“I found it difficult to find information regarding my own kids’ health. I started noticing that other mums were in the same boat,” explains Melbourne-based Lisa Kelly on the inspiration behind her latest venture: Kids Health, a new online wellness destination for parents and their children. Offering everything from healthy recipes and home safety information to online forums where like-minded parents are able to create a dialogue around their children’s health, Kelly has been able to inspire parents to adopt healthier lifestyles. Turning her health around following her second pregnancy with daughter Piper, Kelly immediately recognised the benefits of integrative health for her entire family and became focused on improving the lives of her husband and two young children. With simple lifestyle changes such as stocking up on seasonal fruits, avoiding packaged foods and ensuring plenty of variety in her children’s diets, Kelly transformed the way she approached family life. These days, balance is key: “Like most people, I’m guilty of giving my kids ice-cream and fish and chips on holidays!” she says. We caught up with Kelly to find out more about her new venture…
What has motherhood taught you?
Perspective. It has given me the patience and confidence to let go of things that are out of my control and the ability to spend more time in the present. Events and circumstances that used to trouble me now seem trivial. Since having children all that really matters is their happiness and welfare. Perspective has given me the ability to accept and learn from my mistakes. Motherhood teaches you courage and perseverance – qualities that my own mother has in spades. She is hard working, humble, kind, courageous, gentle, pragmatic and caring. She taught me everything I know… except how to live without her! I still rely on her as my bouncing board on everything. To be present. Our lives are only a tiny speck on the spectrum of time. Since having kids life seems to move faster because we have less of it to ourselves. All of a sudden there is so much to do and not enough time in the day. I find solace in mindfulness, it is a daily practice for me and critical towards being a present and a nurturing mother. During the week, every afternoon I pause whatever is on my agenda to ensure I immerse myself in their worlds, understanding their imaginary games, doing arts and craft or playing Lego. I love the Plato saying: ‘You can discover more about a person in an hour of play, than in a year of conversation.’ It is synonymous with being present as a parent. If you want to be in your kids memories tomorrow, you need to spend time with them today. Patience. Parenting is selfless. Mistakes are normal. As long as I learn from them, life will evolve for the better.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about motherhood?
To stick to boundaries. My kids are born negotiators and unless I stick to my boundaries they run the home.
Can you tell us about your background and what inspired the launch of Kids Health?
I grew up in Malvern in Melbourne and went to St Catherine’s in Toorak. I have a Bachelor of Business in Marketing from RMIT. I worked in digital media for 15 years in Melbourne, Los Angeles and Sydney. I am now studying nutrition online.
What inspired the launch of Kids Health Australia?
After a natural pregnancy with Will, I struggled to conceive naturally again and my husband and I desperately wanted a second child. So we agreed on IVF. I endured two rounds of egg collection. I had two embryo’s inserted and although I had become pregnant (with Piper) I was also experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. At the same time as this I had the unfortunate luck of experiencing an acute case of ovarian hyper stimulation. I was in and out of hospital stays for the first three months of my pregnancy with Piper. By the time she was born (I had an emergency caesarian due to having placenta previa) my immune system was extremely low. I saw an integrative doctor who determined I had no natural killer cells and a high level of CTC’s circulating through my body. This was a precursor to cancer. It was a wake up call. I was run down. I completed a period of clean living under the guidance of Dr Peter Eng (a well regarded integrative GP in Melbourne and a FELLOW of the National Institute of Integrative Medicine) and over a period of 12 months, I turned my health around. The results of this period in my life ricocheted through my entire family. Suddenly everything became very clear. Integrative health had become part of my life. I changed feeding habits of my family and I removed a plethora of toxins from their daily lives. I found it difficult to find information regarding my own kids health and realised that there was a huge gap in the market for something credible that catered to health conscious mothers and their children. I began speaking to parents who were struggling with health issues with their own children (spectrum disorders, allergies, behavioural Issues). I listened to their plights and the difficulties they had endured in finding credible practitioners. I begun to speak to highly regarded pediatric specialists across all fields of kids health and as such, Kids Health Australia was born. Mums need help and support in finding credible and reliable solutions to an ever-evolving list of childhood issues. Most of the mums I speak to do their own research on Google. They surf the net and only through trial and error do they find what they are looking for – better solutions for their kids. While I have built up a knowledge base on kids health, I am very clear to point out that I am not an expert on kids’ health. I am just a mother with a passion for kids health who is curating the best experts and providing mothers with a place to share their own learnings and gain access to great information, in their own quest for health for their own children. Through liaisons with experts, Kids Health helps parents steer their children towards a happy, healthy, long and enriched life.
What’s your personal attitude to health and nutrition?
I buy a wide variety of fruit and vegetables that are in season, local and organic and I try to ensure variety in their diets. I avoid pre-packaged foods. I avoid fragrance sprays and sweet smelling candles full of lead and paraffins, plastic (bottles and storage containers), sugar and additives. I always use natural sprays, washing and dishwashing detergents. In my opinion, all of this is just a no brainer. I think it’s critically important that children get a good breakfast. After 12 hours of sleep their bodies are starving for nutrients and they have busy days – their growing bodies need the right nutrients to get them through to recess. Mornings are busy and it’s a rush, but if I am organised it’s possible to prepare a great meal and a balanced lunchbox. I avoid toast or cereals – I am not a fan of cereals because even though they have added vitamins in, the cereal grain itself contains phytic acid, which binds to the vitamins and prevents us from absorbing them. My kids often have eggs, a bit of ham, fruit and buckwheat pancakes. For the car trip they sip on a Nutribullet juice/smoothie with a hidden super food thrown in. I much prefer it to juice because it keeps the fibre from the fruit in it as opposed to a massive hit of fructose on its own! That said I am not an extremist. I vaccinate my kids. I am a true believer of most things in moderation. If you starve your child of something then they are more than likely going to binge on it when they are older. I myself don’t mind the odd glass of wine… but day-to-day, I do not drink and I eat and live a very healthy lifestyle.
What part of health and wellbeing are you most passionate about?
I think it is all encompassing. You can’t have a healthy mind, if you live an unhealthy life. You won’t live a healthy life, if you have an unhealthy mind. The two are interrelated.
What’s the best thing a mother can do for her children in regards to health?
To be a good role model. I think if the parents live a healthy lifestyle then so do the children and vice-versa. Every little change helps. Transition slowly. Eat whole grain or gluten free bread instead of white. Buy fruit and vegetables that are in season. Buy local and organic wherever possible. Buying 100% of your produce organic can be costly so I recommend substituting those items that are the most harmful such as items in the Dirty Dozen. Avoid pre-packaged foods. Make a yummy banana cake with hidden veggies in it instead. Avoid fragrance sprays and sweet smelling candles full of paraffins, plastic (bottles and storage containers), sugar and additives. Always use natural sprays, washing and dishwashing detergents.
How do you juggle your work commitments with children?
The children are my priority and always come first. Of course my days can be full of challenges! Piper started childcare recently. Although she is suffering a bit of separation anxiety, she is really loving it. This has given me more time to work on Kids Health. I plan my days carefully and am very organised. I am lucky that I can work for myself on a business that I love. It still brings with it a lot of stress and anxiety mainly because there are not enough hours in between drop offs and pick ups to keep the house in order and achieve my daily ‘to-do’ list. I do the best I can, as all mothers do, and while my ambitions are high, in reality the kids come first and the ‘to do’ list just gets longer and longer! I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Did your career change after the birth of your children?
Before I had Will, I had a bachelor of arts in marketing and after specialising in digital media for 15 years I was running a business called Busscrolls.com. I was also studying an MBA at UTS. The year of my pregnancy with Will was a tumultuous one and it influenced a huge shift in my life. All my priorities and values and beliefs changed. With Piper (as I explained above) I underwent IVF. As a direct result of the difficulties during both pregnancies, I became more interested in pursuing a more altruistic career that would combine my marketing experience with integrative health. I am lucky that I can work for myself and set my own hours, it gives me flexibility and I am grateful for this. Now I am: a wife; a mother of two; managing two large project residential redevelopments (one in Melbourne and one in Sydney); and curator and director at Kids Health Australia. Life is jam-packed and I am grateful.
What are your time management tips?
I write lists. I plan meals for the week. I get food delivered. I prepare lunches and breakfasts the night before.
What’s the hardest and best part of being a mum?
The hardest part of being a mother (aside from getting them to try variations of the average green smoothie) is protecting them from bad influences (children at school, bad TV shows, those pop-ups when you are not looking). I also often struggle to enforce boundaries. I want my children grow up to be confident, kind, gentle and well mannered. Parenting is tiring and when I’m tired the tendency to shout increases tenfold. I don’t want to be a mother who nags my children! I want to be the breezy mother who can parent mindfully. This just isn’t realistic 100% of the time! Saying ‘no’ and sticking to it really is SO important in managing boundaries. If you say ‘no’ and then give in then the next ‘no’ doesn’t mean anything. Motherhood has been the most difficult and most rewarding part of my life. Creating new life is prodigious. I feel blessed to have been able to have children. They are my sense of wonderment, my greatest achievement, my biggest challenge and my deepest love. They are my teachers and my students. My heart overflows for them with every single little thing they do. Parents find awe in the simplest of things. Just last night at 3am in the morning… my 2 year old asked for a sip of water. I gave it to her in her cot and as I was walking away she put her hand up, I said ‘What Darling?’ she said… ‘High five mum’. Moments like that make you want to cry with joy and they happen every single every day.
What’s your favourite part of the day?
I love it when I am filling the bath and they are running around in their birthday suits, screaming with laughter. I love seeing their little bottoms as they jump on a pile of teddies. They are just so cute and adorable. It is very satisfying to see them healthy and happy at the end of every day. Then of course once I’ve settled them in bed… this is the time they open up to me about their days, get things off their chests and fall asleep happily. I especially love the peace and quiet that comes with that! Photography: Anthea Nicoll Words: Angela Heathcote