One look inside the impeccably styled home of Emily Armstrong and it’s clear she could easily make the transition from magazine publisher to interior designer, which was originally the plan before her children, Beatrice, 4, and Edward, 2, arrived. ”I studied interior design part time before my daughter was born and planned a career change once I became a mum.” she remembers. “I wanted to be in a more creative role and in control of my own time in my new life as a mum.” Of course, when it comes to motherhood, things rarely go as planned. Armstrong found herself back in England and pregnant with her second child when Beatrice was just six months old. “Unexpectedly, I ended up having almost two years of mummy time”, she says. When her son Eddie was seven months old, Armstrong returned to British Vogue and was later appointed Associate Publisher of the magazine. ”I couldn’t resist going back to Vogue and I was fortunate to have a supportive boss and team, a very hands-on husband and a wonderful nanny,” reflects the stylish mother, who has relocated back to Sydney with her family and is currently pregnant with her third child. She’s also launched her new interior-focused website, The Paradise Catcher, where you will find lots of style inspiration and be able to buy wares sourced from around the world from next year. You can also find information on her interior design services. ”I’ve been both a full time stay-at-home mum and a full time working mum. Both are rewarding and both have their challenges. Now were back in Australia, I am seeking greater flexibility to balance these areas and on the work front split my time between my interiors passion and brand/media consulting leveraging my career experience.”
Reflecting on her career in magazines, she says: ”I actually think being a mum helps give perspective to the glamorous world of magazines. Being so busy meant there was little time to fret over the things one often can when working with so many women and with the obvious sartorial pressures!” Armstrong also credits juggling such a demanding job with raising two small children to the Conde Nast culture. ”The culture at Conde Nast is wonderful and rare,” she says. “If you stay beyond 6pm you are rather thought of as having no life so this was ideal. It was a good juggle, but one that required a sense of humour and a sense of perspective. I did often feel like I wasn’t doing either job very well however and I hear this quite a bit from working mothers, so we need to come together to appease this. You can have it all, just not all at the same time is a quote that really sums up the challenges of being a working mum to me. In London I was so enjoying being a mum and having a fulfilling career, so the thing that had to give a little at this time for me was my social life. My friends understood.”
It has taught me the capacity for love and how it can keep growing with each baby even though you think you’re full up and overflowing. Perspective – I don’t sweat the small stuff as much any more; To be in the moment – I’ve found life can be easier with small children if you can adapt and shift expectations; and patience which has never my forte, and I am still working on this!
On how life has changed since becoming a mother:
It has gotten busier, more rewarding and less introspective. I’m faster and more efficient, but I also stop and smell the roses more. It’s so wonderful when you see the world from a child’s perspective and it’s motivating to want to be the best role model you can be and provide the best life you can for them. It’s also got me thinking less about the small things in my life and more about bigger issues that will shape their future in this world. Im tired a lot too!
On balancing motherhood and marriage:
Time together as a couple is vital and we are not great at this but working on it. We find we have to make scheduled time or it doesn’t happen when we are all so busy. It’s also good to have little rituals in your day and week that keep you connected and separate to the children. Ask for help. Dont expect your partner to be a mind reader or an expert (I’ve learnt this over time) with parenting. You sometimes have to spell out what you need and then everyone is clear. And don’t forget to laugh – at yourself, at the situation, and above all keep perspective. Remember you are a team and parenthood is the most important collaborative project of your lifetime. But you were also a team before the kids came along. Keep your life dreams aligned and support independence to pursue individual interests outside of the family that keep you personally satisfied.
On her daily beauty routine:
I’ve never been a big beauty girl but I really let this slip when I went from one to two kids and my skin has suffered. I have now found the simpler the product and routine the better for my skin anyway, so it means I do have time for a cleanse and moisturise at least. But not much time for a facial! As I get older and busier, good grooming is more important than ever but its hard to find time for appointments. I see the wonderful Michael Kelly at Oscar Oscar Salons in Paddington every couple of months. He’s the best colourist in the business and keeps my hair in check! I used a mobile home beauty service in London which was inspired use of time in the evenings while kids are sleeping. Need to find a good one here! A spray tan and a mani/pedi can really sort me out in summer and I feel more put together and in control of life even when chaos reigns! Wellbeing is much more of a focus than beauty for me now and helps me with the endless juggle.
On her exercise routine:
My fitness routine is fairly non-existent these days sadly. My fault entirely! I love walking when I get the time off and do pregnancy yoga locally but not as much as I would like. I love running so have had bouts of this between pregnancies but it’s never been very consistent. I did lots of yoga mainly at The Life Pod in Paddington in my first pregnancy, which I loved. Finding the time and the motivation when constantly tired as a new mummy is hard but always worth it.
I find it’s a very creative time for me and usually feel good in my middle trimester with lots of energy and ideas and a major nesting instinct. On the whole I really enjoyed my first pregnancy we’d tried for a while to fall pregnant so once I was clear through the worrying early weeks, I was so happy and was SO into it! My second was exhausting (found out I was pregnant when Bea was six months old) and had some worrying complications that hung around until almost seven months. This pregnancy is generally good but Im feeling my age probably intensified by caring for two and a big move too. I am true to form here the first trimester drags for me. I worry about miscarriage and things going wrong. I am hopeless at keeping my own secrets too so usually end up telling everyone. I really enjoy second trimester and although the third I start to feel tired again, it’s such an exciting time.
I think it really depends on the baby but I do think that babies (and mums) are on the whole happier with some sort of loose routine than none at all. Initially I didnt like the idea of a routine for baby or me and naively thought we’d sail through with some hippy earth/mother/baby connection. I was so wrong! I found that BB did need a routine (and I loosely followed Tracy Hogg and Tizzy Hall for this) and fell into her own rhythm quite easily. Eddie was and still is a wild card and I am yet to find a consistent pattern and he’s nearly 3! They are so very different so in my experience following a loose routine and being adaptive to your individual child’s spirit is probably the best way.
On sleep deprivation:
Sleep deprivation is brutal! I can feel unusually negative, overwhelmed or hard on myself after a few consecutive days of terrible sleep. Im not sure I should have been driving a car with a small baby either! My advice is: Sleep when you can (I never did but am determined to third time around!) – forget the mess, the washing, the thank you cards and GO LIE DOWN! Every little thing helps. My bedtime has gotten earlier and earlier and now Im a morning person after years of being a night owl. Something has to give! Take time out – even a 30 minute walk on your own while a friend minds your sleeping baby will give you some energy and perspective. Eat as well as you possibly can but treat yourself too. Even the treats out with some vegetables or just get green juices to go with the necessary coffee in the morning. It will make a difference. Poor sleep combined with poor diet is the enemy combo for a new mum. If you have some nesting energy in final trimester get meal planning and freeze some nutritious and delicious food. And invest in a Vitamix.
On her career:
I moved to London after University in Brisbane and started working for an advertising agency in account service, but wanted to move into strategic planning. A job came up at Conde Nast as a research manager for Vogue. Working on Vogue was the heart racing catalyst for me to move, but I also thought it would be a chance to build my research skills to then move back into advertising strategy. Once at Conde Nast I was hooked and stayed for six years moving into a role of advertising account manager on Tatler for a year and then joining Vogue’s ad department. I left British Vogue in 2007 to return to Australia for four years and worked at Vogue Australia and then the launch of Grazia. I returned to London in 2011 and back to Vogue once again in 2012, rising to the role of Associate Publisher, which was incredibly fun and rewarding. It was very hard to say goodbye to the role, the future, the market but mostly the people.
On her decorating philosophy:
It’s all about facilitating a sense of ease and celebrating everyday life. I love layering a period space thats painted white – with colour, pattern, texture, art and a little injection of whimsy often through lighting choices. Playing with proportion and adding surprise elements is what makes it fun. I love mixing styles and have been really influenced by my travels and my time in England, where the decorating is often more layered and maximalist than it is here in Australia.
Emilys little list of loves:
Sydney coffee. It really is worth the hype and my current one-a-day while pregnant is a real daily pleasure and ritual.
Sibling conversations. I love overhearing their conversations with each other. I try to record them as they happen on my iPhone notes and then transfer to monogrammed Smythson notebooks, which are wonderful to look back on and share with them when they are older.
The great Aussie outdoors. The Bronte to Bondi walk, the smell of salt and sun cream on my kids warm skin post beach, the Jacaranda trees, Palm Beach, the huge blue sky, country road trips, grass underfoot .
The sisterhood. Female friendship and support comes into it’s own even more when you become a mum and that doesn’t mean just with other mums. My mother, sisters and friends near and far are something I couldn’t live without.
Hills Hoist clothesline. Such a great Aussie invention! It’s a simple pleasure to be able to line dry after London weather and I find is a rather meditative part of my day my best thinking is done while hanging washing in the sunshine!
Music. A daily pleasure I am lost without and a bond I share with my husband and so enjoying introducing to our children. A good tune while driving on a sunny day is so underrated. I am constantly being told to turn it louder in the car and we love a sing-along. A good boogie also works wonders during witching hour!
Long summer seafood feasts with family or friends. Ideally with both. And lot’s of kids to keep each other entertained. And if possible a sea or harbour view!
Style day-dreaming. Me time devouring design books, interiors and fashion mags, trawling Instagram and Pinterest, and dreaming of travel, house renovations and celebrations.
Reading. Both Thrive by Arianna Huffington and The Wife Drought by Annabel Crabb have been great reads this year – both are timely for the age we are now living in and especially pertinent to my personal journey this year with so much change.
Travel plans. I’m determined to keep the global perspective now we are based down under but also see more of this incredible country. European summer holidays in Ibiza and festive skiing with Tom’s family in Norway are our staples and I love researching a new destination and culture to add to the mix every year.
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