#mygracetale: Stella Gaffney, Teacher and Blogger, Mother to Eva & Luca



The #mygracetales series puts the focus on the lives and routines of The Grace Tales’'s wonderful and inspiring community of readers...

To be featured on the site, tag your Instagram photos with #mygracetale. This week we’re featuring teacher and blogger Stella Gaffney from the Central Coast region in Australia.


Motherhood has taught me…

Two important virtues. The first, admiration. I have immense admiration for mothers who are juggling a career and young children. Woman managing these two entities deserve a medal. I also have equal amount of admiration for stay-at-home mothers. Many of my friends have chosen to put their careers on hold and be at home full-time. I admire them for committing to the hardest job in the world. The second thing I’ve learnt is to be non-judgmental. Before having children, if I saw a mother in a shop with a child using an iPad or eating a chocolate bar, I would catch myself saying “I would never let my child do that”. When I became a parent everything changed. I have become broadminded and more open. If a mother needs to use an iPad so she can get through her grocery shopping then so be it. We need to be as supportive as possible and not pass judgment on the parenting style and choices of others. When I am out and I see a mother struggling with her toddler, I am sympathetic and I know not to judge because that could be me tomorrow.


The advice I’d give my younger self is..

Don’t sweat the little things. Things will work out beyond your wildest dreams.


When we found out we were pregnant I felt extremely anxious…

Michael and I had never been around little children before so everything was new. I remember going into a baby store in that first trimester and feeling completely overwhelmed. I looked at Michael and asked “do we need everything in this store?”. Those first few months were difficult and the changes, challenges and joys were both exciting and daunting. There is nothing like motherhood to shape you as a person. Motherhood gives you the platform to exercise the fruits of the spirit – love, joy, patience, kindness and self control.


I have been a secondary high school teacher for over ten years and this year I made the transition into tertiary education…

I teach english at the local university. I feel extremely blessed to do something that I truly love. Many people spend their lives in a job they simply tolerate. You can’t do that with teaching – the students will see right through you and the demands of the job will wear you down. We all remember having teachers at school whose hearts were not in the job. Students respond to teachers who are relational, passionate and know how to make their subject and content relevant. Teachers go into the job because they love the subject they teach but good teachers will love the connections you can make with students too. I am thankful that my work is purposeful. Everyday I interact with students who will go on to do great things, be influential leaders, shape businesses and moreover be good mothers and fathers.


My blog Saint James Road was created when I was on maternity leave and I was finding it difficult to feel connected…

I really needed a goal, something to do everyday just for me. Something outside the world of Play School and Fireman Sam. Like many first time mothers, my new role became all consuming and the blog was an outlet for me. Sometimes the text is evocative, other times it’s simply about what I am reading, enjoying or what new dish I’ve discovered. There are plenty of blogs far more polished but it’s the simplicity and rawness of the blog that keeps my readers coming back.


My career changed after the birth of my children…

There was definitely a shift in my heart and for first time in my career I couldn’t be ‘all things’ to my work. If a meeting was scheduled at the last minute, I couldn’t always attend without a number of things aligning. Before leaving for maternity leave with Eva I was part of the senior school management team. When I returned from maternity leave, my superior asked me if I would clear my desk and share it with another part timer – albeit a seemingly innocent request, it definitely made me feel less valued. Then after returning from maternity leave with my son I felt like I had to fight for my job. These things are still happening in the workplace and I am passionate about woman feeling valued, supported and encouraged as they navigate their new place in the workforce. At the same time I believe becoming a mother made me a better teacher. When parents would come to see me with concerns about their child, I felt a connection with them. Every parent wants nothing but the best for their son or daughter and that was certainly crystalised once I became a parent.


When I became a mother, for the first time, I felt inadequate…

I would take Eva to the park and see a multitude of woman dressed in their Lorna Jane active gear. They looked so together and would never forget to pack their child’s sunscreen (like I often did). Thankfully I had an incredibly supportive husband, parents and a few wonderful friends who gathered around me and made me feel like I was doing a good job. My friend Jillian gave us the book Save our Sleep by Tizzy Hall. We devoured it and we worked hard to create a sleeping routine. Often when Michael would come home, I would express how hard my day was. It got to the point where I had to start to focus on what was going well and stop dwelling on how hard life had become. It was a matter of renewing my mind and thinking about what was going well.  In many ways, it gets easier as you grow into the role of mother but there are always challenges that surface. When Eva was about to turn two, I decided to try the ‘three day potty training’ it almost killed me and I felt like a complete failure. I remember telling a friend “I can guide a student through the most difficult exams of their life but I can’t teach my toddler to go to the toilet”. Meeting milestones together is extremely rewarding and we have learnt to celebrate the little things.


When Michael and I travelled throughout Europe we spent some time with his family in Holland…

It was here that I became familiar with their expression ‘Gezellig’ the word encapsulates the feeling of being cosy, warm, loved, gregarious and relaxed. Everything needs to be ‘gezellig’ where you dine, where you live, where you socialise. I was drawn to the idea of your home reflecting the latter. A home doesn’t have to be polished or perfect. It’s more about creating an atmosphere that reflects you, your personality and the needs of your family.


When it comes to decorating your home…

Trust your instinct. You know what you like and if you’re drawn to a piece, it’s bound to find the right place in your home. I also think that a neutral tone and palette will always work well as a foundation. Our home has lime washed floors, lots of light, white walls and a beautiful outlook. It always looks fresh and we can add and change things around as the needs of our family change.


When we were growing up our parents didn’t put a lot of thought into styling or decorating our room…

I remember picking out a pink and white study desk but that was about it. What makes a great room is that it’s the child’s special place in the world. I try not to get too caught up in having the perfect everything. A child really doesn’t care if you’ve filled their room with designer pieces and everything is on trend. Let their personality come through. Fill it with things that reflect what they love and who they are becoming. Fundamentally what makes a great kids’ room is that it’s inviting, has personality and is a creative space. Books, buntings, items of clothing, baskets can all be pulled together to create a great space for children.


I love Benjamin Franklins quote “don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”…

I try to do as much as I can the night before. I write lists when we’re going away so that I can avoid the potential for chaos in the morning.

-As told to The Grace Tales

Photography: Amelia Grose Go to www.saintjamesroad.blogspot.com.au


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