Switching from baby brain to work mode is potentially a lot easier when the two meet. Living profiles four very different mothers who have adapted their careers to fit their home lives and their home lives to fit their careers.
The smallest things
New Zealand-born, Sydney-based journalist and television commentator Angela Mollard wanted it all - to be "good at her job and still get a gold star for parenting". Her book, The Smallest Things, is part memoir, part manual and follows her journey. At its core is the belief that it is possible to have a fulfilling life that includes both work and parenting.
Angela Mollard with her daughters Lilibelle, 10, and Eliza, 13. Photo / Nic Gibson
At times, Angela seems apologetic about some of her celebrity scandal scoops and it seems motherhood made it hard to do the writing jobs she had done before children. She needed to reinvent herself as well as her 24/7 work ethic.
"Journalism at the level I performed it was cut-throat. I couldn't be that competitive now," says Angela. "I care more about the people at the heart of stories."
She is proud she chose to work from home so she could be there for her children but takes an "aim wide, not high" approach to her life. She prefers to see all the elements as fulfilling for different reasons.
"I have learned to make 'no' my default and I work back from that. For instance, I never do canteen duty but I do help with reading," says Angela. "We have to stop being nostalgic about how our own mothers coped and start appreciating that we are dealing with a whole new set of circumstances."
Working once you have children also takes an element of re-training your employer's expectations.
"I took a long time to learn that," says Angela. "I jumped to my editors' agendas rather than following my own and demarcating time. It was a mistake. I find most people respect your family demands if you're good at your job and professional when it matters."
She also uses her career skills within her family life and writes moving letters to her children. In one, she wrote, "... sometime when I wasn't paying attention, the pudgy-cheeked baby skipped away and here you are, a soft sketch of the woman you're going to be ..."
She says writing things down makes a beautiful memory and her advice is to "just be honest" and to accept that the kids might not appreciate the letter immediately, but when they find it aged 30, they will know how much they were loved.
Angela's top five ways to make fun family traditions
1. Camping - just do it. Even if just for two nights.
2. Line up all the foods in The Hungry Caterpillar, then eat your way through them.
3. Get your kids to draw a book of pictures showing what they're good at and what makes them feel happy.
4. If you live in a city, write down the names of various train or bus stops then put them in a hat. Get a child to randomly pull one out and make that your destination for the day. Research parks in the area and explore.
5. Make a three-course meal themed around a country. Try French or Mexican or Spanish and shop and cook for the meal together.
If only they'd told me
I meet the self-confessed "Trinny and Susannah of the parenting world" in a Remuera cafe near their homes. "Eco-mum" Natalie Cutler-Welsh is wearing exercise gear and has a pre-schooler in tow. Her podcast partner Jacqueline Lockington has come straight from her advertising job - hair tossed up in a high ponytail, red lipstick on and kitten heels.
Natalie Cutler-Welsh and Jacqui Lockington at Jacqui's home in Remuera. Photo / Doug Sherring
They couldn't appear more different, yet together, they have been writing a parenting advice website for the past three years, including weekly podcasts and interviews.
They've also found the time to write and self-publish a book - If Only They'd Told Me: Babies, Sex and a Cup of Tea.
Natalie, a former outdoor education instructor, has used the experience to create a new career for herself and has launched a social networking and marketing site (www.gotogirl.co.nz) focused on helping mumpreneurs build their businesses.
They're not shy on self-promotion and the first I heard of the pair was when Natalie rushed up to me in the Parnell Baths' carpark and handed me a flyer for the blog.
"I approach everyone - in grocery stores, everywhere," she says, because, "Connecting people is what I do."
They recently celebrated their 100th podcast and say the most popular one has been about how to be a happy as a stay-at-home mum. They make the point that they're not experts, instead: "the best friends you never knew you had".
For this dynamic duo, becoming parents set them on a new career tangent and they say one of the highlights has been watching how excited their children were when they were interviewed on Good Morning and Breakfast.
Jacqui says doing the podcasts has also helped her with issues she experiences as a mother and although they wrote the book while they lived through the challenges of having babies, they're still interested in this time of life and hope to launch their site overseas in the future.
"It will always be our little baby," says Nat.
Natalie and Jacqui's top tips for getting through the early days
1. OTAD = Aim to do One Thing a Day.
2. Lower your expectations.
3. Ask for help. Everyone finds it hard sometimes.
4. Embrace motherhood - don't race around, just be with your child and enjoy them.
5. Relationships are key. Keep the love alive with your partner and find quality time as a couple. Appreciate, don't judge and remember to nurture all your relationships.
Jaquie Brown is well known for her work ethic, so when she had children, it's no surprise she kept creating but adapted her focus to include some of the bewildering and hilarious moments she was experiencing as a first-time mum.
Jaquie Brown with her son, Leo. Photo / Sam Hartnett
She says her book I'm Not Fat, I'm Pregnant is "not really a 'parenting' book as such, but more an honest and comedic pregnancy and newborn guide. Like Kaz Cooke's Up The Duff - but a New Zealand version."
As well as being genuinely moving and laugh-out-loud funny, the book and series are extremely well researched and thoughtful - you get a sense immediately the book is serious with its tiny font size and the diversity of subjects covered.
I meet Jaquie in a Kingsland cafe, where she chats while bouncing her very contented baby daughter on her knee. They are the picture of happiness, but Jaquie says she also needs the stimulation of working.
"I feel like being a mum is an intrinsic part of who I am now, but also my career is really important to me and I get a lot of happiness from work," says Jaquie, admitting it doesn't always go to plan - the day before, she interviewed musician John Mayer while her baby was grizzling on her knee instead of sleeping peacefully as planned.
She is very candid and open about her life and enjoys the feedback she gets from people who stop her to talk about the impact her work has had on their life.
"It's beautiful, such a wonderful moment when new mums, grandmas, lovely ladies come up in the supermarket and thank me for showing my post-baby body or talking about what it's really like, because you don't often see the guts of new motherhood shown on television."
She says she doesn't have a problem showing that part of herself: "I think it's important to be honest about an experience you can relate to other people."
She also talks about trying to be kinder to herself on all the parenting decisions every mum is faced with daily, such as starting her oldest at daycare and wanting to lose all her baby weight before going back to the gym.
"I always feel the pressure to keep creating and making stuff but I can't film an entire series from 5am-7pm any more," says Jaquie.
"It's about recalibrating who I am, career-wise."
Jaquie Brown's top five on how not to lose your sense of humour
1. Babies look hilarious wearing glasses. Dress your baby up in your glasses and take a photo, it'll make you laugh and serve as a great photo for their 21st.
2. When your pre-schooler is being annoying and demanding and screamy - suggest you play hide and seek, but you do all the hiding. And you hide good and proper, for ages. It's actually quite fun playing games with them and also gives you some time out alone in a cupboard. It's a win-win.
3. Take photos of your kids' faces when they are crying. Show them and do an impression of them, It'll take the sting out of their tantrum and give you some acting practise. But, also, it's funny to look at later on.
4. Put some music on and dance. If your kid is having a sulk they'll be surprised by what on earth mummy is up to, it'll get you out of the moment and will make you feel better. Failing that, crack open a packet of biscuits and repeat tip 2.
5. Have a look at your old photo albums. Remember that time when you were covered in zits? Or that break up that you thought you'd never recover from? The zits cleared, you got over the heartbreak! Time passes and moves on. So when things get really crazy and hard try and remind yourself that it won't be like this forever. My mum always says to me "A good time is coming", so hold on to that.