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The adoption process is not easy, but for some parents adoption it is their last chance at a family.

After 10 years of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatments, plus two and a half years of waiting in the adoption program, hairdresser Pina and her husband John were finally able to have that chance.

The Melbourne couple, are one of the lucky sets of parents who were able to adopt a baby boy 20 years ago. Both had wanted children since their mid to late-twenties and after exhausting all their options to have their own biological child, they turned to adoption.

The 10 years of IVF treatments had taken their toll on Pina physically and mentally, seeing her future continuously taken away from her, made her feel like the adoption process would be just another form of torture and in some respects it was.

Still, she felt she had nothing to lose and if IVF had taught her anything, it was that she was willing to risk it. Thankfully, luck was on her side and after 13 years of waiting, Pina and John welcomed a baby boy into their family.

Pina explains how the IVF treatments hurt her. “We kept making beautiful embryos, through IVF,” Pina shares.

“For whatever reason, they never stuck to me. However, I think there is a reason in life, why things happen – I was meant to have Damien.”

IVF is an intrusive procedure that has a success rate per fresh embryo transfer of 38.8% for live birth and 44.9% for clinical pregnancy (ages 18-34) and 32.2% (live birth), 41.7% (clinical pregnancy) for ages 35-38, ages greater than 38 it drops even further.

“They kept saying to me that there is absolutely nothing wrong, my husband had the low sperm count that’s the reason we went on it. As the woman, I had to go through a lot,” Pina recalls.

I was at the point where I thought, I’m not meant to have kids and that’s it, end of story.” It was then, Pina’s husband, John mentioned adoption.

Although adoption seems like a great back-up plan for a family, in reality, it’s a very complex system with the average wait time being between five and seven, if one passes the qualifying stages. Between 2018-2019 there was a total of 310 adoptions Australia wide, 82% were Australian born children and 67% of the 310 adoptions were from their foster parents.

With the increase in women’s rights and family planning and the resulting drop of children in the adoption system, means there are more parents waiting to adopt than there are children needing to be adopted.

Australia’s adoption policies differ depending on the States. In Victoria there are three kinds of adoption systems: local adoption, inter-country adoption and permanent care.

There are also only 13 partner countries with Australia for adopting children, each having independent rules and regulations which can restrict options. Factors such as being married, single, male or female, in a de-facto relationship, one’s age, gender orientation and sexuality can all affect one’s chances of adoption.

The local adoption requirements are less strict, for example a persons’ orientation or relationship status does not matter but there is a demanding application process which examines a person’s life in minute detail.

The biological parents learn everything about the adopting parents as well has gaining many rights, one of which is the right to visitation.

Even though we would be adopting their children, they still get to see them,” Pina says.

Pina didn’t have a problem with this requirement because she believes it’s important for a child, any person for that matter, to know their heritage to better understand oneself.

To be qualified and placed in the adoption program would take two years for Pina and John. As Pina says, “They wanted to get to know us better than we knew ourselves.”

Answering endless questions fuelled a gruelling and extensive qualification process. It was also yet another period of trying not to get their hopes up in fear of disappointment.

The final step, after 2.5 years of the application process, was an intimidating interview with a panel of lawyers, doctors, psychologists and Department of Human Services (DHS) staff.

Pina says she thought they were successful because of her view of it not mattering to her who or where the child was from, to her a child was a child and if she could supply the home then she would gladly do it.

Two months later, they got the call that they were to be the parents of a 4.5-month-old baby boy, whom they named Damien.

The first time I lay eyes on him, I just thought he was the most beautiful little baby ever,” Pina recalls.

However, their adoption story did not end there, it has always been in the background through Damien’s childhood, adolescence and even into adulthood.

Damien has known he was adopted from an early age. Pina took the approach to start filling him in as soon as he could understand.

Pina strongly wanted Damien never to question where he belonged, she made sure he knew he was a part of this family and nothing could change it.

I told him little bits and pieces and as he got older,” Pina says.

“He knows that he has biological siblings, and yes that was a bit hard, I did not know how he would take it. I suppose growing up he knew nothing other than us; we are his parents- this is his family. He never really questioned it and had no interest in meeting her (his biological mother) or his siblings.”

Although Damien never questioned who he was and where he belonged it was still difficult to understand why his biological mother gave him up, especially when she had children already.

Even though Damien’s biological mother hardly used the visitation rights, as she wanted a clean break, she has been in contact with Damien over the past 20 years.

In some ways it was more detrimental than good for Damien. Each time would raise his expectations, to have some sort of relationship and understanding, only to be rejected all over again.

Damien does not know who his biological father is, although he knows it is where he gets his aboriginal heritage. While having no information on the biological father has been challenging in having real access to the Australian Indigenous community for Damien, both Pina and John made sure he was in touch with his cultural heritage.

“Adoption is a gamble. Any child is a gamble. Whether you adopt or whether you have one biologically. They can grow up to be the best, they can grow up to be the worst they can grow up to be anything,” Pina explains.

It has nothing to do with whether you gave birth or not. In the end it’s all the same.”

Adoption and its process are not for the feint hearted but if fate is on side it’s the best chance at having a family.

Aussies mums are redefining the term ‘influencer’ and inspiring their audience through fashion, humility and organic content, writes Alyssa Batticciotto.

“I’m just a normal person. I’m not a celebrity, I’m not on TV, I’m just a mum who likes to post online and sometimes people like that,” says Instagram micro influencer, Breeahn.

In an ever-changing landscape, the influencer space is unknown and “fickle”. We have all heard of these big-name influencers – AFL wags turned mums, supermodels and reality stars with an impressive following and sponsored content. But what about those mums who have grown their audience solely from organic content and “a passion for fashion”?

The young mummy micro influencer does not focus on likes, comments or follower count but rather focuses on meaningful connection with their audience and an organic endorsement of their posts. These women are using Instagram for the love and taking back those negative connotations associated with the term ‘influencer’.

But what is a mummy blogger? Are they paid? Do they have to be glamorous? What are the prerequisites?

34-year-old Breeahn is a mother of two and has amassed a following of almost 13,000 as @the_aussiemummy.

Speaking to Breeahn while she’s sitting in her PJs, she’s not what you would typically imagine of an Instagram influencer. With her unique style and iconic pink hair, Breeahn is taking on life as a mummy influencer.

“Instagram is my happy place,” she says.

Although her feed is beautiful, she still reveals a very raw and honest depiction of her life, opening up to her followers in a way that has built an incredibly loyal foundation.  It is an influencer’s relationship with their audience that makes or breaks them. “I definitely care about my audience. I’m here for them,” says Breeahn.

Originally starting her page as a way to share the fashion she loves with people; it has grown to the point where she receives gifts in exchange for promotion and runs her account “like a business”. However, this isn’t her only business venture as she also works in digital marketing.

With many people now realising the potential of a career on Instagram, some have tried to exploit the platform for their own financial gain.

“A lot of young people are looking at Instagram as a career and I find that to be problematic as to be an influencer you have to be really genuine. It has to come from a place of you really just wanting to help your audience out not ‘I want to make money’ because at the end of the day, you’re there for your audience, not there to make money,” says Breeahn.

It can be hard to distinguish genuine content from sponsored or altered feeds and finding an influencer you especially resonate with has become more and more difficult.

An influencer profile typically uses the ‘business function’ of the Instagram page.

Sometimes, influencers may be offered money to endorse certain products, this is typically found in the pages that boast a 50,000+ following. These payments can range anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to the thousands, with bloggers charging different rates for different types of content.

There is no perfect formula to gaining an impressive following on Instagram. Two visually similar pages can have entirely different followings and engagement.

Despite the competition, Breeahn finds that the influencer world “is more of a community” and rather places emphasis on what she can do to make her content “unique and special” in a way that her “audience will like”.

However, according to social media professor, Dr Brent Crocker, “it does matter what you’re posting, it is important to specialise in something”. A page will usually gain traction and a large following when they are consistent with messaging, posting, content and establishing a genuine bond with their audience.

When thinking of influencers, most people associate the term with young models with followers reaching the millions but often an influencer’s audience can range from a mere couple of thousand to the millions. There are no numeric limitations on when someone can be described as an influencer or not.

While 13,000 followers don’t seem like much in the current climate of such a far-reaching platform, it is often these hidden gems that resonate with their audiences. In fact, brands are starting to realise the importance of finding influencers who have a deeper connection with their following. They have identified the correlation between engagement and product purchase.

Engagement rate is the sum of the likes and comments that a page receives per post, divided by the page’s number of followers.

Engagement rates are healthy metrics to monitor because they underline how frequently the page’s following interacts with their content, and forces pages to focus on important data, rather than vanity metrics (like the number of followers).

“Nano influencer followers are closer to them and tend to have more influence. Macro influencer engagement is relatively poor, people don’t always listen to them,” says Dr Coker.

With audiences becoming more and more aware of sponsored content this can often lead to a decrease in audience engagement for endorsed influencers or those with a large following.

 Micro influencers are a fantastic way for brands to promote products as it provides the brand with content to repurpose and enhances product credibility.

Dr Coker says that it’s another form of “good old classic endorsement but it’s packaged in a new way. It’s regular people, micro influencers, that people relate to on another level”.

The growing power of influencers is continually being recognised and utilised by brands. Brand ambassadors (social media users who promote solely for a specific brand) as ‘regular people’ is a newfound norm as brand’s realise the benefits of partnering with not only the influencers themselves but their dedicated and attentive audiences.

Social media marketer, Marija Likoravec, has noticed a “huge” increase in mummy bloggers in comparison to other Instagram niches.

Being a new mother herself, Marija feels she can relate to these influencers on a personal level and says that “80% of the time [working with them] it’s fantastic, they are usually super flexible and quite down to earth”.

In her experience, Marija has noticed that it is the mummy blogger’s audience who are the most engaged and receptive to new, advertised products. As technology becomes a bigger part of our lives, many aspects become fused together.

“I almost feel like the mummy blogger community is the new mother’s group,” says Marija.36-year-old, mum of two, Rebecca McDonnell is behind the Instagram page @thebargainstyler_ with a following of over 30,000.

While not her full-time occupation, Bec has enjoyed the creative freedom of running a successful bargain hunter page.

“Instagram as a hobby has been really good to keep me busy and have something a little bit different other than motherhood the whole entire time,” she says.

From the beginning, Bec was able to identify what worked and what didn’t with her following and has been using the same formula ever since.

With some fashion bloggers Instagram pages filled with numerous sponsored posts it can often be a breath of fresh air to see influencers posting content that they love. “The key to my growth is organic posting,” says Bec.

However, with followers and admiration does come the flip side. Trolls and negativity online showcase the darker side of Instagram where people take pleasure in belittling and bullying others. Although we might not have a personal experience in it, most if not all internet users have seen negative comments at least once.

“People don’t understand that there’s a person on the other side of that Instagram account. Words and comments do hurt us,” says Breeahn.

When we think back to Instagram’s initial release, we remember its original purpose – to share the content we love with the world.

You can stick to a budget and still have everything you need with some clever planning.

Welcoming a new bundle of joy is exciting, but with so many products on the market the prospect of preparing for life with a newborn can be completely overwhelming. Fear not, Offspring has created the ultimate guide to help you sort the essentials from the gimmicks.

 

The Australian Institute of Family Studies suggests a first child can cost between $3,000 and $13,000 in the first year alone – a marked difference between thrift and indulgence when it comes to preparing for your little one’s arrival. The truth is you can stick to a budget and still have everything you need with some clever planning.

 

Tip: Talk to other mums about what was useful and what was useless. They may be willing to loan you items, just check the safety standards and condition.

Tips for buying on a budget:

  • Question every purchase: is it really essential?
  • Plan ahead to take advantage of sales
  • Buy in bulk especially nappies and wipes
  • Borrow items
  • Decide on the brand/model and then check local Buy and Sell pages, eBay and baby markets.

Out and about

Before you hit the shops, what do you actually need to buy? Here’s a list of what a newborn needs:

Heading out with a newborn is like packing for a small camping trip and involves the biggest ticket items, so do your research to get the right equipment:

Essential

  • Car restraint:

The car seat will be one of the most expensive items on your shopping list. It is best to buy new, as car seats have a life span with most not made to last more than 10 years.

  • To trim costs, consider a travel system with a capsule that clips onto a pram frame. It might also mean easy transfers from the car to the
  • Baby capsules can be hired as they are quickly outgrown.
  • Convertible models that change from rear-facing to forward-facing will last from birth to four years and will save you the expense of buying two seats.
  • Pram/Stroller:

The price tag on a pram can vary dramatically and there are many features and accessories on offer so set a budget and do lots of homework.

  • When will the pram primarily be used – exercising or leisure?
  • Check it is easy to fold and lift
  • Check it will fit in your car boot
  • Are you planning another baby quickly or expecting twins and require a double pram or added accessories such as a skateboard or toddler seat?
  • Is it important to have a reversible handle or interchangeable seat to grow and change with your baby?
  • Do you need a rain cover, sunshade, cup holder or storage?
  • Look for second-hand alternatives as many mums change their minds or opt for different transport options as their baby grows.

Optional

  • A nappy bag
  • Pram Liner
  • Baby carrier
  • Window shades

Luxury

  •  Trolley cover
  • Breastfeeding cover
  • Portable Cot

Sleep needs

Unfortunately, sleep isn’t for sale, but you can set up a safe and secure environment for your baby to encourage a bit of shut-eye.

 Essential

  • Cot:

A cot is often one of the most expensive and difficult decisions faced by parents-to-be. All new cots have to comply with Australian safety guidelines but if you’re on a budget, ensure a second-hand cot meets current standards. To save money consider a cot that converts into a toddler bed. But, sometimes spending money on quality will ensure it can be reused for future siblings.

  • Mattress:

There will be many (yes, many) spills and accidents and years of use so select a good quality mattress that snugly fits your cot and invests in a waterproof mattress protector.

  • Wraps

There is a huge market dedicated to wraps, swaddles and sleeping bags, but they may take some trial and error to see which suits your baby. A large muslin wrap and some practice swaddling will work just as well.

Optional

  • A bassinet, Moses basket, cradle, cozy sleeper or hammock is smaller, more portable than a cot and great for those early days.
  • A baby monitor – to save money consider a monitor that doubles as a nightlight for those late-night feeds.

Luxury

  •  Light and music display
  • White noise machine
  • Room thermometer
  • Quilts, fluffy blankets, and cot bumpers

Feeding essentials:

Breast

While breast milk is free there are some things you will need to make the experience easier:

  • Breast pads
  • Breast pump – consider hiring or buying a manual one

Bottle

Bottles and formula can cost a pretty penny and there are so many options. Ask for recommendations and trial a couple of brands. Even if you are certain you will breastfeed, you may need bottles for expressing.

  • Bottlebrush
  • Drying Rack

Optional

  • A feeding chair/glider
  • Nursing pillow
  • Burp Cloths
  • Formula dispenser
  • A high chair, food processor, and plastic cutlery can all wait a few months.

Luxury

  • Bottle warmer
  • Bottle sterilizer

Change time:

Essential

  • Nappies and wipes:

Cloth or disposable – you will need to stock up and be prepared to use lots of them!

  • Toiletries:

Babies don’t need lots of products on their delicate skin. But having some baby shampoo, moisturizer, and nappy rash cream ready to go, is a good idea.

Optional

  • Change table – a changing mat on top of a dresser might be a cheaper option.
  • Nappy bucket or nappy disposal bin
  • Baby bath – to save money use the sink or an adult bath with a bath support.

Luxury

  •  Wipes warmer
  • Nappy Stacker

Clothes

One of the best parts of preparing for a new baby is buying gorgeous teeny tiny outfits! But it is easy to go overboard and people will often gift lots of outfits.

Essential

  • At least six onesies get a mix of size 0000 and size 000 for an average-sized newborn (short-sleeved, long-sleeved, full length or a combination, depending on the season they’re due). These can double as day clothes and PJs.
  • Singlets or singlet suits
  • A jacket or cardigan
  • A hat (a sun hat for summer and a beanie for winter)
  • Socks (these can double as mittens)
  • Bibs

 Optional

  • Scratch mittens
  • Going out outfits

 Luxury

  • Shoes – super cute but not necessary

Sanity savers:

  • Baby thermometer
  • Grooming Kit
  • Baby proofing kit
  • A few rattles, teething toys, and books
  • A bouncer, swing or activity mat for play and tummy time.

Tip: If you’re having a baby shower, set up a baby registry. It isn’t offensive to ask for gifts that will be appreciated and well used.

Your newborn will not know if you purchased the most expensive nappy bag or put them in designer clothes. The most important thing your baby will ever need is your love and attention. Fortunately, that’s free!

Elaine Benson of soberhood.com.au speaks out about her struggles with alcohol and wanting to be better for her sonSoberhood is a supportive judgement-free zone aimed at normalizing an alcohol free motherhood. Elaine is a single mother to a mad but beautiful three year old boy, a Cork native living in Sydney, Australia.

Former grey area drinker, I knew alcohol was crippling my life, but I didn’t realise just how much it was damaging my relationships and body until I felt forced to stop.

I had been drinking regularly from about the age of 16 and, my teens and 20’s were hedonistic, to say the least. It was accepted to drink till you blackout and somehow wake up in your bed the next morning not sure of how you got there.

I had some great experiences but mostly it was a blur of alcohol, drugs, anxiety, depression and self-sabotage.

It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I started to question my antics and see that for the most part, I was numbing the pain in my heart. Then when I became a mother and ‘mommy’s special medicine’ became the norm in the evening to ‘relax’, matters deteriorated quickly.

The drinking, coupled with the fact my son was not a fan of sleeping, sent me over the edge.

By the time he was two years old, I was desperately sad and feeling like life was a relentless struggle. My body was inflamed and in constant pain with endometriosis, which was intensified by the drinking.

The relationship with his Dad was in tatters. Like all my previous relationships, our connection was fuelled by alcohol and parties so when our son was born, the already tenuous foundation collapsed.

“I realised at that point that I wanted a better life for us.”

After a particularly heavy night on the booze at my work Christmas party in 2018, I didn’t get long to recover before we set off on a family Christmas holiday, 5 hours drive up the coast of Australia.

It was sweltering in the car, 40 degrees, Christmas traffic was in full swing, my partner and I were arguing and the air con was struggling.

The situation was already stressful and with the hangover from hell, my brain couldn’t cope and I had a panic attack.

My heart was breaking as my beautiful son watched me hyperventilating and crying uncontrollably. He was smiling at me but looking very confused. It must have been so unnerving for him to see his mother so scattered.

I realised at that point that I wanted a better life for us. I wanted him to feel safe and grounded with me. I begged the universe to take the dread away, and in return, I would never drink again.

In an effort to support myself, I listened to quit lit audiobooks repeatedly, I joined closed Facebook support groups, I listened to Tara Brachs life-changing podcast, I went to therapy, I journalled.

I tried to meditate daily, as well as practice mindfulness (which is basically being conscious and aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions so that you can be better at life!)

I am still on the road to shedding my old skin and discovering what it is to be present to the reality of life, but I have noticed a few shifts, here’s what I’ve found:

I notice stories that are coming up for me

Even as I write now, I can pay attention to my fearful ego saying ‘You’re alone, who are you to think you can do this….’ and on and on the fearful ego goes.

Stories regularly come up around alcohol too ‘I need a drink. It’s boring being sober’. I can notice these stories through awareness and respond by playing the scenario forward in my head. I’ll have one drink, which will turn to 5, I’ll wake up tomorrow and hate myself, I’ll have a hangover which will affect my mood for days, even weeks. I won’t have the energy or desire to play with my son. And I know then, it’s so not worth it.

I can separate from my self-limiting and destructive thoughts and ego

When I catch it in time, I can see the script that is running ‘you’re not good at stuff!’ and interrupt it with loving-kindness ‘you’re doing the best you can’

I procrastinate less

A handy by-product of less self-loathing. If I had written a list that Christmas 2018 of what I wanted to achieve in a year of sobriety, I would have been selling myself way short! Procrastination is fear in sheep’s clothing. I back myself more.

I allow myself to feel my feelings

I am more connected to what is going on in my body (through conscious awareness) so, when I feel the pull of anxiety, sadness, or a craving to drink, instead of swallowing it down and feeling it follow me around for days. I stop, sit, close my eyes, put my hand on my heart and inquire ‘what’s going on for you’ and answer with compassion ‘this is hard for you’ and let the tears (and snot) flow. I always feel better afterwards.

I know I don’t have to believe my thoughts

Understanding that thoughts and emotions are visitors helps let them come and go. I try to frame these thoughts as ‘Negative Protectors’. Our primitive ancestors owe their very existence to the ‘Be careful!’ thoughts, but these days the voices say things like ‘Have a drink, you don’t have to feel this’, when we all know it only delays and worsens the feeling.

Mindfulness practice helps you live with your thoughts without always reacting.

Today as I write this, I am in a much better place mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I attribute that to sobriety and mindfulness. I still struggle, as we all do, that is the human experience. But I have greater reserves to deal with the tough times and they don’t last nearly as long.

As one of my inspirations, Jill Stark puts it,

“Sometimes for the life we want, we have to sacrifice the short-term fix for the long-term rewards. We have to work out what we value the most and put that above the things that take us further away from everything we hold dear. It’s not always easy but jeez it’s worth it”

To learn more about Elaine’s struggle with alcohol and overcoming addiction for the sake of your family visit her website or contact her via email.

Website: soberhood.com.au
Email: elaine@soberhood.com.au

This incredible prize will not only give you the opportunity to share your journey and inspire others but will also give your business the exposure you’ve been looking for. Read on for more information on how to enter!

Here at Offspring, we know the dedication and commitment it takes to create your own business. Kate Durack, Editor of Offspring and mum of two, made the decision to launch her own magazine after one particularly difficult sleepless night with her 16-month-old daughter.

Kate’s sleep deprived idea has since evolved into Australia’s largest glossy parenting magazine, sold in three of Australia’s largest cities; Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, not to mention an expansive online audience.

At Offspring, we know it can be hard to step out of the shadows and shine a light on your achievements, but we think it’s time to change that.

To help us celebrate 10 years of Offspring, we will be sharing the story of one deserving mum by making you OUR NEXT COVER GIRL!

In addition to a PROFESSIONAL PHOTO SHOOT, you will also receive an UNBELIEVABLE ADVERTISING PACKAGE with Offspring, worth $50,000! This includes:

  • A FULL PAGE advertisement editorial feature showcasing your story and business.
  • The chance for your business to be seen by 300,000 READERS ACROSS AUSTRALIA.
  • ONLINE PROMOTION in our newsletter and on our website.
  • Advertising across ALL THREE HARD COPY MAGAZINES in Perth, Melbourne AND Sydney.

Entering this competition could not be easier; all it takes is three steps!

Step One: LIKE US on Facebook

Step Two: SIGN UP to our newsletter to be the first to hear about updates and promos

Step Three: SEND US A MESSAGE with your nomination and why you/your nominee should win

SPREAD THE WORD!!! The nominees with the most entries wins so get your family and friends involved!

Are you a ‘mumpreneur’ running your own business? Do you know a deserving mum whose business needs that extra push?

Offspring began from one mum’s entrepreneurial idea.

To celebrate Offspring’s special 10th anniversary edition, we want to reward another Australian Mumpreneur with a $50,000 advertising package.

Sign up to our newsletter and visit our Facebook page to nominate now!

WHAT YOU CAN WIN

  • Be an Offspring cover girl! A cover editorial feature on your ‘MUMPRENEUR’ story.
  • $50,000 advertising package to celebrate our 10th ANNIVERSARY Special Edition
  • Your business featured across Offspring’s Sydney, Melbourne and Perth hard copy and digital editions, reaching an audience of more than 300,000 Australians per issue.
  • A full page display advertisement and editorial feature plus online promotion in our newsletter and website.
  • Professional photo shoot to celebrate you and help you promote your business!!

HOW TO ENTER

1.Sign up for our newsletter

2. Message us on Facebook and tell us in 200 words or
less why you deserve to win
(You can also nominate your friends/family/colleagues)

3. We’ll share our top 5 responses on Facebook

4.VOTE VOTE VOTE! Stay tuned to our Facebook page
to vote for your entry, (hint: the entry with the most votes
WINS so spread the word!)

5.The winner will be announced on our Facebook page in
October

Online dating is a contemporary hook-up option for singles, which many now consider as an alternative to traditional methods, and perhaps a new fandangle approach they have yet to try.

There is literally a whole entire universe that comprises single status people (national industry reports suggesting 4.5 million annually) covertly co-existing beneath the radars of those not looking for love, and it seems to be thriving.

The year 1995 marked the official launch of the World Wide Web, followed shortly after by the registration of familiar dating sites such as eHarmony and RSVP. Social media and mobile phone technology evolved dating site capabilities further. Now there are even sites that match daters to the best dating site.

With over 680,000 single mothers with dependents in Australia, the online dating service industry is a lucrative business.

Choice offers useful, comprehensive and current comparative data on popular sites and their suitability against criteria of personal demographic, cost and privacy.

They also provide advice on how to stay physically safe and financially protect against scammers preying on lonely hearts.

Dating and romance scams account for over 30 per cent of total financial losses reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (A.C.C.C.) as arising from scams activity.

The A.C.C.C. reports less than two per cent of online dating sites provided specific information about the costs of their service before becoming a member. They are also aware of instances of online operators that have created and operated their own profiles.

Following a voluntary 18 year dating hiatus to focus on raising her two daughters, 44 year old single mother, Angela, was ready to find her Prince CharmingChar.

Meeting in a public place for first dates felt awkward, surreal and unnatural, “like the world had gone backwards,” Angela says.

“My first date was with a guy that shall be known as the green Kermit. Initially there were a lot of texts followed by a bar, a dinner, and then on the third date a ‘come home with me’ and demands of sex. Let it be known, it is quite the online expectation by the third date!

“Kermit immediately ceased contact following my refusal and, although this bruised my ego, I realised I had dodged bullet. Then much wiser, I asked for complete honesty at the onset, with “Red wine over White Linen Shirt Man” kindly complying by saying he didn’t feel anything after our first date.”

Angela recognises that her online dating journey pulled her out of her comfort zone to overcome her social anxieties.

However, she has grown tired of excusing the poor behaviour of those preying on her emotional vulnerabilities.

Regardless of her negative experiences, Angela acknowledges, “There are definitely people having positive experiences, and those with already active social lives investing in this alternative phenomenon with a different lens.”

“It can be a tool for people to connect, if they feel isolated or alone and provide opportunities for human connection they may otherwise not have had,” says Angela wisely.

“Your experience really will depend on what you are looking for,” explains recently separated 44 year old mother of three, Rebecca.

Rebecca, married at 18, is far more interested in finding herself than a companion, and so “plays” the Tinder game with her new-found freedom and the energy her recent single status has afforded.

“There was no instruction manual to start online dating, but you soon learn,” says Rebecca who spends about an hour a day flicking through profiles.

“When you are my age, where do you go to meet a decent guy? Yachting? Golf? Only the youngies go to the pub and they always hunt in packs,”

Rebecca muses.

Rebecca’s first experience was with Frenchy who, after eight weeks, still comes over Mondays during his lunch break in an Uber.

He coached Rebecca, telling her of a few items to prepare for his arrival and not to worry about the “small talk”.

“I have needed to learn a new language. The guys all talk in acronyms and sometimes I need to guess what they mean!” excites Rebecca.

Rebecca has also trialled the geo-mapping option offered by Tinder, her online dating service of choice. This option notifies her if someone who is also registered with Tinder is in close proximity to her.

“Online dating is liberating because if someone doesn’t fit my schedule I move on.

“It’s good for me now because I am busy with other things and don’t have time for a relationship,” reflects Rebecca, who is enjoying a whole new world with new experiences.

Rebecca elects not to pay for any additional services or match making data to improve her hook-up outcomes. Without spending a cent, all she need do is “swipe right” if she “likes”.

Fifty-something–year-old Samantha is disgusted by one of her closest friends, who also uses Tinder and other sites to meet men.

“I don’t want any part of it and have told her to stop sending me photos of her Tinder date’s genitals, alongside face shots. That’s just ugly,” she says.

“I feel quite offended and even prudish (which I never thought I would say), violated by some of the things she has shown me.”

Online dating does benefit everyone overall, according to Relationships Australia’s recent research, especially those who are lonely or isolated.

Online dating is the second most preferred way to meet a new partner. The single status online universe has lost its stigma and is out in the open. While true love may not necessarily prevail, online hook-ups are happening all the time, everywhere you look, even if don’t want to see.

A magic touch goes a long way: How expecting mothers can now experience the benefits of day spa pampering, such as pregnancy massages, specifically for mothers-to-be.

Pregnancy. A time of joy, glowing health and a blooming figure. Not to mention cankles, backache, heartburn, piles and, at times, a less than serene temper. It’s a life event that has always fascinated Amy Mitchell, from when she was at high school and guessed there was a pregnant girl in her class, weeks before anyone knew. “I can pick a pregnant woman a mile away,” she says. “It’s something I’ve always been tuned in to. I don’t enjoy being pregnant myself, but I love helping women through it. You never have that time again that you have with your first baby. It’s such a precious thing.”

Amy studied massage therapy after leaving school, completing a business unit as part of her course. “That was a real light bulb moment,” she says. “Marketing and business development are my thing; I have idea after idea.” She started work as a therapist at the age of 19, and particularly enjoyed working with expectant mothers. “I’d get all warm knowing that there was a baby in the room, benefiting from the massage, too.”

But it was only while pregnant with her first child that she spotted that elusive gap in the market. “I felt so sick in my first few weeks, and all I wanted was a good massage, but every spa I approached refused to treat me because they didn’t touch anyone who was less that 12 weeks pregnant.”

I’d get all warm knowing that there was a baby in the room, benefiting from the massage, too.”

After the birth of her daughter Macy, Amy started talking seriously with her husband, Dan, about establishing a pregnancy spa. Taking a leap of faith, they sold their house and the proceeds – their life savings – went towards establishing the first Yummy Mummy Pregnancy Day Spa in Leederville in September 2010. The day the family moved out of their house Amy realised she was pregnant again, with son Fraser, now two. “I know my brain turns to mush at six months so I worked incredibly hard to establish the spa in the first few months. Luckily, we got busy really quickly.”

Since then the business has steadily expanded, with the original spa followed by ones in Woodvale and Kalgoorlie in 2012. “I only ever planned to have one, but the opportunities have just fallen into my lap. I’m now thinking of a franchise across Australia,” she says.

Taking a leap of faith, they sold their house and the proceeds – their life savings – went towards establishing the first Yummy Mummy Pregnancy Day Spa in Leederville in September 2010.

Like many self-employed mothers, Amy has mastered the art of working in short bursts, and switching from work to parenting as required, with a bit of paid childcare thrown in. “Being my own boss means I’ve been able to find the right work-life balance. It hasn’t always been like this, I’ve had to learn along the way. I once sent out 30,000 flyers with the wrong telephone number on them, and that was when I realised I couldn’t do both mum and work at once, so about a year ago we found some part-time childcare for the kids. I generally do a couple of hours a day and have two full days when the kids are at day care. I have a very short attention span so it happens in spurts, and then the rest of the time I’m just Mummy.’

She’s also highly appreciative of her husband, who provides both practical support and a patient sounding board for her endless business ideas. “He’ll take the kids to the park if I need to get something out fast. And he’s the polar opposite of me, more of a details person. I’ll come up with an idea and he’ll say, ‘So how are you going to do it?’ He’s been an awesome support, I couldn’t do it without him.’

“Being my own boss means I’ve been able to find the right work-life balance. It hasn’t always been like this, I’ve had to learn along the way.

And her number one tip for success?

Prioritise. My To-Do lists are huge, but I have to be content with what I can realistically achieve – I do absolute essentials, and just try and take a couple of steps forward each day so I am constantly moving forward.”