You Sexy Mother is some slammin’, out-there title for a book, and I must admit, it’s what initially drew me to it in the first place. Subtitled ‘A life changing approach to motherhood’, I was intrigued to see how life as a trackie-dack wearing mother could be shifted into fabulous. But don’t get the wrong idea. This book isn’t about becoming a negligee-wrapped, bountifully-endowed, pouty sex kitten who just manages to fit motherhood in between pedicures and pole dancing sessions. This book is about strength. Empowerment. Vibrancy. Balance. Happiness. A catalogue of goals we all strive for.
Jodie Hedley-Ward is a mum – just like you and me. She is originally from New Zealand and now lives on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast with her husband David (whom she met whilst living in Hong Kong) and two young children.
“I spent a lot of time holidaying on the coast when I was younger, so I feel quite connected to this part of the world,” says Hedley-Ward on the family’s decision to move to Australia. “It’s the lifestyle – sunshine, golden beaches and a laid-back attitude to life that makes you feel like you are permanently on holiday.”
Hedley-Ward is certainly a woman who believes in making life as beautiful as a permanent holiday, but things weren’t always like this. It’s been four years since she first began keeping a heart-felt journal that eventually became the basis for You Sexy Mother.
“My daughter Lili was nine months old at the time and I really felt like the walls were closing in around me,” the author told Australian Women Online. “My world was shrinking and I didn’t particularly like the woman who was staring back at me in the mirror. I didn’t even recognise her, to be honest. I felt like I was becoming a shadow of my former self – my self-confidence and self worth were evaporating before my very eyes.”
It wasn’t until she woke from a vivid dream one night, that Hedley-Ward knew she had to make some fast changes to the way her motherhood experience was progressing. “I made a decision to do one thing every day that would take my life forward in some way. I started a journal of what I was doing, along with the phenomenal results that were occurring, and this went on to become the foundation of the book.”
The result is a book that is set to empower mothers everywhere – but not in your typical how-to manual style. This is no Dr Phil Tell-It-Like-It-Is, slap in the face book that confronts you into change. Nor is it a wishy-washy self-help tome that requires a complete shift in the foundation of your psyche or the daily ringing of Tibetan bells. This is a true, down-to-earth, diary-like journey from the heart. For me, it was like sitting down with my best girlfriend over a cup of tea and getting some pretty fabulous advice and inspiration that worked so well, I went and jumped on the treadmill (and indeed, I read some of the book whilst on the treadmill).
In You Sexy Mother, Hedley-Ward doesn’t try to pretend to be something she’s not. She doesn’t try to psychoanalyse, patronise nor pander. She speaks with positivity, joy and honesty, and backs up her words with wonderful self-realised results, creating a book that draws you in warmly, rather than pushes you along in a hurry to get to your destination. The book is about permanent lifestyle changes rather than quick-fix cosmetics.
“From the outset, I wanted to challenge society’s view of motherhood,” admits the author. “I wanted to shake things up a little and say ‘why can’t mothers be sexy?’ or whatever else they want, for that matter. I passionately believe that motherhood can act as the catalyst for creating your best ever life, not just a watered-down version of your life before kids. You Sexy Mother was created to provide a practical, step-by-step guide to changing every area of your life as a mum.”
Indeed, the book does provide practical advice that doesn’t overwhelm. Hedley-Ward’s focus is on balance and keeping things realistic and positive. She breaks everything down into bite-sized, delicious morsels that are bursting with flavour and energy. She covers many elements including the discovery of your authentic self, the importance of your home and the power of relationships. She also talks of simplicity and balance – from practical matters through to the magic of change – something many of us are crying out for.
“Without a doubt, there is a strong sense of us losing ourselves and losing our way as mothers in society today, but I think the answer comes down to living authentically and simply,” said Hedley-Ward.
“I think the new focus for mothers will be not whether they choose to be ‘stay at home’ or be ‘working’ mums, but whether they have the courage to create an authentic motherhood experience. That means listening to their inner voice. It means having the courage to turn their back on a career if it no longer excites them or doesn’t fit in with the lifestyle they want as a mum. Ultimately it comes down to doing what feels right in your heart.”
Hedley-Ward, who says women today have a completely different motherhood experience to their grandmothers, believes we are demanding so much more from our motherhood experience – we are no longer willing to play martyr to the role and accept decades of self-sacrifice.
“We want to feel good, have fun and love our life. The problem is that up until now there hasn’t really been any blueprint for doing so. It is a new playing field and we are looking for new rules to help us succeed. Today we are more well-travelled, highly educated and used to a far higher standard of living pre motherhood than any previous generation. It’s a different concept altogether now and that is why the old rules no longer apply.”
As a result, motherhood has become a struggle to many modern mums, with an estimated one in seven expected to experience Post-Natal Depression, according to the author.
“I often work with mums who are experiencing PND and the recurring theme is that these are generally very high-achieving, amazing women who expect a great deal of themselves. It’s no surprise that they feel completely devastated when they are unable to live up to their own expectations after the arrival of their baby,” Hedley-Ward told AWO. “The greatest challenge is just finding enough of yourself to give to everyone. Feeling overwhelmed and under-supported in a common story – especially for those mums who are raising children on their own or who have partners who work away a great deal.”
Heldey-Ward knows all about the stresses of moving away from friends and family. Moving to Australia with a toddler and a six-month-old baby two years ago, she knows how frightening this lack of support can be.
“I was still writing You Sexy Mother [when we moved], and the experience forced me to get out and quickly create a strong support network to help me achieve my goals. I now know that whatever your situation, it is possible to create a phenomenal support network to ensure you are able to get on and create your best life.”
Part of creating this best life, the author believes, is in rediscovering the self – something that takes a willingness to invest time actually working ‘on your life’ rather than just being immersed in it.
“I think hitting ‘rock bottom’ can be a very empowering thing because that is often the exact time when people get motivated enough to do what it takes to turn things around. When you are at that point where you say ‘Enough! I cannot continue to live and feel like this.’”
In You Sexy Mother, Hedley-Ward offers a 10 Day Turnaround Plan that takes the ten key strategies and tools from the book and offers a quick-start programme for mums who are feeling overwhelmed by life and want to create some explosive positive changes.
“The Plan has already changed lives and I receive wonderful stories of how the book has allowed mums to begin their life anew. My website features a testimonial from a mum who was about to go on medication for depression when the book arrived on her doorstep. She emailed me to say that she never started the medication as the book transformed the way she saw herself and the possibilities for her life. These are the kinds of stories of transformation that really inspire me on my own journey.”
So, does Hedley-Ward feel like a Sexy Mother? The photographs on her website certainly paint a picture of a beautiful, energetic and vibrant role model for many struggling mums.
“I’m always quick to say that I am no ‘guru’ and I certainly don’t have all the answers or a perfect life,” she says. “The reality is, no one does. I am striving to live my best life each and every day, and that is all any of us can do. My life has come full circle as a result of writing the book… I am now living the life I always dreamed of, writing, speaking and researching a topic that I am passionate about and having the opportunity to connect with and positively impact lives.”
You Sexy Mother is not the only impact Hedley-Ward has had on the lives of women. The author has also been working with the University of the Sunshine Coast to begin a new project entitled ‘Motherhood Study International’. The Study, which aims to open the lid on the modern day motherhood experience, was launched in May of this year, and over 2000 Australian and 2000 New Zealand mothers have already taken part.
“A chance meeting with an amazing psychologist and mum, Dr Angela Huntsman, led to a friendship and research study that is breaking new ground internationally,” Hedley-Ward explains. “Both Angela and I are passionate about finding out what mums think and feel about motherhood in the 21st Century. We want to explore contemporary issues surrounding motherhood including support networks, lifestyle factors, self esteem, happiness and relationships. Ultimately we want to investigate whether or not we are succeeding or failing at the motherhood game.”
Hedley-Ward hopes to make the study results available to policy-makers and practitioners who provide services to mothers, helping to improve these services both nationally and internationally.
“I want to encourage some honest dialogue around the topic of motherhood. I want mothers to know that what we experience is a collective experience – we are all struggling and learning and making mistakes along the way. There is no ‘perfect’ mother and no perfect way.”
In a world where women are bombarded with the need to achieve on all levels – to be a housewife goddess and divine motherly creation, all topped off with a swirl of outstanding career and personal achievement, it’s refreshing to meet a woman who strives for balance, not perfection. Someone who rates acceptance, practicality and reality as highly as beauty, dreams and aspirations. Someone who understands that creating a positive and beautiful motherhood experience is absolutely do-able. And without mothering and taking care of ourselves, none of this is going to happen.
“I have learnt the hard way that unless I am operating at 100% mentally, physically and emotionally, I cannot possibly give my best to my children,” admits Hedley-Ward. “My self-care has become paramount to the success of my family as a whole.”