“One of my favourite things to remember is ‘there is no such thing as a stressful situation, just a stressful reaction’. Raising kids is bloody hard work, and can be super stressful! For such small humans, they can create such big storms! So I really think that having a regular meditation practice or stress outlet makes all the difference to your daily frame of mind and helps you to be patient and not so reactive.”
Artist, co-founder of linen brand Taninaka, mother to Ziggy and Taro and Vedic meditation enthusiast Mia Taninaka is as realistic about the perils of motherhood as she is about her need for daily meditation to keep her stress levels in check. “Meditation is like plugging yourself into the power point and recharging. It removes all of the stress that has accumulated, leaving you feeling capable of taking on anything that comes your way.” We caught up with the Byron Bay local to hear more about her approach to parenting two young boys, how she juggles her artistic projects with the demands of motherhood, and why the whole family benefits when she has some well-deserved “me-time”… Photography: Bridget Wood | Go to www.taninakasan.com
Mia (right) with her sister Hana (left)
Can you tell us a bit about life at the moment - you’re based in Byron Bay after a stint living in Bali?
We had a wonderful four years living in Bali, but living in Byron is my favourite home yet! I love travelling but I love coming home to here. The food, produce, people, beaches, rivers, hinterland and community is among the best in the world. Raising our kids here has been a wonderful experience, some days I wonder if they know how good they’ve got it! We are able to live a creative, inspiring and wholesome lifestyle surrounded by likeminded people and families. We don’t have any plans to move anywhere else just yet.
Describe a typical morning in your household...
The best days start with all the kookaburras gently waking me just before the sun rises. I meditate while the boys’ sleep and Jas cooks breakfast. Then the kids wake up… always starving! And we get their bellies fed before they get “hangry.” They both get super hangry so it’s a priority to get them fed asap! The not so good days are much the same but the boys drown out the sound of the kookaburras, and the house is a war zone by 7am. Post-brekky it’s either prepping for preschool or heading to the beach/park/cafe for the morning. We like to get out pretty early before the kids start going crazy and tearing the house apart! If Jas or myself can sneak in a quick meditation while the other is doing breakfast we’re off to a great start.
You’re the mother of two young boys, how did you find the jump going from one to two children?
I remember only having one, and people saying ‘oh just wait ’til you have two’ and I was always like ‘yeah, yeah’ but now I get it. It’s madness. It might not be too crazy for lots of families, but in our family it’s like we went from 1 to 5. My kids are super high energy, ‘spirited’ I like to call it, ha! As they’re getting older some things are getting smoother and they are spending more time playing together, so we are getting more time to reconnect with being our own selves again. There’s definitely nothing ‘easy’ about it, but my cup is overflowing daily with happiness and fulfilment. I wouldn’t change a thing.
How do you juggle the creative and business side of being an artist with looking after two young children?
With patience and perseverance. When I first had Ziggy I really took some time out from painting and only just started getting back into it when I fell pregnant with Taro. At that point I told myself ‘no pressure, just take a break’. So I kind of had a three year hiatus from exhibiting and recently when I had the time and energy I got back into it with so much enthusiasm. It helps that Jasson is super supportive and also somewhat flexible with his work hours so we are able to juggle what is most important at any given time.
Have you always been drawn to illustration - how did you start your career?
My mum always said I should be an artist when I grow up, and I always thought it was a dumb idea! My parents were always super encouraging and supportive in any creative pursuits but I never really thought much of it until I studied art in high school. When I was in year 12, I became deeply involved in my major art project, and from then I started painting regularly until I had a large collection of works taking up space in my bedroom. This was before social media so other than myself, only really my family and a few friends got to see them. My boyfriend at the time organised an art exhibition for my birthday so I hung them all up and people actually liked them and some people even bought some! From that point on, I was approached by various brands to do designs, I was invited to group shows, people were commissioning me to create works for them and I’ve been doing it all ever since. Thanks mum.
Sisters Hana and Mia with their children
How do you approach things such as screen time and sugar in your household - are they a necessary evil or avoided at all costs?
We don’t own a TV or an iPad so the boys get little to no screen time if we can help it, we want to encourage as much creativity as possible while we still have a say! I love cooking and baking with the kids, we love having treats and the kids love all sorts of sweet things but we are pretty strict with the type of sugars we eat. We only use organic ingredients at home and tend to avoid anything with refined or processed sugars. Thankfully we live in an area of very conscious cafes so it’s not hard to find the good stuff!
What is your definition of self-love and how do you make time for it?
Taking time out to have some me-time is high on my priority list. Whether this is meditating, going for a surf with my girlfriends, getting into the art studio, beach walks or cafe hangs – anything I can do to have access to my highest self. When I get this time, everyone benefits. The same goes for Jasson, so we are pretty good at making sure that we both get some time to relax and rejuvenate.
You have a close and special bond with your sister Hana, what’s it like raising children together while also running Taninaka, your organic linen business?
It is so, so wonderful having my sister live so close by, our relationship is so amazing since having kids – it’s like having a best mate who happens to be your sister. Our kids adore each other, they are definitely more like a big band of brothers – so much loving and plenty of fighting! It only seemed natural to start a business together and with all the kids we keep having I’m surprised the business runs at all! But for some reason, it works and between all the chaos Hana and I manage to get it all done and put dinner on the table.
You travel frequently with your family, any secrets to surviving flights with kids?
Start them young! I strongly believe that travel breeds adaptability and the younger you start them travelling, the quicker they get used to sleeping wherever/whenever they can and waking up in a new place is exciting rather than stressful for them. For the flight itself – pack heaps of snacks, pens, paper, water, more snacks, prepare to be really uncomfortable and always expect the worst – then you’ll always end the flight with ‘well that wasn’t too bad.’
You’ve credited daily meditation with keeping you sane, can you tell us a bit more about what it entails and how it helps you as a mother?
The meditation I practice is a technique called “Vedic Meditation”. Jas is a teacher of this technique so it plays a huge part in our lives. To put it very simply it is a technique that involves sitting and closing the eyes for 20 minutes while you think of a specific sound (mantra) which allows you to access a deep meditative state in a really natural, effortless way. As a mother, you get used to running on not much rest… like, no rest! On top of this, your body spends all its energy providing for your child – as breast milk and cooking, feeding, dressing, chasing them around, etc. So much giving! Meditation is like plugging yourself into the power point and recharging. It removes all of the stress that has accumulated, leaving you feeling capable of taking on anything that comes your way. When you’re fatigued and stressed you become reactive and make decisions that definitely don’t serve you or your children very well. I feel like a super hero when I’m meditating regularly!
Finish this sentence, Motherhood is…
A giant cup of crazy, happy, joyful, terrifying, mad, intoxicating, never-ending, heart exploding love. I don’t think there is anything quite like it.