If I asked you if you embrace your body, what would you say? When was the last time you looked in the mirror and loved what you saw? And if I told you that the largest problem for Australian school children is their body image and 70% of Australian school children consider it to be their number one concern, how would you feel? As Body Image Movement founder Taryn Brumfitt discovered when creating her documentary Embrace - the most successfully crowdfunded documentary in Australian history – body image is a global problem and it begins far younger than we'd like to believe. "No matter where I travelled to, the stories were still the same. There was still an expectation of what beauty meant in particular countries and cultures. And if you fell outside of that beauty standard, then you were like most women, on that road of battling against your body," she says. Embrace Kids is now in the works and you can donate to the funding of the documentary here. Teresa Palmer, Celeste Barber and Natasha Stott Despoja are all executive producers - what a line-up!
Here, we hear more about the defining moment that lead Taryn to begin her journey of learning to embrace her body and how we can all follow her lead and also her latest project, a new children's book entitled Embrace Your Body.
What happened to your body image after you had children?<p>When I had my three children, everything changed. I think it was the loss of control over what happened to my body. I had three kids in three and a half years. There really wasn't a lot of time of recovery. It was basically being pregnant, breastfeeding, having another baby, and doing that three times over. By the time I had my third, Mikaela, these feelings of how I felt about my body had really become amplified into, "I'm just going to have to fix this. I can't go through this for the rest of my life." And that's when I went and had an appointment with a plastic surgeon to fix what I considered to be my broken body. <br></p>
Standing there in the surgeon's office, how did you feel?<p>I was so excited. I was excited because I was going to get my body back. He was going to cut part of my body away, and stitch it up. I was potentially just a few months away from having what I'd wanted for years.<br></p><p>Then I had an epiphany while I was watching Mikaela play – I couldn't go through with it because what kind of example would that be for my daughter? I spoke to my trainer at the gym, and asked her what it would be like to have the perfect body? Would it make me happier? She suggested I get into body building. </p>
Tell me about the training involved for the bodybuilding competition you entered?<p>The road to the stage was very intense. It was 15 weeks of a very, very strict diet. Lots of protein, and lots of vegetables, and not many carbs, no dairy, no splash of milk in my coffee. Short blacks only. It was really regimented.<br></p><p>The training regime was pretty intense too. It was six days a week, sometimes twice a day. I lost about 15 kilos over 15 weeks and got quite muscly in that time. Walking onto the stage at the competition was probably one of the craziest things I've ever done. <br><br>I always joke now when I speak to audiences and say, "I think a part of the feminist in me died that day, being on stage in a silver bikini and porno shoes, and having people judge my body." It was a life-changing moment for me, standing on stage and looking out to this crowd of 800 people, and looking at these judges with their pens, writing down notes about my body. </p><p>I realised my body is not an ornament in life. It's the vehicle in life. I got off stage, and I felt this sense of freedom. I didn't have to weigh my food anymore, count my calories, obsess over the gym. I started moving my body for pleasure and not punishment.</p><p>That was a big one, because a lot of women train their bodies to look a certain way, or they train their bodies because they had a piece of cake, or too much food on the weekend. What happens is the relationship with moving your body becomes one of punishment, and pain, and misery and, "I've got to do this," and exercise. <br><br>The real missing piece is that moving our bodies is glorious. It's so much fun, and there's a million ways to do it, and we don't have to do it in one particular way, if that doesn't serve you or make you feel good. </p>
Before: Andre Agnew After: Kate Ellis
Tell me about the moment you posted the before and after photos to Facebook…<p>Those photos were a sliding doors moment for everything that's happened since. I posted those photos because I just wanted to help some other women that I'd been speaking to. I was proud of my body in the after, because there was real joy in that image, and I felt that joy. <br><br>We need to learn to feel more into our bodies, and enjoy our bodies. It's actually not hard once you get a little taste of how good it feels when you embrace. <br><br>There's real power in the sharing of stories, and having the conversations, and revealing the pain, and lifting the shame, and giving permission for other women to then go, "Fuck this, I'm not going to buy into those messages anymore. I want a piece of that," and that's the road you get on. No turning back either. </p>
What does it look and feel like to embrace your body?<p>There's such a sense of freedom, and just pure joy. A really deep connection to mother nature, to other people, relationships, life in general. It just feels so free, and so fun. I love the energy that I feel from having now embraced. I didn't always have this boundless energy. I never felt this good in my teens or my 20s, or my early 30s. My kids have to keep up with me, and most people have to keep up with me.</p><p>I really believe, truly, that it has to do with removing that enormous chip from the brain that's hating on my body, worried about my body, wishing I had her body. Oh my gosh, that mental torture is so weighing us down. When you let go of that, it just creates space in your life.</p>
Is it about training our minds to fight negative thoughts?<p>No, I don't think we need to fight them. I don't want to go into a battle with my thoughts. I want to observe them, understand them. Awareness is the first step. We don't want to battle our thoughts. It's like a ping-pong conversation that gets us nowhere. </p><p>There's a more effective way of doing that. Observation and awareness. It's the unpacking of the stories. And it's really taking a pause and a moment in our lives to go, "Why do I feel this way? What impact does it have in my life? Do I want to continue living my life this way?" If the answer is, "No, I don't want to hate my body. I don't want have these thoughts." Then what can I do? And that's the big one, what can I do to move towards a life that's more graceful, embracing and loving, and cherishing of who I am? <br><br>Then you're on the road, which might mean reading books, watching films, or detoxing your social media feed. You become aware in everyday life of all of those messages that come at us, that we buy into that serve us, and don't make us feel good. You don't need to battle against them, but you can choose to not fall victim and buying into those messages. </p>
Embrace - Official Trailer 2016 - Taryn Brumfitt Documentary HD<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cd949bf40f7d252a2a48162f385f6046"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5eypB_G7Ztc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
I want to talk about Embrace, the most successfully crowdfunded documentary in Australian history. What was your mission?<p>The mission was to discover why so many people hate their bodies, and what we can do about it. We've impacted millions of people's lives with the film. It was on Netflix, shown in a 190 countries. In Germany, it was number one at the Box Office and beat blockbuster movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and King Arthur. I love a good underdog story.<br></p>Professors from Flinders University and Victoria university, Dr. Zali Yager and Dr. Ivanka Prichard, they did a global study on the impact of Embrace, and it's just been published in a medical journal which is amazing. So anecdotally we know the film has changed millions of people's lives, but now we've got the data. That's a real coup for us. That feels really solid and juicy.
What were some of the biggest insights you took away from Embrace?<p>No matter where I travelled to, the stories were still the same. There was still an expectation of what beauty meant in particular countries and cultures. And if you fell outside of that beauty standard, then you were like most women, on that road of battling against your body.<br></p><p>One of the most shocking things was meeting a woman in the Dominican Republic. She had never left the island, and her village didn't even have electricity. However, she still wanted to have a breast enlargement because she'd seen women with larger breasts in a magazine. The globalisation of media had had an impact, and it's just so mind-blowing when you actually see that in a small, remote village on the other side of the world. A woman who's not exposed to TV, but has a magazine and still wants to change her body.</p>
How do you teach your children about body love?<p>The way I raise my boys and daughter is the same, because it's not gender specific. It's very much teaching them that their bodies are not ornaments, they're vehicles in life. They're here to enjoy their bodies, and what's most meaningful in life is the connections that you have with people, and the experiences that you have. <br></p><p><br>A big part of it is fuelling their bodies. There's lots to be done, and there's lots of adventures to be had, and to go on those adventures you need to have the energy, and you need to fuel your body well. We don't talk about good food or bad food, because we don't want to demonise food, but we certainly want them to make great choices that feel good for their body. <br><br>The other part of the conversation around body image with kids is the celebration of diversity and how unique we all are, and how we come in all different shapes and sizes, and abilities of bodies. And there's no right way or wrong way to have a body, and I also think it's about helping them to have a real sense of appreciation, and gratitude, and pride for their body. That, that's the body they'll have until the day that they die. They need to really respect it, and nourish it, and enjoy it. </p>
An Embrace Kids documentary is in the works, due to be realised in 2021. Can you tell me about it?<p>Teresa Palmer, Celeste Barber and Natasha Stott Despoja are all executive producers. We're working with the professors from Flinders University and Victoria University to make sure the content is safe and effective in the classroom. And once this documentary is made, we're giving it to schools for free as a resource for schools across the globe.<br></p>
Embrace<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ab16c46013c40b50810d55f2c69293f4"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/axK1syPpxyw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>Provided to YouTube by Universal Music Group Embrace · Pevan & Sarah · Taryn Brumfitt Embrace ℗ 2019 Pevan & Sarah, exclusively licensed to Australian Broadc...
Embrace Your Body by Taryn Brumfitt
Tell me about your new children's book Embrace Your Body?<p>The largest problem for Australian school children is their body image. 70% of Australian school children consider it to be their number one concern. That is a really alarming statistic. I think actually having a plan of attack in your home is paramount to helping raise a child that has a good foundation of values that's based on who they are, and what they do, and how they feel as opposed to what they look like.<br></p><p>I spent a lot of time in schools with teens during Q&A screenings of Embrace, the documentary. What I was discovering was that it almost felt too late. Some of these kids had hated their bodies for two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine ... a crazy number of years. I just knew we were getting to them too late. We needed to do something earlier. We have already set about making the documentary for girls aged eight to 12, which we're in production for now. <br><br>The book came about because I thought, "Okay, that's eight to 12-year-olds. That's going to be another 18 months. We need to create something and get something really early in those really formative years." And I wrote a song with a group, a children's entertainment group called Pevan and Sarah. We released that song, and kids loved it, and parents loved it, and it went number one on iTunes, and it beat Baby Shark. It knocked Baby Shark off for a moment in time off the number one spot, which was hilarious. <br></p><p>So that lead to turning the song into a book. Although I'm the front person, there's a team of amazing people who I work with. Sinead Hanley, the illustrator. Her illustrations in that book are just so dreamy, and I think we've done a really good job collectively of making sure that everyone is seen in there. Whether you have a walking stick, and you're blind. Or whether your arm has been amputated, or what colour you are, or what religion you are. We've covered a lot of bases in that book to make sure everyone feels included.</p>
What are the biggest messages that you want to get through to the tween and teen-age group?<p>It always comes back to their bodies are not ornaments. They're vehicles in life. Also, that they've got such a short amount of time in the world, and they need to enjoy that time. I think also the kindness piece is a big piece, probably more so for the younger ones, but kindness is key. And celebrating diversity and our differences is really important. And diversity is beautiful. We don't want to all be the same or look the same. What sort of world would that be? I think it just comes back to enjoying their bodies and their experiences, and their experiences with other people. </p>
I want to talk about manifestation. You posted a photo of you Drew Barrymore, and you wrote about how you had manifested that you were going to meet her, and then there she was at your yoga class. Do you manifest a lot?<p>Manifesting is having belief. I believe in the non-physical world, and I believe that the non-physical world often champions our dreams and what we want. I believe when you're aligned and living consciously, leading with life, and gratitude, and generosity you are more likely to attract the outcomes that you want with ease and grace. <br></p><p><br>We can push, and we can hustle, and we can nudge, and we could do it that way. Or there is actually an easier way, and that's something I've been working on for a handful of years. I've always been very much wired to go, "Here's my goal. This is where I'm going. This is how I'm going to get there." There's vision boarding, meditation, being super grounded, and spending lots of time in nature. </p>
Taryn with Drew Barrymore
I want finish by talking about the self-beliefs we have which can hold us back. How do we overcome limiting self-beliefs?<p>I think questioning the why. Why I have that thought or belief? Start unpacking it. For me, a big one was public speaking. I didn't think I could speak in front of audiences, and I carried that for years, and years, and years. And now I do, and I love it. But I couldn't even raise my hand in a boardroom situation in my 20s. I would get so nervous and so clammy, and my voice would quiver. One day I said to myself, "Enough. I have something to say. Taryn, you need to get out of your own way." Deeper reflection is important. I feel little nerves, but they're fun nerves, and I dance with those emotions as opposed to being drowned by those emotions.</p><p>Another thing which might sound a little bit cheesy, is being your own best friend in life, and being that champion of yourself, and showing yourself enormous amounts of kindness. Be your own cheerleader. That is what embracing means. </p><p><br><br></p>
Embrace Your Body by Taryn Brumfitt and Sinead Hanley | Book Trailer<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3641e381f403d6879e6a38938231ba17"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/xS0ko2U8jR8?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>Embrace your body – you’ve only got one! Based on the #1 hit children’s song, this picture book encourages everyone to love who they are, inside and out. Tar...
The inspiration behind Tegan Murdock's brand Love Yourself Sister goes way back to her childhood. She's a proud Aboriginal woman from the Barkindji nation in far west NSW. She was born in Albury, and moved between here and Dareton throughout her childhood, and now considers both her home.
You are from the Barkindji nation in far west NSW - can you tell me about your childhood, where you grew up and what some of your most vivid memories of your childhood are?<p>I was never bored because there were always fun things to explore. Sitting around the fire while Mum and Nan cooked yummy food was always nice, I was always surrounded by family – Mum, Dad, Nan and Pop would ration what we had so that they made sure that no one missed out on food.<br></p><p>The red dirt and bush is a part of me and will always be who I am. Lake Mungo, Lake Victoria and the Perry sandhills were my playgrounds growing up. Mum and Dad ran youth groups where they would take kids out on country to sit, listen and learn about culture. My fondest memories were out Lake Mungo where I first learnt about the Emu in the milky way from my late uncle Roddy, he was known as the 'king of the bush' he held knowledge passed down for generations and generations. I cherish moments like these where you sit and listen to elders telling stories.</p>
What did your parents teach you about racism growing up?<p>We never really spoke about it, we would just see the impact and that's how I came to know about it.<br></p><p>I would face it when I would go into town from the mission. We wouldn't be served at shops and you learnt to wait a long time for your turn. Living on the mission, Mum told me that almost every weekend they would be living in fear from the KKK coming into their homes and running riot amongst everyone. I remember when I was around 6 or 7, we had to all gather at a family member's house because the KKK were running through our homes burning, smashing everything and hurting family. They would hide in the surrounding bushes and just put fear into us all. I would have nightmares, and I would always struggle to leave my family because that fear was built in that I could be hurt.</p><p>We would always fear white people, and we would never feel comfortable due to the trauma that was caused.</p><p>I would see racism all around me, comments like Abo, coon, boong and gin were always thrown around. As I got older Mum and Dad would tell us to ignore the comments and be the bigger person but sometimes it would get too much and you would just break. </p><p>I was a very good netball and basketball player, and this is where the opponent would make racist comments to try and put me off my game. Most of the time I would dread going to play another game but the love of it was too strong, so I kept persisting. Eventually they just saw us as normal people and the comments stopped. My brothers, however, would face it more than what I had.</p>
Tell me about the move to Sydney... was it an adjustment and what challenges did you face and how did you overcome any challenges?<p>Moving to Sydney was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, even at the age of 22.<br></p><p>I would never go on school camps, let alone move away from my family. I had separation anxiety so being away from family was hard. I'm pretty sure I cried every day for the first six months. I'm not sure how my husband put up with me. </p><p>I adjusted by making sure I had regular visits back home and made sure Mum and Dad would visit me. Starting work in Sydney was huge and a hard adjustment. My husband had to drive me to work as I worked in Chatswood close to his work. I was too scared to drive myself, coming from a small town with little traffic to the city life was very daunting. </p><p>I had numerous jobs when I first moved, but would only ever last in the job for a few months or so, being black and going into an all-white workplace was so hard. I had racism at an engineering company where I worked, I had a degrading feeling from a workplace where I worked in Mosman and faced racism in a workplace in Frenchs Forest. You would get uneducated people telling jokes and talking down to Aboriginal people, while I was sitting at my desk working. It was hurtful and would make you feel like you amounted to nothing.</p>
Your brand is about empowering women to embrace their own unique beauty, to help them understand that they are here for a reason, they are to live life to the fullest and not be caged in. Where did this inspiration come from? And can you share your experience with depression and anxiety?<p>This is where my brand 'Love Yourself sister' came from. Growing up I faced too many cruel situations and saw my family go through too much hurt. I wanted to create a movement where I could empower my people to really love and embrace who we are. We are not defined by other people's opinions, we are not defined by our past, we are all uniquely beautiful, brave and strong enough to stand tall and honour our paths, we don't need to have validation from anyone else. </p><p>I came up with the name while sitting in a personal development course – I had just uncovered a whole heap of things for myself and I just remember sitting there telling myself that I need to spread this message of self love. I wanted to spread that self love is how we can save ourselves – no one else can come to save us until we can recognise it in ourselves. After the course had ended, I created my Instagram page originally just as a reminder for myself. When I opened it up to the public, I started getting messages saying thank you for what you're doing, you're helping me on my journey to healing.</p>
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions around depression and anxiety?<p>I think the biggest misconceptions are that medication will cure you, keep busy and it'll pass.<span></span><br></p>
How old were you when you had children, and looking back, is there anything you wish you did differently?<p>I had Mia my first daughter when I was 24 and then my second 18 months after. Living away from my family as a firsttime mum was so hard, but I struggled through and from that had postnatal depression. I was alone and had no real support. If there's anything I could have done differently, it's chosen to move back with my mum! <br></p>
What have you learnt about happiness? What is happiness?<p>I've learnt that happiness doesn't come from anyone else, it's all within. Once you realise that you are worthy and enough within, then that's when your happiness will shine through. You won't need to seek it from anyone else because you are happiness.<span></span><br></p>
Can you take us through your career path, your days modelling, and how you came to found your own brand Love Yourself Sister?<p>Growing up I just wanted to work and start a family. I didn't have a career in mind, I wasn't interested in university or even owning a business. My first job was picking grapes with my Dad, Pop and brothers on a grape block in Coomealla. Then once I started year 7, I worked at the local IGA supermarket stocking the shelves. Once I had finished year 11, I started working at a bakery in Albury and then from there I got into office administration. I loved working with computers so really enjoyed this job. I've worked in administration for as long as I can remember until I had my kids and then I stopped working for six years while being a stay at home mum. My husband worked hard for us so that I could stay home and be here for our girls. But then, a few years ago my mum taught me how to weave baskets, and this is what I do to this day. I run weaving workshops, do weaving in schools and businesses. I love the idea of bringing this healing element to communities and also to sharing culture.<br></p><p>I've done a few small photoshoots for my modelling and one fun runway last year. It's not something that has been a big part of me but I have wanted to do it since I was little and I thought it would be a nice way to be a role model for my people. I realise now that I am a role model without being a model. </p>
Your mother taught you how to weave - can you share how it helped you to heal? And how did you come up with the name Ngumpie Weaving?<p>My beautiful mum taught me how to weave a few years ago. She had tried prior to this, but it just wasn't my time to learn. I learnt after getting off a family cruise and from that day I haven't stopped. It has allowed me to feel connected to culture whilst living away from home and it has allowed me to slow down and be grounded amongst the craziness of the world. Weaving to me is medicine. You zone out while creating and forgetting all the troubles of the day. I guess this is something my ancestors used for healing and connection to country.<br></p><p>The name Ngumpie Weaving came from my Nanna Shirl, she used to call me Ngumpie when I was growing up, and Ngumpie in our Language means "beautiful", so when I decided to create a weaving business, this was the only name that stuck out for me. My Nan is no longer with us, but I feel her presence with me all the time.</p>
How has your life changed since becoming a mother? What has been the greatest challenge, and the greatest joy?<p>Life has changed so much. The strength and courage I have found since becoming a Mum is next level amazing. I love being a mum and I love learning from them. The greatest joy of motherhood is having two little best friends. I love the fact that I get to watch them grow into beautiful, caring, strong little girls. They teach me how to be a better person every day. <br></p>
How can we talk to our children about what being anti-racist means?<p>I would say just simply teaching them to love and respect all human beings and that because someone looks different to us, they still breathe the same air and share this land. Love wins every time. We need to encourage our children to learn about all cultures and people.</p>
A year from now, what changes do you want to see in the world around anti-racism?<p><strong> </strong>I'd like to see more love, understanding and kindness being spread. I'd love to see more Aboriginal culture being highlighted and showcased in businesses. I'd love to see more Aboriginal representation in the media. I would love to see the Aboriginal flag on top of the Harbour Bridge.<span></span></p>
"I ended up tandem feeding my two children until my daughter turned 4.5 years old," says British mother of two and model Jess Bowen.
As it happened, tandem feeding was never part of the plan and it was only after reading about it online that she knew it was possible. Jess now shares her story online too, through her blog and Instagram account @modelmother, in the hope that it'll inspire others, just as she was once inspired. "I'm still breastfeeding my son who has recently turned two and we are both happy with how it's going although the plan is to night wean him as soon as his final tooth is through because mama needs some rest!"
Tell me about your breastfeeding journey and where you are up to now...<p>I started breastfeeding in February 2015 and haven't stopped since! My labour with my first child, Eliana was a long one, lasting a few days and although it was a very positive, natural and well supported experience, by the time she arrived we were both so exhausted that it took us a while to get to that first feed. The midwives let us sleep for a couple of hours before coming to tell me that it's important she had her first feed. It wasn't until much later that day that Eliana latched when my mum came to visit and confidently showed me what to do. There was no going back from there. Bar the initial cracked nipples and blocked ducts I was very lucky that it was plain sailing. I fell pregnant with my son 2.5 years later when my daughter was still a feeding machine and so I just carried on. I remembered reading one small caption about tandem feeding online and it opened up a whole new thing that I didn't even know was a possibility. I find it amazing that one small drop of experience shared by a stranger had such a huge impact on me so that's why I share my story online too. I ended up tandem feeding my two children until my daughter turned 4.5 years old at which point, I gently weaned her because I had nursing aversion that repelled me every time I fed her, even when it was only her latched. I can only assume that was my body sending me the signal to say time's up. I'm still breastfeeding my son who has recently turned 2 and we are both happy with how it's going although the plan is to night wean him as soon as his final tooth is through because mama needs some rest!<br></p>
How has breastfeeding enriched your life? And also your children's lives?<p>I find it almost impossible to capture the sense of enrichment in words. It just makes me feel in tune, with the kids and with myself. It's been such a visceral and instinctive experience and somehow that's enough to deflect all the knocks that come with continuing to breastfeed beyond the 'normal' age. It puts a fire in my belly and it brings out the lioness in me when anyone contests the way I feed my children because it is so evident to me how much goodness it has brought to our family life. It soothes wounds, reduces teething pain, gets them through illnesses, helps with transitions, gives me some quiet time, releases the pressure valve of life for us all and brings a closeness that has continued beyond breastfeeding with my eldest. <br></p>
What are your thoughts on the attitude towards mums breast-feeding in public and the reservations some mums have about feeding in public?<p>I believe mums should be allowed to feed their children wherever and whenever they want and need, without feeling they have to be discreet or cover up if they don't want to and without fear of judgement. I know reservations come in all shapes and forms and from a deep-rooted place that is hard to override but in my experience, the fear is worse than the fact. Most people won't even notice what's happening if you breastfeed your baby in public. What they will notice is a screaming, hungry baby (especially those newborn cries that pierce the heart!) so feeding them is by far the less offensive action. Also, if you just do it like it's the most normal thing in the world then people will trust your confidence and be more likely to accept it. They're often more afraid of you making them feel uncomfortable than the other way around. The more you do it, the more normal it will feel and the more confidence you will gain.<br></p>
You were a pregnant, breastfeeding mum of a three-year-old and have said you were "well outside of most people's version of 'normal' when they think of a breastfeeding mum". How did that make you feel? How do we shift our mindset on what normal is/looks like?<p>As a person who has always been quite prone to people pleasing, not rocking the boat and fitting the mould, especially within my working life, I've often wondered where my resilience, courage and confidence stems from when it comes to challenging the norms of breastfeeding. I can only assume it's me reverting to my default setting; my natural instinct to do what's right by my kids overrides whatever anyone else thinks on this matter. I just have this really strong sense of knowing it's the right thing for me and I've been so lucky to have the support needed to see it through. I wish this confidence extended to all aspects of parenting for me but unfortunately, I'm as guilty of second guessing myself as the next mother.<br></p>
You've said that breastfeeding a baby in public was never something that bothered you - why was this?<p>I think it was the influence of my mum. I come from a line of breastfeeding (and breadwinning) women who have fed beyond one year, some for several years. I saw my mum breastfeed my sister, who was 12 years younger, in public and she now recounts the criticism she used to receive but I didn't see that at the time. I just saw my mum doing her thing. When it came to breastfeeding outside of home for me, I remember her being almost forceful in her encouragement and absolutely adamant that it was no-one else's business. I think that I was so used to being undressed in front of strangers with my modelling work that I had no fear of exposing a very small amount of flesh, even in the early days when my daughter would only feed if I was reclined back and she could lie down the length of my tummy. She was also quite noisy about it which wasn't ideal but it was what it was and she needed her milk! Thankfully I was also fortunate in having an antenatal group that included women who also breastfed beyond two years who made it a very enjoyable experience in the early days. We spent hours in coffee shops laughing and feeding and making sense of it all.<br></p>
What are a few tips for anyone struggling with the idea of feeding in public?<p>* Start small - go somewhere familiar, friendly, somewhere where nursing is actively encouraged or if it's nice weather, in an open space outside.</p><p>* Look into your baby's eyes - it's a great way to tune out the outside world and avoid observing any unwanted attention and it gets the oxytocin flowing when under pressure. Maybe even quietly hum a tune to yourself to block out any noise.</p><p>* Know that a lot of the looks come from genuine human curiosity or an appreciation for the act of breastfeeding and not from criticism or disgust. I find if you smile at someone who looks at you while breastfeeding then they often smile back or at worst, look a little embarrassed that you caught them at it!</p><p>* Make sure you're in good, supportive company the first few times</p><p>* Wear something that is easy to breastfeed in and take any equipment that you might need like a feeding cushion. </p><p>* Arm yourself a one line retort for anyone who actively criticises. I've yet to master this but I'd love to deliver a perfectly timed shot to give the recipient something to think about!</p>
You work in a very image-based industry. How did your respect for your body change after you had children? Did you feel more or less self-love?<p>I have spent my whole working life, from 17-years-old onwards, making sure my body is looking as it 'should' be, making it look polished and presentable and always shoot-ready. I hadn't realised how exhausting and time-consuming that constant upkeep was until I had a baby and all of that slipped far, far down the priority list. While I've always had a good relationship with my body I realised after having a baby that I had always been assessing whether it would meet outside approval because that's par for the course in the modelling industry. I usually thought that it would and so I was confident in it but now I realise that was still an unhealthy way of seeing myself. Pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding have been such positive experiences for me because I went in believing my body was capable and that they were all natural processes that didn't need any undue intervention. But I hadn't anticipated how those things would also make me feel so much more rooted and empowered, physically and mentally and I'm still genuinely in awe of what my body has been capable of. I really have absolutely no interest in what other people think of my body now because I love it more than I ever have, despite it looking different to before, and in fact, if anything it improved the scope of my modelling work as suddenly my body and face looked more lived in, opening up opportunities to work with a more diverse range of brands. </p>
What would you say to women about body love after babies?<p>It's so hard to comment here because so many women come to parenthood with body issues that have been a constant presence throughout their life. Pregnancy, birth and motherhood only exacerbate those anxieties which is understandable when you've spent your lifetime seeing celebs' postpartum bodies pulled apart by the media. </p><p>I spent my pregnancies fascinated by what my body was doing and read as much as I could to fully understand the process. There is something so wild and raw and feminine about it that I felt like a warrior. Reading books like Ina May Gaskill's Guide to Childbirth connected with that feeling and gave me so much appreciation for my body which definitely carried through to the postnatal period. </p><p>I would also say that your babies think your body is the most wonderful thing - their first home and their safe place - and I only wish that more women were able to see themselves through their child's eyes. </p>
How have comments such as "Oh, you're still breastfeeding" or "When are you planning to stop" made you feel and how do you respond?<p>It has taken me a while but I am now able to understand that these comments come from a place of ignorance and ingrained prejudice that stems from living in a patriarchal society and until confronted with an alternative view people will accept their beliefs as truths. I am also conscious that language can be a fickle thing and that word, 'still', isn't always intended as a criticism. Sometimes it can reveal admiration or curiosity which then allows me to open up the conversation. I have an opportunity to challenge the status quo by showcasing an alternative way of doing things. I don't do it to push breastfeeding down people's throats but simply to show that continuing to breastfeed for as long as you and your child want it is an option. </p>
What have been the ups and downs of motherhood for you?<p>I really had no clue how demanding, all consuming and relentless motherhood would be. The shift in gear came as such a shock and it took me several years to adjust and to feel full acceptance of my new version of normal. I've read a lot on matrescence since having my second baby and particularly love Dr Oscar Serrallach and his work on postnatal depletion because it made me feel seen and heard and I realised everything I felt was perfectly normal and part of the process. I really feel like I'm into my stride with it now though and we've reached a place that my friend describes as 'the promised land' where we feel like a proper unit and the kids will play happily together while I get to enjoy a hot coffee!</p>
What was your experience of lockdown - how did you manage it as a family?<p>In all honesty, I loved lockdown. At the beginning it was a strange thing to acknowledge that life under lockdown was remarkably similar to my normal life in a small, rural village as a mostly stay at home mum but as soon as everyone else in the country (keyworkers excepted) were willingly incarcerated I suddenly felt much more at peace, less like I was missing out or that the world was carrying on at a pace while I was at a standstill. Staying at home with the kids felt proactive and a more valuable contribution to society than it is usually deemed to be and the slowness offered up a wonderful opportunity for reconnection. Having my husband there for every meal which we mostly ate outside and for bath and bedtime removed so much of the daunting loneliness that comes with motherhood. I understand all of this comes from a place of great privilege and good health, but I can honestly say it was one of the happiest periods of parenthood for me. </p>
If you could go back to before you became a mother, what would you tell yourself?<p>If you take the time to tune into yourself, you will find you know how to do this. It will take time to process and learn, but the love and the strength is there for you and it's limitless. I would also say it is really, really hard work, unfathomably so in the early days, but there is a direct correlation between the work you put in and the benefits you reap so hang in there. Work out what self care really looks like for you and don't compromise on it, even if it's as little as brushing your teeth twice a day which can feel like a mini win with a newborn. And one thing that I've learned with my second child is that they will teach themselves. They are hardwired to learn through play so just wait and watch and resist the urge to step in to complete something for them or push them towards the next milestone, because they will get there in their own sweet time. </p>
From rubber rings to earth-shattering epiphanies
Ever since my son was five weeks old, when I felt like I had just woken up from a very long and very intense dream involving repeatedly putting cold cabbage leaves on my nipples (nature's balm for that brutal early breastfeeding soreness), I have been mentally amassing a list of all the things that really, really made a difference. The moments that, whether psychologically or physically, gave me the fresh legs I needed to keep on going on my own new-baby marathon. Or the things I didn't do, that I would have done, had I known about them ahead of time.
1) It's impossible to ever be truly prepped for the arrival of a fresh, entirely unpredictable baby human<p>And so, finally, I've begun to write them down. Next up…</p>
Rebecca Ritman with her son Sonny
2. Before you have the baby, laser all the hair off your body<p>Okay, so this is extreme, and just the ideal – and needs to be done before you get pregnant. And, I hasten to add, that doesn't include the hair on your head, unless you want to be really efficient with your shower time. But shaving my legs was the one bit of self-care I didn't have time for until around the nine-week mark, which wasn't ideal for my general feeling of self-worth. Alternatively, you could decide not to care ahead of time and make peace with your temporarily 'different' pins – the less painful solution. Then celebrate when you find you do have a window to deal with them, and see that as a success milestone (which I did. And which I wish I'd shared with my new new-mum mates, instead of thinking twice and feeling too embarrassed to). </p>
3. Laser your eyes<p>If you can't afford or aren't feeling brave enough to get your vision fixed, just make sure you have a pair of glasses that actually fit your face and aren't at risk of falling straight into a dirty nappy in the middle of the night (his father's top tip). </p>
4. Get long-term with your beauty treatments<p>If you highlight or dye your hair, switch to a look that doesn't require an expensive and lengthy stylist appointment every three months. For me, balayage chose me during lockdown. Similarly, get a shellac pedicure in a colour that won't look terrible when it chips, and invest in some sort of teeth-whitening, whether it be strips, those magical gum shields or via treatment at the dentist – because you are likely to be drinking a gallon of coffee each day, once your real taste for it returns. </p>
Before you go into the hospital:
5. As mentioned, get your baby's clothes into age, or even better, size order<p>This is partly because all baby brands are in a conspiracy to keep their sizing completely inconsistent, and partly to avoid finding yourself weeping while holding tiny socks in a few weeks' time. <strong></strong></p>
6. Buy a rubber ring<p>Need I say more? You don't need to have it blown up and squeezed into your weekend bag, it's just good to know you have one if you need it. Hospitals seem to have forgotten that rubber rings are good for a certain something that happens whenever you put the most pressure physically possible on your back passage (i.e., to every woman who has a vaginal birth, surely?). </p>
Rebecca Ritman with her son Sonny
7. Take earplugs, an eye mask and a neck pillow...<p>Because you might find yourself in induced-labour-limbo-land for several days, with your partner creased up like a pug's face beside you in a plastic chair and a snorer sleep-roaring somewhere close to the other side of your curtain. </p>
After you've had the baby:
8. ... then have plastic gloves to hand when you get home<p>(If there are any left in the world by that point) so you can fill them with ice and hold them wherever you need them during those initial 'sensitive' few weeks. <br></p>
9. This has probably become clear from the points preceding this one, but remember that there weeks after the birth might be tougher than the birth itself<p>Because – if you gave birth in a hospital – you're no longer in a building filled with hundreds of people who just want to help you and your family. Now it's just you, your partner, your new baby and a whole lot of nipple cream. So pace yourself as much as you can, and keep popping those painkillers. </p>
10, If you can, arrange for someone to assist with the home-work<p>Having some help with the maintenance of your living space, even if only every other week for those early few months, is such a morale-booster. Mentally, seeing your home back in order occasionally helps to relieve the sense that you've totally lost control of your life. Then decide not to worry about the mess you simply can't clear up. Alternatively, venture out so you can't physically see it until you stop feeling the urge to throw dirty crockery plates against the wall. </p>
11. Some of the best, and truest, things people have said to me are...<p>'Your nipples "adapt", so that breastfeeding really does stop hurting.' (It did.) </p><p>'Four weeks will feel like a milestone, then three months, then you're off on and running.' (We were.) </p><p>'See breastfeeding as your me-time – to watch TV, have a snack, sit back…' (Now I don't really want to stop breastfeeding.)</p><p>'Keep your phone, various remotes and whatever you want to eat near your breastfeeding "station" so you don't need to struggle to reach them with a hangry human being clamped to your nipple, or to have to ask someone – who's fast running out of patience – to hand them to you.' (Funnily enough, it was my husband's idea to get a little trolley for this very purpose.)</p><p>'Lean on visitors as much as you can. Get them to do the washing up as a trade off for seeing your baby.' (We probably should have done more of that.) </p>
12. Remember that cabbage leaves may ease the nipple pain?<p>… but they reduce milk production too (your boobs will stop hurting in a few weeks, I promise). And shields aren't the end of the world during a nipple crisis. </p>
13. As soon as you can bear it, put him or her down when they're still a tiny bit awake<p>This is so that they are aware they are sleeping in their Moses basket or sleep pod rather than in your arms, and therefore may not freak out quite as much when they wake up. Or at least, be brave and try it a few times before you totally give up on this extremely un-intuitive strategy. </p>
14. Have your Sleepyhead to hand from the outset<p>For the ultimate arms-free 'hug in a pillow', that will probably help him or her sleep more contentedly for longer. </p>
15. Phone anyone who has ever suggested that you shouldn't use a dummy while your baby screams and make them listen<p>And just remember that the dummy fairy will have no problem ejecting all the pseudo-nipples from your child's life when the time is right. </p>
16. Once they reach six months and are okay to sleep in a seperate room, make sure it's dark<p>Because sleeping with a bedside light on is annoying for them too. </p>
17. Nap when they nap, but only if you want to<p>Alternatively, enjoy the buzz and stay awake if you like. It was a shock to realise what a huge social occasion having a newborn is. If you don't want to miss a moment of loved ones cooing at your baby for the first time, that's okay too. Some new parents need less sleep than others, and some new babies need more than others too, if you're lucky. When he or she gets to around nine months and, hopefully, starts combining all their naps into one three-hour stretch, plan what you want to do with that part of your day in advance. Don't waste time faffing – just do, do, do and you'll feel a little bump of satisfaction before they wake up each time. </p>
Rebecca Ritman with her son Sonny
18. Plan ahead and a shower can always be possible<p>Ideally, have your partner do the morning nappy change – especially if you're doing all the night feeds – and you can get washed and dressed then. Alternatively, if your baby isn't rolling yet, plonk them down in the bathroom naked and label it their daily dose of nappy-free time. They love it. Or, dash off to get ready whenever they eventually go down for their first nap. If you're anything like me, you'll feel at least 50 per cent stronger post-shower. </p>
19. Use a baby carrier around the house<p>Babies generally love watching your hands do whatever you're doing with them around the house, or will pass out if they're at all sleepy if you wear them facing forwards (advised for babies under five months). It's an excellent work out for you too, so there's no need to force yourself to do much other exercise during that first year. If you have a Bjorn, you may well need a thinner one for summer days. My baby was born during the hottest UK heatwave since recordings began and I did not quite have the brain-width to both order a cooler wrap-style carrier and learn how to tie it. </p>
Rebecca Ritman with her son Sonny
20. Save answering Whatsapps for the endless breastfeeding sessions<p>Don't respond to the many messages you'll likely receive as a new parent if you've just yourself you're going to try and have a nap. Have a blanket 'Love your message – I'll respond properly when I can' kind of 'Whatsapp Out of Office', ready to cut and paste so you never need feel any nagging guilt about ignoring anyone. </p>
21. Don't be afraid of your baby<p>I realised I was a little bit scared of my son about six weeks in. But then I realised: he's a baby. I'm a grown-up. (Exactly what I tell myself when I see a big spider, and they're far less cute – in my eyes, anyway). He's more scared to be alive than I am about keeping him that way. And then all the rest felt infinitely easier. </p>
The Melbourne-based founder of The Suite Set Sally Branson Dalwood has worked as a senior media advisor to a prime minister, developed and promoted strategy around entrepreneurship policy for women and worked as the director of a political party. Ask her about her career in politics, and you'll hear about the time she was catapulted off an aircraft carrier. And the time she climbed a rope ladder down the side of a US warship into a pilot boat floating aside it in the middle of the ocean. There's also time she was accompanying the Prime Minister when the Duke and Duchessof Cambridge visited Australia. Dalwood not only attended the royal's events in Sydney and Canberra, but travelled in the car behind the couple.
Tell us about your days in politics – what was your role and what did it entail?<p>Over a career in public affairs, I've played a few roles in politics. I've worked as a senior media advisor to a Prime Minister and developed and promoted strategy around entrepreneurship policy for women. My last role before I had children was as the Director of a political party - it's the true behind the scenes role of a political party. Campaigning, electioneering, making sure membership was happy, making sure each elected politician was doing what they said they'd do and working to harmonise the elected officials aims with that of the party's membership. Each role has been early mornings, long days and working on projects that were highly value-driven - so many great days of job satisfaction.<span></span><br></p>
You were once catapulted off an aircraft carrier…<p>I was working in public affairs for the US government at the time and had fallen into the role of Defence specialist. This is a role I had never thought I would have interest or aptitude in, but it turned out to be a life-changing experience for me. I learned so many lessons in crisis management, planning and about service and community. Who knew? I had to host a visiting group of VIPs on to an aircraft carrier -these things are about ten times the size of the town I grew up in. It's a true skill to be able to land an aeroplane on the deck of a ship, it take amazing technique and defiance of the laws of gravity- the plane literally has to catapult off a slingshot to get enough movement to fly. As a passenger, you have to brace to take off and land because of the velocity. Because I was managing the guests, I spent a week "commuting" to work. I kept getting in trouble from the pilot because I was becoming too relaxed and too busy asking questions and chatting. Part of the joy of this role was that sort of excitement, but also learning and appreciating the roles other people play in the world. Sometimes now, I look at my piles of washing and wonder if this really happened.</p>
You also once climbed a rope ladder down the side of a US warship into a pilot boat floating aside it about 500kms out to sea – tell us about this?<p>You also once climbed a rope ladder down the side of a US warship into a pilot boat floating aside it about 500kms out to sea – tell us about this? I had managed a visit by a large warship, it was a visit that had significant political value and interest - it was not without challenges. There was also a really large community element behind the scenes. When a warship visits a port, it's like a mini town arriving so it can be a big injection of money into a community as well as raising some eyebrows. In our planning, I always made sure there was a community volunteering element of a visit, where I would send US Navy personnel out into work with local community groups, from building, repairing, painting, landscaping. We'd lend the sailors in to do meals on wheels and provide staffing respite for community organisations. We tried to provide value for the communities we visited, these sailors come with such diverse skills, cultural background and education. At the end of the visit, the Ship's Captain asked if I would like to sail off the Port of Darwin with them. I initially declined, because it felt so out of my comfort zone. One of the NCIS (like the tv show, yes) officers explained to me that it was a rare privilege and not to turn it down. He also gave me some sage advice on what shoes and clothes NOT to wear. It honestly was an amazing experience to sail out, pods of dolphins aside and get a glimpse into this world for a short time. Growing up, landlocked in a tiny rural community, this was far away from the life I had imagined for myself. The whole climbing down a rope ladder into a boat to come back ashore was not the graceful experience of being at one with the sea as I had envisaged though. I truly learned the meaning of white-knuckling it, I was on the ladder over the side of the ship, holding on to the metal edge of the ship and I'll always wryly remember the lovely, polite sailor repeating <em>"Just let go of the side ma'am. Just let go. C;mon M'am, let it go"....</em></p>
You've spoken about not forgetting the visit of William and Catherine to Australia?<p>I've long been a fan of the Queen and the way she has served and worked in her role, and long-held a soft spot for William and Harry. I had followed their story with interest and was obsessed with Price George and his peter pan collars. I was accompanying the Prime Minister at the time of William and Catherine visiting Australia, attending their events in Sydney and Canberra, travelling in the car behind the royal couple. I remember being amazed at the people lining six deep on the streets to wave to the royal couple, and thought it was lovely - albeit extraordinary. My real shock came when I was walking with them in public spaces, I was wholly overwhelmed by the screaming from the crowds. I appreciate the adoration and the excitement but I was shocked at the primal nature of it. It was something I had never experienced before and I found it really confronting. It gave me such a small insight into the realities that come with their privilege and power, gifted through birth and marriage. It also made me think more about the concept of what it is to serve. I think to be prepared to have that privilege, you need to steel yourself for the public ownership. Although from a public affairs/past media advisor perspective, I feel like Meghan and Harry made some strategic mistakes in the way they exited the "firm", I can very much see why they did.</p>
When you fell pregnant, did it change the way you thought about your career – what were your expectations around motherhood and work?<p>I knew a federal election was looming. I honestly thought that at 39, I would have a baby, love it and still be all consumed by politics still. I scheduled in a time frame for my return, first meeting a month after I was due (to keep connected) and then all guns blazing at six months. My expectations were that I would love being a mama, but also that I would still really need the cut and thrust of work to feel fulfilled. I felt confident that I could and would manage it all. </p>
And what happened after your first baby arrived – what led to you leaving politics?<p>I soon realised that although my love for work was still there, it had been eclipsed by my love for my child and my desire to meet our family needs first. I simply could not believe that I felt this way, that my wish to be there for his early days, surpassed my ambitions for my work. I did try and juggle working, breastfeeding, running home from the train station with boobs leaking. I never stopped loving work, but I couldn't make it work. To be able to fully participate in my work at the level I needed to successfully do the role, meant that I couldn't be present for my family. I really felt I had failed. I had failed all the women that went before me, and those I was working so hard to set an example for. I also felt I was failing the progressives in my organisation who had supported me along the way and were working hard to make it work for me. And it was a big blow to my ego too. I kept thinking "but all those other mothers could do it" which is reductive and unhelpful. I had to do a lot of deep thinking about how my identity had changed as a mother and as a professional and what that looked and felt like. I had to get clear on what my priorities were at that exact moment. And after years of just making decisions based on my own values I had to factor in my family priorities too. Funnily enough, I had trouble reconciling what I knew was the right path, the path that physically felt right - which my own expectations of what I should. I still sometimes feel "less than" when people ask "but doesn't being at home with babies bore you? how do you get any mental stimulation" and my honest answer is that I was never bored, I could still self stimulate and be in wonder every day even as a stay at home mum. I've had to work to reconcile this with my value and worth.</p>
What changes would you like to see for mothers who work in politics?<p>I think recognition mothers must be supported to be active and involved in formal policy and legislation making - but after having a newborn, they should be able to take formal maternity leave, even as an elected representative. I think an open discussion about the true challenges of balance, mother and career guilt need to be discussed, that it shouldn't be an all in, or not at all equation. Mothers have to be involved in policy making or else policy isn't fit for purpose.</p>
You've said that politics that ignited your interest in small business – and the innovators – tell me about about this?<p>I was so fortunate to be able to work on "the small business budget" in 2015 focusing on energising a culture of female entrepreneurship and startups. The research and connections that went into preparing this budget meant that I was able to sit down in roundtables and policy discussion with amazing female small business bosses. These were the most invigorating and exciting meets we had. My eyes were opened to the wealth of ideas and also the challenges female startups face - do you want your venture capital with a side of commentary on your appearance or a sexual proposition? I remember one woman coming in for a one-on-one sit down meeting with the small business Minister, but her childcare fell through, so she was in the meeting plus one. I can only imagine the stress she would have felt, but she powered on. Bringing a baby didn't make her ideas any less valid or supported. It was a seminal moment for me - you can bring a baby and still impact policy. These women opened my eyes to entrepreneurship, I was unashamedly inspired by them and even though I'd started my own babysitters club and car wash at age 11, I never thought it was a path I would "need" to take - I was so committed to politics. Funny how it turns…..</p>
Take me back to your first baby – how did you pack your bag? And what exactly did you pack in your bag? <p>I often laugh that our business is based on being organised. I had a reputation for having the most chaotic desk, the most jam-packed handbag ( Once upon a time, I was out on a visit with a VIP and one of the visiting Secret Service complained he hadn't had time to eat, so I dug around my bag and found him a boiled egg). As footloose and fancy free child free couple, we used to joke that we could fling our stuff from one end of a hotel room from the next on a visit and we didn't want that chaos when we were learning about our new baby. I've always been able to pack light (but messy) for a work trip, but when it came to my hospital bag, I did all the overthinking I could. My hospital bag was all sorts of overpacked, overwhelmed chaos. The one saving grace was some cobbled together zip locked bags, so we had a semblance of organised. It sparked a kernel of an idea - if I could manufacture something, that made sure there wasn't any overwhelm or chaos when everything else was overwhelming and chaos.</p>
If you're not a naturally organised person, what's your advice on packing a hospital bag? <p>I'm not - which I feel brings a special perspective to our business! Hospital and birth is unfamiliar and often uncontrolled situation. So it's good to be able to control what you can and focus on the important things rather than what's in your bag in the hospital. So prepare well when you can, segment your bag and follow a good list. </p><p>If you've got a support person, make sure they're playing an active part in packing. They know where and what things are. You'd be surprised at how hard it is to recognise the difference between a singlet and a onesie at 2am if you don't really know what they are to begin with. Only pack what you need and what you know will bring you joy or make you feel comfortable. Oh, listen to me, Marie Kondo-ing. In every single hospital, I've been to, there has been a chemist close by which always stocks essentials so relax into knowing that if you do forget something, you can always find it close by. My other tips are just to pack for simplicity, ease and comfort. </p>
You did a load of research about new parenthood – what did you find?<p>That all mamas, young and old, felt overwhelmed by the pressure to have it all worked out and all perfect before babe was even born.<br></p> <p>That often we spend so much time getting a good looking nursery set up, we have not talked about the pressure of being prepared or our values around parenting. To be able to take small action steps about organising the detail, means it isn't overwhelming when the time comes.</p>
So many women think about launching their own business - Tell me about the early days of launching The Suite Set and have you ever looked back and wished you were still in politics?<p>Talk us through the ups and downs? Some days when I worked madly through nap times, or tried to ignore the triggering piles of washing, and worried about finance - I have thought how nice it would be to be salaried and in politics. Even now in COVID times, there are some days I think "how can I help more?" Would I be more useful in a formal role. This is one reason we've started doing some information "brokerage" on the suite set - how to actively talk to your health providers, how to have a conversation about your values as a family before babe is born" - so I hope this past experience is informing and value-adding to our community online. I started working on the concept in the 19 months between babes, I did some informal and some more structured research and recognised that the idea was one that people loved and wanted. Although I had done some work in PR in the past, and been and seen so many product launches by celebrities - it wasn't in our wherewithal to launch in a big way (we'd spent our bathroom renovation money on ethically manufacturing the bags so a launch budget wasn't there). To be frank, we were also deep in having a baby who had not yet turned one and a two-year-old - and sometimes even having a daily shower seemed like a task, let alone organising a product launch with balloon garlands and champagne and influencers. It is important for small startups to realise - that isn't what a launch has to be, in order to be successful. We did what's known as a "soft launch". I had to keep reminding myself that "perfect was the enemy of the good" and we launched with the product done, and the webpage as good as it could be for that stage of our business. So we pressed "live" at about 8pm at night, sitting at the kitchen table when the boys were in bed. At nine am the next morning we sent an email out to all of our family and friends, explaining our why and how of the business. We then posted on my personal social media accounts and linked in and shared the website. It was as soft as it gets, but it was the right launch for our business. I'm not saying I don't play the compare game when I see a celeb launch a product with celeb friends and celeb promotions - because any business that needs monetise, loves that exposure. I am saying that accepting that wasn't within our start-up means, was a healthy thing and it's been a true joy and satisfaction to see our business and community grow through word of mouth and recommendation.</p>
How did you go about getting the products made and what was important to you?<p>I had a crystal clear image in my head of what the individual bags would look like, and I kept true to that during the whole manufacturing process. For me, it was vital the bags were quality and strong enough to be reusable, for them to be as environmentally friendly as they could be (for plastic), they were smell free and nasty free. Although our market research showed differently (!) having them made in Australia was really vital too. In fact, in all of the suppliers of product and service were Australian, and mostly female sole or small traders. I felt this needed to be part of our DNA. But, easier said than done.<span></span><br></p><p>It took a literal year of learning about plastic compositions, learning about manufacturers and speaking with manufacturers to work out how I could get this done. I dragged a six-month-old and a just turned two-year-old around international plastics fair, powered by coffee, bottles and bananas meeting with suppliers and explaining I wanted an environmentally friendly plastic option to manufacturers from all over the Asia pacific. I was well and truly a novelty at that trade fair. It was here, just as the wheels fell off and the tears were almost flowing down the three of our faces - that I saw my supplier - I couldn't stop and talk but emailed as soon as I can and set up our manufacturing relationship. They were very patient as I felt my way through the process, multiple questions per email and multiple emails a week.</p>
What is your vision for The Suite Set?<p>For our products and our conversations in our community be a valuable contributor to supporting growing families, in whatever form they take. That we engage in conversations about understanding realistic and manageable expectations for new mums, we promote care and community and we just make things easier. <br></p>
You describe yourself as a fixer – how has this practical approach to solving problems helped you in your career?<p>I think that "fixing" things comes from a mindset of generosity in the first place. I've learned that to fix things, one must remember a few "rules". Some things don't actually need fixing however there is always a workaround, always a way to be able to reframe a problem and it is important to go along the path knowing "the outcome may not look like you thought it would look, but it is the right outcome for the time". This mindset I am sure is a genetic one, inherited from my nana and my mum. It's meant that I've always been willing to get in and do the work for a better outcome, find the greater good (because that's what fixing is) and be willing to be flexible. By knowing how to reframe something, means you're never stuck. This comes in handy at any workplace, or in any relationship really!<span></span><br></p>
What do you think holds women back the most?<p>Our lack of self-belief coupled with the sad reality that other women can be dissuasive of each other. Also the pressure we put on ourselves for perfection means we struggle to be able to bring joy into our lives - we're so busy with the mental load, of making sure we're doing everything right, the competition - we forget that it feels good to feel good.<br></p>
If you could go back to before you had children, what advice would you give yourself?<p>I wouldn't have listened to even myself, and I still don't listen to myself - when I say "all babies need is love and food, so rest, be kind, don't worry about the washing piling up".</p>
The Grace Tales is a global lifestyle platform for mothers searching for style, substance, and solidarity. Driven by creating content, community and connection, we celebrate the paradox of modern motherhood; the struggle and the beauty, the joy and the relentlessness.
When you become a mother, you have the ability to cut through all the BS and cut straight to the chase. I never used to open up to strangers so openly before I became a mother. But becoming a mother is like joining a secret club that you didn't know existed until you became one – suddenly, you just get each other. You click. You understand what motherhood is really like. You know it's joyful and magical and lifechanging, but you also know it's harder than you ever imagined. You also discover that talking about it – the ups and the downs – is essential for survival. And that keeping any struggles locked away only leads to loneliness and isolation.
Gwyneth Paltrow & Cameron Diaz: In Conversation | In goop Health: The Sessions<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1794f7a556de1c8c69f8744a27813cb1"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/XoX73sp0IOE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>Gwyneth Paltrow & Cameron Diaz: In Conversation | In goop Health: The Sessions In partnership with our friends at LÄRABAR GP will be back for this session to...
It's no secret we adore Ashley Graham, and just when we couldn't love her more, she has posed nude in Elle US's August issue, alongside her son Isaac, 6 months, and husband Justin Ervin, photographed by Ervin himself.
Ashley Graham with her son Isaac
Ashley Graham stars alongside son Isaac, 6 months, and husband Justin Ervin in Elle's August issue, with photos by Ervin