It’s always interesting seeing people you follow on social media in real life.
On Instagram, Phoebe Burgess is beautiful, with the shiniest hair and always immaculately dressed.
In real life, the journalist and TV presenter (oh and wife of Rugby League player Sam Burgess) is beautiful, immaculately dressed and yes, her hair is seriously enviable… but she’s also incredibly warm, doting of her nine month-old daughter Poppy and refreshingly honest about the “exhilarating but exhausting” realities of being a new mum.
Speaking at a recent Johnson’s Baby event, the newly announced Johnson’s Ambassador brought along her mum and sister and even while speaking on the panel, always had one eye and ear out for Poppy. She also smiled, waved and made faces at her niece and god daughter who sat in the front row.
“It is the most exhilarating, amazing, wonderful but exhausting and scary time of your life. I can’t tell you how many conflicting emotions there are in motherhood,” she tells Mamamia.
“There’s nothing that makes you want to go back in time, but you do wish you had slept more before you had your baby!”
While Poppy is the first child for Phoebe and husband Sam, they are surrounded by babies which has proved to be crucial for the new parents.
“Having a support system is like having a massive safety net, it makes me want to have more babies, it makes me enjoy it,” she says.
“It’s been great seeing them grow – my big sister has two children, my brother-in-law George [Burgess] has baby Boston with his wife [Joanne] and then Sam’s eldest brother Luke has Grace who is four. It’s such an amazing thing to watch them grow up together and it’s so cute to see the mannerisms she shares with my side and Sam’s side.”
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Being in the public eye has thrown up other challenges when it comes to family – deciding what to share online and what to keep private. She says it “plays on my mind every day”.
“Sam and I didn’t share our engagement news, didn’t share that we were pregnant, we keep big announcements to our families and to ourselves and we let things organically get out. That’s always been our ethos, whatever we’re comfortable sharing, we share,” she says.
“I like to share things with mums that I think will resonate with them and not make them feel bad about their circumstances. At the start when I had Poppy going through reflux she would cry a lot in public so I didn’t go out a lot and I felt like I wasn’t doing the right thing.
“I didn’t want to be on social media seeing perfect lives and situations, so I tried to try and relate more of my real life but then on the other side I do love fashion and clothes, it’s a real passion of mine – a hobby, so I love to share that as well.”
When it comes to “sharenting“, Poppy comes first.
“When it comes to Poppy, we just try and protect her as much as possible, we don’t want to embarrass her. We don’t want to share too much of her childhood because obviously that’s really sacred but then we love the community of sharing with other parents and mums. It’s nice to feel normal and have that community feeling,” she says.
It’s something every mum grapples with.
“You spend a lot of time alone with your child so you do want to share and say ‘Hey! look what my baby is up to, what’s your baby up to and she’s laughing and got some teeth’ and it’s a really nice feeling to feel connected,” she says.
“Sam is really well known but it’s still a very new thing for me to navigate. We’ve only been together for four years and we’ve been through a lot of private things publicly. I think when people do steal those moments from you you like to have ownership over it, and you can with social media.”
The couple are trying to get as much time together as possible – when they can.
“[Motherhood] is exhausting and it’s hard and it’s tough but it’s an incredible part of your life to be in. There’s not much time for ‘you’ anymore, unless you can find a babysitter 10 weeks in advance, but it’s great,” she jokes.
“Sam and I did recently, thanks to my amazing mother and sister, they took Poppy for us. Truth be told I messed up her passport application so we were all going away to Fiji and my mum took Poppy for a week. This was after seven and a half months of getting through his up and down schedule, because obviously no two days are the same for both of us, and it was a really nice break to look forward to and we really made the most out of it.”
The other day-to-day thing that keeps them grounded and ensures they’re bonding together is their nighttime routine.
Phoebe follows the three step routine developed by Johnson’s and Tresillian.
“We also have that thing at night where he comes in from work, I’ve stopped doing what I’m doing, we’ve come back from our evening walk as I try to keep Poppy up until at least 5pm, I make her dinner and then all of a sudden the three steps kick on,” she says.
“Sam takes her up and it’s his job to bathe Poppy, it’s his favourite thing in the world. No matter what’s happened during the day, he baths his daughter which is gorgeous and I love it. It also gives me five minutes to do something (finally!). Then we go to the bedroom, do the baby massage, and one of us will read her a book and it’s a really nice feeling because once she’s down to sleep, we have time to connect with each other.
“It’s so important because we don’t get a weekend. And I’m not saying ours is easier or harder than anyone else’s family situations but we don’t have a weekend to look forward to because of the games and international rugby league and obviously my schedule can be all over the place. We both sacrifice things to find time for each other. It’s really important [to have that time] because before you know it we’ll have four children!”
Of course there’s no guarantee they’ll always stay in bed, as Burgess has found out.
“Poppy is nine months old and she’s a reflux baby, she’s still having a couple of bottles every night,” she says.
“You’re told at the start ‘routine, routine, routine’ and at then it’s more for you, but all of a sudden your baby starts to stick to those routines. You’ll get to seven, eight or nine months, and it’s like ‘gosh I’ve done it’.
“When Poppy had reflux and was crying, I couldn’t put her down. I’d be walking around like a mad woman all day, and we didn’t have help so it was Poppy and I 24/7. Having that routine, that solid base, was something I looked forward to.”
To say becoming a parent is a learning curve is an understatement – it’s much closer to a roller coaster. But Burgess does have one piece of advice all mother’s could do with hearing.
“Listen to your instinct. It’s amazing what biology gives mums. It gives you an inbuilt radar that tells you whether what you’re doing with your baby is right or wrong. I say listen to that inner voice, listen to your gut and people that are most like you and that resonate with you best whether that be a brand or your mother or sister and block everything else out and get on with you and your baby. It’s the only bond that really matters,” she says.
“People always question what I’m doing because it is public. People want to know what I’m doing and they pass judgement and you really have to let what other mums think about you and your parenting go because it will eat you alive. That’s the main thing, listen to your inner voice. DO your research but trust that what you’re doing is right. And enjoy it, because it’s unreal.”
Ironically, much of the pressure on new mums comes from other mums.
“Try and let go of all your preconceived ideas of what it should be like and live in the moment of what your baby throws at you, so to all other mums out there I say support new mums rather than tell them what to do, support them and be there for them because every single journey is completely different.”