Before baby, Donné Restom was a singer and performer who travelled around the world while living out of a suitcase without a secure income.
A charmed life
But after the birth of her son Hendrix, the allure of a regular paycheck never looked better and Donné unpacked her bags for a brand new kind of life, which resulted in her taking on a full time job for the first time in her life. She is now the administration manager at Shebirths, a childbirth education program.
She says that she was living what she now realises was pretty charmed life, although at the time it truly felt like a lot of hard work.
“Wake up whenever you want,” Donné laughs, describing her pre-baby life. “Sit somewhere in the LA hills in a house that you’re not paying for, in which resides many artworks by very famous painters. Sit, make a coffee, drink it, write some music. Then put on your trainers and go for a run calmly around the Hollywood Hills, come back, do an hour and a half of hot yoga, eat a salad. Get picked up by your producer, drive to a studio, record said song until about 4:00 am …”
“Once I had Hendrix, he became my world,” Donné explains, “and for that first eight months or so, I really didn’t think about anything else. I was just loving him and also surviving with no sleep!”
A different kind of pressure
While Donné says there was real pressure to perform career-wise, with management investing a lot of time and money recording her album, it was a different kind of pressure to the soon-to-come parenting struggle.
“On the inside, there was a lot of inner anxiety and pressure and self doubt all the time, but standing where I am now, I think we all know that having a baby changes you dramatically and it’s not just your shape and it’s not just your day to day lifestyle.”
“There is an inner shift that’s very difficult to explain,” Donné says of becoming a mum. “Maybe it’s just that hormone thing that happens in your brain that never comes back, but looking back on it now, I can never believe that I ever complained of being tired, that I ever said I don’t have time for that.”
“Childcare is the village”
Just before Hendrix turned one, Donné realised something had to give.
“I started freelance writing because it was suddenly apparent that we needed money,” she explains. “I used to live for practically nothing, or in share houses or housesit or … I guess your standards of living and your needs of living change.”
“When I started freelancing, Hendrix went into day care for two days a week so that I could write and when he started doing that, there was I suddenly, and I loved it. He was happy there.”
Donné says Hendrix thrived in the social environment and she quickly realised that childcare was more than just a bunch of babysitters. It was a village – and a sanity-saver.
“We don’t have these generations looking after our children and sharing the burden,” Donné points out. “We don’t have full time nannies and nurses as part of our Western culture to help with that child rearing and so to me, childcare is the village.”
While Donné had her parents nearby if she needed them, having childcare made a huge difference to her mental state, especially when Hendrix’s dad was away for work for long periods of time.
“He seemed happy and I really needed that break, I wasn’t handling being full-time mum very much, and I really was craving my own headspace and my own creativity.”
The joy of work
Donné says she made the jump from record-making singer to freelancer – and now to lady with a full-time job easily. In fact she could not believe how satisfyingly simple it was to work and get paid. Further, sick leave, holidays and super felt like the absolute lap of luxury.
“I had never in my entire life had a proper job, like I had always worked casually or cash in hand or freelance money here and there but never, ever, ever in my life had I worked in a place where I got a salary and this shift was an inconceivable thing to me. And when I started working at my full time job, I couldn’t believe that this is how most of the world lived, like it was this easy to make money.”
The Mother Shift’s resident careers counsellor and psychologist, Kirsty Levin says the flexible approach Donné adopted is key, and putting things aside for now doesn’t have to mean it’s forever.
“Raising a child has ebbs and flows, where you have the newborn stage and the toddler stage, and then they grow up and become gradually more independent over time. So each of those phases can have a shift in your career path and shift in decision making.”
“Don’t see anything as hard and fast and forever,” Kirsty advised. “You can make new decisions as your child and your family grows with you.”
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