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Mum Truth: "I Don't Really Know How to Stop or Slow Down"

by Sacha Strebe

If you based your assessment of Sasha Benz’s life purely from her Instagram profile, you’d think she had a perfect life. In all honesty, though, she (almost) does. She has insanely cool style (even her son, Rhythm, wears baby Gucci tees), her husband is a model (and a DJ), they all live in a house by the beach, and her day job is creative director of Montauk cultural hot spot Surf Lodge (for those uninitiated, it’s where all the hip people hang out in summer). But just like books and their covers, don’t be fooled by her social media appearances. If there’s one thing we know about motherhood, it’s that regardless of who you are, no one gets off the hook. The struggle of sleepless nights, feeding, and interpreting the cries of a newborn (is it a diaper change or sleep they need?) is something every parent has to learn. And despite the way it can look in pictures, in reality, it’s definitely not easy.

“It’s really tough,” Benz tells MyDomaine Australia. “I’m not going to lie. But like all new things, it just takes a bit of practice. Try to be organised, prioritise the important things, and let the small things go.” Not stressing the small stuff is something Benz had to figure out early on. Rhythm was born on the same day that Surf Lodge opened for the season. “I was literally on my laptop while having contractions,” she explains. “So I just went into autopilot/new mum/worker mode.” Without any time to transition from working woman to working mum, Benz admits she “struggled at the beginning to work out a balance, but I was so busy that I didn’t really have a chance to fall or have room for error.”

And we can thank Mother Nature for that. “I must say that the most surprising thing (about motherhood) is that ‘mum strength’—it’s so real,” she says. “How we find that strength to power through anything for our kids with no sleep, no time, no energy is astounding. Somehow, we can always find the strength to be patient and to be a good mum.” In the third instalment of our new series, Her Domaine—a space that celebrates all mums—Benz opens up about her personal experience as a new parent, what she’s learned along the way and the importance of slowing down (even though she hasn’t perfected that part yet).

PHOTO:

Jess Nash for MyDomaine

There’s so much chatter around work/life balance that the very premise of this trend can do the opposite of what it originally intended—many mums think it’s misleading. “I’m personally not well balanced at all as I don’t really know how to stop or slow down,” she confesses. And when the topic of her self-care comes up, Benz almost chokes in her response. “Nothing,” she reveals. “Yikes. No, for real. I haven’t really had much of a break this year, but that is by choice because I’m in a good work stride at the moment.” Still, taking time out is something she’s working on, and Benz thanks her husband for making it happen, even if she doesn’t want it to.

“Oli keeps me sane,” she says. “He overcompensates in the chill zone. [Laughs.] He’s often the only one who knows how (and when) to shut my laptop while I’m mid-typing an email to grab my hand and take me outside or persuade me to take an hour off to go for a swim. I always put up a fuss at first, but I feel a million times better for it, and it lifts me up. I’m so much more productive afterward.”

Photo:

Jess Nash for MyDomaine

In fact, slowing down is one of the biggest lessons motherhood has taught Benz since Rhythm was born (even if she is still trying to figure it out). “Babies grow and develop so quickly,” she muses. “In this short year, Rhythm has taught me that you can miss some pretty important life moments if you don’t stop and take things in. Look up from the phone, take a moment to step away from work, and really be present in those moments. Otherwise, they will pass you by (as cliché as that sounds). And you can’t get them back.”

Being a full-time creative director and a mum is challenging. Benz continues to hone the juggling act, but she made a conscious decision earlier this year to take care of her health. As parents, we’re constantly putting our children first at the expense of our own needs. In fact, they’re too often pushed to the end of our to-do list. Benz found going vegan really helped. “It’s been almost a year, and I try to feed Rhythm the same by keeping our diet all whole foods and plant-based,” she points out. “I give him a few supplements for iron, but other than that, it is just clean eating, no sugars. I found that once I cut out meat and dairy I felt better, both physically and mentally.”

So what’s the secret to convincing Rhythm to eat his veggies? Turns out, there are no tricks (sort of). “I haven’t struggled yet with veggies as it already makes up most of his diet,” she says. “But a little sauce or steaming with seasoning doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Photo:

Jess Nash for MyDomaine

But there’s one thing that’s helped the young family get into a healthy rhythm (mind the pun): routine. “We have a nice little routine for the morning,” she says. “It involves jazz music on the record player (vinyl always), some fruit, and a big Aussie breakfast (normally avocado toast is a fave). Then Oli likes to make sure he has an ‘adventure’ between each nap, so whether it’s taking him to the library for group playtime, to the beach, or even just to the pool for a swim, we find the mental stimulation really wears him out for a good nap.” Their typical evening ritual includes a family dinner out (if they’re not working) and then the standard bath, bottle, and story time. “He also falls asleep to baby Mozart and cuddles his flat bear,” she says. “Gets him every time.”

Motherhood has also turned Benz into a “pro at multitasking.” Getting more done in less time is her new life motto. “For example, I’ll return emails while he is drawing next to me on the floor, or I will fold the laundry while he plays with the baskets under my feet,” she explains. “I also function well with an organised, colour-coded calendar. I find that if I have a few calendars between me and Oli, me and the nanny, me and work, and my personal one, I never miss a thing. This way I don’t feel like I am overbooking myself at any given time.”

She’s also an absolute list queen. “I’ll write down anything I think of that needs to be done at any given time so I don’t ever feel like I drop the ball,” she says. “This can include anything from buying nappy cream to signing a major client contract. There is nothing too small or too big that goes on there. Nothing is missed that way.”

Photo:

Jess Nash for MyDomaine

While being a modern working mum can be a lot of hard work, Benz wouldn’t change it for the world. “The absolute best thing is that you created a family—a little unit—a team,” she says smiling. “The feeling that you’re the most important person in someone’s life, that feeling of them only wanting you, is pretty incredible.” She also has a “very supportive” partner. “Thankfully, my husband, Oli, was turned on by the whole maternal motherhood, breastfeeding thing,” she laughs. “It has definitely helped me feel a bit more confident at home.”

So what advice does she have for other new parents? “Spend money on things that will really help you like cleaners, or a nanny, just to give you time out. And don’t waste it on things that you really don’t need (like the things most baby books tell you to get),” she says. “And everyone said this to me (and it annoyed me at first because it sounded so cliché), but it’s true that it only gets better. Each and every day, I can’t believe that it can get better, but it really does.”

Have you experienced a similar transition into motherhood? What are the challenges you faced?

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