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As Australia’s cosmetic surgery rates surpass America’s, our obsession with social media and the current COVID-19 pandemic creates a minefield for those who struggle with disordered eating and body image issues.

 So far, 2020 has been a lot to process. In what will most likely be a once-in-a-lifetime historical event, the world has been totally affected by COVID-19 – a virus which has so far killed more than 264,000 people.

As Australia combats this, most of us have found ourselves on leave, unemployed or working from home. As the lockdowns have progressed many businesses have shut down and the nation’s gyms have not been immune.

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of content online focused on exercising from home, especially on Instagram, which has become flooded with posts about ‘body goals’, losing weight and becoming ‘healthier’ in quarantine.

The COVID-19 pandemic offers numerous triggers for those who are struggling with an eating disorder or those with distorted body image and low self-esteem.

“We understand that the prevalent discussions around stock-piling food, increased hygiene measures, food shortages and lock-ins can be incredibly distressing and triggering for people experiencing disordered eating or an eating disorder,” states The Butterfly Foundation in relation to COVID-19. 

When you combine these triggers with an increase in spare time to spend scrolling social media, such as Instagram, this can create the Perfect Storm.

Instagram and its tribe of entrepreneurs and models is no stranger to criticism from body positivity advocates, largely because the app is focused on images, a majority of which are highly edited. The concept of Instagram is the ideal social media app- share images and see images of your family and friends – plus your favourite celebrities, bridging the gap between fan and friend.

Instagram launched in 2010 and had 1 million users within two months, it has since been purchased by Facebook and become one of the largest social media platforms in the world.

The New Yorker journalist Jia Tolentino has talked extensively concerning the phenomenon of Instagram models, and their strikingly similar looks in ‘The Age of the Instagram Face’. 

She writes, “The gradual emergence, among professionally beautiful women, of a single, cyborgian face. It’s a young face, of course, with pore-less skin and plump, high cheekbones. It has catlike eyes and long, cartoonish lashes; it has a small, neat nose and full, lush lips.”

The commodification of women was once selling the products to make us beautiful, but as ‘Instagram Face’ rises and social media continues to excel, cosmetic surgery becomes more commonplace than it ever has been before.

Presently Australia’s cosmetic surgery numbers have surpassed America’s; in 2017 Australian’s spent more than 1 billion dollars on plastic surgery, surpassing America’s procedures per capita numbers, a feat considering America is often considered the ground zero for enhanced beauty.

Since when did this new prototype of a woman, a mish-mashed version, a high light reel built to bend over; a tiny waist, big lips, no blemishes- become the new standard of beauty, and how achievable is this?

Claire Finkelstein has been a clinical psychologist for fifteen years and is co-founder and co-director at Nourish.Nurture.Thrive, a multidisciplinary practise based in Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula that specialises in helping young people who struggle with eating disorders and body image.

Claire and fellow clinical psychologist, Ainsley Hudgson, started Nourish.Nurture.Thrive after years working in the public health system and seeing how overwhelmed it had become with a “growing population with eating disorder concerns,” says Claire.

Isolation, quarantine and an increase in social media can be very triggering for not only those who struggle with eating disorders but anyone who finds themselves feeling out of control in this stressful time.

“Everybody is showing their exercise routines at the moment, everybody is making those jokes about putting on weight during lockdown and I think it’s just incredibly triggering even for people with a fairly robust sense of self-confidence and body image but particularly for people who are in the eating disorder space,” says Claire.

The showing of exercise routines is found on Instagram amongst other social media, promoting diet culture.

Diet culture is defined as a system of beliefs that worship thinness and oppress people who don’t meet this beauty standard and idea of health. The one underlying fact for nearly all diets and wellbeing programs is that thin is best, demonizing certain food groups and body types, all while promoting the most important idea of them all; if you weren’t so lazy you’d have the body of your dreams.

“It feels like you can control your weight, so in a time when you feel out of control you try and control your weight and what we know is that your weight is biologically determined within a set point and that’s one of the difficulties – all these messages around ‘this is something we can do’ and if you’re not doing it successfully you’re inadequate and that is such a damaging, damaging story that is part of diet culture,” says Claire.

The infamous ‘beauty is pain’ mantra handed down to young girls from their mothers has a whole new meaning, the pain having grown from a waxing strip full of pubic hair to a surgery scar or a vigorous training regime.

Earlier this year glamour magazine Girls Girls Girls collaborated with Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon to create a video titled ‘Be a Lady they said’. The piece included various clips from movies, news, and glamour shots to tell the story of the myriad of requests and expectations women are meant to be adhering to, ironically the women featured in the video are beautiful, thin and passive.

One of the most impactful lines reads,

‘Be a size zero, be a double zero, be nothing, be less than nothing.’

Cynthia Nixon spits these words at the screen as it turns dark and the sound of someone’s heart flatlining takes up the darkness. It is powerful commentary on the notions behind our desires for female perfection and the gruesome control it creates.

As Naomi Wolf states in her classic, The Beauty Myth, published in 1990, obsession with beauty and thinness is a form of control and oppression.

“A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one,” says Wolf.

The US health and weight loss industry is worth an estimated $72 billion and Australians are estimated to spend $452.5 million on weight-loss counselling services (and the low-calorie foods and dietary supplements that go with it) in 2019-2020.

These figures show what has been in the shadows all along – this business is big money built off the back of diet culture. A truth hid underneath the bright lights of Instagram, the ‘life updates’ and the relatable posts – the influencers who make you feel like a family, like you could look like them if you had the grit – when you’re just a customer.

 Resources and coping mechanisms

For those who are spending a lot of time online and feel triggered by the change in routine, there are ways to seek help, guidance and support.

The Butterfly Foundation suggests that stretching, light exercise, talking to a loved one, drawing, being creative and mindfulness techniques can help you support your health and wellbeing during this crisis and stop negative body thoughts.

Their Helpline is also open on webchat, email or phone from 8am-midnight, 7 days a week.

Claire Finkelstein from Nourish.Nurture.Thrive admits boycotting social media is unrealistic, especially as it is one of our main sources for communicating with the outside world, however, she does recommend an ‘audit’ of who you follow.

“Use social media to connect rather than compare, use it to engage with people who are important to you, who you feel supported by, who give you a laugh who make you smile, who make you more connected and less alone and try to engage less with social media that leaves you feeling terrible afterwards,” says Claire.

Unfollowing accounts that make you feel inadequate or leave you feeling unhappy and starting to follow body positive accounts instead can stop that downward spiral of self-loathing many of us find triggered by social media.

“Research shows if you have a diverse imagery, diverse bodies, diverse beauty, or other images like architecture, animals or whatever makes you feel good – that that can really dilute the impact, the negative impact of imagery that doesn’t make you feel good,” says Claire.

Below are resources for those who need help.

The Butterfly Foundation:

T: 1800 33 4673

W: https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/

Beyond Blue:

T: 1300 22 4636

W: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/national-help-lines-and-websites

Melbourne mother of four and body positive artist, Tania Sutton (44), shares how she escaped the shackles of the destructive eating disorder that took over her life. She recovered for the sake of her family.

*Please be aware some readers may find this content triggering.

“Ed, this was the name I gave to my eating disorder,” Tania recalls, “and for a long time Ed was my confidant, my best friend, or so I thought.”

Eating disorders creep into your life without realising it. Tania remembers the promises Ed made to her in the beginning: “It starts out like a new friend, teaching you ways to make you happier, ways to cope and a promise to you that as long as you follow all the rules, you will reach some sort of enlightenment.”

Eating disorders occur for various reasons, including genetic vulnerability, psychological factors and social-cultural influences. Figures show the prevalence of eating disorders is rising rapidly; Beyond Blue reports one in four Australians know someone who has experienced an eating disorder.

Tania struggles to pinpoint the exact cause of her eating disorder, but believes her need for perfectionism and sensitivity about her physical appearance were predisposing factors.

Eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of gender, body size, age and socio-economic factors.

From a young age, Tania felt a constant sense of anxiety; if she was unable to do something exactly right, this fed her belief something was fundamentally wrong with her.

Tania describes an intense need to be accepted by others. “Anytime someone else was complimented on their physical appearance, it reinforced the idea I wasn’t good enough.” Yet, when she received compliments, especially in relation to her body size, it fuelled her desire to continue the behaviours that led to the compliment.

As time went on, Tania struggled to separate herself from her eating disorder. The voice of Ed grew stronger, convincing Tania to punish herself through under-eating in order to equal out all of the perceived faults in life.

“If I was thin, then I would be happy, people would like me and possibly love me.” The truth was, Tania was loved, but her eating disorder made her believe those around her were only pretending, “I felt like I didn’t belong in society, I was a failure, disgusting and unlovable.”

Tania describes how weak she became, both mentally and physically. “Starvation has horrible consequences on the brain, I didn’t have the energy to fight and my ability to think logically had gone out of the window”. She believes this is part of what makes seeking help so difficult, “My thought process was really obscure to everyone else, but to me it made perfect sense. I was convinced I could never get better, I believed everyone was out to see me fail and therefore if I gave up Ed and followed a treatment plan, I would have failed and I couldn’t do that.”

“Ed, this was the name I gave to my eating disorder,” Tana recalls, “and for a long time Ed was my confidant, my best friend, or so I thought.”

Becoming a mother and seeing her body grow and change only emphasised Tania’s preoccupation with her appearance. Feeling incompetent as a parent reinforced to Tania that she needed to keep punishing herself. The use of restrictive behaviours and keeping herself busy became a form of self-punishment she believed would somehow cancel out her perceived inadequacy as a parent.

Tania remembers trying to be there for her children and doing the best she could, but never being able to feel fully present. Tania describes her head as a “battle ground” which led to her being distracted and irritable.

Tania greatly resisted treatment for a long time, deleting her therapist’s number on several occasion. She would lash out verbally at her treatment team and remembers one incident where her GP refused to allow her to see her weight. “I was furious because in my eyes this meant I was not allowed to see what kind of a day I was going to have; at that time the number on the scale would define a good or a bad day.”

Tania’s eating disorder behaviours continued until something convinced her to make a change. Tania recalls driving home from an appointment; her daughter was going through a particularly difficult time, and despite Tania’s best efforts she felt she could not be fully there for her daughter. The eating disorder voice grew louder and louder until it was screaming in her ear, blaming her for everything that was wrong. Tania knew her daughter needed her, but she was chained to her eating disorder. It was at this point she decided to seek help.

“I couldn’t continue the same behaviours and be a mother at the same time anymore, I was exhausted and so was my family.”

“I couldn’t continue the same behaviours and be a mother at the same time anymore, I was exhausted and so was my family.”  Although she could never find the strength to recover for her own sake, her family became the motivation she needed.

Tania was fortunate enough to be referred to a psychologist and a dietitian, who each had a special interest in eating disorders and with whom Tania instantly connected.

Recovery was tough, Tania recalls. “I had to relearn to trust my body and myself. I had to let those close to me, my husband and treatment team, be in charge of what I needed.”

Tania credits her family’s support for helping her to recover; “They helped me fight when I didn’t want to anymore, they loved me at my worst and stood by my side.”

Tania says recovering from her eating disorder has enabled her to be a better mum, “we had our fourth child after I had decided to not engage with Ed and I am able to play with him much more; I played with my other kids, but mentally I wasn’t there, now I am.”

“The first time I went out in public after deciding to no longer engage in Ed’s demands, I was in a shopping centre with one of my daughters and I turned to her said ‘wow, it’s so bright and colourful in here’, the eating disorder made my world so dark and dull. The world is literally more colourful without Ed.”

Tania now has four children aged between five and 22 and uses her own experience to teach her children “to question what they see and hear when it comes to societal beauty standards in the hope they will adopt a healthy attitude.”

“Starvation has horrible consequences on the brain, I didn’t have the energy to fight and my ability to think logically had gone out of the window.”

Tania no longer engages in eating disorder behaviours. She enjoys food and appreciates her body; she no longer weighs herself, as it no longer bothers her what size she is. “I have realised my weight does not equal my worth.”

In choosing Recovery, Tania simultaneously unleashed her creative side. “Art became such an outlet for me and a communication tool, it allowed me to transfer the nightmare in my head into a two dimensional surface. Not only was that therapeutic, it allowed others to understand what I was thinking and struggling with.”

Tania uses her talent and love of painting, drawing and printmaking to create figurative and portraiture art work, t-shirt prints and bag designs that spread mental health awareness. Tania recently had the pleasure of designing the logo for the ‘Body Positive Expo’ that was held in Melbourne; an event which united hundreds of people, sharing their own experiences of disordered eating and negative body image. Tania’s eye-catching logo depicted the individuality of all body shapes and sizes to celebrate their uniqueness.

Recovery is something Tania is still working on. She makes sure she does something every day to support her mental health and reaches out when she is struggling.

“Sure I have days where I don’t feel so confident in my skin or in myself but that’s because I’m human. Now though, my thoughts aren’t taken over by self-hate.” She also describes her relationship with food as being healthier than it has ever been: “I honour my cravings and listen to my body. I trust my body and I treat it with love as it is my closest friend.”

http://www.offspringmagazine.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/yF2VFW-Q.jpg

“Art became such an outlet for me and a communication tool, it allowed me to transfer the nightmare in my head into a two dimensional surface. Not only was that therapeutic, it allowed others to understand what I was thinking and struggling with.”

 

Figures show fewer than 25 per cent of people with an eating disorder receive the care they need. Tania hopes her recovery journey and the messages she conveys through her art will reduce the stigma and encourage others to seek help.

“Mental illness is not a choice, but Recovery is. It’s not always easy to work through our struggles but if we push ourselves in a gentle and nurturing way we can come through the other side.”

You can check out Tania’s incredible and inspiring art work on her Facebook page, Tania Sutton Artworks, or follow her on Instagram, @tania_sutton_artist

If you have been affected by any information in this article, please reach out to your GP, health professional or contact an organisation such as the ones listed below:

www.thebutterflyfoundation.org.au

www.au.reachout.com

www.beyondblue.org.au

Poem – written by Tania Sutton

She stands there beaming smile
There is laughter and cheer
She is so content and happy
Friends all around her

She stands there panic stricken
There is turmoil and torture
She is drowning in poison
All alone in a crowd

She stands there as the same
There are two people in one
She is only known as one
The other is a secret.

LOCKED IN A BUBBLE
You have me locked in a bubble
I can see what you are doing
Yelling out for you to stop
My efforts going unheard

You have locked me in a bubble
Sometimes I see a faint glow
Mostly just darkness
Trying desperately to find the light

You have me locked in a bubble
I want to trade places
But I can’t find the key
Please let me out.

Former police officer and mother of three, Kate Power, is about to release her new cyber safety book, My Device RULES!  – The third in her series of best-selling children’s safety books. Read an extract below:

Page 10:

Devices are nicest when we are aware

The things we see on them –

Vids, games, memes – the lot

While sometimes are real, often they’re not!

They’re all made by people

Who aren’t always kind

Some like to play tricks

And mess with our mind

Page 11:

But no need to worry

‘Coz we’re in control

If we keep to these rules

When we tap, swipe and scroll…

Page 12:

When I’m on my device

I have fun but think twice

‘Coz I always take care what I do

If I see something weird

Or that makes me feel scared

I close it and hide it from view

I don’t post my pic,

Name, age or address

Unless a safe grown-up says “yes”

Page 13:

And if I’m on a shop

Or something pops up

I ask what I can and can’t press

Someone I don’t know

Wants to chat I say “no”

‘Coz I make my friends first in real life

And I say in this space

What I’d say to your face

That’s how I keep my device nice

Meet the Western Australian mums making a career on social media.

In recent years we’ve seen the explosion of a brand new profession – social media influencing. Increasingly, new mums take to social media as a creative outlet while adjusting to motherhood, with some building up enough of a following to turn it into a career.

Marketers and brands know that in 2019 audiences are after authenticity, so they flock to these mum’s who are open and honest about their journey through motherhood – the good, the bad and the ‘insta-worthy’.

These influencer mums do a lot more than just post cute photos of their babies; they are content creators, authors, businesswomen and give advice on pregnancy, style, health and fitness. They have created a community of mums who can relate to their struggles and learn from their tips and sometimes just share in a laugh.

Here we’ve collected our favourite influencers to follow for your daily dose of motherhood, fashion and travel and lifestyle inspiration.

1. @ourmessynest

Emma Fletcher is local to Perth, Western Australia and has an interest in sharing local activities for adults and children. With a keen interest in local events, travel, cooking, beauty, animal conservation and supporting charity organisations, Our Messy Nest is a true lifestyle account.

Having recently started her own blog, you’ll find a mix of all these as well as personal pieces both on @ourmessynest and www.ourmessynest.com.au. Staying true to the motivation behind her social media presence, Emma’s five year old son Reed is a constant source of inspiration.

Sharing life as a mother, student, blogger and friend is central to the content shared on these platforms. Emma’s passion for photography has allowed her to connect with other parents to share the ups and downs of parenting, tips on travelling with kids as well as special milestones in her life.

2. @common_wild

Landscape Architect Paula Kuka, began drawing illustrations depicting her experience of motherhood while on maternity leave with her second child. What started as a personal project and an alternative to a traditional baby book, quickly gained popularity as other mums loved seeing their own personal experiences mirrored in these relatable, touching and hilarious cartoons.

Paula’s cartoons have resonated with parents, highlighting the fact that it’s not only the humorous parenting moments but also the intensely emotional and frustrating facets of parenthood that appear to be universal.  The main goal of the project has evolved over time as she realised the power the images could have in transforming someone’s challenging day.  Using humour, honesty, and vulnerability, the drawings let other mums know they aren’t alone. Paula hopes that the project continues to cheer up exhausted parents and provoke conversations about guilt and the pressure mothers feel.

Paula lives in Perth with her Journalist husband, 4-year-old son and 1-year old daughter and is currently working on publishing a book of her illustrations.

You can buy Paula’s illustrations at www.commonwild.com.au

Casey Lucas of Lucas Girls Love is a happy wife & mother of two young girls, currently saying yes to new adventures and living the little things!

With a career in fashion and styling spanning over 15 years, Casey enjoys the creative outlet of Instagram influencing, while she raises her beautiful daughters. Well known for their ‘twinning’ and Mummy & Me outfits, the Lucas Girls have worked with iconic fashion labels such a Auguste the Label, Infamous Swim, Unreal Fur and Lack of Colour to name a few.

 Casey feels that life can be crazy enough and not always sunshine and rainbows, so insists on keeping her Instagram positive and ‘light & fluffy’ so that her posts continue to put a smile on her followers faces.

4. @sugarplumtree_mama

Nicole is a 38 year old influencer blessed with 3 beautiful daughters. Currently her main occupation is juggling #mumlife and social media, however she also has a Bachelor of Science (Molecular Genetics) and worked as a Medical Scientist for 13 years.

When her eldest daughter was 6 months old Nicole opened a children’s clothing company, Sugar Plum Tree, which quickly became very popular. Fans went crazy for the bespoke applique pinafores Nicole designed and sewed herself. However after a stressful, yet rewarding 8 years, and the arrival of her 3rd little sugarplum, Nicole decided it was time to move on.

With a love and passion for all things creative, she found a new love in product styling and photography, and for the past two years has shared these passions online, where you can see snippets of her life as a Mum to three girls, find out about fun Perth events and things to do, follow their regular travels, and learn about some awesome new products they love and recommend.

You can follow Nicole on Instagram and read her blog.

5. @storiesofamum

Since starting in 2015 as a platform for sharing memories of her firstborn daughter Sophie, Stories of a Mum has blossomed into a social media brand built around beautiful photography, small business promotion and storytelling.

Stories of a Mum is an avenue in which to document the good, bad and downright testing days of motherhood as Laura shares her very open and raw journey as a Navy Wife and mother of two little girls. Laura uses her Instagram page to connect with other mothers while drinking wine and eating pizza in her Kmart leggings. If you love honest captions, photos of family home decor, Mum & kid fashion, local Perth child friendly cafes and travel then @Storiesofamum is the account for you.

6. @_emma.gibb

Emma Gibb is a Perth influencer with substance. Just like her insta profile portrays, Emma is a wife, mama and manifester. Happily married with two gorgeous boys, Emma wins more in a month than most people win in a lifetime.

We love Emma’s relatable, funny and down to Earth portrayal of motherhood. We also find her honesty around her mental health struggles inspiring; and love how passionate she is about urging women to get help.

Emma loves working in the Perth CBD as a Commercial Property Manager for a top tier agency but when the corporate work day is over and her boys are tucked lovingly in bed, Emma is getting in that side hustle on Insta.

Not only does Emma create content for top brands like Dyson or HelloFresh, she gives intuitive card readings as @thatgypsymum and promotes her successful online crystal store, thatgypsyshop.com

Image credit: @dealuna.photography

7. @house.of.cubs

Isabel is a Perth blogger and content creator.  She is a wife and mother of two boys, Christian, two, and Ethan 6 months.  Her husband, Steve, works FIFO. Isabel lived in Spain until her early teens.  She has a degree in commerce and a postgraduate degree in corporate governance and gave up her corporate job to have a family.  When Christian was 6 months old, she started her Instagram page for fun and in the process discovered her creative passion.  She has never looked back.

@house.of.cubs is a collection of photography and stories about their family life.  It showcases motherhood, the joys and challenges of raising a young family as well as curated interiors, fashion, products for mums and kids, and her family’s love of the beach, adventure and travelling.

Isabel has recently finished styling Christian’s big boy room.  A space where he can play, explore, learn and get lost in imagination! #kidsroominspiration.

Isabel’s family are soon on a 5 week adventure to Europe where she will continue to share the joys and craziness of motherhood whilst travelling with a young family.

Meet the Aussie mums making a career on social media.

Increasingly, new mums take to social media as a creative outlet while adjusting to motherhood, with some building up enough of a following to turn it into a career.

Marketers and brands know that in 2019 audiences are after authenticity, so they flock to these mums who are open and honest about their journey through motherhood – the good, the bad and the ‘insta-worthy’.

These Influencer mums do a lot more than just post cute photos of their kids; they are content creators and successful businesswomen, who share advice on pregnancy, style, health, travel and fitness. They have created a community of mums who can relate to their struggles and learn from their tips and sometimes just share in a laugh.

Here we’ve collected some of our favourite Victorian Influencers to follow for your daily dose of motherhood, fashion and travel and lifestyle inspiration.

1. @flatoutmum

After having four boys in five years (including identical twins!), Olivia Anderson saw a gap in the market for a twin feeding pillow. Busy Mums need an extra pair of hands, so the Twincredible was born. From there, arose a website and social media for twin families and the natural evolution was Olivia sharing more of her life, tips and products she loves to a wider audience.

This platform allowed Olivia to share more of her busy life with four young boys, but also her love of flat shoes. Always showing a real and honest take on motherhood (not just the highlight reel) with the mission to empower, inform and celebrate #Mumlife

Olivia prefers to encourage Mums to look after themselves as much as they do their children. She introduced the first Retreat designed specifically for Mothers back in 2016 and now they have extended from Melbourne to Bali, where her third sold-out international Retreat is about to be held.

Visit Olivia’s websites at www.flatoutmum.com.au, www.twincredible.com.au, www.flatoutmumretreats.com.au

2. @bambiandbaby_

Elizabeth Anile, like many 20-something-year-old women, had a pretty straightforward plan for her life. First came the career, then love, a home and a family. She got all of these things; an accomplished journalist at 25, she got the man, the fairytale-style proposal, and ultimately the pitter patter of tiny feet.

At 26, Elizabeth’s life was torn apart. A young woman who barely a year before hadn’t even thought about motherhood suddenly found herself alone with a new baby. A former career woman was, overnight, a full time single mum.

Despite the curve balls life has thrown, Elizabeth’s positivity shines through her writing and her love is personified in her beautiful, happy, bubbly baby boy.

“I guess what I want to get out there is the message that you’re not alone,” she says. And her most important message? ‘Its not a bad thing being a single mum, it’s empowering and a blessing’.

You’ll find Elizabeth’s blog at www.bambiandbaby.com

3. @mama.duck.said

Ange Cowan is a Ballarat mum sharing her mum life stories in a light hearted way.

It took her two years to get pregnant with her first child as she has endometriosis and also polycystic ovaries.

She then went on to have three kids under three, and tries to share her high and lowlights so other mums don’t always feel so alone.

Ange wants all mums to feel supported and to know that we are all going through struggles (some just hide it better than others).

Ange also loves to share her favourite parenting jokes and quotes along with some of her favourite products helping her get through motherhood (including wine).

4. @houseofharvee

Krystal Giardina always wanted to be a mum. She always wanted to be a Disney Princess too, but she knows you can’t have everything.

Turns out, being a sleep-deprived, clean freak, pasta eating mother of three, led her to social media where she began to share images of her home. Now, only a short few years later, while pregnant with her third child she appeared from behind the camera and is now a familiar face.

Juggling motherhood, owning a business, wife, blogger, Influencer and cleaner (someone’s got to do it), Krystal shares her life and family through her platform and her positive, encouraging, yet REAL attitude to life and parenting resonates with mothers everywhere.

Krystal is mother to Vienna, Harlow and Baby boy, Avery, wife to Aldo, body image and self-love advocate and long-time Grey’s Anatomy fan.

Krystal hopes to continue to share her love of style, interiors and motherhood journey with her followers for as long as they want to follow along.

You can also find Krystal at houseofharvee.com

5. @amypapadatos_

Determined, aspirational, resilient and ambitious – she is Amy Papadatos. Above all else, she is a wife, a mother and a successful business owner.

With a love for adventure, travel, fashion and a keen eye for detail, Amy is courageous in the pursuit of what sets her soul on fire. A goal getter and a trend setter, Amy is a dynamic woman who beautifully shares her experiences of the world around her one Instagram square at a time.

It is impossible to ignore her happy-go-lucky personality that shines through her pictures – lusting over her locations and outfits each and every time.

6. @justamelbournemama

Amanda Morley (@justamelbournemama) started her Instagram page towards the end of 2017 as a means to share snaps of her unborn son, Hudson.

Already a mama to a teenage girl, having a baby again was exciting and Amanda couldn’t wait to share this new journey through her page.

Showcasing her newfound love for baby boy fashion, with Hudson as her muse and at-home baby model, Amanda’s page began to grow. At just three months old, Hudson made his first career move from modelling for his mama to modelling in campaigns.

In a twist of awesomeness, Amanda also learnt that she was three months pregnant and Hudson was soon to be a big brother – both Hudson and Easton shared the exact due date a year apart!

Amanda and Tinashe (@justamelbournedad) quickly learned the term Irish twins…and yes they have their hands full!

At 11 months and 3 weeks between them, Easton has joined Hudson in his modelling career. Life in Melbourne is definitely busier, but lattes, brunches and Melbourne events are still on the menu for this family.

7. @real_mumma

Adele Barbaro is the ‘mumpreneur’ and blogger behind The Real Mumma, where she shares an honest and raw insight into motherhood.

In 2018 Adele started MAMA Wine Co. Adele wanted to take the confusion out of the hundreds of wines on offer with a range that has been developed, tried and tested by everyday mamas.

“One day I was hosting a dinner party and the men were talking about the wine pairing well with the dinner and commenting about its complexity and legs. I turned to my friend and said, I wonder if there is a wine that pairs well with all my washing? And then and there, the cheeky Mama Wine Co. began,” Adele shares.

MAMA is 100 per cent Australia made and comes from only the best vineyards, sourced after countless trips to find the perfect drop for having a cheeky little giggle at motherhood.

The all new ‘It’s Me Time’ Moscato and the ‘Pairs Well With Bad TV’ Pinot Noir is available for a limited time only from www.mamawineco.com

Spiritual teacher, healer and medium, Oscar de Souza, shares why we need to acknowledge and nurture our emotions.

Experiencing emotions is our soul’s purpose, according to spiritual mentor and medium, Oscar de Souza. Honouring our emotions can also help us maintain positive relationships and manifest our desires.

We arrive here alone with nothing, and we leave alone with nothing, except the emotions we acquire, says Oscar de Souza, speaking from the Spirit Energy Centre on NSW’s Central Coast.

Acknowledging our emotions prevents us from offloading them onto others, especially our children and partners, and subsequently them rippling through society

Most excitingly, working with our emotions, rather than ignoring them, helps us manifest what we truly desire.

Despite the importance of valuing our emotions, Western society teaches us to disregard them, and worse, to feel ashamed for having them, which is not something we want to be infiltrating to our children.

The best way we can become attuned to our emotions is to observe ourselves, says Oscar. [Meditation is a great way to develop this skill.]

He says we need to be observant of the emotion that’s resonating within us, rather than being subjected to it controlling us, dominating us, and enticing us to act out.

Oscar’s been told by his guides, “Emotions are variable frequencies of energy operating simultaneously”, which is why some people can feel various emotions at the same time.

Oscar says, “The simplest form to expand the neurological system of the conscious brain to be able to harness, access and be attentive to the energy that resonates within us that’s constantly, forever fluctuating, is to first observe our mind, observe ourselves and not be puppets on a string.”

If we acknowledge our emotions, even understand why we feel that way, and to honour them, we are less likely to be puppeted by them and lash out at others. Unfortunately, those we love are often the first to be hit by our emotional releases.

“Instead of articulating what we’re feeling, we’re often being controlled by what they’re feeling”

Oscar explains a typical household scenario:

“The husband (or wife) comes home stressed. They’re going to be communicating on that level of emotion. We’re not usually observant and noticing these emotions inside. We don’t decide to calm them down or be attentive to them, so we don’t impose them on our children or each other (we don’t impose them consciously, we don’t even know they’re doing it).

“We get home, our own fuse is already at the end of its tether. Perhaps we’ve been treated badly at work, there’s traffic, bills, expenses, and then we have to clean, cook, wash up … it’s all putting you on edge.

“It’s then easy to turn around to your child and say, ‘Turn off that machine!’ or ‘Get off that computer!’

“Now, that child foremostly heard “Bang!”.

“Secondly, the words that were spoken.

“Months later our child speaks to us that way and we wonder why.

“We have just been puppeted by our emotions. We are all guilty of that.

“Everyone gets puppeted, and the problem is we indirectly, and even innocently, jab that pain and stress that we’re feeling onto the other person.

“So, it becomes a virus because that person jabs another person with it and it just swims through society.”

The more we understand our emotions, we’re less likely to be subjugated by them, and will be able to articulate in language by talking about them.

“People don’t want to say to their partner they’re feeling a bit insecure and feel like their energy is no longer connected to them,” Oscar says.

“Rather than asking questions based on this, such as ‘Do you want to do more things in life without me?’ we tend to brew, be fearful, and then start to fish … ‘What did you do today? Who were you with?’ or even go through their phone, which just makes people feel violated.

“Emotions people have shouldn’t control their dialect or behaviour, but moreso be a language to the brain to go this is what’s resonating, let’s attend to it.”

Oscar says it’s even worse for men as they have been conditioned to not feel or show their emotions, “don’t cry, suck it up”. “Poor men innocently have been trapped into a void that is not natural,” he says.

“And women, being intuitive, are hit with a brick wall when they try to broach this. They feel a storm inside, they feel fear, they feel confusion.

“The man’s like, I don’t know what you’re talking about, and it takes a while for them to process.”

Oscar says the consciousness of femininity and the consciousness of masculinity is the concept of Yin and Yang. We all have that in us, whether we are male or female.

Some are slightly off balance, some have more of either.

“Men need to start being more intuitive, talking about their emotions, listening to their inner self, not being just driven by the mind.”

“I can’t say that women now need to start applying the male consciousness because unfortunately 2000 years of male dominance, a patriarchal system, means women have already had to assimilate the masculine consciousness within themselves. But men are yet to assimilate the feminine consciousness within themselves.”

Not only can honouring our emotions be great in maintaining more harmonious relationships and averting the ‘virus’ of offloading onto others, they can help us manifest what we want in our lives.

The effect of our emotions was explored through the water experiments conducted by Japanese author and pseudoscientist, Masuru Emoto, whose work demonstrated how the sentiment of a word, which is energy, can affect the molecular structure of water. Keeping in mind we’re made up of about 78 per cent of water, words said to us can impact us strongly.

“If our thoughts (sentiments) on a piece of paper affects water, imagine we have that thought going over and over in our brain, ‘I’m not good enough, I’m not good enough. Life is shit. Life is shit,’” says Oscar.

People are not only putting that energy back into their whole water aspect and altering the energy there, they’re emitting it into the future, so naturally start to have those experiences; and it’s a vicious cycle.

When we realise the energy that resonates within us, the energy we’re emitting, the thoughts that carry it, we can stop causing that ripple effect.

Affirmations, prayer, spells, incantations, are effective when we feel the word, when we mean it and we say it with sentiment, says Oscar.

If we’re panicking on the inside and reading this word, then fear becomes the dominant emotion.

“The key is, when we do feel afraid, we comfort ourselves, ‘It’s ok, I’m afraid,’ that’s ok,” he says.

“Once we acknowledge it, we can move from there but when we’re fighting against it that it’s not going anywhere, so it helps to acknowledge the fear and where it came from. What experiences have led me to have this fear?

“When we know what caused this, ok it’s failed relationships that make us afraid of falling in love again, for example, it’s not so dominant in our psychology or our energy.”

Oscar advises writing down an affirmation in our own handwriting because our brain will absorb it much better.

We should then read it out aloud at least 20 times with no intention just to read it out so that the wording becomes familiar to the brain, so you know what you’re using.

And then our focus can be feeling each word.

For example, when someone says, “I love you,” it feels different when they really mean it. Quite often we want others to say it, but we rarely look in the mirror and say it to ourselves, it’s quite confrontational. And it’s the most important thing.

This article by Charanyaa Gopalakrishnan explores the concept of Mindful Parenting, which is being able to understand our emotions not allow them to trigger our responses to our children.

Our brain is triggered when it senses danger or a potential threat, therefore making us react instantly to what is going to happen. Unfortunately, it can be tricky for our brain to understand what is an actual ‘danger’ to what is just a situation. In simple terms, it fails to know how to respond instead of react.

Mindful Parenting is a topic that I found immensely interesting wanted to explore, and has now become an idea that I wish to share. This is not about being a perfect parent’, but rather about consciously being present at the situation, absorbing it and not getting hijacked by our emotions. This can be complex to get into our system and put into practice, but it has an immense impact on our children and their ability to be mindful about their behaviour.

Mindfulness in parenting is how we manage our behaviour and emotions to let children learn how they can manage theirs.

It maybe a simple instance of seeing our child having breakfast and fearing there may be a big spill to clean. Instead of responding, a jolt shoots through us making our reaction unpleasant. Many of these reactions are a reflection of our own childhood experiences and consequently this stress response can be triggered easily. When the receptor of stress sparks off, we are unable to get clarity in thinking and we fail to pay attention. As a result, our problem solving ability diminishes thoroughly. ‘Flipping out’ as a reaction occurs in no time and we forget how our children comprehend that. We fail to know how scary we appear in their eyes. Seeing how an adult reacts in distress becomes a negative learning experience for them. We need to teach our children that one can pause, think and respond as an alternative to react.

It also gives you the ability to take a step back and look at a situation rather than being highly impulsive and most importantly to improve your relationship with your child.

Mindfulness in parenting is how we manage our behaviour and emotions to let children learn how they can manage theirs. As parents, we must be regulated before we try teaching our kids. Sadly, when we are overcome by stress or exhaustion, we can be emotionally unavailable to our child. However, if we are carried away by our emotions we can give another chance to ourselves to consciously make a different choice – being present. While there are good days and bad days, there are definitely negative elements of being upset or angry. Mindful parenting is paying close attention to what one feels as a parent and responding in accordance with that without any guilt of past situations. Simply, focusing on what is now. This helps hugely in being aware of one’s own feelings, being more responsive to the child’s needs, and becoming better at modulating one’s emotions. It also gives you the ability to take a step back and look at a situation rather than being highly impulsive and most importantly to improve your relationship with your child.

If we are carried away by our emotions we can give another chance to ourselves to consciously make a different choice – being present.

In times of stress or feeling overwhelmed it is difficult to be the best version of ourselves. Our children can be expected to know these triggers. In order to tackle this effectively, we must know what the ‘hot spots’ or emotional triggers are. We may be most vulnerable at a particular time of the day or be unavailable emotionally. These are the situations that we must familiarize ourselves with so as to make the best choice to change our behaviour accordingly.

As previously mentioned, these are a reflection of our own childhood experiences. Perhaps your child behaves in a way that is against your beliefs, like throwing a tantrum at a restaurant where you feel embarrassment. Maybe it is evoking a childhood memory of your own, such as excelling academically and causing you to ‘react’ when your child fails. Your child’s behaviour may evoke a trauma in your life, for example if you had nearly drowned in a pool you may get paranoid every time your child gets into the pool while learning to swim.

Being mindful can help us understand both our children and ourselves in a huge way.

To get control over our senses and emotions we must first identify what the situations are that may trigger those ‘hot spots’ in us that are responsible for the emotional outbursts. Parenting is not a ‘one size fit all’, however being mindful can help us understand both our children and ourselves in a huge way. Understanding our feelings when we conflict with our child, taking a step back before giving a response in anger and listening before disagreeing to the viewpoint of our children are the essential factors to keep in mind. There will be times when we cannot control ourselves and we react in a certain way, which we regret later. We can always apologize to our kids in such a case, after all we are still in the learning curve and parents make mistakes too.

Kirsten from NSW, mother of two, shares her personal story on managing anxiety and post-natal depression.

When my son was born 10 years ago I was excessively worried about looking after him, both during and after the pregnancy, to the point where the fear was crippling. The five nights I spent in hospital I hardly slept, the anxiety just kept me awake. I started to obsess over sleep routines for him and for myself. My head was always full of what ifs. I feared being alone with him and didn’t want my first husband to go to work. The anxiety just increased and I started experiencing burning sensations in my back, arms and neck.

The anxiety and worry led to two weeks of no sleep and so I took myself to the hospital to get help. They administered some medication to help me calm down and I stayed there for a week. By that stage, I honestly felt like my body had forgotten how to sleep. The anxiety led to severe depression. I received some psychological help which allowed me to get by. Medication helped me to feel better and to sleep at night.

Eventually over the next few months I think I just got used to being a mum, gained confidence and eventually things went back to normal. I also went back to work part time where I felt safe and confident. When my second husband and I decided to try for a baby I started the process of gaining a better understanding of postnatal depression and anxiety through research. I guess I was doing all I could to prevent going through that nightmare experience again. So in 2014, I gave birth to our beautiful daughter and I felt so much more comfortable and so excited and full of joy.

Over the next eight weeks I didn’t recognise that the anxiety was slowly building. At eight weeks old she had one unsettled night where she wouldn’t drink her bottle and I started worrying so much about it that I couldn’t sleep that night. That triggered everything that had happened eight years before only much more intensely. I didn’t sleep for three nights and the burning sensations were back.

During one of my sleepless nights I was searching the internet for help and found a Mum and Bubs unit for anxiety and depression at a hospital. I booked in as soon as I could. Mentally I felt detached from reality, like I was going insane, like I was in a fog. I was so indecisive about the simplest things like packing the baby bag. I couldn’t believe that I had gone from being a confident capable teacher, who had who had a huge capacity and had achieved a lot of things in her life, so someone who struggled to put clothes on the line or leave the house with her baby and felt fear when she was alone with my daughter.

Mentally I felt detached from reality, like I was going insane, like I was in a fog.

After a panic attack in hospital, the psychiatrist on duty asked me what my plan was for getting out of here. That motivated and empowered me to work on the strategies I needed to get back on my feet. I wrote out positive affirmations and scriptures that challenged some of my irrational negative unhelpful thinking. I worked out what a daily and weekly plan would look like when I got home. That structure and support made me feel more in control and confident to leave the hospital. My faith kept me confident that God was with me and he would pull me through. My husband was my main support. I believe that where I’m at today is due to being proactive in my recovery and the support of my husband.

Today I try to manage my mental health by doing exercise, my faith in God, his word and prayer, medication, relaxation like yoga and mindfulness, attending anxiety support groups, psychologist and psychiatrist sessions. Today I look after my daughter with confidence and competence and I do not get anxious when I am alone with her. I have found looking outside myself to support and educate others about depression and anxiety has helped me stay well. I love my life today and I find enjoyment in my family and my interests but I still need to use the tools I’ve learnt to manage the triggers for the anxiety on a daily basis to stay well.

Republished from beyondblue’s Just Speak Up stories

Do you ever leave just a sliver of wine in the bottle you’ve just drunk to yourself before you and your lopsided grin shuffle off to bed? Just so you don’t have to admit to yourself that you’d drunk the whole thing, again? Or is that just me?

As it happens Morning Me just rolls her eyes at Wino Mum’s clumsy veil of deception, knowing full well that she drinks too much and too often and if Wino Mum is honest with herself, she knows it too.

The thing is, until recently I didn’t think it was much of a problem. My life is far from unravelling and most people I know wouldn’t bat an eyelid at knocking off a bottle to themselves and let’s face it, medicating the stresses of work/family life and any other gremlins lurking in the depths of your soul is essentially, a National Pastime.

There’s just been one thing not buying it though, a worried little voice that wakes in my head at two am and cries “This isn’t fun”.

As the National Healthy Drinking Guidelines begin to penetrate and I begin to contemplate the health risks of my habit, I discover that a bottle of wine is between eight and nine standard drinks instead of what I believed to be four and decide it’s time to rein in it.

Depending on which study you happen upon, Australian drinking trends have been cast in varied shades leaving us wondering do we have a problem or don’t we? Imagine an easy Sunday afternoon, dappled sunlight filtering through the trees of a beer garden as children play and mothers’ laughter tinkle against glasses of crisp Sauvignon Blanc and the situation seems bright, if we are to consider a recent study released in August 2017 by DrinkWise revealing Australians are drinking more responsibly than they did 10 years ago.

According to DrinkWise, an independent charity funded by the alcohol industry, our cultural attitude toward drinking practices is maturing and evolving. While their research tells us the number of Australians drinking to excess is decreasing and Moderate Drinkers, Abstainers and mercifully, Adolescents delaying their first drink are rising, it also details why we drink.

DrinkWise report Younger Families with children under 13 years are drinking smaller amounts than in 2007, using alcohol to relax, unwind and cope with the pressures of parenthood. (Taking an elementary guess I shall confidently deduce that Sherlock was not called upon to tease out this motive.)

Older Families, with children above 13 years are said to be rediscovering their identity and freedom as the responsibility of parenthood tapers. For those drinking at risky levels, they are returning to pre-parenthood drinking habits, whatever that means, if they’re referring to me then I’m stage diving off a Santorini Bar and letting my alarm clock bleep away for two hours before waking up in a haze of ouzo with my sneakers still on. Shikes, that’s not such good news.

“Up until recently I was drinking approximately four times a week,” she says, “mid-week, I’d drink a few glasses of wine at night and on weekends, if there was a social function, I’d drink one or two bottles of wine.”

This carefully optimistic data, however, is supported in premise, by other research such as the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare which shows a reduction in alcohol consumption except, notably, for a rise in women between the ages of 50 – 59 but we’ve all got an Aunty Joy, so no surprises there.

The survey does acknowledge, however, that the consumption of alcohol is widespread in Australia and entwined in many social and cultural activities which poses the question, is the decline meaningful enough to claim we’re half French or are we just a goon pillow away from half cut?

Leah, a 33 year old working mother of two recently decided to moderate her drinking habits after her husband asked her to cut down. “Up until recently I was drinking approximately four times a week,” she says, “mid-week, I’d drink a few glasses of wine at night and on weekends, if there was a social function, I’d drink one or two bottles of wine. A special occasion would call for cocktails, champagne and perhaps even shots if I was trying to be really fun.”

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After three years of sobriety while pregnant and breastfeeding Leah began to have an occasional glass of wine but began to drink more heavily after moving to a street populated with mostly stay at home mums.

“After each Groundhog Day we’d meet out the front of our houses while the kids played, waiting for our husbands to come home from work,” she says. “It was very Stepford Wives. We’d done our chores, tended to the children and finally showered so we could meet up on the lawn and wind down over a glass of wine. It all felt quite civilised until it got to the point that dinner was being made later with the drinking starting earlier.”

 

Friday after work drinks is an ingrained ritual embedded within our cultural landscape, yet in the strained world of parenthood where working hours blur like an indiscriminate crayon smear on a cream suede couch, a long week can easily be traded for a long day and before you can shout “Get your bottom out of your brother’s face!” There’s seems a legitimate reason for Wine O’clock, even though it’s only Monday.

Sally, 44 and mother to four, whose three glasses of wine each night can easily escalate as she toys with the “once the bottle is open scenario” admits that “Wine time” can easily get out of hand, “I definitely use alcohol to wind down after a day with the kids. I have a few habits that I need to address this year,” she confesses.

It is easier to drink, an immediate hit to your reward centre, when your life feels everything but your own, but is it really helping? Is it sustainable?

A study released in June 2017 by The Centre for Alcohol and Policy Research, found that although there had been a reduction in parent drinking from 2001, parents in 2013 were less likely to be abstainers than non-parents. And, let’s face it, it’s easier to knock back a glass of red and watch Married at First Sight (my personal research findings reveal reality TV is completely shit sober) than it is to make a yoga class, leaving your husband to “put the kids to bed” and “do the dishes”.

It is easier to drink, an immediate hit to your reward centre, when your life feels everything but your own, but is it really helping? Is it sustainable? And, what are the long term ramifications to physical and mental wellbeing? We all have a pretty good idea of the answers but they can be scary to contemplate.

Hannah, a 43 year old mother of one says, “I drink two glasses of red wine every night after my daughter is in bed. I definitely associate wine with winding down and having some “me” time. That said, I do have concerns about the health implications of habitual drinking. If I’m honest, it’s something I would like to change but find difficult to do.”

As the sun begins to seep on the Sunday session, deepening the shade over the beer garden and the kids start to whine while couples bicker over who was meant to drive, we may take a more sober view of an in-depth seven year study investigating alcohol dependence in Australian women aged between 35 to 59.

Conducted by Dr Janice Withnall, from the University of Western Sydney, the study, Researching with Women in Recovery, identified 16 per cent of the group were alcohol dependent and the healthcare required to meet their needs, was inadequate. The study highlighted a lack of acknowledgement of Alcohol Use Disorders within the demographic who often suffered from misdiagnosis or, “preferable diagnosis”, having symptoms treated instead for PMT, anxiety, depression, PTSD or menopause related.

“I thought drinking gave me a sense of wellbeing, eased the stress but it actually increases my guilt and anxiety. Motherhood and married life made me feel like I’d lost myself and drinking seemed to bring me closer to my old self but I’d gotten to the point where I just felt lost.”

Leah, who now makes a point not to drink through the week says, “I thought drinking gave me a sense of wellbeing, eased the stress but it actually increases my guilt and anxiety. Motherhood and married life made me feel like I’d lost myself and drinking seemed to bring me closer to my old self but I’d gotten to the point where I just felt lost.”

If you, or someone you know have concerns about alcohol misuse, numbers to call are Alcohol and Drug Information Services (ADIS) within your state or territory (numbers differ), Alcoholics Anonymous Helpline (AA) 1300 222 222, Lifeline Australia 13 11 14 or contact your local GP.

Names have been changed in this story for the sake of privacy.      

A British mother has caused quite the stir, after admitting on national television that she has a favourite child.

The mother of four, Alisha Tierney-March, admits that her third child, Kennedie, is her favourite out of the lot. Alisha’s other children include daughter Addison 9, son Harleigh 7, and Elijah 1.

Alisha claims that her strongest bond is with her daughter Kennedie, age 2, and claims that part of the reason is because she has spent more one on one time with her as infant, compared with her two older children. She states, “the older two are currently at that pre-teen age, and are constantly trying to test her and her husband’s patience, while Kennedie is still young and innocent”.

“Kennedie is just all round nicer to be around.”

The hosts of the talk show ask Alisha if she gives Kennedie preferential treatment. Alisha claims, “They all get loved equally”. One host then mentions that Alisha’s husband believes she does give preferential treatment, and Alisha responds, “He thinks Kennedie gets away with more, but I’m not going to punish a 2-year-old the way I do a 7 or 9-year old”.

Unsurprisingly, Alisha’s comments have caused an uproar, with mums from all over the world saying how disgusted they are with the fact that she went on national television to boast about how she has a favourite child.

Many mothers are also concerned that her favouritism will harm the development of her other children, who Alisha freely admits are aware of the fact that her preferred child is Kennedie.

“They will say, ‘Shes’s your favourite’, and then I will admit to them, I’ll say, ‘Yes, I do like her better’.”

Some mothers have defended Alisha, claiming that mothers do have a favourite child, but most of them simply won’t admit it.

Interestingly enough, a recent study has shown that 23 percent of parents do, in fact, have a favourite child.

The parents who participated in the study gave several explanations as to why they have a favourite son or daughter, the most prominent reason being that they preferred the child who they closely resemble, in terms of behavior and appearance, and the second being that they favoured the child they considered to be the most attractive.