, the demands of jamming a myriad of errands into a few precious hours without children tugging at her.

She tells me she’ll find a quiet corner somewhere, so we can talk. There’s some muttered chat to a shop assistant, the sound of a till ringing shut and some hurried walking.

“Okay,” she says, finally. “I’m ready.”

Mama Kin is not easily categorised. A seeming contradiction, she was born into a musical Maltese family, in which everyone learnt an instrument and was required to perform to entertain houseguests. It was an expectation she resented until she understood that her musicality was a gift that could be freely offered to uplift others.

Nevertheless, her musical journey has been peppered with self doubt, at one point so pervasive it crippled her. It seems ironic now, given her obvious talents, the success of her albums and tours, her slew of industry awards and her recent ARIA nomination for Best Blues and Roots Album for The Magician’s Daughter, named, incidentally, for her mother, Iris, the daughter of a professional magician. The public affection and industry accolades have been a long time coming however, mostly, the unaffected artist admits, because of her own self-defeating machinations.

While Mama Kin’s brothers, Nicky Bomba and Michael Caruana, used the musical training of their youth as a springboard to becoming successful career musicians, their younger sister floundered. It was partly, perhaps, being overwhelmed by the great shadows of her brothers’ successes and partly, perhaps, just feeling discombobulated.

“My first access to music was singing, my earliest musical memories are of singing with my big sister and learning harmonies with her,” she stated earlier this year.

 “It felt transcendent to sing with her, our voices so similar somehow, hers so strong and free, and I felt like I was learning to fly with her. I started playing piano at age five and played classical piano until I was sixteen. I found it quite academic, especially in comparison to how my family were expressing creatively around me, all playing contemporary and original music, and I experienced a disconnect with my music during that time and spent years redefining the role that music played in my life.”

While Mama Kin was attempting to redefine the musical shapings of her youth, she bumped into one of Australia’s most unassuming and beloved singer-songwriters, John Butler. In a quintessentially Fremantle story, she stopped a Kombi van she was driving through the Port City to ask him for directions, and, after further serendipitous meetings, went on to marry him seven months later.

The pair quickly had two children, a girl, Banjo, 10, and a boy, Jahli, 7, and while John’s career went from strength to strength Mama Kin, “fell into a support role, a place of service to my husband and children”.

It was not an easy transition, in fact it very nearly undid her. Growing up in a family where gender roles were traditional and clearly defined, Mama Kin observed a loving but dominant father, a submissive mother and older brothers who also played out traditionally masculine roles. Determined to be autonomous, she took on, “a masculine energy…I judged harshly when I saw what I thought was submissiveness”.

Nevertheless, when she married and had her own children, she found herself subsuming her creative self, so she could tend to the needs of her family, while her husband soared both creatively and professionally.

“We live a creative, challenging and alive life together with our kids.”

Mama Kin is, now, categorical about that period of her life, noting that her struggles were about something much broader and deeper than having children, and the infinite demands of motherhood, both sublime and relentless.

“I think sometimes it can be misread as I struggled with the idea of being a mother, or I struggled with the surrender of being a mother,” she says, carefully.

“I think there was that but, what was bigger than that, was that I was really suppressing my creativity. And I had been doing that before I was a mother, but becoming a mother heightened that for me in a really confronting way…I had a massive amount of creative urge and I wasn’t being true to that.”

It was a dark time. Mama Kin has spoken publically about serious bouts of depression and a feeling of shame so burning, “it kept me quiet”.

She fought against it by saying the simplest of words – ‘yes’. When people asked her if she had written songs, if she, like her husband and brothers, was also a musician, would she show her work, she started, tentatively, to reply in the affirmative and, “everything opened and opened some more”.

She pauses. “What I learnt about myself in that process, more than anything, is that there’s no real suppressing of anything. If you put something away, in the back of the cupboard, and pretend it doesn’t exist, it becomes a different kind of thing, a different kind of shadow.”

For an artist struggling to express herself creatively, and feeling somewhat shackled by the demands of marriage and motherhood, being ‘John Butler’s wife’, the private half of a very public entity, rather than an individual in her own right, worth of a singular identity, must have been difficult.

“It strikes me now how strange that expression is because I suppose that is what I was playing at, that I was only a half of something,” she said in an interview earlier this year.

“John is an amazing partner, an incredible champion of the creative in everyone. We have shared the ultimate creative expression and commitment in having children together. I am so grateful that he has my back, but for a long time I pushed him away and resented his creativity in light of my lack of access to mine.

It was a toxic space and I am very grateful that he could still see me through the haze of a smokescreen I was creating. We live a creative, challenging and alive life together with our kids.”

Indeed. John has contributed to some of the songs on The Magician’s Daughter and the two are heavily involved in activism and The Seed Fund, a philanthropic foundation established to support emerging musicians and artists. Mama Kin’s Facebook page is a whirling kaleidoscope of photos of gigs, her husband and kids, jokes, conversations about songwriting and causes and a delicious looking jar of home-made sundried tomatoes. There are a lot of ‘likes’, a genuinely good vibe. Mama Kin is well loved.

In addition, after finishing touring for the year, she is about to start work on a new project with Emily Lubitz of Tinpan Orange. It appears, finally, to be a blessed life. On the surface, those dark days, where she was crippled by shame and anxiety, seem far away yet, in her next breath, she talks of being broken.

“We’re [Mama Kin and Emily Lubitz] doing a project together called ‘Broken Songs’, which is getting together and writing and singing some of our back catalogue songs with the thread of  ‘who are we, in spite of being broken?’. It’s stories that talk about who people are in spite of being broken…I think this idea of, ‘we’re all just broken or we’re all just shattered,’ that’s what makes us amazing,” she says cheerfully.

Her determination to traverse the range of human experiences in her creative pursuits, is the work of an artist who feels deeply and laments often. Touchingly, perhaps given how she battled the moulding of her own upbringing, Mama Kin, appears both preoccupied and concerned about what she is modelling to Banjo and Jahli, both budding musicians themselves.

“My main thing with my kids is to want them to know that they are worth it. They are worth standing for, and they can make a stance for themselves…They could be creative people and expressive people, but they would find that a lot easier if I modelled what that looked like. Also, anything they want to be good at takes time. You need to do the work.

There’s a lot of instant gratification these days and, for my kids, I want them to understand that good stuff takes time and it takes practise, and that includes parenting, and that includes relationships and all that stuff but we get better at it the more we do it. And sometimes we’re bad at it, and that’s okay.”

It’s a refreshing perspective in this day and age, that it’s okay to be bad at stuff sometimes, even parenting. It could be argued that today’s parents, especially mothers, are more pressured and scrutinised than any in history. The parenting journey, particularly for mothers, is often held up to be one of mystical fulfilment, whereby changing nappies, and cleaning up vomit and food spills all day, is all that is required for a nurtured and fulfilled sense of self. Insidiously, motherhood has become an altar at which we are required to worship. And if we don’t, at least not always, are we somehow lacking?

“I think the distinction here is the difference between looking after yourself and being selfish,” Mama Kin muses.

“I’d love there to be in my family a sense that we are accountable to each other, and we are accountable to what we need as individuals, who we are as individuals and who we are as a collective, and that they are sometimes different things and that somehow our job is to make space for all of that. For each other and for ourselves.

Sometimes there’s an idea in parenting that if you’re doing things for yourself, you’re not being a whole parent, you’re being selfish to your children, it’s not fair to them. I think that that is not true. I think you’re giving your children a great gift by being a whole person, and that’s not selfish that’s generous.”

She pauses for a moment, then brightens.

“My daughter, the other day, she was pulling some of the Angel cards – you know, those cards, you pull out different cards when you’re looking for guidance? One of the cards she pulled out was ‘Abundance’. And what it advised her to do was write a list of what it is that defines her abundance…the list included things like ‘shelter’ and ‘creative parents’ and ‘a healthy body’ and ‘great friends’ and ‘a great school’. She was able to articulate a long list of things she was grateful for, and I thought that that was a cool thing and it made me feel like maybe we’re doing alright…And I found the list, and I took a photo of it and I sent it to John, and I said, ‘I think we’re doing okay’.”

Mama Kin is, now, categorical about that period of her life, noting that her struggles were about something much broader and deeper than having children, and the infinite demands of motherhood, both sublime and relentless.

“I think sometimes it can be misread as I struggled with the idea of being a mother, or I struggled with the surrender of being a mother,” she says, carefully.

“I think there was that but, what was bigger than that, was that I was really suppressing my creativity. And I had been doing that before I was a mother, but becoming a mother heightened that for me in a really confronting way…I had a massive amount of creative urge and I wasn’t being true to that.”

It was a dark time. Mama Kin has spoken publically about serious bouts of depression and a feeling of shame so burning, “it kept me quiet”.

She fought against it by saying the simplest of words – ‘yes’. When people asked her if she had written songs, if she, like her husband and brothers, was also a musician, would she show her work, she started, tentatively, to reply in the affirmative and, “everything opened and opened some more”.

She pauses. “What I learnt about myself in that process, more than anything, is that there’s no real suppressing of anything. If you put something away, in the back of the cupboard, and pretend it doesn’t exist, it becomes a different kind of thing, a different kind of shadow.”

For an artist struggling to express herself creatively, and feeling somewhat shackled by the demands of marriage and motherhood, being ‘John Butler’s wife’, the private half of a very public entity, rather than an individual in her own right, worth of a singular identity, must have been difficult.

“It strikes me now how strange that expression is because I suppose that is what I was playing at, that I was only a half of something,” she said in an interview earlier this year.

“John is an amazing partner, an incredible champion of the creative in everyone. We have shared the ultimate creative expression and commitment in having children together. I am so grateful that he has my back, but for a long time I pushed him away and resented his creativity in light of my lack of access to mine.

It was a toxic space and I am very grateful that he could still see me through the haze of a smokescreen I was creating. We live a creative, challenging and alive life together with our kids.”

Indeed. John has contributed to some of the songs on The Magician’s Daughter and the two are heavily involved in activism and The Seed Fund, a philanthropic foundation established to support emerging musicians and artists. Mama Kin’s Facebook page is a whirling kaleidoscope of photos of gigs, her husband and kids, jokes, conversations about songwriting and causes and a delicious looking jar of home-made sundried tomatoes. There are a lot of ‘likes’, a genuinely good vibe. Mama Kin is well loved.

In addition, after finishing touring for the year, she is about to start work on a new project with Emily Lubitz of Tinpan Orange. It appears, finally, to be a blessed life. On the surface, those dark days, where she was crippled by shame and anxiety, seem far away yet, in her next breath, she talks of being broken.

“We’re [Mama Kin and Emily Lubitz] doing a project together called ‘Broken Songs’, which is getting together and writing and singing some of our back catalogue songs with the thread of  ‘who are we, in spite of being broken?’. It’s stories that talk about who people are in spite of being broken…I think this idea of, ‘we’re all just broken or we’re all just shattered,’ that’s what makes us amazing,” she says cheerfully.

Her determination to traverse the range of human experiences in her creative pursuits, is the work of an artist who feels deeply and laments often. Touchingly, perhaps given how she battled the moulding of her own upbringing, Mama Kin, appears both preoccupied and concerned about what she is modelling to Banjo and Jahli, both budding musicians themselves.

“My main thing with my kids is to want them to know that they are worth it. They are worth standing for, and they can make a stance for themselves…They could be creative people and expressive people, but they would find that a lot easier if I modelled what that looked like. Also, anything they want to be good at takes time. You need to do the work.

There’s a lot of instant gratification these days and, for my kids, I want them to understand that good stuff takes time and it takes practise, and that includes parenting, and that includes relationships and all that stuff but we get better at it the more we do it. And sometimes we’re bad at it, and that’s okay.”

It’s a refreshing perspective in this day and age, that it’s okay to be bad at stuff sometimes, even parenting. It could be argued that today’s parents, especially mothers, are more pressured and scrutinised than any in history. The parenting journey, particularly for mothers, is often held up to be one of mystical fulfilment, whereby changing nappies, and cleaning up vomit and food spills all day, is all that is required for a nurtured and fulfilled sense of self. Insidiously, motherhood has become an altar at which we are required to worship. And if we don’t, at least not always, are we somehow lacking?

“I think the distinction here is the difference between looking after yourself and being selfish,” Mama Kin muses.

“I’d love there to be in my family a sense that we are accountable to each other, and we are accountable to what we need as individuals, who we are as individuals and who we are as a collective, and that they are sometimes different things and that somehow our job is to make space for all of that. For each other and for ourselves.

Sometimes there’s an idea in parenting that if you’re doing things for yourself, you’re not being a whole parent, you’re being selfish to your children, it’s not fair to them. I think that that is not true. I think you’re giving your children a great gift by being a whole person, and that’s not selfish that’s generous.”

She pauses for a moment, then brightens.

“My daughter, the other day, she was pulling some of the Angel cards – you know, those cards, you pull out different cards when you’re looking for guidance? One of the cards she pulled out was ‘Abundance’. And what it advised her to do was write a list of what it is that defines her abundance…the list included things like ‘shelter’ and ‘creative parents’ and ‘a healthy body’ and ‘great friends’ and ‘a great school’. She was able to articulate a long list of things she was grateful for, and I thought that that was a cool thing and it made me feel like maybe we’re doing alright…And I found the list, and I took a photo of it and I sent it to John, and I said, ‘I think we’re doing okay’.”

“My main thing with my kids is to want them to know that they are worth it. They are worth standing for, and they can make a stance for themselves.”