You’re probably more used to seeing her hanging out with Big Ted and Jemima but when she’s not entertaining our kids on Play School, Rachael Coopes has a very special little man to spend time with.
Rachael, of Sydney, is single mum to 17-month-old Gabriel. She talks to Babyology about her life as a working mother, accepting help, trusting your instincts, learning to laugh and lukewarm coffee.
What’s your morning routine?
We are normally up about 6am. Gabriel is an active toddler who is “on” from the moment he wakes. Our mornings are generally loud and chaotic and it’s quite a process leaving the house. Breakfast is messy and interesting as he refuses to let me help, but hasn’t quite mastered the whole cereal on a spoon thing. Much of it ends up down the front of him or on the floor. He becomes like a slippery eel whenever I try to dress him and take shoes off repeatedly as if it’s all some kind of awesome game for us to play.
What do you wish you’d been told before having a baby?
Enjoy every hot cup of coffee and tea you can. Your future is lukewarm coffee and cold leftovers.
What’s the best advice you were given about having children?
I was told to accept every bit of love, food, and support that was offered, especially in the early days. As an independent woman who didn’t need much help in the past, it was very humbling. It takes a village, ladies. The love and support you receive is overwhelming and comes from the most unlikely places. Accept it all with gratitude.
What advice would you give to parents-to-be?
You will be given a lot of advice. Some of it is good. Much of it is subjective. Babies aren’t generic. Neither are you. You’ve got to figure out what works for you and your kids. Be gracious, people are being kind. Listen to it all and then make your own choices. Your intuition is generally right. Trust it.
Most parents feel like they’re failing all the time. We are stumbling in the dark trying to figure it out. Don’t buy into the social media illusion of the perfect mum. She doesn’t exist. You are doing a great job. I promise. You really are.
How do you stay sane?
Laughter. For a while there, I forgot how to laugh. Then one day, Gabriel pulled the strangest face and my sister and I lost it for a good 10 minutes. Now I enjoy the small things and relish in those rare moments of connection with friends and family. The other day I had my two oldest, dearest, friends over to my tiny apartment with their four kids. It was chaos. My god-daughter, Clementine, who is toilet training, peed on the carpet. Gabriel was twerking over three-month-old baby Sailor’s face as she lay on the floor. Among it all, we drank (lukewarm) coffee, watched Beyonce film clips while the kids danced, and laughed a lot. It’s these moments that energise me and remind me of who I am beneath the poo, vomit and relentlessness of being a working single mum.
How do you manage a work/life balance?
I don’t. Does anyone? When you find her, please give her my number so she can bestow her wisdom. My life is pretty much Gabriel and work right now. Fortunately I’m deeply passionate about what I do, so it makes it all worthwhile.
How do you keep your adult relationships and social life going?
Social life? What’s that? I used to hate the phone. Now it’s my lifeline. I talk to girlfriends and check in with them. I meet other friends with kids the same age whenever our schedules co-ordinate around sleep times (which seems to be never) and I make a concerted effort to maintain relationships with friends who don’t have kids. Talking, downloading, and sharing with friends as much as possible. That’s the key.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve done when sleep-deprived?
I remember when Gabriel was a few weeks old, a girlfriend came over. Being a reflux/allergy baby, he frequently vomited. “I think you’ve got some vomit in your hair,” said my clean, baby-free friend. “It doesn’t matter, I think there’s a whole lot in there from yesterday,” came my nonchalant reply.
What parenting super power would you most like to have?
Eternal patience, kindness and ability to find the humour in everything.
What has surprised you most about parenthood?
Kids take you to your absolute edge. Gabriel has uncovered a side of myself I didn’t know existed. I feel like I get tested every day. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I flourish. He’s my greatest teacher.
How do you spend time with your family?
Gabriel loves music. We put music on and dance together a lot. Nothing makes me happier.
If you had more time in your life, what would you like to be doing for Gabriel?
I would read more books with him. We sit and read together whenever I can and it’s extraordinary to watch him process and learn through stories.
Where or who do you get support from?
My family are my rock. My friends are my ocean. I don’t know where I’d be without them. Somewhere not so fun, that’s for sure.
Play School airs on ABC4Kids daily at 9.30am and 3.30pm.
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