Kristy Vallely is what some would call a mummy blogger. Founder of online parenting portal The Imperfect Mum (www.theimperfectmum.com.au), each month Kristy talks to a community of more than 60,000 women on a range of parenting issues from toilet training to post-natal depression. But Kristy’s story runs deeper than that. More than a ‘mummy blogger’, Kristy is a mum to two rambunctious children. She juggles work and school pick-ups. She works endless hours supporting and offering advice to thousands of women online. And Kristy has felt the intense pain and suffering of not only post-natal depression, but the agony of losing a baby. We talk with Kristy on her story and how she makes the most of each day being an Imperfect Mum.
WORDS: Genine Howard
PHOTOGRAPHY: Miss Amy Elizabeth Photography missamyelizabeth.com.au
Australian Content Magazine (ACM): Kristy, you have created such a successful business with your blog, The Imperfect Mum, but of course it didn’t start out to be a ‘business’. Can you tell us how and why the blog started?
I created The Imperfect Mum because I felt there was a need for a safe place where mums could talk, engage and relate to the imperfectness of motherhood. I believe all too often mothers cry in silence because they feel they are not good enough or often compare themselves to others. I wanted this to be a place where people could feel safe to talk about a range of parenting issues from the real heavy stuff right down to toilet training. I personally felt very isolated and alone through my motherhood journey and in some aspects still do.
My start to motherhood was a very confronting one with the loss of my first baby. He was born prematurely and only lived for half an hour. When I finally got to take my daughter home I recall one day sitting in my lounge room floor holding this absolute perfect baby in my arms. Unfortunately though all I felt was such a deep dark feeling of anxiousness. I was completely and utterly overwhelmed – it was like the walls were caving in. It was a very scary time … I will never forget that moment.
I never wanted anyone to go through what I went through alone.
I never wanted anyone to go through what I went through alone so after I finally got through that time I wanted to set up some sort of advice line that other struggling mothers could call. Juggling motherhood and working didn’t allow something like this to happen but there was always this nagging voice in my mind telling me I had to do something.
I used to often (and sometimes still do) compare myself to other mothers but the funny thing about the whole comparing thing is that I think we all compare ourselves to each other and think ‘wow she’s got it together’, when in actual fact she probably goes home and cries in silence because she doesn’t feel quite adequate herself.
There are some mums and dads who don’t struggle and I’m genuinely very happy for them, but that’s not me and I’m not going to pretend it is. I think the more people who talk about the effects parenting is having on them then the less isolating it will be.
ACM: What is one of your most memorable ‘stories’ of how your blog was able to support a mum out there?
I remember a lady writing in from India. Her English was very bad so it was difficult to understand what she was writing but, basically, she was distraught as she was 40 weeks pregnant and had just found out that her husband was having an affair with her sister. She was completely devastated but had no-one to talk to as she didn’t want her family or friends to know.
An Indian woman living in Australia answered her in her language then translated it for us. She also explained the culture and traditions to us. It was seriously one of the most beautiful things to see. Here we were in Australia able to help another beautiful mother going through absolute heartache. It made the world seem smaller and more connected. That was a very proud moment for me.
Turn the self-love voice up and turn that self-hate voice down.
ACM: Obviously giving support to other mums is a great passion for you. Many of us out there have passions but are perhaps too scared to make a business out of it. What are your words of advice?
You just have to move forward. And most of all don’t compare yourself to others – live your life your way, stay true to who you are and follow your own path. Turn the self-love voice up and turn that self-hate voice down.
ACM: You also work in the family business; Harleys – The Educational Super Store in Cairns. How do manage to run both the businesses and family life?
Honestly, it’s pretty crazy. It’s lots of juggling and I have amazing parents and Harleys is their business so they allow me time at work to moderate the page. I also have an amazing friend, Kelly, who helps me too. I am very blessed to have these people support me in the way they do.
ACM: As a general rule, most women today have forgotten the importance of self-care. What can you say to women who feel too busy ‘juggling’ being a mother / wife / career woman / friend?
Yes, you’re so right. And to be completely honest with you I struggle with this myself. However, if we don’t look after ourselves how on earth are we meant to look after those around us? The simple thing I can liken it to is when you’re flying and the airhostess says ‘fit your own oxygen mask before assisting others’. In terms of self-care we really need to ensure we schedule it in to our day, even if it’s 10 minutes it doesn’t matter, just take the time to do something that you love. That time to defrag from your day helps your mind focus on the tasks at hand.
It’s always a challenge keeping that self-hate voice in check.
ACM: I believe that every path to success is littered with learnings (i.e. challenges!) along the way. What have been some of your greatest challenges?
I personally struggle with depression and anxiety and sometimes putting myself out there publicly can be confronting as people like to have an opinion on your life, which can be very challenging. Another one would be self-doubt. A little voice likes to pipe up every now and then to tell me my dreams won’t come true and that I really don’t know what I’m doing. It’s always a challenge keeping that self-hate voice in check. That’s another reason to practice self-love and self-care because if we don’t, that voice gets way too loud.
ACM: One of the motto’s I have with the magazine is that firstly, it is okay to ‘have it all’ and secondly, I believe that you can have it all. What do you say to that statement? What does ‘having it all’ mean to you?
Having it all to me means that one day I’ll be wealthy enough to not only financially support myself and my family but also be able support others in the way they need it. That may be offering scholarships or helping people buy a home or a car. That would be me having it all.
ACM: In terms of success, can you give our readers five key tips to inspire them?
1. Turn your inner voice up
Turn it up real loud! Listen to your own thoughts and your own feeling on matters. Dull the chattering voices, you don’t need to look to others to hear what they have to say. It’s time to start looking within. The voice is there and it may be quiet but you need to practice listening to it. This may take time, but honestly practice listening, it will get louder the more you listen.
2. Don’t compare yourself with others
It’s really easy to get caught up with other people’s successes. The problem with comparison is you start to doubt yourself and you start to pick yourself apart. They are them, you are you. Don’t sell yourself short by comparing yourself to them.
3. Don’t judge a book by its cover
Be respectful to everyone you meet. You cannot possibly know someone from a two minute encounter. You cannot assume they are not worthy of your time because they are different to you or people that you normally spend time with. You never know, this person may be in your life to teach you something … or you may have just met a new friend.
4. Actively practice self-care
Self-care covers a broad range of behaviours and activities designed to enhance and nurture your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Self-care means different things to different people. There is no set formula of what you ‘should’ be doing in order to take care of yourself. The only ‘should’ about these activities is that they are things that you engage in regularly and that they edify and lift you up.
5. Be You. Be You. Be You!
I honestly believe this is the most important point. Be honest, be real! Whatever you do don’t try to be someone else. Humans have a great inbuilt bullshit detector and it comes off as insincere – that’s why it’s easier to just be you! And once you really settle into being you and listening to your own voice, people will be drawn to you because you will be comfortable in your own skin.
What do you think – what are your key factors for success as a parent? Do you think we can have it all as mothers? Let us know in the comments section.
For parenting support in a non-judgmental environment, head to www.theimperfectmum.com.au.
Suffering from post natal depression or just need some support? Head to;