Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mom in the Spotlight: Blogstar, They Call Me Mummy

ABOUT MICHELLE:  When Michelle is not drowning under a towering mountain of endless laundry, she writes commercials for large and important brands (who have no idea she works in her pyjamas) and yells (gently and encouragingly, of course) at her three children. 
With admirable patience, she is waiting to be discovered by a publisher for her series of children's books, tackling social and emotive issues on fresh ways. 
Michelle loves her three little people more than she ever believed was possible. She gets a kick out of their Australian accents and cannot shake her own South African one, even after twelve years in Oz. 
Oh, and her house is not Pinterest-worthy.
Get to know Michelle at her kick-ass blog, They Call Me Mummy.  
Stalk Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.  

How old are your children?  Boys?  Girls?
My eldest child, Miss M, just turned ten. The word on the playground street is that double digits mean I’m not allowed to kiss her when I drop her at school because it’s embarrassing. Hmmm. Interesting. Had a good long think about that bombshell when she dropped it and decided she was confused. Seems she really had no idea of the real meaning of “embarrassing”. So, I kissed her all over. I kissed up her arms and all over her face. I held the squealing child down and smooched the living daylights out of her. As she escaped my clutches, red-faced and giggling despite being mortified, I smiled sweetly and said, “Now, THAT’S embarrassing!” Oh, I’m evil.

But seriously, how did my baby turn ten? And insist on wearing crop tops under her shirt? And get shy around boys? And roll her eyes when I talk? EX-SQUEEZE ME? But that’s a whole other post.

Wow, I’m rambling here (I’m pretty sure you asked for 3 numbers and genders. I blame my ADHD).

My middle child is the most huge-hearted, generous, emotionally tuned-in kid I know. Little Man is seven and in some ways is an old soul who teaches me waaaay more than I teach him. In other ways, he is so innocent I want to protect him from the world. He has giant puppy dog eyes that I fall into on a regular basis. He has no issues with affection and would happily climb right back into my womb if I gave him half a chance. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t thank me for being his Mum. His greatest problem is that he is so undemanding that he is easily overlooked. He is quirky, crazyscarybrilliant at constructing anything out of anything and so far off mainstream that raising him is one huge adventure.

Then there’s Baby G, who is newborn four years old. GASP. She will be my baby when she is 44 because... well, because I said so. We were only going to have two children for all the well thought out logical reasons in the world. Logic and reason are overrated, I say. After Little Man was born, I couldn’t quite see a complete family in my perfectly nuclear reality. It wasn’t a longing, it wasn’t a desire - the feeling I had about having a third child. The way I felt was that we already had three children, we just hadn’t met the third one yet. Baby G was always our third. We simply needed to open the door and let her in.

Is there a number four in the wings? NO WAY JOSE. As mothers, we know when we’re done, and boy - I am done.

My three amazing little people.

Did you envision being a stay at home or working mother?  How did you come to your current work status?

I grew up with an incredibly involved mother who stayed home and took care of us. She was the most unbelievable mother and I had a charmed childhood. My friends were openly jealous that she was my mother and when the teenage angst years hit, she was the go-to parent for advice.

Of course, I envisioned the same for my children and happily gave up a thriving Advertising career to become a full time stay at home mum. I don’t regret it at all and I have loved the privileged experience of being such a constant part of my kids’ day to day lives.

Here’s the BUT.

When I frivolously threw away my career, I also threw away a very important part of myself. I did it naively and unassumingly. I didn’t even look back and say goodbye. And here I am, ten years and three kids later, pining for Michelle. Michelle - not the Mum of my kids. Michelle - not the wife of Darren. Michelle, the copywriter. Michelle the individual. Michelle, the woman who was validated through friendships that didn’t grow out of playdates, but rather out of genuine common interests. Michelle, the award-winning creative. Me. On my own two feet.

Slowly I am finding her again. It hasn’t been easy. Its been an eye-opening learning curve and I hope to pass the lesson on: By all means become an involved mom, a devoted wife, a good daughter. Do all these things with passion. But don’t do any of these things by throwing your identity as YOU away. Know why? You’ll become a resentful mother, wife, daughter and friend. You’ll be sad. You’ll be empty. And you’ll feel incredible guilt because you have everything you asked for.

I started running in my mid 30s
and love, love, love it!

So, here I am, today. In my search for Michelle I have written a series of children’s books which I am immensely proud of and looking to publish (Any takers? Anyone?), I’ve started my blog, and I’m picking up more freelance writing jobs. Finally, after 10 years as Mary Poppins, I’m discovering what balance means.

Why on earth did you decide to enter the gladiator arena better known as the blogosphere?
Seems I jumped the gun slightly on that last question. Excellent. Now you have my baggage so I can get right on to piling on more! (This beats therapy, hands down!) Woot!

I started blogging for the wrong reasons. When I submitted my books to various publishers, I got the same feedback over and over again. Something along the lines of : “Love your books, but only signing known authors at this time. Develop a following and then we can talk.” I thought about that and realized that a parenting blog might be my ideal tool for reaching my market and developing a following. 

Basically, They Call Me Mummy was the baby born out of a one night stand. And just like that baby, it crawled into my heart and I was in love. I had no idea I would love blogging like I do. It feeds my soul, it makes me smile. It’s been the vehicle that’s taken me back to the Michelle I so unceremoniously dumped in the trash ten years ago. It’s given me an outlet of expression and a connection with unbelievably dynamic women around the world (I’m talking to you, Keesha). I have collaborated with some amazing writers and grown beautiful friendships. It’s been an unexpected and treasured gift.

What’s a blogging rule that is meant to be broken?
 There are rules? Dang! I knew I was missing something...

Do you think of yourself as a more relaxed or high-strung parent?  What is something you now wave a hand at dismissively that was once a source of stress?
When Miss M was born, I was terribly focussed on being the perfect mother. I made sure that she had Baroque classical music on a loop in her bedroom as she slept, that she met every milestone by the time it was mentioned in “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” and I made every pureed concoction from only the freshest organic ingredients. I never raised my voice, used the Royal “we” more times than I care to admit and followed a strict schedule. I prided myself on my advanced child who could do everything early, and put so much insane pressure on myself to be perfect that I’m sure trickled down to her.

With Little Man, I had to loosen the control a little only because it wasn’t humanly possible to be as ‘perfect’ as I’d been with Miss M.

Oh, the guilt! I wasn’t enough for either of them!

Well, by the time Baby G came along, I was over the guilt, I was over the perfection and I was well aware that since my children had survived my imperfections, this “Mary Poppins” ideal I had been striving for was utterly ridiculous.

Now, I’m that relaxed parent. You know, the one who sits at the park and lets the kids play by themselves? The one not hovering under the monkey bars. The one whose child grazes a knee and manages to live through the ordeal without a Disney Band Aid. The one that first-time mums look at and whisper to each other that she is neglecting her child. I smile and wave because I recognize myself in them. I recognize the anxiety in their advanced children because I see it every day in Miss M and Little Man’s eyes. And when Baby G asks me to help her climb up a ladder, I tell her to go do it herself. I tell her she’s a big girl. I tell her that her body is powerful and her brain is clever and she can do it.  Those “perfect mothers” look at me as if I’m the laziest woman on earth, too lazy to help my child. Then Baby G climbs the ladder to the top, triumphantly stands up and yells, “I did it!” and I clap and smile. She did it. She learned a lesson right there from her “lazy” mama - she can do anything.

Playdough food

Here in the States, parenting is super competitive.  Some mega corporation should sponsor the Olympic Games of Parenting.  Is there as much angst and lunacy in the land Down Under?
The Mommy Wars are definitely a phenomenon, but in no way are parents as intense as I’ve read about on your end of the planet. Yes, you get your odd nutcase parent, making sure her kid is the best at everything, but she’d be the exception in my opinion. In my experience, it’s quite the opposite. Australians are really laid back. When a kid falls down and grazes a knee, he’s likely to hear “Up you get, dust off, you’ll be right!”

Yes, there are the breastfeeding vs bottle-feeding camps. Yes there are the Soccer Mums and the Dance Mums. Yes, there are all these same issues. I just don’t think it trickles down to the regular Joe. I don’t judge other mothers. This parenting gig is hard and I take my hat off to every other parent out there who is doing her best for her kids. Hell, I’m too busy to worry about what the next kid or parent is doing. If they’re judging me, I’m flattered! It must mean I am very interesting. . .

Who would play you in the movie of your life story?
Oh, I’d have to say Sofia Vergara. Because she is nearly as gorgeous as I am. And humble.

What would you tell your 16 year old self?
“Buckle up, Michelle, it’s going to be one helluva ride! Oh, and those girls who are tormenting you at school because you have braces and glasses and aren’t thin enough or tanned enough - give them this moment in the sun. Because this is where they peak. As for that boy who just broke your heart - get over him, sweetheart! You have no idea what a gorgeous husband you’re going to have. He’s going to love you despite your many flaws (in fact, he’ll love them because they’re part of you) and you’re going to adore him just as much after twenty years as you will when you meet.

You’re going to have three children who will blow your mind by being the most interesting, exquisite people you’ll ever know. Your mother-in-law will be your best friend. You’ll live by the sea!

You’ll endure loss beyond what you believe you can handle and you’ll grow. You’ll fall down so many times that you’ll stop noticing. You’ll get up. You’ll dust off. You’ll run a half-marathon and love it. You’ll take up kick-boxing.

You’ll look in the mirror one day and wish you’d appreciated your gorgeous sixteen year old body and at the same time, you’ll look past the stretch marks, the saggy tummy and the boobs that look like deflated whoopee cushions and see that body’s awesome power. Are you ready? Three, two, one.....!”

1 comment:

  1. Keesha thanks so much for interviewing Michelle!! I have had the fun of knowing her through her blog and on Facebook but it's so much fun to read all the nitty gritty details I never knew!

    Michelle, I loved you before, I love you more!!

    Hugs to you both!


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