In the spirit of Mother’s Day, we thought it would be nice to introduce you to a local Super Mum! Lily McDonald wears many hats. Not only is she the mother of two beautiful children, she’s also the head honcho at Sprout Business Consulting, runs Coffs Pain Relief Clinic with her husband, Niel, and is the President of the Business Women’s Network … and she’s only in her thirties!
Introduce us to your family.
I am blessed with 2 loud and beautiful boys: Kohde, who is 9; and Archer, who will be 6 in a couple of weeks. And then there is the sensible one who holds us all together, and that is Niel, my husband.
How old were you when your eldest was born, and what was it like becoming a first time mother?
I was a 26-year-old Naturopath, who thought she knew everything – including all about being a mother. I was so sure of myself that I only packed one pair of panties and a watermelon when I went into labour, because I was going to have a perfect 6-hour birth and come straight home.
After a 42-hour nightmare labour, I realised I may have to reassess my knowledge. And that has been the story ever since.
Any mother would agree that every time you think you are getting a handle on the whole thing, the dynamic shifts and you have to start again. I don’t think I truly ‘became’ a mother until my first child was nearly 5.
Mothering is a journey, and for me, the start of the journey was shocking, thrilling, devastating, joyous and cathartic. But so fun, that I went back again.
What was your relationship like with your own mum, and how did that shape your parenting style?
I come from a family of incredibly strong women. Some would say pig headed and stubborn! My grandmother raised me for part of my life, and it was from her that I learnt my entrepreneurial skill. She was forbidden to earn a living, so she worked as a seamstress from home once my grandfather went to work every day. I helped and was paid accordingly – in sugary treats.
I learnt the value of doing work you love and doing it well, and this is something I really try to impart to my kids.
My mum became profoundly disabled when I was very young and in this way, she became the most inspirational person in my life. Her life was so difficult, yet she never gave up, she never backed down, she never complained, and she never stopped laughing. She taught me the value of silliness, of laughter and of hope and determination.
Because of her, I never miss an opportunity to skip instead of walk, to do silly dances, to make fun of myself and to sing out of tune. Because you never know – there may be a day when you can’t do those things anymore.
And that is the other big thing I try to teach my kids. Life is way too short for serious stuff.
You are involved in so many organisations locally. How do you juggle your personal and professional lives?
Sometimes well, and sometimes poorly. Juggling is an art, and eventually you drop something. I try to make sure it is never my children. I am so very lucky to be married to the most amazing man, because without him, it just would not be possible. He put his professional life on hold when the boys were really young, which allowed me the opportunity to really flourish.
Now, with both of us going flat out, it can be tricky. There is no formula and definitely no set schedule! We have learnt along the way that you can do absolutely anything; you just need to be really clear about your priorities and set your boundaries from the get-go. If I take on more work, or a new project, it comes out of my sleeping time, not my family time. And I have really great clients who completely respect the fact that I am a mother first and foremost.
What are some of the challenges you face as a parent, and how do you overcome them?
My greatest challenge has been the guilt I have felt at being a working mother. I went back to my business, full time, 8 weeks after my first boy was born, and I tortured myself endlessly about it being the ‘right’ decision.
Society is so divided when it comes to this subject. Stay at home mums can be extremely judgmental of working mothers and vice versa. I do not think that any one thing is right for everyone.
Going back to work was right for me and our family. It never stopped me from feeling guilty every day, but I find it much easier now, because my kids soon tell me if I am working too much!
Why do you think the Coffs Coast is a great place for families?
Both our boys were born on the Gold Coast, and I swore they would never grow up there. We now live in a street where our children ride their bikes, build cubbies, climb trees, have mud fights and only come in when the sun goes down.
I think that epitomises the Coffs Coast. I want them to have truly great memories of a real childhood, and I think this is a place where they can do that.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received about being a mum?
“Be with your child – that is your only job.” When my eldest was very young, he was hospitalised for a long time. Our peadiatrician gave me this advice one day after I had barraged him (for the upteenth time) with a million medically researched questions about treatments and options and policies and surgeries and procedures.
He did not know it at the time, but he gave me advice I use every day. When things are uncertain or hard or new, just be with your child – the rest will come.
What motherly advice of your own would you like to share with our readers?
You will not do it like anyone else – so it is not for anyone else to tell you how to do it.
Children need to think you are invincible, but truly know you are vulnerable – just like them.
As a mother, you have a responsibility to look after your health – and that means putting yourself first occasionally.
Chase your dreams. That way, when you want them to do the same, they will believe it is possible.
You are not going to get it right every time – learn to laugh at yourself.
Thank you Lily.