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Rhiannon Swan

My Life As A Mum In Sydney, Australia

Greetings from Down Under! One mother of two gives a peek into her life raising two girls in Sydney.

Our little family is made up of the four of us. There’s my husband, Cameron, myself and our two girls, Willow, who is turning four in June, and London, our almost-four-month-old little bubba. Cameron is outnumbered by us girls! I’m a working mum, but at the moment I am spending my time at home as a mummy looking after the girls. London was born at the end of November 2014. When working (I am going back soon) I am a wedding planner and coordinator for three wedding venues in Sydney, on the Northern Beaches, in the best spots with the best views (I might be biased).

Photo: Courtesy of Rhiannon Swan

Life in Sydney

This is coming from a born-and-bred Sydney girl, but I think [Sydney] is perfect. We’re lucky to live in a beautiful part of Australia and the world. Sydney offers great schools, parks and outdoor activities for kids to play, beaches and community pools, and gorgeous homes with backyards.

My husband and I both have lived in Sydney all our lives and we plan to stay here as it’s what we know and love. In fact, until I lived with Cameron in our first apartment, he only knew one house. His parents have been in the same family home for almost 40 years. Raising a family in a city is great. There are lots of opportunities for kids to do whatever they want in life, and it’s a bit of fun.

It’s very normal to call a friend for a “catch-up,” both of your pushing your babies in a pram whilst you go for a walk.

Aussie health care

When having a baby, most couples need to decide if they’re "going private or public." Simply you pay a much larger fee for private, which includes an obstetrician and a better hospital for your stay. Public is popular too, but it means you’re placed in different hospitals, compared with the private system, and your baby is delivered by midwives. In terms of immunizations, in Australia they’re included and given to all new babies. There are no fees for this, so we are looked after.

We opted for the private health system and care. I visited my OB regularly for checkups and the hospital offers prenatal classes, which all parents are encouraged to take, that include a day to learn everything you might need to know when the bubba comes.

Photo: Courtesy of Rhiannon Swan

Two bubs, two birth stories

I had two very different birthing stories with the two girls. Funny enough, and by coincidence, I was in the same birthing suite for both kids, which I really liked. Once in labor, you call the hospital to let them know things are “happening.” It’s quite funny because it’s not until you sound quite taken aback by the pain that they say, “Okay, make your way in.” This is not meant to be cruel; they like you to feel the comfort of your own home rather than a hospital because labor can take a while.

The birthing suite at The Mater Hospital (the hospital I was in) is about seven meters by six meters (or 23 feet by 20 feet) and includes a private bathroom. It’s very comfortable, with a lounge chair for the hubby or your birthing helper. The hospital is like a hotel. The midwives and pediatricians are amazing. They look after you very well. There’s the opportunity to do bathing classes, feeding classes and more. They also do high tea for grandparents on Mondays.

Willow’s birth was long: 24 hours in labor total. But they only count real labor from when your contractions are two minutes apart, so technically it was 12 hours. Ouch! My OB walked in after me pushing for 30 minutes, and discovered the baby was posterior so I had to push her out that way—it was too late to turn her. Double ouch! She was rushed into special care five minutes after being born and was there for the full six days. She had difficulty with her breathing and [other issues].

London, on the other hand, was the opposite. She did not want to come out, so I was booked into the hospital to have my water broken. From then till the time she was born was four hours total. I went from 4 centimeters dilated to 10 centimeters and had her out in 40 minutes. Way more painful but so much more pleasant, as it was quick! My OB didn’t even make the birth because she came out so quickly.

Photo: Courtesy of Rhiannon Swan

Connecting with other mums

[The hospital you stay in] assigns you to a local community center, which then offers you a Mother’s Group. You meet weekly with other mums that have also just had babies in that month. It’s a great way to talk to others that are going through the same thing as you. In Sydney, parents with kids are very accustomed to grabbing a coffee whilst meeting at the local park to sit on a picnic rug overlooking the beach or in a park where kids can ride their bikes or scooters and play on slides and swings. During the week and on weekends, the parks, beachfronts and ovals (sports facilities) are packed with families picnicking and soaking up the sun while kids run around. It’s very normal to call a friend for a “catch-up,” both of your pushing your babies in a pram whilst you go for a walk.

I think because we’re such an outdoors-focused and active country, we’re always out and about enjoying life and doing what we have to.

The Aussie lifestyle

Every baby growing up on the beaches must, of course, be photographed the moment they have their first dip in the ocean, usually just toes dunked in to show they’re really Aussie and like the surf. It’s very normal for babies to be at the beach under a big umbrella sleeping.

I think because we’re such an outdoors-focused and active country, we’re always out and about enjoying life and doing what we have to. We have everything [we need] right at our doorstep. We are very lucky. Every Aussie kid tends to have a bike, a scooter, a cubby house (play house) and the normal everyday toys like Frozen figurines—ha! Because Australians love the water so much, our babies and little ones normally have a large excess of swimming cossies (swimsuits), and they do get used a lot.

Photo: Courtesy of Rhiannon Swan

Most kids in Sydney are part of a sports or recreational group, whether it be ballet, swimming (actually most do swimming lessons), soccer, gymnastics, music lessons, tennis—we like to get out every day! In the mornings, you’ll see groups of mums and dads exercising on the grass in front of the beach with their babies as a [workout] tool. Sounds funny, I know! So using the baby in the pram as a weight to do sit-ups, even yoga moves with their babies in arms—it’s the new thing.

Every Aussie boy surfs, or at least knows how to. It’s very popular. From the age of five, it’s very common for kids to join Nippers. This is a sport organized by the surf clubs on the beaches, where kids go to the beach on Sunday morning for sand and surf events such as running on the beach and paddleboarding races . I don’t know anyone that hasn’t done Nippers. [It’s how] kids learn to surf. Even in the winter the beach is packed with surfers. I am not a surfer; I got dumped too many times to brave it again.

Aussie parents are very down-to-earth; we like our babies to be looked after and provided for adequately, [but] we try to go with the flow.

Raising baby

I don’t think there would be one family in Australia without a pram (or two!). Public transport is great but most families drive, so a four-wheel-drive car is popular. It’s become a known joke that women in big cars with their kids are called “soccer mums.” Just a stereotype that we all giggle at.

Baby stores exist at shopping centers that cater for all things kids and bubbas or the big department stores are popular too. Unfortunately Australia does not [have shopping] like other parts of the world (like the States), so buying online is hugely popular.

When babies begin solids mums in Australia make everything from scratch by cooking and blending veggies and fruit in their own kitchens. Fresh produce and healthy living is pretty important. As they grow and can eat better, popular meals and food items are spag bol (spaghetti bolognese), corn fritters, chicken nuggets, pasta, ice blocks (ice pops), lots of fresh fruits like watermelon, water, milk, milkshakes, Vegemite toast and eggs.

Photo: Courtesy of Rhiannon Swan

Our parenting style

Like anywhere there are very different levels of parenting throughout Australia, but as a whole we’re a country of relaxed parents that do what they can to provide the very best for their kids. In Sydney and throughout Australia, kids are used to being “thrown” in the car and taken to where the family is going, whether it be a store, barbecue, coffee shop, and so on.

I am a working mum but I think being a mum is the toughest job there is, yet the most rewarding and special. I try to be relaxed and really enjoy what each day brings. I am all about a good balance. My girls are on a routine for sleeping and eating, but you also need to be able to accept that the routine will alter some days or change depending on what’s going on around you and what’s happening in their lives.

A book written by a lady called Tizzie Hall called Save Our Sleep has been my baby bible and created every guideline I have needed. It is a popular book that a lot of mums in Sydney read and follow. It guides you in a direction that makes you and baby happy and healthy. It creates routines from one week old and answers questions you might have. It’s the best! Willow slept through the night from eight weeks old and London from nine weeks—I believe because of Tizzie! Aussie parents are very down-to-earth; we like our babies to be looked after and provided for adequately, [but] we try to go with the flow.

You can follow Rhiannon on Instagram @rhiannonswan. Click here for info on The Boathouse group or Moby Dicks. Follow both on Instagram: @theboathousepbweddings and @mobydickswhalebeach

PHOTO: Rhiannon Swan