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Interview: Actress and mother Teresa Palmer chats about parenting during self-isolation
This appears on the home page not the actual listing
Holidays with Kids chats to actress, businesswoman and founder of the Your Zen Mama blog, Teresa Palmer, about home schooling, talking to your kids about COVID-19, taking the time to focus on ‘you’ while balancing these new responsibilities and her upcoming book Zen Mamas.
Right now, families are going through a major period of change. Most are adjusting to new routines of working from home and home-schooling – many of which have never done it before – and feeling understandably overwhelmed. What would be your key advice for these parents?
My key piece of advice is to lose the self-judgment and pressure. Everyone is adjusting to this new normal, including your children, so taking it slowly and going easy on everyone is going to mean a more harmonious rhythm for all.
For me, I notice that the kids do best when I meet them where they’re at with no expectations. Some days they’ll be really open to trying out something different and other days they just want to play. Ensuring they have a loose structure to their day will help to inform them of what to expect. They do better when they have a sense of what the day looks like, even if it shifts (which it does and often) but I find that for them there’s a security in the predictability of it.
You are currently home schooling your own children. How have you been keeping them busy, active and motived during this time?
We have been doing our best to take each day as it comes and build in nature play and outdoor activities into our day. By following their lead we have been able to get the most out of each day… but also acknowledging that there have been some days when motivation levels aren’t as easy to inspire and time out to just “play” or have screen time is a necessity.
Do you have any advice for parents anxious about the kids and themselves having too much screen time while self-isolating?
I’ve dealt with this anxiety myself over the past few weeks but have just had to succumb to the feeling and accept the messiness as being okay. I am reminding myself that this is temporary and everything is in disarray at the moment. We do our best to keep to schedules and incorporate as much lesson, nature and play time as possible but screen time inevitably creeps in. The kids are definitely enjoying this newfound flexibility in our “limited tv” rules!
The COVID-19 crisis can be a confusing topic to broach with kids. How have you approached this conversation with your children?
Our children are inquisitive creatures; they want to know a lot about the state of the world right now. We share with them what we feel is appropriate, offering them most of the truths (sometimes sugar-coated) but holding some of it back. We believe that sharing the full realities of the situation would only prove to be a source of anxiety for them. They know it’s a pandemic and that it means life is going to look and feel a little different right now but that their grown-ups know the best ways to keep them and their community safe and that’s by creating adventures at home!
In your book, Zen Mamas, you talk about the innate anxiety of being the perfect mother and the importance of letting go of this ideal. Is this something you struggled with yourself? And how do you think this applies to the current situation?
This is something that all mothers struggle with and something Sarah and I were passionate to include in the book for this very reason. We wanted to break down the notion of the ‘perfect parent’, we’re all beautifully flawed and as parents in general – but particularly given the current climate – we all need to strip the self-judgement back and let go of any ideals of perfection. Riding the ebbs and flows is a part of the parenting journey and as long as we’re showing up and doing the best we can in any given moment, then we are doing great!
It is important for mothers to find time to focus on their own needs while juggling these new responsibilities and time constraints. You are a mother, businesswoman and a full-time actress, how are you managing to ‘stay Zen’ during this time, balance your dual roles and look after your mental garden?
For me, carving out moments of self-care is extremely important, even if it’s just 15 minutes to hop in the bath and listen to a podcast, do a quick meditation, or even just sit outside in the sunshine and breathe. Cultivating self-care helps bring about balance to our day. So often mamas are meeting the needs of everyone else in their family that their own needs are neglected! Self-care recharges the batteries, it is only by filling up our own cup that we can then serve the kids and be the best parents and partners we can be.
On this note, Zen Mamas also offers some advice on investing time in your relationship with your partner post-baby. This advice may also apply to many couples right now – who find themselves spending more time than usual together, while also figuring out new routines as a family. Do you have any advice on how to find quality time together and how to support one another during this period of change?
This is definitely a challenge as we all navigate this “new normal”. For my husband and I, we have been making a conscious effort once the kids are in bed to put phones away and watch a show together (we recently binge-watched Tiger King!) or brainstorm business ideas (we work together, with our friend Daniel, on Your Zen Life) or just connect and chat and hold space for the other person to voice their struggles from the day/week. Our relationship has to flourish to ensure the rest of the family dynamic functions harmoniously.
Any advice for soon-to-be mother’s dealing with not only general pregnancy anxiety, but added concerns about the security and health of the baby during these times?
I can’t even imagine the added stress so many new mamas and mamas-to-be are experiencing right now. My best advice would be to trust your intuition and do your best to stay healthy and safe without buying into too much of the panic. I know it’s challenging but find moments of calm where you can breathe, tune in with baby and reassure yourself everything is going to be ok. Meditation has been a wonderful tool for many pregnant mamas I know who are dealing with the fear that’s been arising due to the uncertainty of this period. It’s a lovely way to quieten the noise of everybody and their well-meaning two cents!
With most families self-isolating right now, many parents are finding that they have more time to focus on at-home activities, such as listening to podcasts or reading books that have been sitting on the shelf for far too long. Do you have any favourites you would like to recommend?
Yes! I am podcast obsessed and my favourites right now are:
- Mamamia Out Loud – covering varying parenting and social issues.
- Mamamia’s True Crime Conversations – self-explanatory really!
- Casefile True Crime – more true crime!
- Australian Birth Stories – hosted by my friend Sophie Walker. The stories are incredibly empowering and candid. Love hearing each birthing mama’s journey.
- On Being with Krista Tippett – a gorgeous look into spirituality, conscious living, philosophy and going deeper with yourself. Krista interviews some very world-renowned guests who offer some pretty profound insights into some of life’s most complex issues.
Teresa Palmer and Sarah Wright Olsen are the founders of the internationally popular blog Your Zen Mama, an online destination for parents that offers open, reassuring and inspiring advice on every step of the parenting journey. In their new book, Zen Mamas, they share their experiences and tips on becoming a mother – while trying to stay Zen – the perfect companion to keep you company through this uncertain time.
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All images © Gemma Pranita/Penguin Random House
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