“All I ever wanted to be was a mum. Oh my goodness! It was not what I thought it would be. I struggled with motherhood.”
Kristy Vallely lives in tropical North Queensland with Ben – her husband of 25 years who she met as a teen – and their two lovely daughters, Maya (12) and Texas (10). But back in 2011, faced with postnatal depression, things weren’t as rosy.
Over the years she’s built a very successful blog called The Imperfect Mum at www.theimperfectmum.com.au. It began as a Facebook community where Kristy started sharing the realness of motherhood online.
“I think because no-one was talking about ‘real motherhood’, it was not being painted in a way that reflected reality.”
Kristy’s first story was about her eldest who she lost half an hour after he was born.
“He’d be 13 now. I found it so overwhelming. So many people shared that piece and it created a great community.”
Jumping at every noise
Kristy suffered a lot of anxiety after the loss of her son. When Maya was born, Kristy would jump at every noise her daughter made.
“From the lack of sleep, I was so wired all the time.”
“One day I was at a play centre. There were toddlers everywhere, climbing on things, and lots of mums standing around chatting and looking relaxed. Their kids looked perfect. So clean and neat. As I scanned the room I felt like all those other mums had their shit together. They didn’t look like women who were scared, or alone. I wish I’d had my blog then.
“I felt so lonely even though I had a great husband of 11 years. However, no-one in my network had kids…and I slowly stopped being invited places.”
An unrealistic picture of motherhood
According to Kristy, the media painted an unrealistic picture of motherhood that contributed to her feelings of inadequacy as a mum.
“Everyone wearing white. Those nice nappy ads, featuring mums with bright white teeth, neat hair, and neat kitchens. That puts a lot of pressure on mothers! I believe that unrealistic imagery is a cause of postnatal depression. I know it was for me.”
This is where The Imperfect Mum came from – for Kristy it was all about embracing the imperfections.
“The blog was a therapeutic outlet for me…I care so much about women as I understand what it’s like to be at home so isolated. Mums are often working, and we don’t necessarily know our own neighbours. And the friends we partied with through our teenage years may not have children. That’s a very real isolation.”
“Now, the great thing is, if I’m seen in public, I don’t have to look perfect. I’ve branded myself imperfect!”
Portrayal of motherhood slowly changing
Kristy is positive about “a real turning of the tide” she’s witnessed online over the last six to seven years, with more people expressing honesty and authenticity on many subjects, including domestic violence.
“In general mums are more honest about the various problems around motherhood: from managing a messy house to dealing with husband-related issues. There’s more of a ‘roundness’ to motherhood that can be seen online now.”
Mother’s Day, Mum’s way
But when it comes to Mother’s Day, Kristy is a strong advocate for doing what makes mums’ hearts sing.
“Sometimes at these big (Mother’s Day) events, it’s the mums doing the cooking and cleaning. How does that match Mother’s Day? Mother’s Day should be about the mum… and what the mum wants to do, not what she feels obliged to do.”
Kristy usually has a big catch-up with her mum, mother-in-law and the whole family.
“There’s also another part to Mother’s Day – doing whatever we want to do. One year we just went out with my girlfriends. If Mum feels like having cocktails with her girlfriends, do it – do whatever suits you best!”
About: 'Those who mum' series
Meet 40 women across Australia, from as far as Cairns in North Queensland to Baldivis in Western Australia, as part of a 40-part editorial and portrait series that celebrates the faces of women and mums from across Australia.