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Mum vs Life: Rebecca Sparrow "You’re better off making scrambled eggs for dinner if it makes things less crazy"

Welcome to the latest installment of our Mum vs Life series. Each week we’ll feature a prominent Aussie mum and take you through her day.

This week we talk to Rebecca Sparrow, writer and mother of Ava, Fin and Quincy.

Rebecca Sparrow

Image credit: Russell Shakespeare

Run us through your typical day?

I usually get up at 5am (not willingly – trust me!) because I’m feeding Quincy who is 14 weeks old. Once he’s fed, I often just get up and have a shower because I’ve learned the hard way I may not get another window of opportunity.  Ava (4) and Fin (20 months) are waking at around 6am now and the first thing I do is get them changed into their play clothes for the day and I make their beds. This way I don’t have to come back into their bedrooms and I don’t know what it is but having the beds made makes me feel like I’m on top of things.

The only thing typical about my days is that there’s a certain level of chaos and a dozen cups of cold half drunk tea.  Some days I’m just home all day with the three kids, other days I’m doing a speaking gig at a school or conference.  I have a beautiful nanny who works about 12 hours a week for me to give me some time to write for Mamamia or work on my current manuscripts or allow me to just duck out to the shops.  No two days are the same which is what I love.

What are the challenges you face?

I’m finding the jump from two to three kids pretty challenging!  I didn’t find having two kids too hard and still managed to work quite effectively from home. That’s out the window now!  With a 14 weeks old and a 20 month old – chaos reigns in our household and I just have to grab small pockets to write.

It’s hard being a Work At Home Mum – there’s that constant pull from both sides. And the truth is I need to find time to write because it’s what makes me feel most like myself. I need to do it for own sanity and because it fills me up. I’m a better mother when I allow myself the time to be creative.  But the kids needs come first and some days I just have to wave the white flag of surrender. When everything is going pear-shaped it’s simply easier to play shops and allow Ava to completely rip me off by charging me $50 for one apple.

What is your favourite time of the day?

Late at night, I think.  When the house is quiet and I can just potter around and do my own thing.  Once the kids are asleep, I feel like I get to “clock off” … sometimes I sit out on our deck with my husband with a drink and some chips.  Sometimes I work. Or try to actually read a novel (I usually last about 10 mins before I fall asleep). I also really love the walk to kindy … my daughter Ava is just so truly delightful and her imagination and view of the world never fails to make me smile.

When is the last time you almost lost your cool when dealing with your kids?

THIS MORNING!  Trying to get all three kids out the door.

When is the last time one of your children embarrassed you in public?

Probably Ava when we were at kindy and I heard her telling other kids that babies COME OUT YOUR VAGIIIIIIIINNNNNAAAAA.  Thank you, Dr Feelgood.

Have you ever embarrassed one of your children in public?

Not yet.  Even when I turn up at kindy looking like the sleep-deprived slightly deranged mother of three that I am – she greets me every afternoon as though she hasn’t seen me in three months.  I have no doubt that will change by the time she’s 14!

How do you get everything done and ensure you pay enough attention to your children?

I don’t. And I constantly feel like I’m not giving them enough attention.  I’m not sure any mum ever feels like they’re doing the job perfectly though. And what I know is that my children feel loved and safe. That’s the most important thing.  Also I heard writer Toni Morrison once say that your children look to see if your eyes light up when they enter the room.

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I try to remember that rather than always looking at what’s going wrong (Why is there red pen on Fin’s face? How did you get porridge in your hair!  Who put spaghetti on Chewie’s (our dog) head?) – I try to look at them the way I feel about them – with love.

Was it hard to go back to work after becoming a mum?

I’ve always worked – through my pregnancies and when I’ve had newborns.  That’s the beauty of being a writer, if I can find 30 minutes, I can sit at my laptop and write a column on why I loved my midwives or the day my 4 year old decided to tell other kids how babies are born.

How do you make weekends special for your family?

My husband works very long hours during the week – so on weekends when he’s not on-call, we do try to hang out together as a family. I think rituals are wonderful for families – so we have our own little rituals we do like the fact every Friday night is Ice-cream Night. That kind of thing. That said, let’s face it there are plenty of weekends when we try to do something wonderful as a family and it’s goes to sh*t because Fin turns into one big rolling tantrum!

What kind of questions do your children ask you about your work?

I’m not getting work questions yet.  Rather Ava spends her days following me around asking things like “Why is your brain so squashy? Who tells your brain what to do?  What makes a crayon leave a mark on the page?” And then there’s my person favourite “Mummy, why are you talking in that quiet voice?”  (Because mummy is tired and needs to sit under the dining room table in the foetal position with a glass of wine …)

If you could share one thing you’ve learned about motherhood, what would it be?

Lower your standards. Embrace shortcuts.  You’re better off making scrambled eggs for dinner if it makes things less crazy and it means you have ten minutes to read a story to your kids.

Over the past 20 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living selling touch lamps, working as a nanny, a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a newspaper columnist and a secret shopper (once). Rebecca’s first novel, The Girl Most Likely, was published in 2003, garnered universally rave reviews and is currently in development as a feature film. Her second novel, The Year Nick McGowan Came To Stay was published in 2006 and debuted as a stage play at La Boite in 2007.  Her third novel Joel & Cat Set The Story Straight was co-written with Nick Earls and published in July 2007. Her fourth book Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I wish I’d known in high school) was released in March 2010. In May 2012 Bec joined forces with renowned Australian ‘sleep whisperer’ Elizabeth Sloane to write The Gift of Sleep.  Bec’s latest book – released in September 2013 – was Find Your Feet: the 8 things I wish I’d known before I left high school.

From 2004 to 2012, Rebecca was a News Limited columnist writing for the Sunday Mail in Queensland and South Australia. Currently she  is a Contributing Editor at Mamamia.  In her spare time, Bec is an Ambassador for The Pyjama Foundation which sends “reading angels” into the homes of foster children and GIVIT an organisation that acts as a matchmaking service between charities and people who have goods to donate.

She lives in Brisbane with her husband Brad, her children Ava, Fin and Quincy and her dog, Chewie.  Visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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