It’s not like my babies were perfect sleepers or that I didn’t experience cracked, bleeding nipples or tiredness beyond belief. I experienced the full brunt of early motherhood, but for me the struggles were just hurdles to jump and I just got on with it all. The struggles of course didn’t end at the newborn stage- this gig is a constant struggle, It’s one stage after another, four stages at the same time, forever changing and shifting, but remaining hard and tricky throughout.
Name: Gemma Healy-Maver
Kids: Ace 8, Evie 6, Lola 4, Hattie 2
Tell me about you! What’s your background?
I am very much a -city girl who moved to the country to teach and never left- statistic. I had always wanted to be a teacher, it was always either a teacher or a mum – so I think I did ok. I grew up in the northern suburbs of Perth and pretty much had the best upbringing I could have asked for. When I think about it, I haven’t changed a great deal- I adored my family and friends, as I do now. I loved being out and about, as I do now. I worked my butt off in three jobs during my uni days to feed my shopping addiction, which I very much still have now. I would constantly dust, tidy and organise my room, bleach our bathrooms and do the washing- all voluntarily- which is pretty much my full time gig now. I am a lover of people, a lover of life and a lover of things, unfortunately a lover of expensive things. Back during my uni days, I’ll never forget a friend saying to me “you are the most materialistic person I have ever met, I love you, but you seriously are”. When I got home I looked it up in the dictionary (before the days of Google) to get a precise definition , yep, she nailed it. Self confessed material girl here.
Where in the world do you call home?
Once I finished my teaching degree, I accepted the posting I was offered and found myself in Yuna, the tiniest of towns, 500km North of Perth, in a ONE teacher school (approx 20 kids), talk about a shock to the system. After living in the town (and loving it) for three years, I moved 50km East to a larger town to live with my now husband. 14 years on and here I am – a fully fledged Northampton local.
You’re famous in the Insta world for your hashtags #gemmadoeslinen and #gemmadoeshousework – how did these hashtags start and what has been your most “liked” cleaning tip?
I may appear to be quite the hashtag hussy, as I have a fair few on the go at the moment. It was undoubtedly #gemmadoeshousework that earned me most of my followers. I don’t remember exactly how it started- possibly with a pic of my neatly organised linen closet or folded sheets- and somehow from that point we ended up with how to clean residue from a toilet. A few followers asked so I delivered. My family found the whole thing quite embarrassing, but I consider many of my tips to be game changers, so who am I not to share. I think my washing tips would have to be the most liked posts – probably because we all have to do the washing, unlike other cleaning jobs, which many manage to avoid.
We connected on Instagram and I know this platform is extremely important to you. I used to think that making friends on the internet was weird, tell us about your experience.
It’s amazing how many connections I have made since falling head over heals for IG. So many gorgeous people from all over the world. Many of these cyber friends know more about me than a lot of my real life friends. I certainly find that weird, but at the same time, it’s pretty awesome to have such close cyber relationships. There have been connections that have faded out, others that have stayed strong and new ones developing each and every day. Some of my cyber friends have developed into real life friends through insta-meets – it only takes one meeting and bam, real life friends. I turn to many of my IG friends for advice from which linen/bed/clothes to buy – to how the hell to get this kid to sleep. I love how easy it is to stay connected, to witness lives been played out, to celebrate the exciting, to cherish the ordinary, to share the ups and downs, to support each other. The inspiration I draw from my IG connections is just beyond. All shades of inspiration, from fashion and style to fitness and mothering.
What are the pros and cons of being so active on social media, especially when it comes to your children and how do you manage this?
The connections and friendships, plus the inspiration that I draw from my feed daily, are the biggest pros. IG allows me to stay up to date with everything current, even though I live in a small country town. It breaks down the isolation barrier like nothing else.
The ability to collaborate is also a major pro. I feel very honoured to be able to work with many amazing established and newly launched businesses, helping them to build and expose their brands through product placement posts and giveaways. I have received some exceptional products and discounts in return for product posts, from beautiful toys and clothes to books and food. Our collaboration agreements are super casual and in the end, we all win.
As for cons, I am very fortunate to have had nothing but positive experiences here on this platform. I am yet to experience a single negative incident or deal with anything that has been worrying or unsettling. I am very conscious of what I post in regard to protecting my kids and can only hope that we continue to feel safe and respected.
You swapped city life, for country life and are now raising your 4 babes in rural Western Australia. Can you tell me a bit about that journey and what the change has meant for your lifestyle?
I’ll never forget going on a (at the time I thought crappy) train ride to a small town with my family when I was around 20. As soon as we arrived at the town I went on a mission to find a shop where I could buy something, ANYthing. To my disappointment all I could manage was a couple of wooden bangles from a very strange general store. I remember seeing a group of kids dragging an old tyre towards the river and thinking – wow, how sad that that is their fun, what a boring life. HOW WRONG WAS I – that was city girl in me.
When I first made the move to the country I was completely shell shocked. I was dealing with separation anxiety, having never lived away from my family and friends. I had never lived alone or survived independently. I was still scared of the dark. There was no mobile reception in the town. It was pretty tough, but I was saved by my beautiful students and the wider community, who accepted and loved me. I never once considered leaving, I knew there was too much to gain. I fell in love with Yuna and the surrounding towns, I made friends, scored myself a husband, I was grounded here for life.
I haven’t thought much about the fact that my kids are being brought up in the country. To me this life I am living is just life. We have a city with sufficient facilities just 50km away. We have the most amazing beaches and the best of friends to play and laugh with. We have my husband’s family just down the street and get to visit Perth 5/6 times a year plus my family visit often. I consider ourselves to be luckier than most because we in fact have two lives, one in the country and one in the city – and I love both equally. I guess the only time when it really hits me that my kids are actually country kids, is when they see escalators – because no city kid gets that excited over a moving set of stairs! One more thing I of course need to mention – the Internet. Online shopping and social media are my saviours. Do not ask me to live without online shopping, I couldn’t do it. Pretty sure I could do life without IG, but please don’t make me.
Describe a typical week at your place. I can’t imagine juggling 4 kids is easy – tell us your secrets!?
Life is mostly loud and chaotic. We have lots of quiet lovely times too- but they aren’t usually the ones that come to mind when you are summing up life with four kids. School mornings would have to be the most hellish sessions. No matter how organised I am- clothes and shoes laid out, lunch-boxes and breakfast bowls laid out, hair brush and lackies at the ready- if they are hypo or grumpy or sad or lazy – shit is BAD. It’s the sheer number of little people to get organised, the amount of times they need to be told and reminded. Even with a chart to help – I find myself there yelling. School mornings, although they’re only two hours of the day, leave a lasting impact. At 9am you will find me slumped over the breakfast bar, sculling coffee and eating porridge with hattie playing in the background, calm after the storm. My home days are spent enjoying my time with Hattie, doing the housework and getting organised for afternoon sports/ gymnastics classes, dinner and of course for the next day – always with the organising. Three days a week I am picking up kids and heading to town for gymnastics or football training. One day a week I spend at the park with friends, we sit and the kids play, bliss. Saturdays are for football games and dance runs and by Saturday afternoon I am well and truly ready for Gin. Sunday is our legit day of rest- all the love for Sundays.
Becoming a mum – those first few months turned my world upside down. You’ve done it 4 times – what defined it for you?
It may sound cliche, but mothering came natural for me. I didn’t find that I had to adjust much, it just happened. For as long as I can remember, four was the magic number for me, it was almost a goal to reach. Once I had Ace, I was completely hooked. It’s not like my babies were perfect sleepers or that I didn’t experience cracked, bleeding nipples or tiredness beyond belief. I experienced the full brunt of early motherhood, but for me the struggles were just hurdles to jump and I just got on with it all. The struggles of course didn’t end at the newborn stage- this gig is a constant struggle, It’s one stage after another, four stages at the same time, forever changing and shifting, but remaining hard and tricky throughout.
What is your biggest daily struggle with motherhood and how do you manage that?
Just one, I have a short-list of about ten. My biggest daily struggle first up is getting out of bed, I’m not a fan . But overall I think it would be dealing with my OCD-like symptoms. My constant strive for things to be clean, tidy, organised – the relentless nature of the job, every facet of it, a husband and four young kids, it’s really something. The fact that I have set these standards for myself and that if they aren’t met I’m the only one who actually cares, makes the whole thing a little hard for others to understand. Why do I do it to myself, they often ask. I guess it’s much like any addiction or impulsive condition, it’s not as simple to deal with as some would assume. It’s not something I can just stop, I can’t turn off my burning desire for clean floors and a spotless kitchen bench top, it’s like these things are requirements. Ultimately I drive my kids and my husband insane and that is my biggest internal struggle. But what does one do with that? I manage to keep on top of it all and end each day with a house that is close to perfect. I celebrate daily survival with Yoga and Netflix, feeling happy and victorious. Who knows if I will loosen up and become more relaxed one day, I know the husband sure is hoping so.
What piece of advice do you wish you had been told before you had kids?
I don’t think that anything can prepare you for motherhood. Being an aunty, a teacher, a child-care worker, nope sorry, NOTHING will prepare you. Becoming a mother is HUGE, the emotional attachment, the love, the struggles, the workload, the responsibility, it’s the biggest most important thing that a woman will ever do. I think the biggest misconception I had coming in to this is that my kids would listen to me and respect me like my students did. That I would be able to handle them just as I handled my students. But oh how wrong I was. There’s a world of difference between teacher/student and mum/child. Your own children have this hold over you and there’s that thing called unconditional love that they cash in over and over and over. They break rules constantly and no surprises that they don’t mind staying in at lunch. So to answer that question, I’m not sure any advice would have been overly useful, it’s very much a learn on the job kind of deal. Much like preparing to mother four teenagers. I really have no idea what I’m in for, regardless of the stories I hear and the advice I am given. I can only hope that the ride is smooth enough to handle and that we all make it through.
What has been your biggest parenting fail and what did you learn from it?
Spoiling my kids from day one, spoiling them with love and spoiling them with things. The spoiling them with love thing is code for letting them be the boss of me, they have me wrapped around their sticky little fingers. The spoilt with things thing- I often say I wish I could buy them things every day, spoil them rotten, without them being spoilt brats. It became clear very early on that it’s simply not possible and ultimately I have created four spoilt brats – but as they say, the apple doesn’t fall far.
Can you tell me a bit about your breastfeeding journey, I know your 4th child Hattie has been completely different from your other kids? Tell us a little bit about that. What did you find challenging and what made you stick with it?
Breastfeeding was the only option in my eyes and I was determined to make it happen. I completely understand why some mums struggle, it’s actually the complete opposite to natural if you ask me. Some find the struggle too much and others unfortunately don’t have the milk supply they need. I don’t think there is anything wrong with opting to bottle feed and I think it’s sad that struggles with breastfeeding can often bring so much anguish to new mums. I struggled with cracked, blistered, bleeding nipples, engorgement with all four and mastitis with Ace and Evie, but I persevered each time. Once my milk supply was established and my nipples had healed, I was set up to extend feed for 12 months and beyond. I had no trouble with discreet public feeding (thanks to my A cups), I’d walk around the shops, down the street, anywhere at anytime. I absolutely LOVED breastfeeding. Ace sadly weaned himself when I was pregnant with Evie, Evie was reluctantly weaned at 14 months before a solo holiday to Bali, Lola was forced weaned at about 13 months because I desperately needed her to sleep through the night and Hattie, well she would still be feeding now had I not gone cold turkey at 2 years of age. Seems she was my last, I wasn’t pregnant and needing to get organised for another baby, I just continued to feed her, all day, every day, she was totally hooked. The biggest struggles were the feeds all night long as well as the comments made by those who were supposed to be the most supportive. I felt a whole lot of pressure to end the journey. It took three days and the job was done. She slept through the night from then on and she’s never looked back. Me however, I miss it a whole lot.
I think raising girls is especially hard; we still have so far to go in terms of equal opportunity. I want to raise a daughter who is independent and strong, with a kind and generous heart and I often question if I am on the right track. You have 3 girls – What do you think the most important thing is to teach our kids, especially young girls?
I aim to raise all of my kids the same, regardless of gender. I will tell them that I want them to be the best version of themselves, that they have the power. I feel like I tell them daily to be kind, always be kind- because kind seems to cover a whole heap of bases. My mum often spoke of the importance of being tolerant and I am so thankful for those lessons. Although we may not like or agree with someone, we need to be tolerant and understanding, it makes life a whole lot easier.
I tend to preference behaviour over academic achievement. I go straight to the behaviour section in their reports to see what kind of humans they are at school. I want them to be independent, helpful, caring, kind, tolerant – all of the good stuff. I like to think that if they have a good set of values, then their lives will fall into place. I will of course encourage them to study hard and hope that they strive to reach the goals that they set for themselves, no matter what they may be. But in saying that, I don’t think that success is measured by job status or income, rather the kind of person they are in their family lives, in their circle of friends and in their community.
As far as raising girls in particular, I can’t say I’m not worried about what’s to come, life with three teenage girls sure will be interesting. I don’t often concern myself with gender equality issues, as I feel that we have come a long way already and things will only continue to level out. If there can be a woman on The Footy Show, I’m pretty sure there’s not much for us mini lady raisers to worry about.
If you could fly anywhere and do anything in the world for 24 hours, where would you go and who would you take with you?
This is a tough one. I have travelled around the world and been to so many amazing places, I seriously can’t choose. It would most definitely involve shopping and cocktails and one of my best friends- don’t make me choose. The husband should of course be my number one choice, but shopping and husband just don’t go together.
What are a couple of your favourite brands and shopping websites?
As mentioned, I am a real lover of things and just about everything I buy is ordered online. Favourite shoe brand is Radical Yes. Favourite mumma clothing brands are Gorman, Little Tienda, Mister Zimi and The Bare Road. Favourite boy’s brands are Zuttion and Bandit Kids. Favourites girl’s brands are Bobo Choses, Minouche, Popupshop, Wolf & Rita, Feather Drum and Nico Nico. Minnietonka, Mini Melissa and Converse for their feet. I order the majority of the Kid’s clothes from Global Kidz, Winnie & B, Leo & Bella, Mabel’s Garb, Hipkin Kids… I could go on forever. Kip and Co on every bed and couch and Armadillo and Co on every floor. Trusty IKEA, Incy Interiors and Oeuf in the bedrooms. Some of my favourite pieces in our house are vintage finds.
And finally, who should we follow on Instagram – tell us what accounts inspire you and why?
I follow a whole heap of amazing accounts and each have some form of inspiration to offer. I have way too many favourites to mention so instead I’ll just list the ones that I search most nights to see what I may have missed throughout the day – That’s a totally normal thing to do right? Those on the west coast – @piperandpoppies @justy_olive @eliseraquel @this_colourful_