Real Talk with Real Mums
As Mother's Day nears, we want to acknowledge the incredible mothers and women in our lives who balance work, life, kids, newborns, and travel plans. Shining a spotlight on stories of women who have made their impact.
This year, we sat down with the women who're doing it all - from within the Handsel team and authors who help bring our gift bundles to life. We wanted to know what this day means to them, and how they balance the demands of parenthood with the rest of their lives.
Get to know Jessica Prescott!
Founder of Mama Goodness, doula, photographer, author and most important of all, a Mother. We asked Prescott everything from tips and tricks to motherhood provided in her new book Life After Birth to what Mother's Day means to her.
What inspired you to write a book about the postpartum period?
Being a postpartum doula made me aware of how little people know about caring for themselves after having a baby. These days, there’s so much emphasis on how being a parent looks rather than how it feels and as a result, we have an entire generation of mums who are more focused on the Pinterest nursery than their own recovery. These days most people are also without a village, and postpartum health checkups are few and far between. Vaughne and I believe that knowledge is power, and we wanted to write a book that will empower people to have a healing and restful fourth trimester and beyond. What we say in the intro of the book is:
"While no book can ever truly prepare you, we hope to provide you with an invaluable guide that enables you to step into this new chapter of life with knowledge, power, grace and ease, even when you’re covered in shit. We want you to feel resourced, nourished and empowered, so you can find magic in the mundane, and celebrate all the big, little and hilarious moments you are gifted by your children every day.
It’s time to rally our entire extended community to think differently about mothers and birthing people, and how to better support them. This is our contribution."
What are some common misconceptions about Motherhood that you hope to dispel with your book?
The biggest one is that Maternity leave is a holiday. Haha! Mums know that this is not the case, but society really needs to get up to speed, as there is far too little cultural support and understanding about how hard intense and difficult the transition into motherhood can be, no matter how much we wanted it.
This is also a lot of emphasis on ‘bouncing back’ - not only to your pre-baby clothing size but also to your pre-baby way of living, despite everything your mind, body and spirit have gone through in becoming a mother.
And then there's that strange societal expectation that once you’ve had your six-week check-up, you’re supposed to slide into your jeans and glide into your favourite cafe with your baby sleeping peacefully in their pram, but this couldn’t be further from reality for most, and this narrative is deeply detrimental to the wellbeing of our culture.
Can you share a particularly helpful piece of advice from the book for new parents?
No matter how rock-solid your relationship is, if you are having a baby with a partner, parenthood will test it beyond your wildest imagination. While it is one of the greatest joys of the human experience, it is also one of the biggest stressors on any relationship.
One of the greatest tools we’ve found is the concept of ‘The Story in My Head’. Many conflicts happen due to miscommunication and we often create stories about our partner’s intentions that are different from reality. When you’re filled with sadness, rage or disbelief at something your partner has said or done (or not done), the ability to say ‘the story in my head is ...’ opens up communication and can help others see things from your perspective without feeling wrongly accused or attacked. It has saved both Vaughne and I from major conflicts in our relationships.
Below is a list of tips that we include in the book, to help people navigate this:
Tips for Dividing the Physical and Mental Load of Raising a Family:
- Work with your strengths. One of you may be good at paying bills, doing laundry and cleaning whereas the other may be good at cooking, managing appointments and tidying.
- Communicate! There is so much that goes into raising happy and healthy little humans, and the mental load can be crippling at times. While we want our partners to be mind readers, they aren’t.
- Relax your standards a little. Things aren’t going to be like this forever. Of course, if having a tidy home is important for your sanity, then having a tidy home should be prioritised. Figure out what your priorities are and what you feel is okay to let slide.
- Have a list. When you both have a clear view of all that needs to be achieved in a day, week or month, it can make the division seem easier.
- Remember, being home with a newborn is a FULL-TIME JOB. Breastfeeding alone takes up more than 30 hours a week. Just because you are home all day does not mean you should be the only one taking care of all of the household chores.
What’s your favourite self-care practice for the postpartum period?
For the immediate days after birth - a herbal sitz every day (we have a recipe in the book for this). If you experience grazing, tearing, tenderness, swelling or haemorrhoids (who hasn’t!) following birth, a herbal sitz is your best friend. The warmth of the water brings blood flow while these herbs are soothing, calming, astringent, antibacterial and healing to all your tender bits.
Once I was out of my fourth trimester - exercise. Gentle at first, and with increasing intensity as I felt ready. Exercise is so important for my mental health, so my husband and I structure our lives so that I can get a workout in as often as I need.
What's a great gift for an expecting new mum?
Life After Birth, of course! Following that, FOOD! Make sure there is a meal train set up so that loved ones can drop food at her door every day or two after she has her baby. A voucher for meals, or a chest freezer filled with meals (if there is space for that in their home) made by her loved ones is also wonderful, and so much more helpful than a onesie that the baby will probably never wear.
What does Mother’s Day mean to you?
We didn’t celebrate it when I was growing up as my own mum isn’t a fan of hallmark holidays, which I understand. But now that I am a mum myself, I love it. It’s a day to be celebrated, and to celebrate being a mum. And my kids love it even more than I do - they make the sweetest cards and gifts at school and daycare and they get so excited bringing them to me in bed in the morning, it’s so cute. My husband and kids treat me like a queen every single day, but Mothers Day is different. It feels like your birthday, but it's always on a Sunday which means you can max relax and do whatever you want. It really is a special day.
Discover more about Garielle Nancarrow
Author of The Birth Space, founder of Gather, Doula and a Mother of three! Nancarrow reveals how she balances it all and some life lessons she has learnt along the way.
Tell us about your motherhood journey and what the main lesson you have learnt as a mother of three?
I am the mother of three beautiful little beings, Camille is about to turn 9 (she was born on Mother’s Day!), Audrey is 6 and Freddie is 2. Camille was born in New York City in 2014. At the time I was working for Victoria’s Secret, leading their editorial department. It was a big job, and I returned to it full time when Camile was four months old. I didn’t even have time to sink into my transition to motherhood - I was back at work so soon. I loved my job but I couldn’t reconcile how to do it and also be a mother. So when Camille was one, I quit and we moved home to Melbourne in search of a more low-key life and to be closer to our families.
I became pregnant with Audrey soon after and just after she was born I trained as a doula. For Camille’s birth in New York I’d hired a doula and I felt so supported that I wanted to also give that support to others. My work as a doula has led to incredible things: opening my women’s space Gather in Melbourne’s inner west, writing two books and allowing me space to be there for my children while also pursuing work I love. The greatest lesson I have learnt in motherhood is to forgive myself. I tried for so long to be the perfect mother but that was a suffocating quest. Now I have a very messy house and very happy children who know that I am human and I don’t always have the answers and sometime.
What advice do you give new & old mothers?
New mothers: hire a postpartum doula, accept all the help and you are not failing if your child is not a “good” sleeper. Sleep is not linear and it is very much tied to your child’s temperament. They won’t need us like this forever and it is biologically very normal for babies and children to need to be close to us at night. Old mothers: I don’t feel experienced enough to give advice to old mothers! So I am going to borrow a quote from my new book The Motherhood Space . . . ‘If I could go back to my younger self, I’d say: let it go. We can be so hard on ourselves and I think that is to the detriment of both us and our children. Every mother has regrets. Every mother has ambivalence. Every mother gets angry. And that’s okay. We need to deconstruct that sanitised perfect mother image that takes up residence in our psyche and be easier on ourselves. We are doing our best.’ Andrea O’Reilly, PhD
Between being a doula, educator, writer, and mum, how do you still find time for yourself?
I think it is really hard for every mother to find time for herself, no matter how many roles she plays. But even though it is hard, we have to find the time and prioritise it or the whole family will suffer. I make sure I attend at least one yoga class a week, I run a bath on Sunday afternoons (and sometimes have five minutes before all my children join me) and I have started to read again. I love reading but haven’t had much time these last few years. It feels good to be making space todo something I love again.
What does Mother’s Day mean to you?
A sacred time to be with my mother and thank her for everything she has done and continues to do for us, a time to remember my beloved grandmother and a day filled with joy and cuddles with my children who always make me a ‘Mother’s Day throne’ from the couch cushions and insist I sit on top of it while they bring me handmade cards and presents. It’s pretty special.
What’s a great gift idea for those expecting or new Mums?
The Birth Space! Plus a hot cup of tea and a good friend to drink it with.
The hands behind your Handsel
From our very own team, we asked the Mother's who are inspiring the office one gift at a time. Hear from Jacinta Hardie-Grant on her experiences of Motherhood.
What is your favourite part about being a Mum?
I have two gorgeous boys, Hudson (2yr) and Parker (1yr).My favourite part of being their Mum is seeing them learn and exploring new things. I love seeing the look of wonder on their face. Nothing is better than seeing them after a day a part. I feel like the luckiest person in the world when they bound up to me with open arms and the biggest smiles across their faces. I also love that my boys are complete opposites, yin and yang we call them. It brings me so much joy seeing their different personalities and how they interact with the world.
What has it been like becoming a Mum?
People always told me that having kids would change your life and it really did, well actually more than changed, it has well and truly split me open. I have learnt so much about myself over the last three years and I feel like having kids has really made me grow in areas that I needed to- presence, (a lot of) patience and gratitude for what I have.
What does Mother’s Day mean to you?
Mother’s Day for me these days is really about celebrating myself and everything I do for our little family unit and taking the opportunity to show my appreciation to the mother’s in my life.. Whether it is my own Mum, my mother in law, my friend’s that have children or others that have given me guidance over the years. Being a Mum, in today’s society, is one of the hardest most demanding jobs in the world. So I think being able to take a moment to really stop and celebrate everything you do really is the ultimate form of self-love.