Ever imagined what it would be like to be surrounded not by one, not by two, but by FOUR boys that belong to, depend on and adore YOU? Well, meet Olivia Anderson, mommy of four wonderful boys, creator of Flat Out Mom and Twincredible; life- passionate and #Supermomster. Together with her life partner Shane, they have Charlie who is 10, Ben 8 and their twins Jack & Harry who have just turned 5.
Prior to having children, she worked in Advertising Agencies and had her own Marketing Consultancy business. She continued to do consulting work up until she was pregnant with the twins and then the morning sickness and reality set in 🙂 When the twins were two, she really started developing the Twincredible business and in early 2015 launched the brand in Australia
First of all – you have 4 boys. HOW is the question. How did it go chronologically – did you wish for a child and then tried to have more and turned out they were all boys, or did you know from the beginning you wanted many kids?
Being one of 4 children myself, I always wanted a large family. A noisy, busy house has always been the norm for me. Before children, in my mind four children was the minimum I wanted. I know it’s crazy but you don’t think about how hard it is physically, how expensive it is and the logistics of running a large family when you’re just day dreaming about your future life.
So when my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage around 12 weeks I was shocked to the core. It is a horrible thought to consider a future without children when you’ve always presumed that is what your life would revolve around. Luckily for us, Charlie came along pretty quickly and then followed by Ben two years later so I presumed my miscarriage was just a horrible start to my reproductive journey and everything had been straight forward from there. Unfortunately not.
After Ben, I still wanted more children and of course when you have two boys already, you do wonder what it would be like to have a daughter. It goes without saying that you just want a healthy baby and this is especially true when you’ve encountered obstacles, but if we are being honest, of course I would love to raise a daughter, I would love the boys to have a sister and seeing Shane raise a girl would also be a beautiful thing. So we carried on and for the next few years I suffered two more miscarriages. Horrendous.
I think it is really important to share these types of things with people as often and as openly as you can. Although social media has allowed people to be much more open to sharing their experiences, I think it is still a topic that should be discussed more.
For me, my story has a happy ending and I am profoundly grateful for that. Our twin pregnancy was a complete surprise and an absolute gift. The boys are identical twins, which means my egg split and this is more of a random thing, rather than when twins “run in the family”. So no, we were not expecting it and yes it was a big shock. I was VERY sick from very early on in the pregnancy so it wasn’t too surprising to me that a lot was happening to my body but to everyone around us, it was a wonderful and hilarious surprise.
I was lucky to carry them to 36 weeks and they were delivered via C-section on December 30 2011. Charlie was five and Ben was three. That’s when our crazy life really began 🙂
What was your experience with your first son and how would you compare it to the present day?
In a way I still think that having your first child is the most challenging. Your body changes so much and you feel so much when you first become a Mum. Not all of it is positive. Your lifestyle normally changes substantially from being spontaneous and having so much time to yourself (no matter how busy you think you are). Your priorities change, your friendship groups may change and you can also lose some of your sense of identity. Going from having a rewarding career, to being a stay at home Mum and often depending on your Spouses income can be very challenging. Not just financially but psychologically. I have always been very independent and have maintained that as much as I can, but it is a big adjustment. Having said that, I was 32 when we had Charlie and 100% ready to leave my “old life” behind, so it was everything I wanted. Looking back, although Charlie didn’t love to sleep much, we had so much time to “just be”. To lie around together, to strap him in the Baby Bjorn and go on an adventure. There is still a lot of freedom with one or two children. But when the children start to out number the parents, thats when other challenges kick in.
So, when the second, third and fourth babies come along the adjustments are not so extreme as they don’t involve so many aspects of your lifestyle and your personality. I think its really important to just give in to Motherhood in the most positive way. At least for short periods. There is no point thinking “the grass is greener” and focusing on everything that is no longer in your life as that’s very dangerous emotionally. You have to adjust mentally, as well as physically to your new role in all of its glory and its challenges.
How do you feel this has changed you? What was the most challenging part in becoming a mom of…4?
I am extremely appreciative of “me time” now. Even the every day tasks like shopping alone, showering alone, sitting down to a TV show uninterrupted. It’s very rare now, especially when the boys were younger. As my path to being a Mum of four wasn’t straightforward, I am a much more grateful person now. I definitely don’t sweat the small stuff and I have an acute understanding of how dramatically your life can change in an instant. Who cares if you have barely slept if you have a happy, healthy baby?
My life is in perspective and I remind myself daily that is was my proactive choice to have a large family. It can be chaotic and I have a lot less time to commit to things that I enjoy, but I know it’s only temporary. There is no where I’d rather be than with all of my boys. I have a very strong sense of my own identity and have worked hard to maintain my own interests and create my own business in amongst what I call “living in the eye of the storm”. I am proud of that as it has not been easy. I am a firm believer in continuing to do that throughout Motherhood as it is great for your own self esteem and sanity, but also I think it’s very important for your children to watch you achieve your own goals too. They are watching and listening to everything and I want them to know that a woman has many elements to them and I want them to be in awe of all of them. I am very conscious that I am raising young men, who will go on to have careers and relationships and I would love them to treat all women they encounter as they do me.
How do you slow down? What’s the secret to “embracing the chaos”?
I am efficient with my time, so I’m either going full throttle and taking on a bit much, or I stop. I think I’ve always been able to do that. I know the value of a good sleep, a massage or a catch up with a girlfriend. I have learnt what rejuvenates me and I prioritise those things into my life.
I love pilates and I try to walk the dog and just breathe. Leave my phone at home and just being 100% in the moment. It may only be for ten minutes but you really do feel much better and get clarity by doing something so simple.
I love summer and swimming in the ocean. I grew up in Perth with a very carefree childhood and I try to recreate that for myself and my family as much as I can. Vitamin D and Vitamin SEA are for me 🙂
Who helps with the kids? Do you have nannies, chefs, house maids, grandparents, sisters or anyone related (or not) to help you?
Since the twins were born, we have had Au pairs live with us most of the time. They are not with us all the time, mainly just in the busy times of the day (before & after school) when we need the extra pair of hands. We have loved hosting girls from all over the world (several from the UK, Germany, and girls from Poland, New Zealand and Chile). It is wonderful for the boys to learn about different cultures and in the future, they’ll have friends all over the world. For me, I love having someone else to talk to and watching these young girls adventure and being reminded how it was when “the world was your oyster”. To think that our family has impacted their life in some way is very special to us.
When the boys are old enough to travel on their own, I will have spies all over the world! (Thats my hidden agenda!)
My Mum also lives nearby and is an amazing support to us. I have learnt a lot from her physically on how to raise many children, but also emotionally. She set a great example for us on how to tackle the many challenges the world throws at you and the importance of family and friends in your support network. My Dad died when Mum was just 49 and this is our greatest sorrow. I was very close to him, he was an amazing father and everything that happens to us is bittersweet without him. It pains me that our boys missed out on what he could have added to our lives as their Grand Father. That is what I mean about perspective, I have learnt the hard way to appreciate what we have so much.
My sister Emily also has 3 boys close in age (together we had 7 boys in 7 years!) and she is a great support and always there to give advice or remind me of what is “normal”. She hasn’t lived close by for most of our lives as Mothers but she has lived in amazing locations and we travel often to keep our tribes connected.
Describe your business a little. When did it start and how? How have you managed to mix it into the family life?
After I had our twins, I learnt that there were not many twin specific products available. There were some home made type things and different suggestions from twin Mums on how to do things, but no specific bottle feeding pillow for twins was available in Australia. It is now easier to order online from overseas but it is expensive, so I took some ideas from things I’d seen from around the world and created the Twincredible. It makes it easy for one adult to comfortably and safely bottle feed two babies at once. When you have twins, all of the advice I received to maintain some sanity in your day is to keep both babies on the same schedule. During the initial months, they feed SO often and it can be time consuming, so any product that makes this process easier is so appreciated. Having baby twins is a busy, over whelming time and it is very satisfying to create something that really helps families during this crazy period.
Twin products are very niche, so I wanted to create a website and social media platform that all busy families could relate to. That is where Flat Out Mum came from. It was really started to support Twincredible but it has taken on a life of its own. I knew that would happen and it has been fascinating to see how people have responded to it and where it has evolved to.
With Flat Out Mum, I aim to use the platform to inform, empower and celebrate Mums. Being a Mum is the hardest job in the world and it needs to be celebrated with some humour and a “we are all in this together” attitude. No judgement, just support and the creation of a community. I try to share the realities of daily life and make Mums feel better about what they’re doing, not worse.
When the twins were about six months old and I was in the thick of sleep deprivation and feeling swamped with the demands of four young children, my Mum & Shane organised to send me away to a hotel for 24 hours with a girlfriend. I was reluctant to go, felt guilty and all of those Mum things but I knew it was for the best…so off I went. After 24 hours of laughs, a bit of pampering, a nice meal in peace and a full nights sleep I really was rejuvenated. I missed my boys and I was happy to dive back into the thick of Motherhood and I promised myself that no matter how busy I got, I would continue to do things like that. Everyone benefits.
So with companies approaching me all the time to promote their products and services to Flat Out Mums, I developed the Retreat concept. Mums receive an amazing Retreat experience, a fantastic Goodie Bag and some relevant information. This may be a Workshop or other activity that differentiates and adds value to the event. Our Retreats are great value and Mums go home rested, spoilt and rejuvenated. Plus, I get to go on all of them, so its win- win really!
For our next Retreat, I am very excited to be working with my sister Emily (who runs Bali Family Villas) to offer a five night Retreat in Bali. It is such a magical island and with her experience we have created something really special. There is room for 24 Mums to rest, hang out, explore and be totally spoilt in a luxurious, fully staffed Villa complex.
No one deserves it more than a busy Mum and it is really important to give people the opportunity to take back time for themselves and rethink their own priorities. The treadmill of life runs so fast these days and before you know it, another year is over. It is a chance for Mums to rejuvenate and create their own memories. Guests can come alone and choose to join the group as often or as little as they’d like. Or grab a friend and make it an adventure. All of the details are at www.flatoutmumretreats.com.au
It would be AMAZING to have Mums from all over the world join us 🙂
Have you found the work-family balance or not yet? If yes, what’s The Secret that everybody is trying to figure out?
For me I am lucky for two reasons, firstly I work from home in the “Mummy blogger / Mumprenkeur” field, so people’s expectations of how quickly I can turn things around are based on the fact that I work odd hours and my family is my priority. Secondly, if my businesses do not make money, my family can still live well. What I can provide for now financially is an added bonus for the family and a restoration of independence for me. One day I would love it if Twincredible could pay the boys school fees but for now it is a new business operating in a niche category. I am driven by the fact that my product (the twin feeding pillow) and my services (events and Retreats) REALLY help Mums.
I firmly believe that if you have good intentions and your products meet a genuine need, you’ll be successful. It always takes longer than you hope, but if your driving forces are positive it is easier to persevere.
I receive amazing emails from customers about how what I am doing has really helped them and that is what keeps me going. So I guess what I am saying is that I am not under a lot of pressure to make my business grow at a certain pace. Being a part of the boys life and all of their activities is my priority and my business comes secondary to that.
As for “Balance”, I think we need a new term for it, as most of the time it is very unbalanced. For example on school holidays and when the boys need me, everything in my business stops. When all is well in our family life, I am a maniac with the way I work. I get up early, I work late nights and weekends and my mind is constantly racing with ideas. I love it and get frustrated when I can’t finish projects or write everything down that is in my mind. That is the beauty and the pain of having your own business where it is 100% your vision and ideas that make it grow.
For me, having the option to fully throw myself into my work or my family is the secret. “Wherever you are, be all there” is very important. Having a business makes me appreciate the quality time with my boys and I happily become 100% engrossed in what we are doing together. When they go off to school and I have six hours to myself, I skip to get my coffee and my day as a business owner begins. At the moment, I know that I am very lucky to have the best of both worlds, but this too has been planned over a long period of time.
What’s your sweetest memory with them boyz? And the scariest one?
Holding your first child in your arms is the most amazing thing. You are in awe of them, what your body has created and it is a wonderful family bond with your Partner. Looking back I probably tried to do “too much” with our first but when Ben came along I was happy to give in to full time motherhood more. Days in my pyjamas, not caring about a messy house and spending lots of time just with family is very important. Then the miracle of twins takes things to a whole new level.
As corny as it sounds, just watching them all together and summer days at home with everyone is my favourite thing. They all have great imaginations and play well together most of the time but it can all go “pear shaped” very quickly. The older two boys do declare war on each other and there is jealousy involved with so many children.
The scariest thing that has happened is with Harry, who was our smaller twin at birth and had some extra time in the special care nursery. He was in and out of hospital for the first few months of his life and had a little stomach operation when he was 4 weeks old. That was horrible as he was so tiny but I knew it was not an ongoing problem and he was in great care. When you spend any time in hospitals, especially Childrens hospitals, you are reminded of how lucky you are to just be heathy and have a ‘normal’ life.
Have you ever felt like it is too much to handle, or were you always in peace and on top of things?
Absolutely I get over whelmed on a daily basis. I am constantly “putting out fires” so to speak. The boys are all very active and busy and they push each other to try new things. They are great at using their imaginations and lucky for us, we have a big back garden for their adventures. Just when I think I am on top of things, there is an argument, an injury or a pack of starving wolves roam back through the door. I’ve given up on trying to keep the house orderly when they’re all home as there may be cubby houses or board games that fill an entire room. During school holidays I feel like a School Camp leader who is constantly feeding and guiding a group of scouts. When you have four boys in five years, thats the life I have. That is the life I have always wanted.
I try really hard to “let go” and just let them be kids. Our eldest is 11 this year and his growth just reminds us that all four of them will be finished school and seeking their own adventures in the blink of an eye. I want them to look back on their childhood as happy, carefree and full of fun. Plus I want all their memories to include the fact that Shane and I were right there with them on that adventure. We have a lot of fun and great laughs and that is what keeps me sane.
What is your secret indulgence/ getaway/ time out that you are only dreaming of?
I created Flat Out Mum Retreats based on my dream night or week away. It sounds indulgent but really for busy Mums, it is more about survival. You absolutely need to find the things that rejuvenate you and do them often. It is your life too and you are definitely a better Mother when you are rested and content. A little time away from your children gives you that.
What does a regular day at your house look like? And I mean, really look like – without curtains, no sugar-coating, just the real deal that you face everyday. 🙂
During school term, I wake up before the boys to get a few jobs done before the chaos and neediness begins. As they’ve always been very early risers, I walk like a zombie to turn the coffee machine on and put the first load of washing in the machine every day before they wake. My laundry is the most over used room of the house and if I don’t have something constantly washing and drying, I get swamped. Looking at piles of laundry stresses me out when I have lots to do, so keeping on top of that helps my sanity. For some reason, I really hate folding the clothes and putting them away. If we have an Au Pair, they help me with that and it is a HUGE help. I try to have my muesli and coffee in peace and I normally write a few lists as the days activities start to play out in my head. When the boys slowly appear hungry and dishevelled in my face, I try to give them a big bowl of something nutritious to start their day and continue to put as much food in front of them right up to when we jump in the car to go to school at 8.10am. They are very active and their school days are tiring so my biggest fear is that they are hungry and this adds to the rattiness by the time they come back home to me! They love being outside so if it is not raining, they normally take their noise out to wake the neighbours too…..an incident free morning means I have time to make four lunch boxes (with all of their idiosyncrasies catered for) and perhaps make the beds, feed the dog and brush my teeth before its time to make sure every school bag has the right ingredients for that particular days homework / music / sport they each are undertaking.
All of the boys have (and continue to) go through different levels of enthusiasm for attending school EVERY week day, so if I can pile them all into the car without them taking their bad mood out on their brother, dragging them out of their hiding spot or perhaps wearing their full uniform head to toe without customisation, it is a huge success. I have been known to arrive at school with a child without shoes or a school bag, but hey who cares? With my mornings, it could be a lot worse. Plus I feel I am doing a disservice to other Mums if I pretend I have it all together. I do not.
After a successful drop off you can see my smile beam down the street towards the coffee shop. My second cup of the day is normally a professionally prepared cup of delicious sustenance from one of Melbourne’s amazing cafe’s. Then my day starts answering emails, writing blogs, working on collaborations and planning Retreats for Flat Out Mum. This is the fun stuff and I can say yes or no to anything and work at my own pace (normally fast). Awesome. I do everything myself for Twincredible (except making the product and I have an amazing contact who helps me with everything out of China) so this includes packing orders, organising couriers, going to the Post Office (again) and answering queries from expectant and new twin Mums. Perhaps a bit of boring accounting stuff if I am caffeinated enough and some housework in between. I love working from home most of the time and now that I have the house to myself most weekdays, it’s very easy to fit a bit of toilet cleaning (four boys) and another dishwasher unload into my day. With no office politics (the dog is very friendly) and no interuptions (except my friends the couriers) I can fit a lot in. Including attending every sports day, assembly and coffee morning with the other school Mums.
The advantage of having many young children home for years (especially twins) is that when you finally emerge into the school years, having 6 hours straight to yourself is no only nirvana but once you’re uninterupted, you get stuff done.
What is the most common curse you use around the house?
Under my breathe (of course)….”what the fuck” is uttered almost every time I turn the corner. You need humour to survive my life.
What is the phrase you are saying most often to your kids?
“Of all the things that I do, my favourite thing is to be your Mum”.
With the pace of our life, I can’t promise every one of the boys that they will have all of me, all of the time. Often yes, when it matters, of course. They know their brothers need attention, they know I love a “girls night out” and they know that my business is also something that I really enjoy. I think they are hilarious and I adore them, they are SO much fun to be around. It is absolutely my favourite thing to be with them and I remind them daily.
If you could have one week off, where would it be, with whom and how?
I love when Shane and I can holiday all together with the boys and that is absolutely my favourite thing to do. Going somewhere warm, with a beautiful ocean and making our own adventures every day is awesome. Australia is amazing for that but we also love Bali. As the boys get older and more sensible, our adventures will hopefully take us to further away places.
One thing I wish I had done before having kids and I didn’t…
Live and work in New York City.
I had a window of time where I wish I’d made it happen and while I try really hard to always look forward, not backwards it would have been so much fun.
One thing you would tell your former, kids-less self…
You are NOT tired and you are NOT busy! Only joking….each new day you can only do your best.
Some days are magical, others are horrendous. Just try to do the best in the condition you are in, with the child you have and make it work. Some days you will have a clean, coordinated outfit on, your house will be organised and your children will be well behaved and happy. Rejoice on those days.
Other days are monotonous, tedious, relentless and boring. You’ll feel like an unappreciated slave. Those days pass too. Both are normal and this is Motherhood.
With four kids around you, do you have a specific educational path, or did you just go with the flow? What specific things are you trying to teach your kids?
Our boys are very lucky to attend a fantastic school in Melbourne that I believe offers everything you’d hope for in formal education. At home, we try to keep them carefree and live quite simply. Probably though circumstances (as we were always busy with other children) all of the boys have great imaginations and are very happy to entertain themselves. I am proud of the fact that they can happily spend the day at home making up things to do. Children need to be bored, they don’t always have to have planned activities and places to go. I believe this is helping their creativity, allowing them to be mindful and not to mention improving their capacity to share, negotiate and be tolerant with others. Of course, they have built in play dates (especially the twins) and that is one of the benefits of a large family.
They are all very active boys and love sport. We try to keep after school activities to a minimum but this is hard as they enjoy so many different things. We try to just reinforce having fun with sport for now (Shane was a professional footballer) and not put any pressure on them.
What’s the best advice YOU have received regarding kids and motherhood?
There is a well known Psychologist and author called Steve Biddulph who is Australian but travels the world speaking. I have been lucky to hear his wisdom a few times and this message really stuck with me.
You do not make your child, you meet your child
He talks about the expectations you have as a parent and the child you think you and your partner will create and you don’t often get what you expect. Nothing demonstrates that better than identical twins. It is very important to think from your child’s perspective, to try to work out who they are and what their unique little personality is like and what it responds to best.
Meet your child and go from there. It can be frustrating and it may not be the way you planned to do things, but it is the best way for that particular child.
Thank you Olivia for saying things stright as they are and for sharing bits of your super interesting life with us! If you want to meet Olivia and take a week off to relax in Bali, go visit Flat Out Mom Retreats and sign up for the trip! And if you happen to be a lucky mom of twins, Olivia’s Twincredible Feeding Pillow might be the answer to your daily feeding struggles. Happy Mom, happy life!