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.