Image by Simon Upton for InStyle Australia, May 2018
On how you felt becoming a mother…
Becoming a mother opened my heart to unconditional love and showed me the female body’s magic ability to adapt and evolve. I was in awe of my body’s transformation and how it returned to its original pre-pregnancy state, yet became a different and also beautiful shape.
When I became a mother, every day was a discovery. When it came to my heart, I was amazed at my new capacity to love unconditionally and realised I had never truly loved before. It was an amazing experience and ever since I have tried to love people, without judgement, in the same way that I love my children. It’s not always easy, but the intention is there.
On being pregnant…
I loved being pregnant and was lucky not to have morning sickness. My only real challenge was what to wear. I didn’t want to wear maternity clothes and was always looking for cooler options. Had I been in Australia, I would have been pregnant and barefoot on the beach like I had dreamed of, but I was living in London, so that wasn’t an option. It came down to wearing low-cut jeans and boots and because both of my boys were winter babies, at my most pregnant I was wearing lots of sweaters (which never quite covered my tummy) and coats.
I gained 50 pounds with Flynn and 40 pounds with Cy, so coupled with those wintery layers I felt enormous!
On parenting toddler boys…
Mothering toddlers was a learning experience. I wanted to be a good mother but didn’t know how. I honestly had no idea what to do, so I went to parenting classes. My family was in Australia and I was in London, and I felt isolated from family and friends in Australia and the USA, where I had been based before becoming pregnant.
I was telling a wise woman that I didn’t know what to do, and she suggested that I watch the other parents at school, so I found a mother and we became friends. I would go to her house and watch her – I wondered how she managed to play with them, bake cookies, do music classes, cook, clean and help get their homework done – plus stick to a routine and get them into bed by 7pm. I watched her and realised that she didn’t do anything perfectly, but did everything with love. Her house was buoyant and smelt of baking. It was chaotic, but it worked.
I realised I didn’t have to be perfect and I just needed to do it and do my best. She taught me a lot and it was a truly eye-opening experience. I’m deeply grateful.
On being a working mother…
I found an old copy of Australian Vogue recently where I was about 5 months pregnant. I worked most of the way through my pregnancies, designing lingerie and modelling where appropriate – and then once my boys were born, I took time off.
I didn’t rush trying to lose the baby weight, but lost it quickly because I breast fed. There seems to be a real pressure for new mothers to lose their baby weight quickly, it’s almost a status symbol to bounce back quickly after pregnancy. My doctor advised me not to rush because you need the fat in your body and in your milk to nourish your children, so I slowed down and enjoyed most of their first years, breastfeeding and mothering full-time.
elle on the cover of Vogue Australia, November 1997
On bringing up teenagers…
I often mention to the boys that they didn’t come with a manual and so I don’t always get it right. Sometimes I make mistakes - and they let me know about it. I might be insensitive to their feelings, push them too hard, or not realise they are upset or not allow them freedom they need to explore. They always let me know and I listen to what they have to say.
Flynn wanted to be independent from an early age. He slept through the night from 6 weeks old, never in a parental bed, and he was on a self-reliant mission from the minute he was born. Often our struggle was the balance between him being independent and me teaching him to being organised, disciplined, structured, responsible and self-loving, particularly in relation to his school work. I wanted for him to have a well-rounded academic education, and I felt that his education was imperative in teaching him life skills. Balancing his desire for freedom to explore whilst still making sure he got his work done made for some uncomfortable moments between us. Today Flynn is now doing a double major in university whilst still traveling and exploring life. He’s also an accomplished pilot and I believe our struggles have been important learning curves for us both.
Cy is an only child at home now and he is quite relaxed - perhaps because I am more relaxed. He’s at peace and he’s in a school where it is cool to be smart. He’s not in a hurry to leave home and he’s comfortable keeping things simple whilst still focusing on his academics and friendships and sport.
I have loved raising boys who are articulate with their feelings - even if it means that I’m in the firing line at times.
On adjusting to your children growing up and moving out…
I believe in allowing and encouraging them to be independent. Flynn lived at university in Boston for the first year of his studies, then moved to his own apartment. We organized his furniture, set up his home and got him settled. It was a fantastic bonding time together and I’m so proud of the young man he’s become.
Cy drove to school just a couple of months ago for the first time after getting his driver’s license and as he drove out of the gates, I burst into tears. No more school runs together talking about life (and having a captive audience).
On what your mother taught you…
My mother encouraged me to travel when I was 17, and I moved to the USA. She encouraged me to have an adventure. I wanted to go to university and study law in Sydney, but she said, “You have your life ahead of you and you have this opportunity, so go and explore.” She encouraged my independence and I believe I’ve done the same with the boys.
My mum was quite holistic in her health practises. She rarely took us to the doctor, she looked for natural ways to heal - just like my grandmother did before her. Whatever the ailment, she always told us to drink water. If you’re tired, drink water. If you’re grumpy, drink water. If you’re sick in the stomach, drink water. I still say the same to my boys – and it works.