If you’re looking for a hilariously honest and insightful account of motherhood, Bali-based Claire Alexander-Johnston is your woman. The British mother behind @jetsetmama lives in Bali with her husband and two young boys Atlas and Everest and posts daily about life as a mother. She’s witty, gorgeous and smart and if you’re feeling a tad overwhelmed by this motherhood business, she’s guaranteed to make you cry with laughter. So sit back and enjoy her engaging musings on motherhood…
What has motherhood taught you so far?
Everything. Literally. Everything. It’s constantly teaching me selflessness, patience, compassion, humility. A deeper connection to the earth. How to function like a responsible adult on only a handful of broken hours sleep. I used to make fun out of “smug pregnant women” (have you seen that YouTube clip? Hilarious!). Anyway then I got pregnant and was like ‘WHOA… it’s a whole new world out here!’
What advice would you give your teenage self?
Be kinder to your teachers (they are just people too, and you never know when you’re going to need to dredge up random geometry facts!). Stop worrying about being cool and audition for some musical theatre. It is not embarrassing. Well it is a bit, but do what you love anyway.
How has life changed for you since becoming a mother?
To be fair, I’ve never been a stay out all night kind of person. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good knees up, but historically I go really hard, really fast, and am normally tucked up in bed by midnight. So yeah, not a whole lot has changed in that respect. Except midnight is now 9pm. Champagne is tea, and my social life is Netflix… oh yeah and I don’t sleep. Yeah, I guess a few things have changed.
Can you list your favourite things right now?
My favourite things?! Er well yes, coffee. Coffee. Coffee. I don’t read anymore so got no good books for you… hmmm… gosh I’m scraping the barrel here, hold on. Ok yes. Farmers’ markets, kombucha (gives me the illusion that I’m drinking beer), amethyst crystals, protea (the wild Australian flower— that I feel the need to clarify because to anyone who is not Australian, it sounds like some sort of weight loss tea), looking sporty, receiving surprise packages in the post, online grocery shopping, and my children— how could I forget!
“ There is no such thing as a perfect mother. Or a perfect child. Everybody is winging it. Everybody makes mistakes. Keep your baby physically close, tune in, trust your baby, and trust your instincts ”
What’s your daily beauty routine consist of?
Oh yes, I have a very extensive beauty regime. I’m loving this face “Swiss phytomedics” spritz thing I got recently. So my nightly routine goes as such: realise I’m falling asleep on couch. Peel contacts off dry eyes and chuck in direction of the bin. Grab baby wipes (there are always baby wipes strategically placed at arms distance around our entire house— who says I’m not a genius?!). Dig three wipes deep, so I don’t get the crusty dry ones on the top. Rub face with vigour. Stumble into bedroom, trying not to disturb the tangle of toddlers in my bed. Realise my face feels dry, grab fancy facial spirtz on bedside table. Double squirt. Pass out. I normally wake up with a spritz too. Administered by my darling three year old. He’s a charmer.
What’s your fitness routine like?
I love exercising! Or at least, I love feeling sporty. I do stints of Bikram yoga when I feel I need a kick up the bum, but mostly I do a combination of fitness classes. I need to constantly mix it up. I’m useless in the gym. But I love group workouts, because I’m not at all self-motivated, and all that metal clanky gym equipment intimidates me. I exercised VIGOROUSLY through both pregnancies (yoga, cardio, kick boxing etc). In fact, I might have been at my fittest during pregnancy. I believe very strongly in keeping a fit body, and doing strenuous workouts throughout. Because learning to breathe and stay calm when your body is under pressure (like in hot yoga!) is one of the best lessons I learnt, and was unequivocal the reason I was able to birth both my babies naturally.
Do you enjoy pregnancy?
I loved both my pregnancies and felt very grateful that I had very few aches and pains, even right up until the end. In fact I did a 5km hike the day before Atlas was born. I had terrible hyperemesis gravidarum (debilitating morning sickness) for the first six months of both pregnancies. It was absolutely horrendous, and I lost a lot of weight before 20 weeks. As soon as I started to grow, gain weight and stop vomiting 30+ times a day, I felt so incredible and grateful that anything else felt like no big deal at all! I loved my huge arse and massive bump.
“ Sharing honestly and openly with other mothers keeps me sane. And hiring a cleaner ”
Do you believe babies are happier with structure?
Yes, generally speaking I think all children flourish with a degree of structure. It definitely brings security and comfort. But let’s be honest, I run a rather freestyle program with my two. HOWEVER, both of mine have always had a very strict bedtime routine (dinner, bath, book, bed) that we practice wherever we are in the world, and they have never resisted bedtime ever (in fact, we all look forward to it most days). But during the day, I go with the flow of where they are at. And keep it flexible and unstructured, with a ‘unschooling/hackschooling vibe’. Things will of course change as they get older, and so I’m not set in my ways about anything right now!
Can you tell us about your career path?
Put the kettle on! What haven’t I done? Ok so I’ve done every cleaning/bar/waitresses job imaginable, around the world. Had a few minor successes as an eBay entrepreneur. Worked as a receptionist at an escort agency. Won some awards. Was an accidental drugs mule for a pizza company. Studied politics and economics at St Andrews University, Scotland. And got a Masters Degree in business management. Modelled, started a band, built a hotel in Bali… from the ground up. Ran the hotel in Bali. Became a wedding planner. Then a stylist. Then a live-in nanny to the head of the Hells Angels, while my husband and I formulated a plan to launch an online travel company (Tripadeal.com.au). Became a mother. Now take orders from a three year old.
What led you to Bali?
We love Bali. The Balinese people are absolutely beautiful and incredibly loving towards young children. A lot can be learned from their slow paced, simple lives and the way they worship their Gods. We have been living in Bali for ten years, and seen it through a lot of changes. The old Bali was wonderful because it felt like we used to know every expat on the island! We used to joke ‘the only way left is Bali’ because there were so many mad and wonderful characters on the island, the sort of people who just couldn’t function in normal society. It was a crazy, eye-opening place for a young English girl. I loved it! But times have changed, and new Bali is great too, but in a different way. It’s busy and innovative, and such a cool hub for creative entrepreneurial people— not to mention awesome restaurants and great coffee! Bali is still our home, although we are slowly transitioning to spend more time in Australia for my husband’s work.
Where are your favourite places to go in Bali with your children?
We love to go walking in rice paddies, riding around on motorbikes, climbing mountains, watching sunsets on the beach with a fresh young coconut and volcanic sand between our toes. We love our morning coffee routine into Seminyak, ‘Old Mans’ in Canggu. The white sand beaches on the Bukit. We love going on adventures in the car and exploring the island. Pirates beach club in Nusa Dua, Ubud, Munduk, snorkelling in Amed. And we love Lembongan Island the most of all!
What ‘mum’ bag do you use day-to-day?
Something enormous with a thousand pockets. Normally containing rescue remedy and anica cream (little boys!), lavender oil for nap times on the fly. I carry my makeup essential- Mac cover up, Sue-Anne Wells face tint, mascara, blush. Nappies, loose change and baby wipes. Never enough baby wipes.
Has your style changed since becoming a mum?
During the breastfeeding years, my style was out the window. I wore anything that could be pulled, opened, ripped, or hitched up. But mostly now I just go for colourful clothes that hide all manner of stains and distract from my stubborn-as-an-Ox ‘love handles’.
So far what’s been the hardest part of motherhood for you?
Not being able to talk on the phone anymore! As soon as I pick that thing up, it’s like a red rag to a bull! There is always a little person pulling, grabbing, up in my face. Hungry, shouting, demanding food, a wee, the blue cup. And my personal attention spam is so limited (my grey matter has taken a hammering!) that I can hardly hold a coherent conversation on the phone anyway. I miss having actual Skype/phone/Facetime conversations with friends. I think all my single friends think I’ve gone completely insane. Maybe I have.
And what’s the best part of being a mum?
You get tiny humans to cuddle, love and learn from. To chat to and dream about and kiss. Little souls who love you wildly and unconditionally. And one day I will be sitting around a table of fine young adults, who are entertaining me with their stories and breathing life back into my home. And I will feel very proud of the long, hard, short, fast mothering days I have done. Follow @jetsetmama