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Mum vs Life: I don't want my daughters to feel like they come second to work

Welcome to the latest installment of our brand new series Mum vs Life. Each week we’ll feature a prominent Aussie mum and take you through her day. This week we chat to Romy Allwill, featured designer on Ten’s new show The Living Room.

Romy is an interior designer who on top of her hectic TV schedule is also mother to two young girls.

Romy Alwill and daughters Anais (left) and Milla (right)

Romy Alwill

WAKE UP

I wake up at 12.30am, 4.30am and 6.30am because of two young girls with different (and annoying) sleeping habits! I used to be a big morning person, up at 5.30am everyday but now all I want to do is sleep in!!!

The first thing I do when I wake up is give my girls and husband a cuddle. Then put the kettle on, make a cup of tea and check emails. If I can exercise before my husband leaves for work I will definitely try to do that but it depends on the type of night’s sleep I’ve had.

BREAKFAST

Some weekdays I don’t eat breakfast (naughty I know). Those are the days I have to get kids to kindy and get myself out the door to work. If I’m home with the girls I’ll have a better breakfast, especially if I’ve exercised. I try to have an egg or some protein as I feel so much better in my day for doing so.

Weekends when my husband is home I’ll try to have a bit of a cooked breakfast with him, bacon, tomato and mushrooms. It’s nice to differentiate the time.

BATH vs SHOWER

I’m generally a shower person but that is only because I don’t allow myself the time for a bath very often. I ALWAYS get interrupted in the shower. It doesn’t seem much to ask does it – to have a shower in private? But no, not something that happens unfortunately.

GETTING DRESSED

Generally it’s based on what I will feel most comfortable in, which sounds very boring. But I do now try to buy clothes with that in mind, but that are still (hopefully!) stylish. I don’t have a uniform as such but I stick to choosing pieces that are easy to put together so they don’t require too much thought. Good classic shapes and colours, good textures, simple colours and good instant outfit updaters, like a great pair of boots or a bit of a print or a good jacket. The day’s that I am with my kids I don’t wear good clothes. They just get trashed.

I’d love to refresh my wardrobe every couple of years, but that isn’t always financially possible. So a couple refresher pieces every few months that work back with good basics seem to be the way I tend to go.

WORK

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I run my own business but work part time – sorry, let me re phrase that. I am in the office part time but really am always on the job. My working week is broken up as some day’s are with my kids so there really isn’t a typical day as such. The only thing consistent or typical is multi tasking and juggling a million balls in the air at one time. I know all Mum’s do this especially those that work too.

Working is important to me. It’s hard to do when you’re a mum but I like to contribute to the family finances and I think it is important to retain a sense of independence too. I want my girls to know me for more than being just Mum, but a Mum who has her own thing going on. I think that ultimately they will respect that. Also Sydney is expensive to live in and I think there are few families these day’s who can manage a single income. I’ve worked hard over the last 10 years to create a situation for myself so that I can have my own business and have a family too. Having a balance in life has always been my mantra, so I try to have my cake and eat it too. Some day’s it works brilliantly and others it’s a disaster!

WORK ENVIRONMENT

In the last year we have moved offices (I’m never doing it again!!!) to a gorgeous little terrace house in Surry Hills. We chose a place that had a residential feel for a reason. Because we like to dismantle the austere architecture/interiors office look and have something that people feel they can relate to. Our office space is a work in progress because amongst running a business and a family it’s just another thing to fit into the day but we are getting there.

It’s a two storey heritage listed terrace with exposed klinker brick walls, tiny rooms and the craziest steepest stairs you’ve ever seen. Built in the 1900’s it has an original pot belly stove and outdoor dunny. We love the original charm and would like to retain that but have plans to develop it too one day. One step at a time though….

FOOD AT WORK

I can’t skip lunch. My brain shuts down and I can’t concentrate when I’m hungry. I’d like to take it from home more but there are so many yummy options like the Bourke Street bakery and lots of organic cafe around where I work and it’s a nice little treat to eat out. I don’t snack but love my morning cup of tea and one in the afternoon too around 3pm complemented with an organic chocolate ball. I’m addicted to them. I like my tea milky and hot.

EXERCISE

I try and exercise three times a week as a minimum – though sometimes it’s just not possible. I’m pretty committed with exercise. I don’t give it much thought – I just do it. I used to be much more vigilant but I think you have to give yourself some breaks when you become a mum. Something’s got to give when you have some much going on and I feel so differently now about my body now anyway. I’ve cut myself some slack and I think it is actually much healthier.

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CHILDREN AND WORK

My kids don’t really understand my work I don’t think as they are too young, but they love playing with swatches and colours with me (which of course is of no help at all to me) but I love that all kids are innately creatively curious. Because I break my working week up with day’s with them I think it is much easier on them. I don’t want them to resent my work and feel that they come second best because they absolutely come first. I want them to be strong independent women too and hopefully as generations of working women go on we work out better way’s to strike the balance.

EVENINGS

We eat in most nights but enjoy going out on Friday nights as a family. I’m not Jewish but really love the tradition of Shabbat (I fully respect it’s religious significance) and the idea of allocating that time to family. So our little Friday night is a bit like that. My day ends at about 8.30pm at night when the kids are tucked in, kitchen is cleaned and I’m having a moment to myself on the sofa. I wished that time happened at about two hours earlier!

HELP

I have an amazing Mum. She has spent a day a week with both my girls since they were born basically. But not only that – I have two sisters and we all had babies within 6 months of each other and she does the same for them!! She’s incredible with kids and they just love her. She’s so supportive and I cherish her advice and support. I also have the most gorgeous nanny one day a week for my girls. They adore her and wave me out the door to work on those day’s. It makes me feel good about having to go to work when you know that they day they are going to have without you is still so rich and love filled. I think it is important to accept help. No one is handing out trophies if you’re battling it out on your own. My husband and I very much want to be the most present people in our kids lives but you need to have options to have an out every now and again and accept that you are only human.

BEDTIME

Sleep comes easy to me now I don’t get enough! I used to have problems with insomnia but somehow having kids resolved that. But I’m still not getting enough sleep. I need to get back into reading and turning off the tele. It’s hard to put aside the time when you are so tired though. I go to bed early, about 9.30pm because I expect a bumpy night most nights. Anything different would be a pleasant surprise! There isn’t any time to catch up. Napping and sleeping in are a thing of the past I’d rather forget. It’s easier that way!!

TIME MANAGEMENT

Shopping online for groceries is a great time saver. Although it’s nice to wander the isles and ponder what to buy, the reality of doing that with any grace with two kids in tow doesn’t exist. I think online shopping generally is a great time saver. Cooking up in bulk and freezing meals helps out for the kids, especially when they are fussy so you can have a couple of options up your sleeve. My kids go to the same kindy as their cousins so my sisters and I help each other out with the pick ups. That’s a time saver. It gives you an extra hour or so at work to just execute a task. As a mum you rarely get to finish something you start.

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Romaine Alwill graduated from the University of New South Wales with a Bachelor of Interior Architecture (Hons) in 2000.  After travelling and working overseas she took on the position of Interior Design Editor for Belle magazine, a position she held for 5 years. In 2006 she joined Coco Republic to set up the NSW interior design division and in 2008 she was chosen as the vivacious interior design presenter for the Nine Network’s Domestic Blitz, a renovation show helping families in need.

Romy has her own business Alwill Interiors, specialising in interior design, furniture and creative direction for domestic and boutique commercial applications.  Her interior design style is classic, contemporary luxury.  She believes good interior design reflects the lifestyle and needs of the clients and expresses their personalities whilst interpreting their style with hers.  It should also respect the architecture and environment.

Romy is Air Wick Australia’s Home Stylist, providing interior design tips, video blogs and appearing in their Brighter Homes TVC campaign.  She has also worked with Officeworks and IKEA.  In April 2013 she appears on Nine’s Mornings presenting design tips and is a sought after commentator and contributor to design, home and lifestyle publications.

Keep reading our Mum vs Life series here:

Sally Obermeder: "It's a tough balancing act as a parent"

Meshel Laurie "My children are just starting to resent my work

Jackie O "My daughter loves to pretend that she works too"

Amanda Kellar "I have help and I choose not to feel guilty"

Mrs Woog: "I live my life in chaos

Lindy Klim "Two of my kids are fantastic eaters but my son is shocking"

Rebecca Judd "Gone are the days when I wear heels"

Lisa Williams "How I teach my son not to be afraid"

Miki Field "When Anthony is home, it is a little more chaotic"

Angali Rao "Dinner time with my son drives me to my wit's end"

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