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

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

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

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

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

“Grey!” the Child said, eyes sparkling.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hmmm,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Really,” said the Child, hopefully.

“Really,” I said.

HA!

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

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

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

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

Ahem.

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

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

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

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

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

“That HOWLING AND SCREAMING,” I yelled.

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

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

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

My husband said nothing.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

To let your kids’ play in dirt, or to not let your kids’ play in the dirt; that is the question. Maggie Dent, an acclaimed parenting guru, suggests that kids should be getting back to playing in nature as there are so many benefits for kids’ playing outside rather than their lives’ being dominated by technology.

If you were to mention the name Maggie Dent in parenting circles chances are someone would have subscribed to her values, heard her on radio, attended a seminar or read one of her five books in the quest for answers on how to survive in the world of parenting.

Maggie could never be accused of tiptoeing around the truth. She holds strong on her values and isn’t afraid to voice them. And while her work touches a vast array of issues across the parenting spectrum, from homework and education, emotional development, bullying and suicide, gender differences, play, crisis management and building resilience, her heart never wavers from its true ambition of helping parents raise happy and healthy kids in the modern world.

When Offspring spoke with Maggie she straight up offered to let us in on a secret. A little secret about raising children. All ears tuned in and we waited with baited breath. She may have ensnared a copy of that mythological user manual that failed to be handed out to us when our children were born.

“The secret is dirt,” Maggie quips. And we suspect she quite enjoyed our initial state of confusion. “Dirt, and lots of it.”

“The secret is dirt, and lots of it.”

Could it really be that simple? In her familiar, passionate, banter Maggie went on to explain through her seventeen years of teaching in Western Australian schools and then working as a counsellor, as well as raising four boys into happy and well rounded young men, that the real secret to raising kids is to let them play, explore and have fun while allowing them the chance to make mistakes, get dirty and occasionally get hurt.

“Today’s modern lifestyles, full of game consoles, social media and television is having a consequence on our children’s development and kids as young as five are suffering clinical depression and anxiety disorders,” Maggie explains.

“We have created a world so busy, so competitive and an education system so focused on academic results that we are providing our children with fewer and fewer opportunities for unstructured play. We are diminishing their freedom to just be kids.”

Without hesitation Maggie finger-points NAPLAN testing as well as compulsory starts to pre-primary years as some of the main catalysts.

“We now have a world full of information available at our finger tips but we rely on Google instead of instinct.”

“The irony is that 20 years ago children were turning up to Year One better prepared and with less learning delays, stress and anxiety related illnesses and hyper-sensitive behaviours than the children of today. We now have a world full of information available at our finger tips but we rely on Google instead of instinct and sweeping national standards of achievement rather than tuning into the individual child,” she says.

“We spend so much time trying to safely guide our children and prevent bad things from happening to them that we are dissolving their ability to judge risk for themselves which ironically sets them up for disaster in this unpredictable world.”

Buoyant with enthusiasm, Maggie divulges how play teaches us to learn to wait, to take turns, to develop the art of strategy, to lose and to win graciously. It’s also fantastic exercise and can reduce stress.

 

Perhaps most importantly, unstructured play stimulates our curiosity, our “seeking mechanism”. An under-active seeking mechanism in adulthood can contribute to a person staying stuck in an unloving relationship, or a boring and soulless job. And no one wants to sign their child up for that!

“If we, as parents, teachers, indeed, as a society, don’t start taking play more seriously and allow our children to take a few risks, we are denying them the opportunity to be resilient human beings,” and the sense of urgency in her voice is clear.

Sadly, the problem doesn’t discriminate – country or city, outback or coast – somewhere over the last ten years parenting became a competition with the perception of having to be a perfect parent and also having the perfect child. This in turn is increasing anxiety in our kids.

“I have never met a perfect human being so why do we pressure our kids to be exceptional and perfect? There is no perfect child, parent or teacher. There never was nor will be. Humans have flaws,” she says.

“If we, as parents, teachers, indeed, as a society, don’t start taking play more seriously and allow our children to take a few risks, we are denying them the opportunity to be resilient human beings.”

So are we doomed or is there a solution? Maggie assures us all is not lost.

“Children need to know they are valued and loved. Feeling invisible or unloved causes enormous stress to a child’s nervous system. Often children can become emotionally needy and anxious about getting the love they yearn,” she says.

 

“Remember, children do not see all the cooking, washing and cleaning as signs of love and connection. To feel loved, children need to hear the words, have loving touch and know that you are ‘present’ to them.”

It sounds easy. But in reality parents are busy people. Many parents work or have a litany of demands upon them and limited capacity to play without time constraint. An excuse maybe, but for many, this is reality.

“Anyone with young children in their household needs to make play a priority,” Maggie is staunch on this point. “Spontaneous moments of connection are more valuable to a child than timetabled quality time.”

You can put your diary down.

Somewhere over the last ten years parenting became a competition with the perception of having to be a perfect parent and also having the perfect child.

Often the only time in our busy days, when we can really relax, focus and connect with our children is at bedtime. Perfect. Maggie describes how following a loving bedtime ritual every night is an extremely powerful way of anchoring your love for your child and reducing anxiety.

Maggie gives the tip that the last thing your child should hear every night before entering the land of nod is how much you love them and fostering the concept of a love that transcends all boundaries and absences. A concept she has aptly named a love bridge.

“I always told my boys ‘I love you more than all the grains of sand on every beach, more than all the stars in the night sky and more than all the hairs on all the bears’ and they still remember it,” she says.

“It’s about creating a sense of connection even in absence. For children, particularly under four years, repeating the concept nightly and planting the idea of the enormity of your love can create an almost tangible sense that you are always with them.”

 

“Spontaneous moments of connection are more valuable to a child than timetabled quality time.”

The love bridge can do wonders for anxiety in children (and alleviate some parental guilt for times when you can not be with them).

Are you ready for another secret? It’s about presence not presents. With Christmas just around the corner, Maggie reminds us that children are naturally creative thinkers and don’t need the latest fancy toys to predict and channel their play, instead the best gift would be spending time together discovering, playing and making magical memories. That might mean going away on holidays together or just spending time at home.

“It’s important not to be swayed by advertising and commercial pressures and enjoy a little of the magic that comes but once a year.”

Maggie’s best piece of advice?

“Have fun and spend as much time as you can with your child in the first three foundation years because children who experience joy and delight through free play are psychologically stronger and a have greater capacity to overcome adversity in the adolescent years.”

Adoption numbers are on the rise in Hollywood. Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Hugh Jackman and Katherine Heigl are amongst the celebrities who are growing their families by adopting children. Read about what other stars are doing the same and how their life has changed.

 

Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie

“They have programs in their countries [for] each of them we’re starting…They are from their country and they are of their country and they should know that.”

A-listers Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are parents to six children: Maddox, 12, Pax, 9, Zahara, 8, Shiloh, 7, and twins Knox and Vivienne, 5.

Their three eldest children were adopted from Cambodia, Vietnam and Ethiopia — although, Angie said she’s lost track of the details. “I couldn’t tell you in my own home who’s adopted and who’s not,” Angelina recently said.

“It doesn’t cross my mind,” she added. “There is something really wonderful when you adopt a child from another country because that whole country enters your house. We have different languages in our house, we have different flags up in our house, we have different food and culture and discussions and we go to their countries.”

The Oscar-winner wants her children to one day give back to their homelands.

“They have programs in their countries [for] each of them we’re starting. There’s a TB/AIDS clinic being built for Zahara; there’s a clinic already for Mad[dox]. So each of them will take that responsibility. They are from their country and they are of their country and they should know that, it’s part of their family, we are their family but so is their country.”

 

Charlize Theron

“‘Would you please take me to orphanage, so that I can go and adopt a baby?’

Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron shocked fans with her baby news in March. The actress adopted a baby boy named Jackson.

Charlize opened up about a letter she wrote at eight years of age, sharing her plans for a future adoption.

“My mother found [it]. It said, ‘Would you please take me to orphanage, so that I can go and adopt a baby?’ I always knew I would adopt – always,” she shared.

 

Sandra Bullock

“It was like he had always been a part of our lives. All I said when I met him was, ‘Oh, there you are.’”

Not only did Sandra Bullock become an Academy Award-winner in 2010, she also become a mum. The Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close actress adopted a New Orleans-born boy, Louis, in January 2010.

Now three years old, Louis has become Sandra’s greatest joy. “He’s just perfect, I can’t even describe him any other way,” she gushed.

Sandra opened up about the first time she laid eyes on her gorgeous son.

“The first time I met Louis, it was like the whole outside world got quiet,” she said. “It was like he had always been a part of our lives. All I said when I met him was, ‘Oh, there you are.’”

 

Madonna

“I was accused by a female Malawian judge that because I was divorced, I was an unfit mother.”

The Queen of Pop has adopted two children from Malawi – David, 8, and Mercy, 6 – and has since spoken about the experience.

“This was an eye opening experience” and “a real low point in my life,” the Like a Virgin singer said of adopting David.

“I didn’t know that trying to adopt a child was going to land me in another sh– storm,” she added. “I was accused of kidnapping, child trafficking, using my celebrity muscle to jump ahead in the line, bribing government officials, witchcraft, you name it. I could get my head around people giving me a hard time for simulating masturbation onstage or publishing my Sex book, even kissing Britney Spears at an awards show, but trying to save a child’s life was not something I thought I would be punished for. . . In any case, I got through it. I survived.”

The Material Mum was more prepared for her second adoption.

“When I adopted Mercy James, I put my armour on,” the popstar said. “I tried to be more prepared. I braced myself. This time I was accused by a female Malawian judge that because I was divorced, I was an unfit mother. I fought the Supreme Court and I won. It took almost another year and many lawyers. I still got the shit kicked out of me, but it didn’t hurt as much. And looking back, I do not regret one moment of the fight.”

 

 

Hugh Jackman

“I’m working on an international campaign to shine a light on the fact that there are 153 million orphans in the world.”

Hugh Jackman is happiest, “being with my family, definitely, without a doubt.”

The sexy Wolverine star and his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, have two adopted children Oscar, 13, and Ava, 8. The hands-on dad said it was a “no-brainer” for them to adopt children in need.

“When we first went to talk to someone in Los Angeles about adoption, I remember, they said, ‘What do you want?’ I said, ‘Well, healthy would be good.’ And they said, ‘Well, what about the race?’ We’d ticked mixed race. And he said, ‘Now, listen. Please don’t, please don’t just tick that because you think it’s the right thing to tick.’ And he said to me, that we turn away children every month who are mixed race, because we can’t find families for them.”

He’s also spoken of the joys of adoption.

“A while back, there was a lot of shame attached to it and parents wouldn’t tell their kids they were adopted,” he said. “What’s great is that the focus is now shifting to the care of the child. We were very fortunate and open – I can’t go into details because of the privacy of the birth parents, but I can tell you it was amicable. Adoption is a wonderful thing to do.”

“I’m working on an international campaign to shine a light on the fact that there are 153 million orphans in the world,” the actor recently said. “If that were a country, it would be the ninth-largest in the world, just ahead of Russia.”

 

Sheryl Crow

A year after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Sheryl Crow adopted her now six year old son, Wyatt. The songstress said she always knew she’d be a mum.

“There was a shift in my life when I got diagnosed, [with breast cancer] because it demanded I look at everything and redefine my life,” she said. “I always felt I would be a mum. I have strong maternal instincts.”

The singer went on to adopt a second son, Levi, now three.

“I’ve always had maternal instincts,” she said. “And there are so many different ways you can go about that. My sons didn’t have to be from me. They didn’t have to look like me. I just wanted children to love.”

“They have so much energy and they keep me young!” Sheryl recently told Celebrity Baby Scoop. “I wouldn’t change a thing. I love getting to see things through their eyes.”

Katherine Heigl & Josh Kelley

“She is a special needs baby and because of that it all moved so much faster.”

Grey’s Anatomy star Katherine Heigl and her husband Josh Kelley adopted their daughter Naleigh from Korea when she was 10 months old.

“[Adoption has] been a big part of my life and my family,” Katherine said. “My sister is Korean and my parents adopted her back in the 70s and so I just always knew that this is something I wanted to do.”

Katherine went on to talk about her now four-year-old daughter.

“She is a special needs baby and because of that it all moved so much faster. They wanted to get her to us as quickly as possible.”

The couple went on to adopt a second daughter, Adalaide, domestically, in April. “She’s great! She’s a delicious, beautiful, wonderful child,” the Grey’s Anatomy alum gushed of her new daughter.

Mariska Hargitay

 

Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay and her husband Peter Hermann endured a long and emotionally challenging journey to finally reach their beautiful family of five and now, things couldn’t be better for the happy couple.

“They’re awesome and perfect,” the star said of sons August, 7, and Andrew, 2, and daughter Amaya, 2. “My heart just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

The actress opened up to Ellen DeGeneres about her surprising second adoption.

Just months after bringing home daughter Amaya after an emotionally-trying adoption process, the couple’s lawyer called them to let them know an agency had a newborn boy ready to be adopted as well.

“It was one of those things that we were not expecting at all and my husband and I looked at each other and have never been more sure about anything.”

The Little Couple

“We’ve dealt with prejudice and many challenges.”

The Little Couple’s Dr. Jen Arnold and Bill Klein introduced their three year old son William on the Katie Couric show in April. And just one month later, they had more exciting news to report.

After years of hoping to become parents and suffering through fertility issues, the couple announced they adopted a 19 month old girl from India they have named Zoey.

“We’re so delighted that Zoey will be joining our family and that William will have a little sister coming home very soon,” the reality TV couple said in a statement in May.

Zoey also has a form of dwarfism like her adoptive parents and brother, Will.

“We’ve dealt with prejudice and many challenges,” Jennifer said of her life experiences. “I feel very lucky and fortunate that I have the wonderful life I have.”

 

 

 

Jillian Michaels

“They say, ‘We have a referral for you,’ which means they’ve matched you with a child…and in less than 24 hours she says, ‘By the way, I’m pregnant.’”

The Biggest Loser star Jillian Michaels and her partner Heidi Rhoades became parents to two children in May: A 2-year-old daughter Lukensia and a newborn son Phoenix.

“About three and a half years ago I began dating my partner Heidi,” Jillian shared on her road toward motherhood. “We had a very easy going, comfortable and no-pressure relationship. And a year or so into our relationship, I decided I wanted to adopt.”

The celebrity trainer went on to say the adoption process was not easy, and after a year and a half of waiting for a referral from Africa, she switched gears.

“I switched all my paperwork over to Haiti and I get a phone call one day,” she shared. “Heidi is now trying to get pregnant for five months now. They say, ‘We have a referral for you,’ which means they’ve matched you with a child. I was like, ‘This is unbelievable, this is great!’ I come home and tell Heidi, and in less than 24 hours she says, ‘By the way, I’m pregnant.’”

Being a mother often means that you need to give up the things that you love, but these mums have found a way to still be mums do what they love – Surfing!

At first glance they look like any other surfers, bobbing up and down on their boards waiting patiently for the next decent wave. But scan your gaze back to the beach and you’ll soon see the difference, there’s more than a beach towel waiting on the sand for this surfing clan – in fact there’s a brood. Meet Perth’s Surfing Mums – a dedicated group of women who share a passion for surfing and parenting, and see no reason why the two can’t be combined.

It’s not a new phenomenon; the first Surfing Mums group started in Byron Bay with two new mums who were feeling a little lost. They were brought together by their love of surfing and the frustration at having to now sit on the beach with their babies just watching the waves. So they started to meet on a regular basis, taking turns to look after each other’s children while the other went surfing.

Word quickly spread and the idea moved from State to State, and now there are 15 Surfing Mums groups nationally, comprising Surfing Mums Australia.

In 2008 the group became an incorporated association, so members pay either an annual or half-yearly fee and are fully covered by public liability insurance.

The mums get together annually in Byron Bay for the group’s annual general meeting, which of course also factors in plenty of time for them to take advantage of the many amazing local breaks.

WA has two main groups in Perth and Geraldton, with Perth’s group comprised of about 20 members who meet each week for surfing and “beach-sitting” duties. Members are encouraged to buddy up and look after each other’s children, who range in age from six weeks to 15 years old, on a one-on-one basis for a designated time period, before swapping babies for boards.

Cara Williams has been a member of Surfing Mums Perth for two years and is now the national secretary, but she says the group has given her far more than just the chance to go surfing.

As a single mum hailing from the east coast, Cara says meeting others who shared her passion for surfing and encouraging a healthy, outdoor lifestyle was an invaluable support for her.

“For me it’s not just a group, I consider these women to be my friends,” Cara says. “It’s such a great support network.”

There is no question that Cara is mad about surfing, she’s been a keen surfer since the age of 15 and her daughter Lacey Lane is named after a surf break in Queensland. After finding out about Surfing Mums from her Mothers Group, Cara says she thought it was too good to be true and quickly joined up when Lacey was just six months old. She’s never looked back.

“Surfing Mums has given me so much, both mentally and physically and I love that we’re teaching our kids to be active throughout life.”

“It’s such a welcoming group of people and I think that attitude comes from our co-ordinator, Claire Romea Gorton, who is now the national president too,” she says. “We just adore her and she encourages a really friendly and non-judgemental environment. Surfing Mums has given me so much, both mentally and physically and I love that we’re teaching our kids to be active throughout life. We’ve got such a great mix of members and there is a range of ages, some in their late forties and one who only learnt to surf when she in her forties but is amazing. But everyone is really passionate about living a healthy, outdoor lifestyle.”

New members are encouraged to join, even if you’re not a skilled surfer or have never surfed before, they can arrange a few lessons before you join the regular weekly meets. Although it’s aimed at mums, the group is not limited to women – dads and carers are also encouraged to come along.

If you’re not in Perth or Geraldton but love the idea, Surfing Mums is also happy to support the formation of new groups.

According to Cara, one of the keys to success is the buddy-up system, so new members feel more comfortable about hitting the water knowing that their child will be well cared for in their absence.

 

“For me it’s not just a group, I consider these women to be my friends,” Cara says. “It’s such a great support network.”

“In order to do it right, the mums pair up so it’s not just a mass of women and children, there is more responsibility and it works well,” she says. “I get to go out and enjoy a surf knowing that Lacey is in good hands. The Perth group generally meets at Trigg in summer and Cottesloe in winter, or wherever the waves are best, as co-ordinated by Claire.” They also take two annual surf trips. One is a closer, long weekend trip where families are encouraged to come along and the other is the main trip, which this year was an all-mums surfing trip to Java. And Cara maintains that “surfing trip” is not just code for a glorified relaxing holiday with cocktails by the pool, these mums mean business. Picture nine women walking through the airport, each with one or two board bags – clothes stuffed in around their beloved boards. This is clearly not a shopping trip.

“We surfed from dawn until dusk, it was amazing,” Cara says. “It’s something that a lot of male surfers have had the opportunity to experience but not a lot of women, especially mums. We got back and pretty much re-booked for a trip in April, with another mum and I even signing ourselves up to learn Indonesian before we head back.”

 

For more information:

www.surfingmums.com

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.”