I still have a messy bedroom, wear a lot of leopard-print and enjoy watching TV shows that are less than family-appropriate. When you’re a kid, you think parenthood will change those things, and that you’ll have grown-up haircuts and wear shirts with buttons. But I’ve changed in ways I never thought I would. My patience is all for my children now – I’m more picky with who I give my time to, and I live my life much more consciously. Time is sweet, and rarely wasted.
I can hardly remember what a normal day was like before I had kids. I know I spent a lot of time going for walks with girlfriends, blogging, snowboarding in winter, working at a little Montessori school, drinking beer, freelance writing and doing yoga.
The complete dependence two little people have on me is a lot easier than I thought it would be. Caring for them is just what I do – it’s like caring for myself, just life, you know? But what is hard is the constant vigilance: I can’t switch off, even when my kids aren’t with me. That aspect is so much more draining than I could ever have imagined.
Apart from the fact that I didn’t have a Miranda Kerr-style bounce back after giving birth, what surprised me about becoming a mum is how much it has brought me closer to my partner and parents.
Getting and staying pregnant totally consumed me for a while there – I wish I just chilled out and enjoyed that time, you know? I could have been going on yoga retreats, writing a book, laying on a beach in Thailand, or writing a book in a yoga retreat in Thailand. I wish I’d known that it would eventually happen and to just enjoy the baby-free world I lived in.
Reading blogs that inspire me, living by the beach and my Montessori experience helps me parent well. The latter is especially helpful when all the guilt-ridden and over-protective parenting narrative is swirling around. I know that encouraging my children’s independence is beneficial to them, and that I should never feel guilty for letting them discover the world without me micromanaging their every move.
The best parenting advice I’ve been given? I was told once there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing – that has always stuck. Also, if you don’t teach your child the difference between right and wrong, one day a judge will.
On working as a creative…
I was teaching drama for years before I studied journalism – the aim was to be a reporter but I fell in love with features writing and blogging. I graduated from that degree with a three week old under my gown and instantly knew that reporting was not in the plan anymore. I started Patchwork Cactus soon after and it just felt like home, so I suppose I’ve always been a creative, but it has only been the past four or so years that I have been totally living my dream.
The best creative advice I’ve received is actually a theatre concept – trust the way you did it first. Throughout the rehearsal process you get sick of your jokes and want to change them, but your audience are only going to hear them once so you need to trust what was funny in the first place. I apply that concept every day in my creative projects.
I broke into my line of creative work when I was on maternity leave. For so many women in creative fields, having babies has been the golden ticket in terms of career change. All of a sudden I got to step back and really give my time to the things I cared about.
Two things drive me in my creative endeavours: 1) My desire to avoid getting a ‘real job’, and 2) My ADD-style personality – I get an idea and just have to do it RIGHT now. If it doesn’t work, I shrug and move on. I rarely dwell or overthink things and this minimises the self-doubt and procrastination.
Something that has really changed my level of happiness is just trying to enjoy things for what they are rather than what I envisioned them to be – $5 pizza for dinner may not be homemade organic sushi, but it’s still pretty sweet.
On having time to be creative…
Because both my kids sleep past 7:30am I can get up early and just be by myself. My eldest also goes to preschool one day a week, so having an only child for a day is a huge help! But mostly, I have a completely family-friendly job. I write posts for parenting sites and blog about my life, so them being around is kind of imperative to the process.
What does it mean for you to be an Australian creative who is also a mother?
It means everything to me. I was born in Ireland, and although I have been here since I was five and totally identify as Aussie, I don’t take anything that Australia has to offer for granted. I love how humble our culture is, but it does mean that self-promotion, both as a creative and someone who dispenses a bit of parenting advice, can feel really weird.
32-year-old Babs is the blogger behind Patchwork Cactus. She lives with her partner and kids, Scout, 4, and Squawk, 2, on the NSW Central Coast. Visit her at Patchwork Cactus and follow her on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.