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Five years ago, Madeleine West had the 'perfect' life. Then one day, she decided to blow it all up.

If you looked at Madeleine West and her Instagram five years ago, you would have easily presumed that she had the perfect life. She lived in a fabulous house in Melbourne with her partner, a famous celebrity chef, and her six children.

She was often on our TV screens in Neighbours, Satisfaction, and Playing For Keeps. She practiced yoga and drank green smoothies. And then one day, Madeleine decided to blow it all up.

In fact, you might say she hit restart.

Madeleine spoke with Mia Freedman on Mamamia's No Filter podcast this week, opening up about the major life shift she experienced: and how she coped with it. 

Listen to the full interview with Madeleine West on No Filter: The day Madeleine West hit restart on her life. Post continues after audio.

Madeleine West felt the pressure of achieving a 'work-life balance'.

When asked by Mia Freedman whether six kids was always the plan, Madeleine was quick to note it definitely wasn't.

"No, definitely no! I don't regret any of them. But sometimes the universe looks down at you and says 'Oh you think you have your life together? Let me throw this at you'. I remember realising I was pregnant once and thinking can I do this? But then I thought about the memories of those kids, the heart flutter, and I knew it was right for me."

When Madeleine first started having children, it began to impact her career. 

"At the time it was absolutely impossible to have a career in the entertainment industry and still have small children and balance them both. That environment was not conducive to motherhood. The 16-hour days, the requirements: you can't go into a contract meeting and say I need to work school pickup hours."

Madeleine said on No Filter, she started to experience feelings of guilt after realising her career was a non-negotiable to her. 

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She didn't necessarily have to work for a financial reason. Rather it was about being creatively fulfilled.

"There was guilt on so many levels. Anyone who is balancing work life and family life can appreciate feeling guilty no matter what they do: not being properly invested in one specific area. It felt like I wasn't giving 100 per cent anywhere. I lost myself," Madeleine shared.

Now that some of her kids are a bit older and with help, Madeleine has been able to find a better work/life balance: not perfect but better. 

"I've reached a point where my kids are a lot more independent and that allows me a new degree of autonomy and allows me to pursue my career," she said in a recent interview.

Logistically, the six kids split their time between Melbourne and Byron Bay. 

"When I have my kids for my half of the time: they are my only focus. I won't let anything else in. It's just us and it's great. They need security and consistency."

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The separation that catalysed Madeleine West's restart. 

In 2018, things looked rather perfect for Madeleine: her curated Instagram feed, public profile, and her now ex-partner and six children, ranging in age from two to 11.

But while surrounded by beautiful people, beautiful houses and beautiful things, something didn't feel right.

"I had become a performer. I was acting in my own life. I was so used to being a strong woman who had big dreams and realised I wasn't living those big dreams anymore."

Of course Madeleine's outer life looked nothing like what she was experiencing on the inside. 

"Perfection is a lie that we're fed. I was like a duck in a pond: it may look serene and calm above water, but underneath I was paddling like crazy. The legs were going a million miles an hour. Getting up at 5am, doing yoga, getting the kids ready for school, making breakfast and lunches all while trying to look and be perfect. I started to feel like a fraud."

After 13 years together, Madeleine separated from her partner. It was the first part of her restart. 

"I think that people who have separated or divorced can really appreciate how hard it is. It was one big panic and it all explodes. I also thought divorce would be the answer to my dissatisfaction with myself," she said on No Filter.

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"At the end of the day, it was with me: I wish I had been a better communicator."

Madeleine West on finding someone new.

Byron Bay was the second part of Madeleine's restart.

"It had always been the plan to be in Byron, so we had built up here. There is something quite magical about Byron. It was the perfect place to restart."

And in her late 30s, Madeleine began to explore what life looked like after her separation: including what it would be like to sleep with someone new. 

"I've done a billion sex scenes for work, and yet I was terrified. I started to envision how to perform like a woman half my age. Will they Google me, see the type of TV shows I've done and expect me to be like that highly performative sex scene?"

She continued: "The first time [sex] wasn't great, but I had a really important realisation: I am my sexiest when I am just being me. I've birthed six children, I look after my body, I've worked hard in life: and ever since that realisation, I've enjoyed it ever since."

And among her new life in Byron, Madeleine met someone new. 

While helping plant trees in her local area, Madeleine met a special man, and as she put it, "the rest is history".

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"The way he carried himself was so attractive. Seeing his passion and self-belief was key," Madeleine shared.

"He knew absolutely nothing about me. Why would you think you'd find an actor who is associated with wealth and luxury standing on the side of muddy rainforest hill, wearing work boots and ready to muck in," she said on No Filter.

Madeleine West today.

Now settled in Byron, Madeleine uses her time to champion causes she is passionate about, such as the environment, women's rights and refugees.

"Going from the hoity-toity rich suburbs of Melbourne to planting 4000 trees in a day with a bunch of people from all walks of life: the dichotomy is big. But it's what I wanted for myself: the things I stood for I can now be an active participant in."

Watch: Madeleine West gives tips for working mums. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.
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Madeleine is also about to launch a new podcast with Mamamia called Restart

It's a podcast about the moments in life where you have to start over: either by choice or not. 

Over ten episodes, listeners will follow Madeleine's journey as she speaks to people who have been there and done it: like Julie Bishop restarting her career post-politics or Narelda Jacobs who restarted her life after coming out to her family. 

"I don't come at it as an expert, rather as someone still in the middle of theirs. I want to know how to do it well, and why people do restart. How do you navigate that period in your life? So many women I know have asked themselves: how do I restart my life?" Madeleine noted.

"The best way to learn is from other people's stories. We are all capable of a restart. The only thing stopping us is ourselves."

Restart launches at the end of January. Keep an ear out!

Feature Image: Instagram/ @madmadswest.