Photography: Trish Lee Hair and makeup: Regina Gao Words: Georgie Abay
It doesn’t take long to define your priorities once you become a mother. For Bronwyn McCahon, the stylish editor of Cosmopolitan Australia magazine, family has always come first, which is admirable given she’s been the editor of Cosmo for close to a decade. During that time, she’s also given birth to three children, Harper, 4, Grace, 2 and most recently a baby boy, Theodore, now 7 months. McCahon moved from Brisbane to Sydney when she was 21-years-old and began her career in magazines. She never looked back. My priorities changed but my career still remained really important to me, she reflects on how she adjusted to her new life as a mother and life as an editor of one of the country’s biggest glossy magazines. Four years into motherhood, she says: ”The biggest challenge is getting the balance right and thats ongoing. There are constant sacrifices that have to be made because you cant be everywhere at once and that can be disappointing, but you work through it and keep juggling.” Like a lot of women, having the two, a fulfilling family life and rewarding career – simultaneously balances her. ”Motherhood is basically multi-tasking on steroids”, she says. “I surprise myself sometimes with the amount of stuff I can get done in a small amount of time. Overall, I think the biggest surprise of becoming a mum is how much you can love someone. I knew I would love my kids, but the reality is just next level. Its almost suffocating how fiercely I love them.” Her sunny home in Sydneys Bondi is filled with beautiful photographs of her family. McCahon might edit a magazine for women but judging by her home, she’d be equally as qualified to edit an interior magazine. ”Hardly a week goes by where I don’t appreciate how lucky I am to live so close to the beach”, she says. ”Our interior style is evolving. We love splashes of colour and comfort and ease is key at this stage in our lives with such a young family.” We caught up with McCahon to talk everything from sleep training (tip: call sleep nurse Jane Surgenor) to personal style
On her career:
“Magazines have been my whole career. I moved from Brisbane to Sydney when I was 21 and started working for Cosmo’s then-editor Mia Freedman as her P.A. I learnt everything from Mia. She coached, guided, moulded and inspired me and has since become one of my closest friends. I worked my way through the ranks at Cosmo as Photo Editor, Beauty Editor and Features Editor before reliving my teen angst as Editor of Dolly. After two years at Dolly, I returned to Cosmo as Editor and eight years later I’m still here!
On juggling work with a young family:
I have the most phenomenal nanny who loves the kids almost as much as me. She keeps the home front ticking along and I have a really clever team of girls at work who make getting the job done reasonably seamless. My husband is a great man and such a good dad. He’s got a full-on job himself, but also appreciates my career and while we definitely have our arguments, I think we’ve got better at making things work with each new baby. So basically, I juggle it all by having great people around me.
Everything changes when you become a mum, from the way you spend your money through to the dynamics between you and your husband. On a superficial level, being a mum has highlighted how much time I used to squander getting dressed in the morning. What on earth did I do for a full luxurious hour each day before work? My mum gave me the best advice about motherhood. She raised five kids and is still hands-on with 13 grandchildren and used to tell me: This too shall pass. When things are tough, be it sleepless nights, tantrums, colic, sickness, eventually it WILL pass.
On health and beauty:
The amount of steps and products I use has definitely changed and my ‘routine’ is different every day depending on time. Having been a beauty editor, I know what I should be doing, but most days its just a morning shower, squirt of Clarins Double Serum followed by Cetaphil moisturiser (shoosh, I know its bad). At night I cleanse with any random cleanser/makeup remover followed by Ultraceuticals C10 firming serum and Estee Lauder Nutritious Night crème. I’ve never been good with exercise. I wish I was a more disciplined person. The only time I can honestly say I exercised regularly is when I was hypnotised to exercise for a story in Cosmo (side note: it worked for six months). I’m not desperately unhappy with my body, but after three kids it’s just a bit mushy in places. I have started doing Pilates reformer once a week to strengthen my core, we’ll see how long that lasts! Oh and then there was that time recently when I took the kids to a trampoline park and I’m pretty sure I wet myself after three seconds of jumping. So I’m definitely more conscious of doing my pelvic floor exercises now, does that count?
It took me a while to fall pregnant with my first (Harper). I had a thyroid condition, which was screwing things up, but after 15 months and one miscarriage I finally fell pregnant. I was anxious for most of that first pregnancy, I think I kept waiting for something to go wrong. With Grace I loved it. I felt good, I wasn’t nervous and I had a toddler at home, which kept me busy and made the time fly. The third time around my body really surrendered. I had terrible back pain and the physical drain of having two toddlers that only wanted to be carried my mummy took its toll. In the last few weeks of my pregnancy with Theo I think I saw my Osteo more than I saw my husband. I had a stretch and sweep and some hardcore acupuncture the day before I gave birth which finally produced some action a week before due date.
On her childrens rooms:
The girls’ rooms are bright and colourful and Theo’s room is a little more monochrome. Most of my decor inspiration is taken from Instagram. Some of my favourite things are: the Cat print from OMM design – Grace is obsessed with cats. The Bat Boys print – as soon as I found out I was having a boy I got all superhero-happy. This cool little print is from Little Pop Studio. Bonne Nuit – I saw this on Instagram and loved it. I went straight to Spotlight and got myself some paper mache letters and spray paint and got my craft on. Red Hand Gang hangers cute and functional! #winning. Urban Wall gold dot decals – The next best thing to wallpaper. Lovekikixx prints – another Instagram find. Super cute slogans.
I’m a big fan of routine. All my babies were reflux, non-sleepers and implementing routine was what saved me. With both the girls, I had a sleep whisperer come and teach them how to self-settle (her name is Jane Surgenor and she is actually magic). Jane not only gave my kids the ‘gift of sleep’, she set the kids on a routine, which gave my husband and I our lives back. The third time around, I locked Theo into a routine from the get-go. I had him going to bed at 7pm from when he was around six weeks old. There was a bit of protest to start, but he got the idea quickly and even though I knew the rest of my night was going to be all over the place, at least it gave my husband and I the chance to eat dinner and connect without kids for an hour or so each night. Life changing. I also find structure makes it so much easier to make plans and book appointments. I can see how the day will roll out and know when I have windows of opportunity to get things done or go places. Jane Surgenor also taught the girls to sleep when they were five months old. I was a shattered mess with the girls and Jane swooped in and saved me by getting the girls on routines both day and night. Theo was a calmer baby and I basically applied routine from the very beginning and stuck to it.
On sleep deprivation:
To combat sleep deprivation I survived on coffee, sugar and anything that made my day more bearable. I was lucky that with each of the kids, my mum came to stay every few weeks and would often do the night shift to let me catch-up on sleep. The truth is it’s hard, there’s no secret, you ask for help and you survive. This too shall pass remember! My advice to new mothers is to accept help when it’s offered and ask for it when it’s needed.
On her home:
We bought our house just before Harper was born in 2010. My favourite room is our living room/kitchen – it’s where all the action happens and it’s bright and airy. To me, a happy home is filled with laughter, noise, chaos, tickles, cubby houses, story-time, fast wifi, wine, coffee, cuddles, sleep – all in equal doses!
On her personal style:
On the weekend I’m in a T-shirt, ripped jeans and espadrilles/sneakers, maybe with the odd drop-crotch thrown in for variety. For work, my go-to is probably jeans, heels and a blazer. Although Im quite enjoying a midi skirt and pumps lately. My style has changed in small ways since becoming a mother; it’s a mix of working with how my body has changed post babies and the natural evolution of getting older and not feeling ‘appropriate’ in certain styles anymore. I’ve become good at sussing out colours and fabrics that work well with messy kids and help me get out the door faster (i.e. don’t require ironing!).
On surviving motherhood:
It’s definitely physically demanding. My kids are all 19 months apart so they’re really young and all require help doing pretty much everything from getting dressed and eating to going to the toilet. Emotionally, for me the hardest is trying to balance my time with each one and make sure they’re all feeling equally loved. During this shoot Grace had the biggest melt-down I’ve ever seen so she wasn’t in many of the photos, which instantly makes me feel guilty that I’m igniting her ‘middle child’ syndrome. Guilt. Constant guilt over something! On a happier note, the best part is just watching these three little personalities develop. There are times I love them so hard I feel like I could snap their bones from hugging too tight. I love seeing the kids sleepy faces first thing in the morning. And of course, the quiet calm at the end of the day when they’re all asleep.”
Bronwyns little list of loves:
A coffee in the morning.
A wine at night (which might actually be two).
Sunday mornings in bed with husband and kids. It’s the only morning we’re not rushing to get out the door and it’s nice to take time to chat and have extended cuddles with the kids.
Sitting in the sun at cafe by myself, just for half an hour and thinking about nothing and everything.
Getting a mani and pedi with my two girls.
Pushing the pram along the boardwalk at Bondi on a beautiful day. Even after living here for over a decade, it still takes my breath away some days.
My Mum and Dad.
The pure love and excitement in Harpers eyes when I occasionally leave work early and pick her up from kindy as a surprise.
Impromptu dinners with friends.
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Such a gorgeous interview and stunning images.
Love Bronwyn’s quote, “motherhood is basically multi-tasking on steroids” – it’s so true!
We loved that comment too Kate! So so true x
This is one of my favorite profiles. So refreshingly honest and real and relatable
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