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you

sexy

mother a life-changing approach to motherhood

JODIE HEDLEY-WARD


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First published 2008 Exisle Publishing Limited, ‘Moonrising’, Narone Creek Road, Wollombi, NSW 2325, Australia. P.O. Box 60-490, Titirangi, Auckland 0642, New Zealand. www.exislepublishing.com Copyright © Jodie Hedley-Ward 2008 Jodie Hedley-Ward asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved. Except for short extracts for the purpose of review, no part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, whether electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. National Library of New Zealand Cataloguing-in-Publication Data Hedley-Ward, Jodie, 1976You sexy mother : a life-changing approach to motherhood / Jodie Hedley-Ward. ISBN 978-1-877437-29-8 1. Motherhood—Social aspects. 2. Mothers. I. Title. 306.8743—dc 22 Cover and text design by Christabella Designs Printed in China through Colorcraft Limited, Hong Kong


For Lili and Josh – my daily inspiration


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Acknowledgements I would like to thank the many special people in my life who have contributed to this book in some way: Benny and Gareth St John Thomas at Exisle, and in particular my editor Ian Watt, for believing in this project from the very beginning and expertly bringing my vision to life. My good friend Kate Kippenberger, for her support and encouragement, which has meant so much to me. Thank you to Rebecca Grisman for her invaluable advice, guidance and friendship, and to Greg Gardner and Marina Passalaris, an amazing photographer and stylist respectively. I am grateful to my mum as well as to all the mothers I encountered along the way, who knowingly or otherwise, shared their joy and their pain and inspired me more than they could ever know. Above all, I want to acknowledge my husband David, whose faith in me and this book has always been unwavering – thank you.


Contents Introduction

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1. The Real, Most Wonderful You 13 Learn how to give yourself the love and respect you deserve and watch as you blossom into an exciting, vibrant expression of the new you – one that is stronger and infinitely more beautiful now that you have added ‘mother’ to your résumé. 2. Creating an Authentic Home 45 An authentic home is one where you feel at peace – a sanctuary for you and your family from which you can all go out into the world feeling great. Decide today that this is the home you deserve and honour yourself by setting about creating it. 3. A Simply Beautiful Life 69 It’s difficult to think clearly or make strong, empowering decisions when your day lacks structure and everything feels out of control. By simplifying your life and home you can begin to focus on those things that really matter and that have the power to truly transform your life in a meaningful way.


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4. The Power of Relationships 95 Relationships can powerfully affect every area of your life. By consciously looking at the health of each of your significant relationships, you can see where you are being supported or sabotaged in the pursuit of your goals. Seek out those relationships that will take your life to the next level – ones that offer unconditional love, support and understanding. 5. Dream Big and Rediscover the Magic in Life 123 Motherhood is a wonderful time of creation, and pursuing your own dreams and passions should be part of this. Go confidently towards that which excites you, using all the skills and talents that you possess. Believe that you can be an inspiration to your children and set about making your dreams a reality. 6. The Ten-Day Turnaround Plan 153 Jump-start your journey towards experiencing greater joy and fulfilment as a mother with this intensive ten-day plan. Covering every aspect of your life, it will provide you with new insights, tools and strategies to take your life to another level – creating positive results fast!

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Introduction If tired was not an option … This is the story of my journey. It began following a vivid dream one night, after which I woke up and decided that I was no longer going to be defined by ‘tired mum’ syndrome. I was not going to allow myself the luxury of wallowing in tiredness and playing the harassed, worn-out mum card again. What if I was to approach each day with a sense of grace and playfulness? What if the next time someone asked me how I was feeling, I was to reply ‘exuberant’, ‘enlightened’ or, God forbid, ‘sexy’? I swear my life changed in that moment. The moment when I realised there was another possibility. I had choices and was about to waste no time in exercising them. I was determined that the next time my husband and I had people over for a meal I would not be the one in the corner trying to think of something to say that did not begin with ‘Before I got pregnant I used to …’ I was sick and tired of dredging up stories of my past glories pre-motherhood – nobody was interested in my travels and career successes from nearly three years ago. I started focusing on my energy levels, which led to exercise and a healthy diet, which led to self-confidence, a new vibrant wardrobe, a better sex life,

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a home that felt authentically me, more genuine and supportive friends, a happier relationship with my family, the arrival of new goals and the unexpected delight of hidden talents submerged deep beneath the surface – suffocated no doubt by an everyday malaise of lethargy and inertia. Tiredness had defined me for the better part of a year. Not just tired in an ‘I was up three times last night’ kind of way, but tired in a ‘who is that woman with empty eyes looking back at me in the mirror?’ kind of way. To be honest, I didn’t know what I wanted or even whether I could be bothered thinking about what I wanted. All I knew was that there had to be something more. Sure, I experienced the joy of motherhood in terms of everything that my children gave me – it was there in every smile, first step and new word. The irony of my journey is that I started out worrying that by focusing on myself I would be taking away from the 100 percent I always strived to give my children. What I realised is that unless I changed the way I approached motherhood, they would only ever experience part of who I am, rather than all of me. I started to really consider my roles as mother, homemaker, wife … and by connecting with the wisdom of generations of women who have walked this path before me I began to redefine my various roles in a way that was very empowering. With new insights came power. Why hadn’t I realised sooner that I wasn’t simply cooking but providing nourishment to hungry bodies and minds? Not simply housekeeping but creating a home that was a haven for myself and my loved ones, a buffer against anything the outside world could throw at us? I knew I had to create a new image of myself rather than reverting to the old me – by pushing forward through uncharted and at times uncomfortable territory to explore the possibilities of who I could be rather than who I had been. Pregnancy and motherhood are amazing, empowering experiences, and to go back to who I was before seemed a strange and almost inconceivable

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option. In my case I simply did not yearn for the good old times. I became more and more convinced that there were better times ahead and, armed with a new fire in my belly, I set off to discover them.

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Chapter 1

The Real, Most Wonderful You Your experience of motherhood can and should be magical, but it starts with respecting yourself first as an individual. If you are struggling to remember who you were prior to motherhood, and feel like the real you somehow got ‘lost’ in the whole experience, you are not alone. Take the time necessary to reconnect with yourself and discover the amazing woman you have become. With just a little work, you will be rewarded with an even deeper sense of self-respect, confidence and joy than ever before.


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The flowers of our tomorrow grow from the seeds we plant today … As I sit here writing this in the peaceful haven of my bed, a cup of hot chocolate in one hand and pen in the other, I realise that I have no idea where this journey will take me – only that there is uncharted territory that I must explore and a tradition in my family of homemaking that I want to connect with. I know I want more from my time as a ‘stayat-home mum’, and each day I will commit to creating a joyful, exuberant, simply abundant life, step by step, one nappy change at a time. I am curious to know what can truly be achieved in one year. Is it possible to carve out a new destiny for oneself? To recreate one’s life from the inside out? There are so many aspects of my life that I want to improve; hopefully I can figure out where best to begin to kick-start my journey from harried, forgetful, exhausted stay-at-home mum to gorgeous, fit, healthy, energetic home-mum extraordinaire. All the while caring for and loving my precious daughter Lili and incredible husband David. While my husband and single friends shine out there in the world I am committed to shining from the inside out – expressing myself through my home and a life that is abundant and wickedly decadent, drenched in home-grown fun, beauty and laughter.

Rediscover the real you – the power of the visual diary For many years now I have been a huge fan of keeping a visual diary. I was never able to put in the consistent effort required to write a traditional diary. But, being a true magpie at heart, I would always tear things that caught my eye out of newspapers and magazines and put them in a pile to be filed later. I found this habit to be incredibly useful during the writing of this book as 14 • you sexy mother


I understood the power it had to transform my life in the areas I wasn’t happy with. Sometimes we get so alienated from our true feelings that we don’t even know where to begin when someone asks us what style of clothing we like, or what kinds of interiors turn us on. We are always growing and changing, which explains why we can look in our wardrobes and see a vast array of clothing that just doesn’t inspire us any more. We may have been adding to our collection over a ten-year period, and to think that our choices from ten years, five years or even one year ago would inspire us today is totally misguided. One of the most powerful ways to truly reconnect with what turns you on in the here and now is to cut and paste from as many sources as you can find. If you want to see how transformative this can be, go and get yourself a big scrapbook and separate it into the following sections: • Fashion, health and beauty • Home interiors • Inspirational people and ideas

Fashion, health and beauty Instead of thinking of this as a chore, look at it as pure escapism and lots of fun. It pays not to think too much about it either, or to over-analyse things. The basic rule is, if it excites you, cut it out. It may be that there is something about the image that inspires you – maybe the clothing is ok, but the fabulous earrings the model is wearing give her just the look of youth and sexiness that you are secretly craving. It may be her haircut that is calling to you – something totally different to what you have always had, but something you secretly believe you might just be able to pull off. The image of a woman running at dawn along a beautiful stretch of coastline was something that connected with my own secret desire to create a strong, toned body. The process will only work if you step out of your usual comfort zone and the real, most wonderful you • 15


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are prepared to acknowledge the reality of what inspires you, rather than retreating to images that validate your current image or the image you think your friends and family would approve of. This is all about being true to yourself and embarking on a journey of discovery to find what makes you truly feel alive.

Home interiors Force yourself to be open-minded and resist the urge to select images that validate your current home. Obviously we have all invested significant time and money in creating our existing homes, and this exercise is not intended to make you feel bad about any past decisions. It’s more about building up a picture of the mood you feel most in tune with – ‘warm and cosy’, ‘sleek and sophisticated’, ‘traditional’ or ‘French country’, for example. You will probably discover very quickly what style you are pulled towards, as the more images you collect, the more obvious your likes and dislikes become. If you don’t take the time to look at what you like today, you can easily continue to style your home the same way all your life, without acknowledging the natural way in which everyone’s tastes change as they grow. After a while you will be able to see how closely the style of your own home matches that of your visual diary. The degree to which it does this invariably reflects the level of happiness you feel when you are in your home.

Inspirational people and ideas This third section is probably the most powerful, and it is something I have made a conscious effort to concentrate on more since beginning this journey. The last part of this book is dedicated to dreaming big and rediscovering the magic in your life. By consciously looking out for people and ideas that spark your interest, you will start to be drawn towards those things that inspire you in your new role as a mother. When you are so caught up in being a mum it is sometimes easy to forget what does interest and inspire you. Again, what 16 • you sexy mother


you wanted to do ten years ago is probably not right for you now. Allow yourself time to read about other mums who are doing inspiring things, maybe setting up businesses from home or pursuing talents that are immensely fulfilling to them. As well as magazine articles, how about collecting inspirational friends – women you admire because they had the courage to pursue their dreams. One of my friends found herself living her own personal dream as a result of a terrible event in her family that meant she was forced to turn what was a hobby into a full-time business that could support her and her two children. Within a few short months she went from dreaming about it to making it a viable reality. She now sees the events that happened as just one of the ways in which life sometimes gives us that extra push to do the very things we know we should have already had the courage to do. Make the commitment today that you will become someone who is an inspiration. Become one of those people who have the ability to inspire others to follow their dreams, and who knows who will be cutting out articles about you for their visual diary in the future.

Healing the years of neglect Recently I read a wonderful article about an inspiring Australian woman. She had opened a shop that was dedicated to the following: To joyfully support, encourage and inspire women in their quest for self-expression through the ensouling of their home and the healing of their environment. Marion Parsonage’s mission statement for her store ‘Country Mouse’ read like a blueprint for how I would like to live my life. Like the furniture and quilts she sells, each one of us is unique, and Marion believes that with love, care and imagination we create our homes and our lives. We breathe life into the real, most wonderful you • 17


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our homes with each choice of colour and texture, each print or jug of flowers … and each one is an expression of our hopes and dreams. Marion loves saving old fabrics to be transformed into jewel-toned eiderdowns, pillows and handbags, and watching wooden furniture revive as it soaks in a longneeded drink of aromatic wax or a new coat of paint. ‘I like to see the best in a piece of furniture or a piece of fabric … I can’t bear to throw something out if I can see I could do something with it.’ I just love the way she describes a recent house redevelopment, using the words ‘healing the years of neglect’. Couldn’t this same theory apply to all of us at times in our lives? As a mum it is easy to become the victim of self-inflicted ‘years of neglect’ as we run around putting everyone’s needs ahead of our own. It’s not until the fabric of our lives starts to unravel that we realise the damage from those ‘years of neglect’. The good news is that we too can be revived by the equivalent of a coat of fresh paint, but first we must be willing to strip down and take an honest look at ourselves so that we can discover where we are and what we would like to become. You may be a chest of drawers with chipped paint and outdated handles at the moment, but it’s up to you to decide if you want to be restored to your former glory or whether you would prefer a bold new look with bright paint and a funky modern design. Refuse to be restored to the old you, trusting that you deserve more. Embrace the possibility of a new you and start redefining what it means to be a stay-at-home mum today – one who is deeply fulfilled, strong, sexy and independent.

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In search of the joy of motherhood

I find myself reflecting back on my life before children when everything seemed somehow simpler – one day led purposefully into the next and there was always time to stop for a coffee. Motherhood, especially the stay-at-home-all-day-with-thekids type, is a much more erratic concept. At times yes, it is joyful, but at other times it’s hard work, pure and simple. Yet I want so desperately to embrace life once again. To charge forward and grab my new role and identity with both hands and say ‘Let’s go!’ But the temptation to revert back to the old me, pre-motherhood, is omnipresent. And even stronger is the sinking feeling that I won’t be able to do anything, as tiredness and inertia loom larger than life. ‘I am woman, hear me roar’ can be heard as a mere whisper blowing in the breeze … but listen carefully, because yes, it is there.

Could it be that the ‘joy of motherhood’ is eluding us? Like some random yet powerful concept that keeps us quiet, resentful and ashamed of the fact that we have never actually felt it. An idea so foreign to our everyday, humdrum experience that we feel like one great big failure. How can our pitiful experience of just making it through each day possibly compare to that statement of joy? We could be forgiven for thinking that we might as well just give up trying. Maybe we’re just not cut out for this. It’s all too tempting to think that going back to work will solve everything. We start to think that at least there we can salvage some of the confidence we used to have regarding our career. Perhaps a watered-down version of our old self will be better than the bizarre land of perpetual tiredness and self-sacrifice that we currently inhabit. At least at work we know how things operate and the rules of the game.

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There is undoubtedly a lot of variation in how we as mothers cope with the arrival of our new babies, from those who appear to breeze through to those who experience a very serious level of postnatal depression. Some mothers face infinitely more challenges than others due to circumstances such as raising a special needs child or facing serious health challenges of their own at the same time. A friend recently confided to me that she had been trying unsuccessfully to have children for years due to a health condition affecting her partner. When they finally did become parents the reality did not live up to their idealised vision of how perfect everything would be once they had children. I am so thankful to see that women are now opening up publicly about the difficulties they faced as they made the transition from working women to stay-at-home mums – it’s heartening to read that even the most successful celebrities with so-called ‘perfect lives’ have found the challenges of motherhood to be far greater than anything they had ever experienced in their lives. It takes time, but eventually we all come to realise that the strategies and tools we enlisted to make our old lives work for us do not necessarily translate to our new role as a mother. We need new tools, new ways of thinking and a bigger dose of patience than any of us ever dreamt possible.

A new take on traditional For people like me, who have stifled their feminine side in a bid to achieve worldly status and rewards, the journey back to femininity and all things womanly in the traditional sense can be most liberating. Far from feeling downtrodden and resentful, once I took over the role of master of my home and leader of my family’s emotional well-being I felt liberated beyond belief. I felt truly in touch with the essence of who I was and why I was here, and 20 • you sexy mother


relieved that I didn’t have to prove myself in a corporate way any longer. Some may argue that they have to concentrate on getting back to their jobs because ultimately that is what pays the bills – for many mothers that is the reality. All I am suggesting is that while you are a stay-at-home mum, whether it’s for six months of your life or six years, you have nothing to lose by looking at the experience in a more open-minded and creative way. Who knows what this time might enable you to learn about and explore, potentially changing your entire future. Perhaps this precious time will allow you to pursue your love of painting, all but extinguished by the work ethic and the mindset that drives you to ‘work to pay the bills’ – maybe allowing you to fulfil a childhood dream of exhibiting and earning from this passion. If you are truly honest, do you want to be living exactly the same life you did before children came along? Don’t you think there might be something else for you; a richer, more creative experience? Be open to the idea that your future does not necessarily have to reflect the past. You can begin today to create a new reality – by taking the best from your life before you became a mum, and mixing it with all you would like your future to represent.

You are not your children You are not your children – not their failures or their successes. It is important to establish yourself as a complete, fulfilled person regardless of what your children are doing. This is much easier in theory than in practice, especially when your children are young and the bond between you is so strong. It is easy to lose yourself in the deliciousness of their development, celebrating every milestone, owning it as a way of acknowledging how much you have invested in them getting so far. How then do you feel when they have an off day? When they wake up cranky an hour earlier than you had hoped, the real, most wonderful you • 21


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nothing seems to put a smile on their face, and the joy and euphoria they inspired in you yesterday are replaced by a feeling of ‘What have I done wrong?’ ‘Why me?’ After a year of feeling that the joy in my day was dictated primarily by how healthy and happy Lili appeared to be, I finally realised that her bad day didn’t have to equal my bad day. Equally, her successes and achievements were hers to own; rather than claim them as my own, I could enjoy them, but I had to find my own successes in life. How could I expect Lili to respect and value me as a person if I was so tied up with who she was trying to become? I knew that I had to set an example – to be someone who was there for my daughter but who had a full and happy life independent of her, just as I would wish for her when she grows up and becomes a mother.

The perfect-parent myth Why do we allow ourselves to fall so far down the priority ladder that we begin to feel we are not worthy of having time, money and unconditional love lavished upon us? When we were single, out there in the world working, it was easy to reward ourselves with some retail therapy at the end of a busy week, or a candlelit bath and a glass of wine in the evening. We didn’t need someone else to come along and declare it was time to create some ‘me time’. We didn’t feel we needed permission to make ourselves feel good – we felt we had earnt it fair and square. Suddenly a little person or two enters our world and demands so much of us, day and night, that we forget we are a separate entity who also has needs and wants. Perhaps deep down we never really feel that we are doing enough, or doing everything well enough, and therefore we don’t feel good about rewarding ourselves. We tend to put so much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect

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parent that we forget there is no such thing, it simply doesn’t exist. We all, for better or worse, muddle through as best we can, doing what we think is right with the knowledge and skills we have at that moment. As more of us are living away from the place we grew up, without the support of family and long-term friends, the everyday trials and tribulations can seem almost insurmountable. We need to start rewarding ourselves for all the little things we do get right each day. Some days, just getting through at all means we deserve a medal. Ear infections, tantrums, teething … we need to stop trivialising the importance of what we do each day and start giving ourselves the respect we deserve.

Footloose and fancy-free Why is it that we only start to really appreciate something the moment it is taken away from us – like the degree of freedom we used to have before we became a mum? Simple things, like having time out to get your hair cut, can seem like the ultimate luxury when you have small children. I remember my first haircut nearly six months after Lili was born. I kept looking at my watch as the hairdresser coloured, cut and set about styling my hair. I swear I must have been in there for five hours, or at least it felt like that. I felt so selfish and kept trying to remind myself that having my hair cut was not some ridiculous, frivolous luxury. It was something normal people did on a regular basis. Here I am a year later, and I can vividly recall the delight that consumed me just last week as I skipped off at 9am leaving Lili with my mum so I could get my hair cut. I didn’t need Mum to tell me twice that I should just enjoy myself and take as long as I liked. I knew Lili was in good hands, so I not only guiltlessly had my hair done but I picked up some sushi for lunch afterwards and savoured every delicious mouthful as I relaxed by the water and watched the world pass me by as if in slow motion. Feeling a million dollars after my new cut and colour, it was as if by some magic everything I tried the real, most wonderful you • 23


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on that afternoon in the shops seemed to look great. Was it the hair, my relaxed attitude or perhaps the joy that came from knowing I had a day of freedom? A chance to just play and revel in the luxury of not having to care for and think about someone else. I felt so much lighter – no pushchair, nappy bag, formula etc. Just me. For a few moments I almost felt like the Jodie of old – footloose and fancy-free. The funny thing is, by 3pm I was itching to get home, and the feeling I had walking in the door and seeing my little girl running over to me for a cuddle was even more amazing than the day itself. No, I don’t yearn to go back to life before babies, but sometimes it’s good to explore those feelings of freedom and to focus wholly on ourselves.

Irresistibly vintage Why is it that I, like so many others right now, am mesmerised by all things vintage? I can skip merrily past a slick chrome-and-glass interiors store but you won’t keep me out of a shop that takes old loved objects and restores them, or just presents them in a wonderfully respectful way. I read an article recently that suggested a return to all things ‘nannery’. I quite like that. I know I certainly love anything with a ‘nana’ feel. My favourite coathangers are the brightly coloured wool ones that my own nana knitted with any leftover wool she acquired. I love knitted hot water bottle covers, embroidered linens and patchwork tea cosies. If someone’s nana has been near it, chances are I’ll love it. But there’s so much more to these objects than what you see. They are imbued with a sense of timeless love. Someone spent precious hours knitting and stitching these items and it gives them an energy that no mass-produced, store-bought equivalent could ever match.

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I just love the message written on the swingtag of a top I bought recently: ‘This garment has been individually treated to look and feel like an authentic vintage garment. It should look slightly different from another and feel soft like you have loved it for a long time.’ Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our life came with the same swingtag? Yes, our lives should look slightly different from one another, and wouldn’t it be nice if they felt soft, as though you had loved your own life for a very long time? You deserve a life that feels soft and wonderful, like your favourite pair of pyjamas or a well-worn pair of jeans. Not only do you deserve this, but you can set about creating it. Don’t you owe it to yourself to work towards this life? If you can picture it, you can create it, and knowing what you want means you are halfway there! And if you don’t know yet, well, what an adventure you are in for. How wonderful it is to look upon the world with a new set of eyes. To look upon places, people and objects with a curiosity that asks whether this is something that supports or stifles you? Do you feel better or worse when you spend time with these people? How do you feel when you buy these shoes versus those shoes? Could you imagine yourself wearing what that woman has on? Could you pull off that career too if you had the right training? Suddenly anything is a possibility, rather than just allowing everything to fall into the boxes that have defined you for so long. So what if the corporate career woman you were wouldn’t have looked twice at that vintage floral dress. You are not that person any more, or at least she doesn’t define your purchasing decisions. Your past is certainly a part of you, but try to be conscious of the woman emerging from this new delicious role of mother, and make fresh decisions based on what your heart is crying out for now. Don’t live your life like it’s an outdated, ill-fitting pair of trousers that always feel awkward when you wear them. You should love your life and feel proud that you created it. If you do, well done! If you don’t, then there is much work to be done. We all deserve to feel good within the confines of our own life. We should be working at something fulfilling that utilises our

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unique skills and talents, or at least working towards a career that will do this. We should be surrounded by people who understand and support us, and leave us feeling positive, not drained and empty. We should allow times for activity and times for relaxation, knowing that success lies in the balance of both energies. We should embrace as much love as possible from every avenue available to us – through our partners, our children, our friends, family and animals. We may not feel as though we have the perfect foundation or circumstances, but take heart in the fact that very few mothers do. This mustn’t stop us seeking out the best that life has to offer. It’s not about trying to attain the ‘perfect life’; it’s about striving for the life that fits us uniquely. We may face difficulties such as limited finances, being a solo parent or having no family around for support – whatever they are, we need to accept our own set of circumstances and work within that to create the most wonderful life we can – both for ourselves and for our children. Make sure the life you are living is one that is custom-made to fit you – not the life of someone you know, with different needs, dreams, talents and desires.

Being fabulous! Wearing what you love! As mothers we all know how easy it is to reach for the same pair of comfy trousers and top day after day. They seem to get better with each wear, like a lifelong friend who knows all your secrets and doesn’t care. Despite the fact that it’s frequently hideously unflattering, it isn’t always easy to say goodbye to the practical ‘mummy uniform’. The first step is to look in your wardrobe for alternatives that have been pushed to the back and labelled ‘too impractical’ or ‘too glamorous’. Commit

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to wearing these alternatives for seven days. If the reality of your day-to-day life is too much for them, you can always revive your old friends that you have packed away for the week. Far from being unable to step up to the mark, your new clothing options will more than likely make you feel slimmer, more attractive and happier – especially when unexpected guests arrive at your door. They will also make it quicker to get out of the house, as you won’t have to change out of your old clothes like before. In my own case, this was truly liberating. I had often marvelled at the ability of some mums to look chic and stylish while out and about with their kids and I wondered how they did it. The secret is they just went ahead and decided that being a mum doesn’t mean you have to look like a second-rate citizen. They gave themselves permission to be gorgeous. If your lovely white shirt gets some spaghetti bolognaise lunch down the front, be inventive. Tie a stunning scarf around your neck or attach a fabulous brooch right over the stain and carry on regardless. You will be the one others are admiring and I guarantee you’ll feel so much better about yourself. This idea has very little to do with the cost of the clothing, the brand or the style – it’s all about an attitude that declares ‘I am worthy’ of looking and feeling great. Your positive energy will be what others notice long before they look at the label! Why not have an afternoon of clothes swapping with a similar-sized friend – we all get bored with what’s in our closet, and trading a few pieces may be just what is needed to reignite your enthusiasm for getting dressed in the morning.

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I spent a wonderful afternoon with my good friend Sarah – ‘clothes swapping’. I’m sure it would have looked quite amusing to an outsider, as I’m as round as a watermelon, heavily pregnant with my second child, and Sarah is looking trim and terrific with her last pregnancy almost 18 months behind her. Sarah arrived with her pregnancy clothes, which she had kept – most of them had hardly been worn. I offered her whatever she liked from my pre-pregnancy wardrobe, 99 percent of which I can no longer wear. We had lots of laughs trying on different things while our two little girls helped out with what they assumed was simply a grown-up version of ‘dress-ups’.

Sexy lace or mismatched cottons? It’s time to start work on bringing out the real, most wonderful you that is buried deep inside. With the help of your visual diary you can begin to build up a detailed picture of that woman – the very best, most inspiring you. Do you have long, wavy hair pinned back with a diamante clasp on one side or is it short and funky like an auburn Sharon Stone? Do you purchase gorgeous lace matching underwear and always wash it by hand to keep it looking beautiful? Surely you would never think so little of yourself that you put on washed-out, mismatched cottons? Once you start to look at the ways in which you can honour or alternatively belittle yourself on a daily basis it isn’t hard to see why so many mothers end up feeling like a shadow of their former selves. Obviously hand-washing every piece of underwear you own is an idealistic vision, but it just serves as a reminder of how every little decision you make each day adds up to the future you. Everything you do or don’t do today helps create the future tomorrow. It’s easy to dismiss your morning exercise routine because you didn’t have the best of sleeps. And then it’s all too easy to grab that bar of chocolate for morning tea because you haven’t exercised, 28 • you sexy mother


so what’s the point in eating healthily? By the afternoon you are on a bloodsugar low and feel pretty lousy about yourself for not exercising and for eating that chocolate, so you spend an hour lying on the sofa hoping your little ones don’t demand too much of your attention. By the time bedtime rolls around you just want to crash out and start from scratch in the morning. By setting yourself higher standards, and holding yourself to them come what may, you are designing a much more compelling future for yourself. The power lies in all the little decisions you make each day – when compounded they have a truly powerful effect on your life. How different would you feel if despite a difficult night comforting a teething child you still managed to start your day with half an hour of exercise and a healthy breakfast? Would it have been easier for you to resist the chocolate at 11am? Do you think you might have managed that walk down to the beach to feed the ducks in the afternoon? It would have provided you with even more exercise while allowing you to spend quality time with your little one, sharing experiences and connecting on a playful level out in nature. By the time dinner, bath and stories were over, your children would be fast asleep, knocked out by the sea air and plenty of laughter with Mum, and you would still be recharged enough to do something creative or enjoy a quality evening with your partner. The simple message is that once you start visualising yourself as the vibrant, powerful woman you truly are you automatically want to start making better, more empowering choices each day.

Recently I noticed what can only be described as a gigantic discrepancy between the gorgeous lingerie images posted in my visual diary and the contents of my own underwear drawer. I decided to take massive and immediate action and am proud to report that I have made a huge personal breakthrough.

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For a long time now I have secretly coveted every item in the window of a beautiful store called ‘Lilith Lingerie’, but I always felt like the less than glamorous mum who had no place in such a frivolous, feminine store. After doing a lot of work discovering who I truly am, I finally garnered the courage to visit this previously off-limits store and took home some exquisite treats that had David quite excited about this whole process. I certainly don’t have the body of a lingerie model but I did come out feeling special, and that, I have decided, is priceless. The simple act of walking in there and having the confidence to find something flattering that I adored was a big step for me. I know it has propelled my journey to the next level as I am realising that anything is a possibility for me. I have decided to follow an idea my husband had been promoting for years ... from now on I will take heed of the saying ‘Do something every day that scares you!’

Make your needs a priority It can be a frightening thing to wake up one day, look in the mirror and not even recognise the person staring back at you. Am I really that old? Am I really that tired? Why has the sparkle that people used to comment on been replaced by a dullness, almost a sadness in the eyes I see now? Almost imperceptibly, day by day, it is as if our old vibrant selves, so used to being deliciously selfish, have been replaced by a self-sacrificing robot on autopilot, programmed to just give, give, give. Finally we reach the point where we are emotionally empty and the alarming realisation hits us that there is quite simply nothing left to give. We are empty, useless, depleted beyond repair. Or are we? Why do we wait until crisis point before we start to believe that we are worthy of giving ourselves priority, and that we need to factor it into our daily routine somewhere? How many marriages and wonderful relationships

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have come apart at the seams primarily because we as women, the providers of support, love and nourishment on every level, have forgotten to include ourselves in all of that? I am quite sure our partners don’t expect us to treat ourselves with so little love and respect. Nor do our beloved children. Why then do we ignore our inner yearnings and our hunger until such time as the woman in the mirror is unrecognisable as the person we once were? Don’t let ten years, one year, or even one more day go by without giving priority to yourself and your needs. It doesn’t matter how or when you do it, but some time in every day you need to make yourself the focus of your attention. Don’t rely on your partner, children or friends to give you permission to look after yourself. Nor should it be their job to keep you healthy and happy. You need to place enough value on yourself and your role as mother that you know without doubt that taking care of yourself is paramount for success in every area of your life. Once you realise the true power and importance of your role as a mother this step will become as basic as brushing your teeth. You simply won’t contemplate a day without doing this. I am slowly learning that scheduling ‘me time’ each day is actually possible, and that it doesn’t require total solitude or expensive events such as a massage or shopping trip (although occasionally that would be nice!). What it does require is that you get into the spirit of it and ‘let go’ enough emotionally that you are able to enjoy this time. My goal is always to recharge my batteries to a point where I can carry on with the day in a calmer, happier frame of mind. A couple of simple yet positive ways I now give myself a bit of ‘me time’ include: 1. Putting on a video for the kids and giving them an ice-block or small treat which symbolises that this is a special ‘quiet time’ for them and Mum. I am then (almost always) able to sit down in the background with my favourite cup of herbal tea and flick through a magazine, or jut let my mind wander where it will.

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2. Taking a trip to the Botanical Gardens on a sunny day. This means that I get to wander in an idyllic setting, breathing in the intoxicating smells and drinking in the visual delights, while the children are happy to scamper about discovering new plants, insects and hiding places. I normally finish with a visit to the garden’s coffee shop, which has a surprisingly good toy-box that keeps Lili entertained long enough for me to savour my coffee.

Your best body During a particularly hot summer, I found myself drowning in despair as every time we went to the beach I would be dressed inappropriately, desperately trying to cover up all the bits of me I wasn’t happy with. Instead of frolicking wild and free, dressed in shorts or a bikini as I would have liked, I was covered up with so many layers that I looked set for the shopping mall, not a carefree day at the beach. I felt embarrassment, anger and despair – something had to change. It was time to create a body that was strong, healthy and glowing – one that reflected the way I felt about my life on the inside. I didn’t want to waste another precious day feeling inadequate in any way. I didn’t want the body of a model, I just wanted the best body that I could have – perhaps even the best body I had ever had. This was the beginning of a journey towards health and wellness that provided me with so much more than a good body; most importantly a healthy self-esteem and the ability to run about freely with my children enjoying the moment rather than worrying what anybody else might be saying about me. How liberating! I started to question my associations with food and really look at what was

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in the products I was consuming. I wanted to feel good in my own skin, but after a day of healthy eating I would sabotage my efforts by eating chocolate while mindlessly sitting in front of the TV. Small changes such as substituting my chocoholic ways with a small bowl of low-fat ice cream in the evenings made a huge difference over a period of weeks and months. I became addicted to fruit smoothies and began to look forward to them in much the same way as I had my cup of tea and chocolate biscuit previously. I continued to replace bad habits with good ones, and soon I was bounding out of the house in the early hours of the morning eagerly trying to fit in an hour-long walk before the rest of the family stirred. Once you understand that you don’t have to go through life feeling bad about yourself, you can begin to take control. For you to be at your best and your family to function at its peak, you need to be strong, healthy and, most importantly, feel good about yourself. You may not care about wearing a bikini at the beach but all mums need to be able to keep up with their children and run, jump and play with them at the park. There is no reason why you have to put up with feeling uncomfortable in your clothes, nor should you still be wearing your maternity clothes 12 months after baby arrives. It’s about valuing yourself and deciding that you will no longer settle for anything but the best. Don’t waste your time and energy on fads or gimmicks – you need a lifestyle diet and exercise plan that gets results easily and provides a good example to your children. I read recently that one of the Weight Watchers’ ‘Slimmer of the Year’ winners used to cook up pieces of pumpkin to snack on in the afternoons. Her kids started to come home from school and eat from her plate. Now they get through a pumpkin every couple of days! What a great example of children learning through what they are observing. Can you imagine what kind of reception she’d have received if she had tried to offer them pumpkin while eating a chocolate biscuit herself?

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Life is too short to be anything but the very best you possible. Jumpstart your journey towards health and happiness by doing something each day to improve your life in this area. Buying a new healthy-eating cookbook, or simply walking for an extra five minutes – these are the sorts of small steps that over time add up to the kind of healthy body that makes enjoying life a breeze.

Finding time to exercise It was a long road for me from stubbornly telling anyone who would listen that I simply did not have the time or energy to exercise to getting to the point where now I know without a doubt that exercise gives me the energy I need each day. Everything changed the day I met a little dynamo by the name of Cindy – a lean, mean, personal-training machine. She told me that the reason I had no energy was that I hadn’t participated in any structured, regular exercise programme since before getting pregnant. Surely all that running around after a small child was good exercise, I argued? Apparently it was, but not enough to create the changes in both my physical body and my energy levels that I desired. The secret, Cindy revealed, was cardio. The more the better, but somewhere between 150 and 200 minutes a week was ideal for weight loss and improving fitness. That worked out to be 30 to 40 minutes, five days a week, and if I missed a day I could always make it up with a long walk at the weekend. Suddenly it all fell into place and I could see that this was perhaps achievable. I had visions of a trainer devising a fitness regime comparable to that of an SAS soldier in order for me to regain anything vaguely resembling my prepregnancy body. You mean no yoga, no pilates … what about some yogalates or pilatoga? No – just hit the streets and be sure to clock up enough cardio, and choose your food wisely. The weight will melt away, Cindy promised. Over the next few months I devised a few different strategies to enable me to ‘clock up’ enough minutes. I would put Lili in a pushchair and take her off 34 • you sexy mother


to the park. She would happily stay put if I told her we would get to the park quicker if Mum pushed, and on the way home she was so exhausted from all the running around that she happily sat there refuelling with a drink. When Lili got older and less interested in being pushed, I started getting out early in the morning when my son Josh awoke. We would stride out for up to an hour and still make it home in time for the usual breakfast routine. Rather than resent my early starts, I found myself looking forward to getting out the door into the fresh air. This was my time, and I used it to set up my day in the best way possible. Some days I would take a leisurely stroll but most days I found myself wanting to push myself further and further – things started to get so much easier, and this momentum helped spur me on in other areas including my diet. I now pack so much more into every day because I am fit, and I am a happier mum for two reasons: 1) I achieve so much more, and that sense of accomplishment makes me feel good, and 2) I look and feel so much better and this positive self-esteem overflows into every area of my life. If I could share one thing with any mum struggling with her weight and energy levels, it is this – you simply don’t have time not to exercise. You are responsible for so many people, and your well-being is the very foundation of your family’s happiness. Don’t short-change yourself or your family – you deserve to look and feel fabulous, inside and out.

Here I am – it’s 6am and instead of being up with Josh for the last hour, resenting the fact that I can no longer sleep in, I am now sitting at a nearby park after completing my 45-minute walking circuit. I feel energised, clear-headed and mentally prepared for my day. I am already feeling good because my exercise has been taken care of with minimal fuss and I can now get on and enjoy the day with my children. I used to say with such conviction, ‘I’m not a morning person,’ but now I realise just what I was missing. The dew on the grass, the hum all around as the people who the real, most wonderful you • 35


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do the most to make our environment clean and tidy go about their day. The birds talking excitedly among themselves, and the people with dogs getting out to greet the day. I say this with passion, yet a part of me knows that if the opportunity to sleep in till 9am for a week presented itself I’d grab it with both hands! For now, however, I’m happy with my Josh-inspired exercise regime and the chance to experience a new daily rhythm.

What are you excited about today? We all need a reason to get up in the morning. Something to inspire us and help us through the day when the going gets tough. Something that means the tantrums, the dishes and the bomb that exploded without us even seeing it don’t seem to matter so much. We deal with the tears, load up the dishwasher and happily set about tidying up, all the while knowing that there is something that is just for us today – something we will enjoy. I’m not talking about a night out at the opera or front-row seats at your favourite sports event. Just one simple pleasure that you prioritise and work everything around because it’s important to you. Meeting up with a friend in town … a walk somewhere picturesque … sitting outside in the sunshine … some time at the beach … or curled up on the sofa with a freshly squeezed orange juice and your favourite magazine. These may not seem like life-altering events but their ability to transform a typical day from stressful to sublime is quite remarkable. Long after the event, when things start to get on top of you (think dinner, bath, bedtime!), you can think back to that time of relative calm and bring some of that feeling into your current situation. You can also turn your attention to tomorrow

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and what you would like to do then. This is a simple and effective way to recharge your energy and stop yourself sliding down the emotional scale to a place that is deeply negative and hard to snap out of.

If you haven’t had your life, what have you had?–Henry James Wow, what a statement! Take a moment to stop and read that quote one more time … really allow yourself to absorb how powerful it is. Life is short and we only get one shot at it – don’t let anything get between you and the life you were meant to lead. As a child you only know what it is to want what you want, when you want it. Then as time goes on and you become responsible for your own children, as well as being involved in the lives of siblings, parents and partners, it gets more difficult to live your life according to your own game plan. There are so many aspects to who you are now, and you feel pulled in every direction. A simple strategy for looking at what is important to you and evaluating whether or not your life reflects your values is to make a list of your top five or ten priorities. These may include: Children Extended family Health Home Friends Community

Partner/marriage Career Your passion Church Time out Contribution

Now beside each priority put a number between one and ten, depending on how well you feel you are doing in honouring yourself in that area. You will

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very quickly see where the gaps in your world are, and perhaps even the reason why you feel guilty or empty much of the time – especially if you don’t feel you are giving enough time to either your children or yourself. It’s important to get the big stuff right first, then somehow the rest of life just seems to slot in. We all know that if our health isn’t good, everything else suffers, and it is the same way for any of the fundamental building blocks of life. Take the time necessary to work on a plan for the things that are critical to your happiness. Strive to stay true to who you are and what matters to you. Avoid the obvious trap of focusing on everyone but yourself in the misguided belief that you will be okay, because in times of crisis you will have nothing left to help you through. Consciously choose to lead a life of authenticity – a life that is so you it simply couldn’t belong to any other! How exciting that life would be … dotted with events, celebrations, love, laughter and people who all mean something to you and only you. You are the grand creator of your life, and you have the power in every moment to flow towards authenticity or against it. Choose well and be rewarded with a life that is uniquely, wonderfully yours.

Reach for the highest feeling in every moment Have you ever caught the little voice inside your head saying the following: ‘What a mess this house is – I’ll never get on top of it today.’ ‘I haven’t spent enough quality time with the kids today.’ ‘There’s too much to do – it’s overwhelming.’ ‘Why is everyone against me today – why won’t the kids just do what I ask?’ And on the list goes … with every thought you feel less and less like the

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successful, vibrant, happy mum you know is inside you. Like a broken record you keep playing these same negative conversations with yourself over and over until finally it’s night-time and the children are in bed. You reassure yourself that surely tomorrow will be better, but somehow tomorrow rolls around and at the first sign of trouble that little voice starts up again … ‘What a mess this house is; there’s too much to do; not enough time; I need a break …’ Each day becomes a variation on a theme which basically ends in you feeling like you are failing on a daily basis. If this cycle of negativity sounds familiar then take heart from the fact that you are not alone. In fact you are in great company, because I have yet to meet a mum who can’t relate to this vicious cycle. This destructive pattern can be so effective in robbing women of the joy of motherhood that it makes sense that if we replaced it with a more positive pattern the results would transform our lives. We all have the same 24 hours in every day – the difference between creating a happy, productive day that is relatively stress-free and one that is not lies in how we spend those precious hours and what we say to ourselves during the day. In fact, it is not even the words we say aloud that count, it is the unspoken yet powerful inner dialogue that can propel us forward or sabotage us on every level if we don’t take control of it. The simplest method of changing our inner dialogue that I have discovered is to reach for the best possible feeling in every moment. Rather than trying to ‘reprogramme’ yourself or spend hours repeating affirmations to counter all your negative self-talk, simply stop and look for the most positive response you can find in the moment. If, for example, you are struggling to simultaneously get the housework done, prepare dinner for your baby and offer quality time to your older child, you might start to think something along these lines: ‘What if someone comes by now, the house is a mess.’

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‘My mum would be horrified if she could see the house now.’ ‘There aren’t enough hours in the day.’ ‘I’m such a bad mum – I never seem to have time for my oldest child.’ ‘Here I go again, giving my baby pre-packaged food when I should be making it fresh.’ Whatever it is, whatever guilt trip you decide to put on yourself, realise today that it just isn’t working for you. It just isn’t worth it. Nothing gets resolved, you feel lousy and no real progress is made towards the life you really want. I have learnt from experience that a more productive train of thought goes along these lines: ‘I haven’t got as far with the housework as I would have liked today – thank goodness the state of my house is not a reflection of my self-worth. I would like it to be a bit neater in case someone decides to drop in for a coffee, but thankfully my friends don’t care about my dirty dishes, they care about me. Mum would probably have had a tidier home more often than me but then again she didn’t try to fit so much into each day, and I am proud of all that I achieve. I haven’t spent enough quality time with my eldest today but maybe now while I’m feeding the baby I could spend time talking to him/her about what we could do together tomorrow. I’m using prepared baby-food tonight but isn’t it great that when you don’t have the time to make it fresh, there is a wonderful alternative available to help make life a little easier.’ Finish this little monologue by saying, ‘I am grateful for all that I have achieved today, and each day brings me closer to my goal of feeling happy, healthy and successful in all that I do.’ Two women can experience exactly the same day but choose to interpret it in completely different ways. One feels uplifted, while the other feels like a failure and will most likely go on to repeat this pattern the next day and the next – hoping that some miracle will come along and rescue her from this state of chronic despair. 40 • you sexy mother


Be your own saviour. Change what you say to yourself on a daily basis. Change your life!

Eliminate guilt from your life I once had a wonderful female boss who taught me a valuable lesson regarding the debilitating nature of guilt. ‘Jodie,’ she said in her calm, reassuring manner, ‘If you know that doing something will make you feel guilty, then don’t do it, but if you are going to do it, then don’t waste any time feeling guilty about it.’ At the time I was handing in my resignation in order to follow my boyfriend across the world. I loved my job working to raise funds for visionimpaired people, and I felt that I was letting my boss down by not staying long enough to see a particular project through to completion. This boyfriend is now my husband so I guess I made the right decision, and I’m pleased to report I took my boss’s words to heart and didn’t waste a single moment doubting my decision. She also told me that no one person is indispensable, and that someone would be found who could replace me and do a wonderful job in my absence. Up until then, I had erroneously believed that if I left a job the rest of the team would be lost without me! Her words helped me to see that life is meant to flow and that we mustn’t resist this process or assume that the world will collapse when we leave the room. I often think of this woman and apply her theory to my decision making. Guilt is a word that mothers use and talk about a great deal. We feel guilty for working, guilty for not working, guilty for spending time with the children and not our partners, or guilty for not spending enough time with our children – the list goes on! What a lot of wasted energy we expend, focusing on an emotion that serves no real purpose. I truly believe that as mothers we all want the best for our children, our the real, most wonderful you • 41


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partners and ourselves. We basically all do the best we can with the knowledge we have at the time. Yes, we may discover a better way of parenting or handling tantrums five years after the event, but there is nothing to be gained by beating ourselves up for what we did before we knew better. So many of us get caught up in blaming our parents for our present-day problems, when in general our parents were guilty only of doing the best they could at the time, knowing what they knew. One of the first steps to eliminating the guilt is to acknowledge the fact that worry and guilt serve no worthwhile purpose. They do not make things better or right, and they sap you of the energy you should be putting to better use, as described in the next two steps.

Step One – you need a plan! Step one is crucial – if you have a plan then you have something to work from. A blueprint offers a vision for how you want your life to be, right down to the daily routine in your household. It may not be perfect but at least you are starting out the day with something to aim for. Otherwise you will be forever questioning: ‘Should I do this today or that?’ ‘Should I ignore that tantrum or do what I saw a woman do in the supermarket yesterday?’ This is such hard work because you are constantly second-guessing yourself and everything is up for discussion in your mind! You are having a million self-defeating arguments with yourself each day, and you will never find the ‘right’ answer because there isn’t one. You need to decide what is best for your unique family circumstances, and once you decide, stick to it. Consistency in parenting is much more important than whether you are doing everything right or not. This one step will eliminate so much of your day-to-day worry and feelings of guilt, and will free up a lot of your headspace so you can begin to think clearly once again.

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Step Two – be the best you can be The next step is to commit wholeheartedly to being the best mother you can be and then to watch as the guilt you feel melts away. Once you know that you are doing the best you can on a day-to-day basis, and that you couldn’t have done any more, then you are essentially free. One inspirational mother of four I know told me how she freed herself from the guilt trap. She was saddened by her own mother’s lack of trust in her as a young woman. She felt that although her mother had done a wonderful job in raising her, she had lacked the confidence in herself to trust that her daughter would be okay in the big wide world. Megan had decided early on that she would work hard to instil good morals and values in her children, and then trust them enough to use these as they matured. In a very thoughtful way she allowed her children to have their independence, and she would often say, ‘I taught you right from wrong and I am now trusting you to make the right decisions.’ They knew that if they abused that trust it would be taken away from them, and they also knew that if they said they were going to a party, for example, their mum would say, ‘Yes, that’s fine, but I will just call the boy or girl’s mother first.’ She never said no to them, but she would make sure they were safe by doing a check and then sending them on their way. Now all four are grown up and Megan says that only one of the four ever gave her any serious worry as a teenager and even then she didn’t beat herself up. She just reminded herself that she had done the best she could by teaching them right from wrong, and then allowed them to find their own way in the world. One of the key objectives of this book is to help you eliminate guilt completely from your vocabulary as a mother. By investing time in yourself, your home, your routines, your relationships and finally in your dreams and aspirations, you will have no time or space in your life for guilt. You will have created the most positive and joyful environment from which to raise your

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children and they will be getting the best start possible in life. The people around them will be positive influences, and their home will be healthy and happy, based around routine and a sense of order and calm. You, their mum, will be happy within yourself as you are now investing energy in yourself as well as in the other members of the family. You will be glowing like never before as you will be well on the way to achieving a goal or life purpose that is meaningful to you. There is nothing else you can ask for, and simply no space in this home for feelings of guilt. This doesn’t mean to say that life will always be perfect, because it just isn’t designed that way. What it does mean is that you as a mum will know that you are doing everything possible to create a winning environment for raising children.

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You Sexy Mother by Jodie Hedley-Ward