It’s hard not to smile when talking to Clarins' new ambassador Catriona Rowntree (or be inspired by her glowing skin for that matter, but more on that later). Her infectiously positive nature has the ability to turn anyone’s frown upside down, so it’s no surprise to learn that one of the ways she combats motherhood’s tough times is by simply focusing on the good, and the immense amount of love. As a mother to two sons, Andrew, eight, and Charles, seven, the jet setting TV presenter has learnt the fine art of mixing motherhood with work and travel thanks to over 20 years at the helm of Australia’s most iconic travel show, Getaway...
“Where I go, they go (within reason), but I’ve no idea if they’ve inherited my wanderlust as we’re just out there doing it, travelling up a storm. I am so grateful for any opportunity to explore, to broaden my mind by conversing with people from all over the world, but above all to never complain about where I live. 22 years on, Getaway has confirmed to me that even though Australia is not perfect, we absolutely have the most magnificent backyard that millions of people around the world would trade places within a heartbeat.” While her family life on a Victorian farm is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Sydney, the slow pace and focus on nature has only had a positive effect on the way she raises her sons, and like most mums juggling kids and career, routine and boundaries are key to a happy and smoothly-run home. “We have a small support team around us, but basically my husband and I are a total team. Meals are eaten sitting down at the table, no TV on and definitely no devices at the table, heaven forbid… we do a ‘phone Friday’ where the boys can play on my phone pre and post-school but that’s it, I’m not totally rigid but I loathe screen time, especially living on a farm, heaven help the child that turns up with an iPad, I’d throw it in the bin if I could; routine is king, dinner is generally around the same time each evening, then bath, book and bed.” We recently caught up with the effervescent Rowntree to talk her approach to skin ageing, beauty essentials (hint, Clarins Double Serum and Beauty Flash Balm are key!), her preferred and most avoided holiday destinations with kids, and how she handles (and why she loathes!) screen time… Photography: Julie Adams
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Catriona wears Zimmermann dress
How would you sum up your motherhood journey in three words?
Is motherhood harder or easier than you thought it would be?
I never thought it would be easy in the first place and from the moment my first was born, I’ve asked anyone listening ‘where is the instruction book?’. But our little family unit is so full of love, their affection always seems to outweigh my anxiety and even though I constantly feel flummoxed, I wouldn’t swap this time in my life for anything.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your seven-year-old self?
The dreams you have now may very well come true, your persistence will lead to victory and you are not what your sister says you are. Just keep cuddling your Nan, stick with the positive people in your life and always choose kindness.
We're often rushing. Do you ever sit back and feel proud of yourself?
Oh please, who’s got time for that. I definitely have moments when I stop and treasure the view, or the experience, maybe the beauty of a flower I’ve grown, or the child I’ve guided. But I don’t indulge myself with pats on the back, I’m too busy looking forward, planning future adventures and doing endless washing to take stock of what’s been and done.
How did your approach to body image change after you had kids? How do you approach self-love?
I’ve always known the force of my personality is far greater than the look of my face. I think the fact I’m married to someone who makes me feel loved plays a huge part, but self-esteem aside, I’ve created not one but TWO near ten pounds, healthy babies. What a dead set legend! I refuse to be disrespectful to a body that has the ability to create a human being.
Have you always looked after your skin?
Yes, I grew up in a household of girly girls and at 11 my mum gave us each our own little skin care package. But I’ve always had sensitive skin, so I can’t really muck around with too many products or be lazy with skin care. If my skin is clear, I feel great. The nicest compliment I could get is ‘gee your skin looks good’, which is why I keep up my vitamins, drink a bucket load of water, appreciate a bit of sleep and regular skincare. Consistency is key.
What products do you always take when you travel?
I pack a small cleanser, moisturiser and then have fun with my serum. I do love the Clarins Double Serum and I also put a small amount into my foundation for an extra glow. Love a glow. On the plane, I take my makeup off with wipes, put on a thick layer of moisturiser, spritz like my life depends on it, wipe the lot off pre-landing, then always finish off with the Clarins Beauty Flash. Boom, I’m ready to go, watch out world, here I come!
Talk us through your earliest memories of Clarins?
It’s embarrassing, are you sure you want to know? We had an account at our local chemist, Crokers Pharmacy and they stocked Clarins which I knew was very posh and as a young girl I’d read all the fabulous labels like ‘firming, toning, contouring and lifting’ and think only truly glamorous women would buy these. So, one day I came home with a Bust Lift oil and my Dad hit the roof ‘take that back immediately!’ I was 14, I didn’t even have a bust to lift. SO embarrassing, but eventually I bought my first Clarins Beauty Flash and the love affair began.
What products from Clarins do you use daily?
Clarins Double Serum and the Clarins Extra-Firming Day Cream SPF 15 (trust me on the SPF). The Clarins Extra-Firming Eye Lift Perfecting Serum is my friend as looking tired is my insecurity (coz I generally am!). I also really love the Clarins Natural Lip Perfectors and glosses as they seem to have a filter in them that flatters my face. I just love to spend half an hour giving myself the natural look.
How has your approach to your skincare regime changed over the last decade?
I’ve noticed the face creams moving down to the tops of my hands, my décolletage, (‘protect the neck’ I say) and I’m trying to avoid turning into a walking freckle with a face like an old leather handbag. Just trust me on the sun cream.
Tell us about your most vivid memories of when you first started in television?
Just the absolute joy of finally living out my dreams, making my passion for talking my profession and the sheer relief that years of working for free had come to fruition. I worked so hard, I put up with so many put-downs and unanswered resume pitches that I just prayed my initial six-week contract would last. 24 years later I’m still mindful of that young girl starting out and dedicated to what I do. I suppose I know now that balance makes me a better person to be around and my personal life can be just as rewarding as my professional life.
Catriona wears Spell & The Gypsy Collective dress
Television looks glamorous from the outside - what are some of the more challenging parts of being a TV presenter?
Having people I’ve never met say to my face ‘you’re not nearly as fat in real life as you look on the tele!’, the need to rise above people saying complete untruths about me and making sure I do not get above my station when hearing the opposite. I value any elements of glamour but working on the road (I’m rarely in a studio) where I have to do everything myself, well those moments are few and far between.
Tell us about your site Journeys To Come - what inspired it and what can readers expect?
When I made it to 20 years working on Getaway, I thought ‘oh, I suppose I’ll write a travel book’. But then I met an amazingly successful millennial who said ‘excuse me, you’re a brand and you have 20 years of content, you need to set up a website, the book will come!’ It was so bloody hard to start, so many expensive twists and confusing turns, but I’m thrilled with what we’ve achieved. Basically, I want a space for fellow travellers to share their stories, to pick up tips, to ask questions and revel in their travel tales. Travel is so personal, regardless of social media preening, you can’t impress anyone with your journeys. I once returned home from a trip to Base Camp Everest, that also took in the world’s highest railway from Xi An in China into Tibet and the only question my family asked at dinner upon my return was “could you please pass the salt?”. Journeys To Come honours the traveller. Oh, and now I’m writing a book on my favourite cruises. The millennial was right!
How torn do you feel between building your career and raising your children?
I had an epiphany when Charlie was a baby, he was playing happily on the floor whilst I was unpacking the dishwasher and I was wracked with guilt that I wasn’t on the floor with him. I realised at that moment ‘aha, I will ALWAYS feel guilty!’ I can be with my child, I feel guilty or I can be on the other side of the world, guilt still felt. So, we may as well meander along as best we can because I can assure you my children couldn’t care less. I’ve realised as long as they’re surrounded by love, where nothing in their daily life changes, I can quietly step out for a short work trip and back in… as long as I return with Lego!
What are your mum hacks - your time management tips?
Everything begins with one question in our house ‘does this work for our family?’ That’s the kernel, then James and I go from there. I’ve my little red Hermes diary that’s exploding with dates, notes and keepsakes. It keeps us in line. Another one for meal time is a bowl of fruit always kept at eye level on the kitchen bench – they can pick at any time with a plate of carrots left out just before dinner. It’s the snacking that throws everything, so I’ll at least aim for healthy. My boys just do really well with boundaries (to my surprise, it really does work) and we’ve zero tolerance for swearing unless they’d like a mouthful of wasabi. I’ve never actually done it, but I wave the tube in front of them and let them know not to test me. Total cow I am, but bizarrely they still love me.
Catriona wears Spell & The Gypsy Collective dress
What do you do when it all gets too much - what are your coping strategies for when you feel overwhelmed?
I just get over myself and delegate. The moment I start talking about my challenges, others so often rally to help and put things in perspective. Nothing phases my husband, I’ve a good local babysitter, my in-laws will often help and the world will keep turning.
How do you approach travelling with kids - has it changed the way you travel and if so, how?
A few days before leaving, I put out the suitcase and just put aside things that we need each time I pass. Each boy has a backpack to take what they’d like (nothing they’d be upset to lose) but I try not to over pack. I always take our preferred medication and keep it in my carry on just in case. The goal when flying is to keep them calm, avoid sugar, but they must have something to suck or chew for the plane’s ascent and descent to avoid their little ears hurting. I’ll let them choose some sugar-free gum and they can have as much screen time as they like, we’ve just got to get there in one piece and preferably sane. I don’t talk too much about a trip, one they’re not really interested until they arrive and two it can often encourage anxiety in a child. I buy a couple of disposable cameras for them to have fun with and choose locations according to how many activities they can take part in. But ultimately, most children are happy if you are, they’re not impressed by ritzy hotels or cool locations, they just want to have fun!
Go-to destination with kids right now?
A recent True North cruise has been above and beyond; Hamilton Island is activity central; The Australian Reptile Park and Sea World have been memorable and if all else fails just throw them in the car for a driving trip. Worked for my Mum with us four and now for me with my two… just go!
Catriona wears Spell & The Gypsy Collective dress
What are some vivid memories of your childhood - where did you grow up and what was it like?
A very noisy household, four children with mum and dad doing everything they could for us and Nan living upstairs in the home she’d first built with her husband. My sister was very tough on me, so my nan would always be like this big squishy pillow to collapse into for love and care. I grew up 20 minutes from the Harbour Bridge on the North Shore and I felt that I had the best of both worlds with bushland surrounding us, the beach not too far away and a bustling city on tap. People say to me now ‘you’re so lucky your children get to grow up on a farm’ and they are but I loved my city life.
What did your own mother teach you about motherhood/raising a family?
It was very difficult for me to leave my family when I got married, I really didn’t want to but annoyingly I was in love. When my first child was born I quietly fell to pieces, literally in the sense I couldn’t talk to anyone about my struggles and felt I could only cry to my mum. We flew her down to stay for a few days and the first thing she did was go straight to the laundry to help with the washing, bless! As we passed in the hall, I burst into tears and said ‘mum, I’ve no idea what I’m doing’ and she just replied ‘darling, no one does!’. It was such a comfort to know we all struggle. Mum also said ‘you can never cuddle your child too much’ and ‘it won’t last forever, enjoy every moment’. So, when my son Andrew started to jump into my bed at 7am for a cuddle and my husband would say ‘you’re building a rod…’ I’d keep mum’s words in mind and snuggle up. He’s discovered cartoons now, the wake-up cuddles are fewer and further between. I’m so glad I listened to Mum.
How would you describe your approach to raising boys?
I’m tough, I’m loving, we’re having a ball. I realise they’re in my life to teach me a lesson, many lessons. I can’t force them to wear anything they don’t want, they are happy just to be with me, they are so non-judgemental and get over grievances quick smart. They’re just bloody funny and I want to kiss them all the time, which amazingly they let me… even with my Clarins Natural Lip Perfector on.
Life in the country is…
Quiet, relentless, spacious, in the hands of the weather gods, naturally pretty and we seem to constantly be fighting people who want to destroy its beauty. Developers, quarries, people dumping rubbish on back roads. I’ve found that if you love where you live, you have to fight for it and for the sake of future generations, it’s worth the effort.
Catriona wears Spell & The Gypsy Collective dress
What's your approach to screen time - when (if ever) do you pull out an iPad?
Don’t start me, I hate the screens. But I’ll use it as a tool if we’ve got a long drive ahead, if they’re having a sick day and I need to take them to an appointment, I’ll work it, I’ll admit that. But I didn’t have kids to argue with them about an iPad. I mentioned the ‘phone Friday’ and have found kids like boundaries. Few things tick me off more than walking into a restaurant and seeing parents shutting their kids up with a device, what’s the point of even going out? And I’m with the ‘not negotiable’ brigade when it comes to requests for their own phone. Kids, actually anyone obsessed with screens just really bothers me… as I’m sure you can tell.
Do you ever miss the city?
No, because I’ve kept my bolt hole, a very clean and feminine apartment, in Sydney. So as long as I can dip my toe in and out of city life, I’m happy and boy I do love coming back home to all this space.