Photography: Nikole Ramsay Words: Georgie Abay
Madeleine Grummet is not only filled with wonderful musings on motherhood, but is undeniably one of the most creative and colourful women you’ll ever meet. She’s also the mother to four beautiful girls: Harriet, 13, Olive, 12, Audrey, 10, Violet, 6. I distinctly remember after I had Harriet who is now 13, this feeling of having emerged into a different world, occupying a different place in it, now that I was a mother. “My perspective instantly changed. I didn’t see the world only through my eyes. The very core of me had been rocked and moved over to allow room for this little person to stand beside me and take in the view. From this changed vantage, the world does look very different”, say’s Melbourne-based Grummet. Your needs dont come first anymore. You feel their pain. There’s no room for selfishness your life changes because you know you have to step up, to take on that absolute responsibility. And you realise youre winging it half the time but thats ok – thats all part of it – the mistakes, the missed moments, the highs, the lows, the laughs, the leaps of faith.
It was after the birth of her daughter Harriet, that Grummet launched her thriving creative business, Do Re Me Creative, having worked as a journalist and editor for over a decade. Her surgeon husband Jeremys work took the family interstate and overseas every year and she felt the need to create work that was more flexible. “Harrie had lived in eleven houses by the time she was 10!”, she says. “I freelanced for a while but was increasingly drawn toward creative cultural innovation and the idea of building and strengthening communities, so I founded Do Re Me Creative as a multidisciplinary creative agency delivering brand collaborations, bold activation, innovative events and thought-changing social projects across the commercial and government sector. I think becoming a mum was the genesis of that career switch, and my life and participation in the girls worlds, their communities and generational cultural dictates, still informs much of my work and the creative thinking underpinning it”. We were thrilled to get a behind the scenes peek at Grummets spectacular home and family .
On what motherhood has taught her…
Humility. Humanity. Humour. But mostly, that I am capable of more than I realise. Mothering four girls is an enormous responsibility, especially when the expectations of parenting that prevail in our culture (and possibly ourselves) are sky high. Motherhood has taught me I can only do so much with the time available to me. Simply lay down the path from girl to woman, love them, teach them, listen to them, know them, nurture them, sit beside them for a moment whenever I can and see the world from their perspective. Our job, simply, is to love, within our limitations, no matter the twists and turns and trials that life throws up. Thankfully, children are blessed with amazing natural mindfulness. So my girls have taught me to stop and see the world through their eyes, at their level, marvelling at the small things, re framing the big. Im bloody lucky to have them.
On how life has changed since becoming a mother…
Mothering is universal but each of our experiences is unique as mothers, so I think we have to stop being hard on ourselves and each other, we have to stop the guilt. We must allow ourselves some slack, so we can guiltlessly do what we can within the limitations of who we are, what we’ve come from, and where were at, at any one time. I suppose there’s a lot of self-imposed should in life, and the salve to that is saying I’ll simply do what I can, when I can allowing yourself that grace, that wiggle room, that humility. There are always better ways of doing things, and the parenting books and friendly advice can be so damning and confusing. The competition, the performative parenting that goes on simply undermines women, who are each just trying to do the best they can in their given circumstances. I think, for our generation, who were brought up assuming they really could have it all and override the stereotypes, there’s a reality check when you become a mother because you soon discover that you actually can’t have it all because you most certainly can’t DO it all – there’s always going to be a relentless carousel of food to buy, children to wrangle, bills to pay, family members to care for, and if you want to try and do all this in tandem with your thriving career and perfect family and tri-weekly Pilates and greater social responsibilities, well, somethings gotta give. And it’s usually your health or sanity! So you need to be clear on what it is you want to have and do, and how you’re going to manage it best (assuming you’re lucky enough to have that choice). And at the end of even the hardest day, you need to know that your daily grind was worthwhile, and made a difference, whatever that is to you.
On balancing motherhood and marriage…
Be kind to yourself. Don’t be everything to everyone. Cultivate your marriage and don’t let it always play second to your children. Your marriage is the heartland of your home, so you have to work at it. Communication is key. One of the greatest nectar’s in my life is my marriage to a truly ace man who gets me, and me him. We carve out time for each other in the context of busy lives raising kids and running businesses, and I still genuinely love hanging out with him one on one and making sense of and challenging the world around us together. Date night, long baths and big laughs are what bind us, and the family we’ve created together.
I’m a stickler for structure, and some basic parenting non-negotiable’s – early to bed, healthy meal choices, open and honest conversations, lots of singing, dancing and unbridled creativity, open air, natural wonders, books + hugs aplenty. We all need structure to thrive – and I think sleep is hugely under-rated babies need it for optimal mind and body development, and adults need it for optimal function (I’m the crankiest chick in the hood without sleep).
On advice to first time mothers…
Nothing will prepare you for the rebirth that happens within you when you have that first baby. I remember after I had Harriet, this feeling of stepping over and seeing the world through anothers eyes for the first time. You witness the ordinary become extraordinary again as the world begins to open up and make sense for your child. The minute things you missed in the shadows come out into the light. You feel a deep sense of connection with another in a way you never have before.
In the early months of new motherhood, once the haze of exhaustion lifted, the most disconcerting feeling was this overwhelming sense of being removed from working society, existing in my own little orbit, night and day revolving around a tiny being, the power of whom was enormous but known only to me. I was no longer a single entity. Her body depended on mine. Her every movement moved me. And my sense of self shifted entirely. I had this 24-hour-a-day responsibility like none I’d ever known. Who was I now? Where were all my reference points? My anchors were drawn. I needed new maps. Where was the common ground on which my working friends and I had romped? Would I ever find my way back to the person I was before motherhood? Did I want to? But the thing is, you find your authenticity eventually. We are all the sum of our parts, and if you remember to nurture yourself through your mothering, allowing transformation, intuition and authenticity to guide you, you emerge from all those early years intact, stronger, smarter, wiser.
Don’t underestimate the power of motherhood, and trust in your intuition. We don’t have the villages and sisterhood of sharing that we used to in the western world, so it’s important to cultivate your own village and maternal mentors so you are well supported in bringing up your baby. If you build a village around you, you will feel more connected and less alone and have a well of wisdom to draw from. Your well-being is all about community.
I think one of the most important things for a first-time mother is her ability to be able to express her honest feelings about the mothering experience as her baby grows. For many, it is pure shock. That you are suddenly at home with a small child who is totally dependent on you, you have not much to punctuate your days, and you are all of a sudden alone, marooned in a hormonally charged relationship that there’s no out of! This sounds negative, but then motherhood is a thorny rose. Yes, there are exquisite moments of tenderness, of heart-breaking joy, moments you want to bottle and breathe back in, but often too, like life, there is a lot of monotony, of drudgery, of sheer hard droll domestic work that is not fulfilling. Some days you do want out. You long for some time to yourself, to be the person you were, to clock off. But the fact is you can never be the person you were. You are indelibly stamped with this new role, your whole self has shifted to allow room for children in your life, and your life will never be what it was. Your purpose is absolute. But I’m here to say the sheer physicality of baby and toddler hood soon gives way to spaces that allow you to reclaim yourself, and as your children grow, your relationship with them flourishes and deepens and you are privy to the most amazing things.
On a typical day…
No day is typical for me! It’s usually a combo of exercise, cooking, emails, collage, administration, logistics, meeting with clients, helping at school, another load of washing, dog loving, homework, writing proposals, reading stories, taxi driving, kid wrangling etc. I kind of have to surrender to the chaos of it all and plunge in headfirst! And the trick is, for me, to not live a divided life. It all feeds into each other.
On juggling a business with motherhood…
I do it with very little grace! It is a constant juggle and lots of times I chase my tail, wing it, get up early, stay up late, but that’s so I can have my cake and eat it too! I don’t lead a conventional, conforming life. So the juggle involves me managing my time efficiently with its ups and downs and ebbs and flows but not so rigidly I can’t allow for the spontaneity and left-field life that still happens. Befriending what is unavoidable is also a good thing. There are only so many hours in a day, so accepting limitations, constraints, and shifting responsibilities to my own and extended family members is part of that juggle but I wouldn’t have it any other way, luckily my work feeds into my life and my life feeds into my work, which makes it easier because passion creates the momentum. It’s about somehow staying connected in the context of it all.
On her tips for time management…
I have a TO DO task list on my computer desktop that I update all the time under 3 sections: personal, business, one day! I shop weekly, get up early and dont watch TV! I can hold things off to the last minute even when I’ve had a plan in place for weeks. I usually procrastinate on the things I’m most timid about, or less confident in. So I deliberately stall on them to subconsciously shy away from them. I’ll fold washing in order to avoid a task and that’s really saying something. I do try to use the time I have allocated as efficiently as I can. Running your own business can be hard, especially finding focus and discipline at home in the context of a demanding domestic front and family life. But if you believe in what you’re doing and set your own deadlines, then you create a scaffold you can work within. I usually chunk out my hours and diary so I’m accountable to it! And I have regular meetings with business mentors who help hone my focus.
On her home…
We’ve lived in this home for about four years. It’s an iconic Modernist Mid-century design built in 1956 – we bought it in 2011 and have undertaken extensive refurbishment of house and garden areas to bring it back to it’s original glory. Most of the spaces are flexibly furnished, so items can be easily moved in and out for shoots and the home interior style is colourful, eclectic, contemporary, low-fuss modern family living with lot’s of artistic inspiration (courtesy my practice as an artist and other vintage props and feature artworks). I move stuff around a lot, and the house is blessed with amazing natural light so we called it Casa Del Sol. We entertain a lot and its fantastic for accommodating big groups and gangs of tweens and teens! We are building a mid-century inspired white-tiled pool and pavilion in the back yard at the moment, so I’m hoping to have a Peter Sellers style PARTY to launch it!
On her passion for interior design…
For as long as I can remember, I have compulsively styled spaces either actually, or in my head! I spent my youth styling my bedroom in endless incarnations of interior trending I can’t stay in a hotel without slightly re arranging the spaces or mentally re arranging the interior footprint, so it’s perhaps a bit of an issue! I get a bit twitchy if I go into a space and feel things are not placed right, and I can’t stand blanded out interiors that say nothing of the people who live there. I adore vintage pieces, things that bespeak their provenance, – mid-century is my absolute enduring love, but I do appreciate design in all it’s executions. Interior design is about creating caves, spaces that have a central focus (fires, not TV), places for people to come together and connect full of things that are well placed and please the eye. Of course that can very wildly from person to person and job to job, but when it comes down to it what most people want is a safe place to sit and be warm with their kin.
On her decorating philosophy…
Only fill a room with the pieces that speak to you, and don’t follow trends to the letter because your home will be empty of heart. I think colour is important. The trend for blanded out, muted, clinical spaces is interesting, because mostly aesthetics take their reference from nature, but of course in nature there is a huge multi-spectrum of kaleidoscopic colours. Bring your history into your home, don’t discard your stories and your passions and the pieces that have provenance , because these are what tell your story, and stories make a space. Of course, spaces need to be considered and functional and cluttering up any house with too much stuff is not good for anyone, but don’t discard your stories for the sake of style.
Madeleines little list of loves…
Books. I am diving in and out of the fantastic Women Of Letters books by Marieke Hardy + Michaela McGuire – I’m a big fan of the events, and am frequently floored by the stunning literature, sustaining words and pithy wisdom therein.
TED talks. I am addicted to TED talks – anywhere, anyhow, anytime – the power of the spoken word in our human storytelling is incredibly compelling. I’m not a TV watcher, so TED talks + talk back radio are my thing.
Live music. We try and get to live music whenever we can, there’s just nothing like it, and were so lucky to have such a great breadth of choice here. I’ve just renewed my vows with the ‘Graceland’ album – we saw Paul Simon + Sting up close at ‘Day On The Green’ in Feburay, and I’m in love like it’s the first time.
Gratitude. And lots of it. I stop myself often to take stock, to remind myself of how lucky we are, and obviously you don’t have to look too far to get a big lens on how fortunate we are when compared to the world at large. I get involved in lots of causes and charities that I think in some small way can make a change or difference to something or someone by bringing grace, sustenance, justice, beauty. It’s worth doing small things if and when you can.
Art. Creativity matters, and art is an expression of a deeper human need to synthesize and express our human experience, to tell our stories. Lot’s of the work I do is about tapping into this creative seam at the heart of us all, and harnessing it, it’s so amazing to watch people in workshops suddenly allow themselves to create. As for art indulgence, I recently nabbed a SERIOUSLY amazing CJ Hendry work from The Cool Hunter Sydney show, which makes my eyeballs widen every time I walk past it. I don’t know how she does it. Her recent Melbourne show #50foodsin50days sold out before open and next she’s off to New York and into the stratosphere.
Travel. Nothing better than busting out of your four walls and into the world! We are busy planning for a trip of a lifetime National Lampoonsesque European adventure with the girls this winter. We love a road trip, love exploring new cities and cultures as a family, and the girls are levitating with excitement, as are we!
Baths. The in-home pamper is the best thing going! Fornasetti candles, scalding water, a glass of wine, it’s like a restorative cave! The girls love it too, and will often hop in together on a Sunday and while away the arvo.
Collage. It’s obviously my thing I love it and am lucky enough to have a home studio where I do all my work for commercial and residential clients. I whack on the AM radio or some pump-up 80s revival music and get into it – uninterrupted time to create is like meditation.
Instagram. Addict. Say no more.
Watching my girls grow. I catch my breath many times a week, with something they say, a sideways glance at their beauty, the way they interact with each other and the life around them. It’s so amazing to see them emerge as people with their own talents, quirks and passions.
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