Actress, and now children’s author, Madeleine West, may have her hands full as a mum of six, but she’s not about to let it stop her from setting out to achieve her career and personal goals, including releasing her new children’s book series.
Words Rebekah Sheedy
For almost 18 years, Madeleine West has been gracing our television screens. Most memorably, she played fan-favourite Dee Bliss in Neighbours and boasts an impressive filmography, with appearances in Australian household shows such as House Husbands, Underbelly and The Wrong Girl.
But what you might not know about West (37), is that she is a super busy mum raising six children, Phoenix (12), Hendrix (10), Xascha (7), Xanthe (6), and twins, Xalia and Margaux (3) with her partner of 13 years, Vue de Monde restaurateur and regular MasterChef guest judge, Shannon Bennett.
And with six children and two big careers, it often means that near superhuman feats of patience, strength and organisation are required.
"It doesn’t matter how many children you have, whether it’s one or twenty, their purpose on being on this planet is to turn your life upside down and give it a good hard shake, and empty your wallet"
West says, for her, it is the little things, like keeping track of multiple To-do lists, having ‘back-up’ school lunches organised, and only allowing her children to pick one extracurricular activity per term which are important to everyday function of the family.
“It has been difficult [to juggle family life and career],” she says. “But no more difficult than any other challenges that life throws your way. It doesn’t matter how many children you have, whether it’s one or twenty, their purpose on being on this planet is to turn your life upside down and give it a good hard shake, and empty your wallet, but if you accept that, and with that accept all the amazing joys that they bring to your life.”
“It’s about balancing schedules, being extremely organised and just being aware there has to be some give and take, … [and] not having unrealistic expectations.”
But West believes that “nobody should be scared of ambition”. Her own motto is “don’t make excuses, make it happen”, which she made up herself when she realised that achieving her ambitions means “being brave enough to take opportunities that comes your way, and taking risks at times”.
“Everybody has dreams and ambitions—even as mums. The onus is on us to fulfil them.”
And, for West being able to work on to work on her projects is about being able to carve out little pockets from amongst the chaos.
“It is about finding ways to do what we are passionate about, the thing that keeps you sane”.
“I have always been a creative person, and to be the best version of myself I can be, I need to give time to that. I have always explained that to my kids from a very young age that ‘I am Madeleine, your mummy’ but that I am also ‘Madeleine, Shannon’s partner’, ‘Madeleine, the actor’, ‘Madeleine, the writer’ and ‘Madeleine, who likes to bake cupcakes’… there all parts of me, they make up me and to be the best mum I can be, I need to give a bit oxygen to all of those things”.
West’s creativity is certainly evident in her love for stories and storytelling which has led to her newest endeavour, the children’s book series, Lily D V.A.P.
West has long-held a deep desire to write, even writing short stories throughout her time studying Law and Literature at The University of Melbourne. “A famous quote that my friends often quote back at me is that I say, ‘Words have incredible power, and if you treat them with respect, they give you a voice’.”
“It’s such a beautiful, powerful medium that I pray will never be replaced by social media or screen time”.
The series, which was published in May by Hardie Grant Egmont and illustrated beautifully by Joanie Stone, features many constant recurring themes for West’s own life, including her drive and ambition for meaningful accomplishments. “At the heart of good writing is writing what you know. It’s important to harness on what you know and what you have experienced in life, in order to pass on that knowledge”.
And West’s new series certainly has a lot of knowledge to pass on. West says, that as a mother of six, she wanted to challenge the expectations of contemporary fame and celebrity culture, and was inspired writing a children’s book series that helps teach children that success comes through hard work and respect.
“I wanted to create a fictional character that wants to be in the entertainment industry, but for all the right reasons, and that is to tell people’s stories, and to walk a mile in another person’s shoes…because with that comes what I believe is the most important lesson we can teach our children, the greatest gift we can give in this world, is to treat others with respect and kindness.”
“And it’s about achieving that special sense of satisfaction when you work hard to achieve your goals.”
“These are traits that I feel have kind of gone missing in the modern age. It is nice to hark back to these themes and give them some emphasis again.”
Madeleine was also inspired to a write a series that allows parents to, very gently and organically, open a discussion with their children about social issues that they face, such as bullying, illness and death.
“I am hoping that I am providing parents with a vehicle to help them dive into these more awkward conversations, through the medium of a children’s book.”
And despite how busy life with six children continues to be, West says that this is not the last time we will see Lily D V.A.P, with three more books in the series due to come out later this year.