Full disclosure: for me, 60 minutes is the ideal workout length. Any less and I still have something left in the tank; any more and I lose the will to live. A full hour gives you time to warm up and cool down properly, to get your brain out of your inbox, and to feel pretty amazing.

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I don't like to be defined by any single part of my life experience. Whether it's being a mum, losing my mum, being a career person, being a cancer patient, being a creative person; it's all just me and part of my story…

Piece By Piece Home designer Elizabeth Pilkington has quite a story. While she now operates her design studio out of her Bowral home, the mother of two left behind a very different life in corporate communications in Sydney. The move was inspired by her impending motherhood journey, but the transition into design was brought about by something far more sinister: a breast cancer diagnosis. Her daughters were four and five at the time. "I stopped worked altogether for a full year", Elizabeth recalls. "Everything became about survival and undergoing numerous surgeries and treatments, including chemotherapy. As I started to emerge from the shock, horror and invasive catalogue of medical intervention that was required, I found absolute solace in textiles."

With Elizabeth's own mother having passed away from the same cancer when Elizabeth was just 21, the experience was terrifying. But that fear gave her a new perspective. "Any fear about possible failure in a creative endeavour disappeared", she explains. "Nothing was as scary as my children not having a mother. So, in a sense, having a life-threatening diagnosis did spur me on to focus my time and energy on what I loved to do, rather than what I thought I should be doing."

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There's a calm self-assurance to Lucy Zelic. It's likely been cultivated through her years of being in front of the camera as a presenter on SBS, notably hosting both the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cups. Sport is in her blood – born into a traditional Croatian family, she was raised playing and watching football, and her two older brothers went on to play professionally. But as a woman, she tells us, "I've copped a hell of a lot over the years"...

There was the bizarre 'scandal', for example, over her correctly pronouncing players names during the 2018 World Cup. "While it was upsetting at first, I've realised that staying true to myself is the only way I can handle it because I'd rather go to sleep at night believing in the woman I am, rather than pretending to be someone that I am not."

Since becoming a mother to one-year-old daughter Mila, though, the unshakeable Zelic has discovered a new vulnerability within herself. Some of it is born from the struggle most working mothers grapple with – "there are still times where I get in the car and cry all the way to work", she says, "but I now recognise that I am doing this for my daughter and her future." Even since the pandemic hit and she's been largely working from home, the guilt is inescapable. "I can be stationed in one room, interviewing the coach of the Australian men's national team while Mila is yelling 'mama!' at the top of her lungs just a few rooms away…my mum guilt is through the roof."

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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.