Guest Kween: JANINE PLANT “Life After A Toxic Relationship.”

Guest Kween: JANINE PLANT “Life After A Toxic Relationship.”

I climbed into bed a few nights ago and my husband immediately shuffled close to me. He wrapped himself around me and got his body as close to mine as physically possible; every inch of our skin was entwined. I smiled and relaxed into him.

I had a sudden flashback to about four years ago, it was my nightly mission to get as close as possible to my edge of the bed; as far away from my ex-husband as I could. When I heard him approaching our room or falling in the door after a ‘work dinner’ at 2am, I would almost stop breathing in an attempt to keep my body still; so he didn’t think I was awake.

Amazing what can change in four years.

I met my ex-husband at the ripe old age of 21. I was naïve, immature as all hell, vulnerable, amenable and easily influenced. I had just been dating a guy who suddenly decided he was into someone else, so I was craving love and affection.

My ex-husband was 11 years older than me. From the moment we met at a mutual friend’s wedding it was go, go, go.

Ever heard of the term love bombing? It’s the practice of overwhelming someone with signs of adoration and attraction. It’s never ending flattery and attention.

-It’s constant text messages, a day after you’ve just met.

-It’s tokens of affection, elaborate gifts and surprise international flights to swan around in a hotel, while he attends work dinners.

-It’s talks of having children together, when you’ve only known each other a month.

-It’s taking you away to a secluded beach shack, for your second date.

-It’s flowers delivered to your work, so everyone knows what a ‘great’ guy he is.

-It’s surprise appearances that are designed to have you spend more time with the love bomber and less time with others or on your own.

You get the picture.

Love bombing is intoxicating at first, it’s all encompassing. Reading the above paragraphs now, I just think ‘woah, creepy’ but at the time, it was charming; I felt special, amazing, loved.

Now, not everyone who whispers sweet nothings in your ear is a narcissistic jerk, but if you’re feeling that something just isn’t quite right about the person or the relationship you’re in, you should trust it. Yep, if your partner is constantly telling you ‘how good you are together’ but your longest, dearest friends disagree, if your gut is screaming at you that something is just ‘off’ and you’re so anxious you’re grinding your teeth in your sleep and chewing the inside of your mouth, then there’s a pretty good chance something isn’t right.

Love bombing feels great, until it doesn’t.

It feels great until….

-You are endlessly confused because nothing you say or do seems to be right, even when you’re pretty darn sure you didn’t say or do anything wrong.

-There are so many seeds of self-doubt planted in your head, that you’re growing a fucking tree of self-doubt out of there.

-You’ve given up your dream job, which you went to uni for five years to work towards, because you think you’re too dumb to do it.

-Your boyfriend proposes to you in front of your family (knowing you won’t say no that way), and you find yourself curled in a ball crying yourself to sleep on your engagement night.

-Your husband (who earns a lot of money) sits in a bank and manipulates you into taking out a $16 000 personal loan under your name because he has a ‘bad credit rating’ and then somehow convinces you in the car park afterwards that you’re a bad person for thinking it’s a little weird.

-Your 35 year old husband starts coming home on weeknights at all hours of the morning and spends his Saturday nights playing online poker with his mates, getting wasted and you get in trouble for being upset about it.

-You find endless webpage listings for ‘Perth escort services’ on your fiance’s computer and he lies to you and tells you it was his cousin, and you believe him.

Yes, love bombing feels awesome, until you actually don’t even know who you are anymore.

Enter: gas lighting.

Gas lighting, to manipulate someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity. A malicious and hidden form of emotional abuse, designed to plant seeds of self doubt and alter your perception of reality.

Love bombing morphs into gaslighting pretty quickly. You are so bound up in the love bomber’s web of manipulation that you literally don’t realise it’s happening, until things start to feel really, really wrong.

Some days I just didn’t speak at all, because it seemed easier. We had no money, despite him earning an annual salary four times what I could ever dream of earning. I knew he was using drugs but the couple of times I tried to confront him about it, he laughed in my face and made me feel awful for even thinking it.

So the day I finally plucked up enough courage to leave my ex-husband was hands down, the most invigorating and empowering day of my life.

I had just spent a weekend away for a girlfriend’s wedding. My husband did not enjoy hanging out with these particular friends (I see now it’s because they were smart enough to know better).

I was sitting with my girlfriends, listening to them talk about their experiences as occupational therapists and suddenly I sat up straighter in my chair. I heard the passion in their voices and I remembered that I used to talk like that!

My first job out of uni was working in an acute stroke rehab ward; where I would use my knowledge of the nervous system to help people relearn how to brush their teeth and dress themselves. I thought I knew how to make a difference in people’s lives but my ex-husband had been very encouraging when I said to him one day, “I’m not cut out for this job. I’m just no good at it.” He supported me into leaving the profession I loved so much and then made me feel bad about how little money I had.

It was in that moment, sitting with my girlfriends, that I knew I had to leave. So many things had happened in the lead up to it but somehow it was witnessing that particular conversation, and feeling like an outsider (when I should have been right there in it) that made it all fall into place.

I drove the five hours back home, told him it was over, packed a bag and spent the next three months living in friends’ spare bedrooms.

I share this story not to have a good ol’ bitch about my ex-husband or to shame him in any way; I hold no anger towards him (anymore). I’m sure we both really believed that we loved each other at some point in our lives. I don’t believe he had a malicious intention to inflict so much pain and hurt. We were just two very different, very incompatible humans.

I share this story because I know how easy it is to be manipulated and not realise it’s happening.

I share this story because I’ve met countless other women who took 20 or 30 years to get out of these toxic relationships; amazing, incredible women who are still healing and trying to remember who they are.

I share this story because you can find yourself in an absolute shit storm of toxicity, manipulation, debt, loneliness and yet still have the strength to stand up to a narcissist and remove yourself from the situation.

I share this story because it happens ALL THE TIME.

If one person who is in an emotionally abusive relationship reads this and finds the strength to take the steps they need to remove themselves too, then that’s all I can hope for.

Today, three and a half years after shutting a door and opening a new one, that giant tree of self doubt has reduced to a seedling.

Don’t get me wrong, the voice is still there. If I spill my coffee, drop something or forget to do something at work, an automatic voice in my head is triggered immediately, “You fucking idiot, you’re so useless Janine, sort your shit out! Of course you spilt your coffee, of course you did!!”

Thankfully, I now find myself in a real world of love, kindness and simplicity with a man who won’t let me talk to myself like that.

Four months ago I married my soul mate. I asked him to marry me, in a very normal, non-dramatic kinda way; there was no grand gesture. It was just us, together, camping in the pouring rain (as you do) and I said “Hey Kimbo, wanna marry me?”

He appreciates the simple things in life.

Every Tuesday we have tacos for dinner and every single time it’s like he’s never eaten tacos before. Every night as he rolls into bed, he sighs in absolute bliss about how comfy our bed is. He lives authentically. Appreciating every moment for exactly what it is. Nothing is ever a drama. Ever.

For a while, this was hard to get used to. For five years of my life, I lived in an environment of confusion, lies and drama. Oh the drama. So much drama!!

With Kimbo there are no over-the-top declarations of love or ridiculously expensive dinners or gifts. There is adventure, there is fun and there is of course, love. There is an appreciation of the things in life that actually matter.

I remember the first time he got me flowers, we hadn’t been dating all that long. He got home before me and put them in a glass on the kitchen bench; they weren’t in plain view, just chilling near the sink. There was no mention of it. No begging for recognition. Just a simple act of appreciation. I looked at those flowers (lilies, my fave) and watched him walk around my kitchen, drying my dishes and wiping down my bench tops and felt so genuinely overwhelmed with love, I nearly passed out.

I guess that’s another reason why I’m sharing this story, to show how recovering from a bad relationship can make you so appreciative of the good ones.

It’s the days that break you, that make you.

It’s the tough things that happen to us that help us grow and put ourselves on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.

I believe that everything we encounter in this life really helps to pave our journey, to build our character and teach us lessons.

Ladies, if you’re in a relationship that feels wrong, it’s wrong.

Trust your gut.

Listen to yourself.

Do what you need to do to find out who you are again, because you’re so worth it.

Janine Plant is a Bunbury gal. She’s a proud mumma to her feather babies (chooks), step-mum to a beautiful little boy and wifey to her soulmate, Kim. Known amongst her friends and family as the resident tree hugger, she’s also a yoga teacher, vegan, nature and animal loving free spirit. With all this in mind, still never get between her and her morning triple shot Bonsoy latte! 

13 reasons why (I love myself sick).

13 reasons why (I love myself sick).

1. I’m not ashamed to order a small family’s worth of McDonalds and to tell the cashier that I’m pregnant. So they make it fresh.

2. I’m not ashamed to spend an entire sunny bank holiday weekend on my friend’s couch, binging on episodes of ‘Love Island’. While eating a whole tub of Nutella.

3. I’m not ashamed to have had at one time only £12 in my bank account and to have spent that on humous, cheese and bread. The good bread!

4. I’m not ashamed that I ball my eyes out like a baby every time I watch Will Smith in the ‘Pursuit of Happiness’. Every. Time.

5. I’m not ashamed that if I want to look 5 pounds lighter, I think of getting a spray tan but then chicken out because that means standing in front of a perfect stranger naked. Exercise also never presents it’s self as the best option.

6. I’m not ashamed that the only thing I can successfully cook in the kitchen is a salad and a toasted cheese sandwich. I once called my Mother and asked her how to boil pasta. 🤦🏻‍♀️

7. I’m not ashamed that the only time I ever shave my lady parts is when I think I might be gettin’ some. So rarely.

8. I’m not ashamed that on one particular day, the only time I left the house was just to buy donuts. And successfully ate 4 in one sitting.

9. I’m not ashamed that recently I was so hungover that I ordered Deliveroo 3 times in one day. From the same restaurant. That restaurant may or may not have been McDonalds as well.

10. I’m not ashamed to respond with ‘sorry I’m busy tonight’ when all I’m doing is heading home to wash my hair and pop my pjs on. And watch Love Island.

11. I’m not ashamed to take myself out for a dinner and a show. Solo dining is liberating AF! Even when you have to respond “No, just just me” when the waiter says “Table for 2?”

12. I’m not ashamed to have 3 different dating apps on my phone and that I still gush over a guy, if he shows me the slightest bit of attention. Seriously. Yesterday a guy emailed me at work and I had zero chill about it. A fucking email!

13. I’m not ashamed that I was ashamed about these silly little things in my twenties. How fucking cool is it to be in your thirties?

How fucking cool is slowly giving zero fucks about the stuff that would of had you stay indoors or kept you up at night when you were younger?

There is something fucking cool about slowly settling into your own skin and scars. There is something fucking cool about staring at your flaws and imperfections and charging forward anyway because you now know there are other parts of you that are just as flawless and perfect; and that needs to be celebrated too!

Oh the wonder of simply sitting with your own quirks and weirdo moments, without needing someone else to validate them. The bliss of having the ability to feel really good and not good at the same time, because let’s be honest, happiness is not a destination.

No matter how hard we try, we will never arrive at ‘happy’. We’ll drive past it, around it, and stop at it, many times. What’s fucking cool is how we’ve also learnt what to do when we arrive at the other stops, like ‘uncertainty’, ‘misery’ and ‘devastation’.

If getting older simply means loving yourself sick just a little more every day and pulling through the ugly stuff with gusto; then bring that shiz onnnn!

I also encourage you to make a *list. It sounds small and pointless but give it a go. I promise not only will you feel better but at the very least, have a good chuckle at your fine self.

Yasss Kween!

Big love,

Carmela

*Your list may not have as many food references as mine. I mean, if loving carbs is wrong, I don’t want the be right! Riiiight? #Guilty 💁🏻‍♀️

Introducing Carmela Contarino, the #PowerKween behind ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…’ 👸🏻♥️✨

Carmela is an Aussie in London with wanderlust. A TV/Radio rebel. Fierce feminist. Loud laugh-er. Emotional eat-er. Pop culture cat. Red wine wooer and karaoke kween. She hopes that her experiences are just like yours, funny, warm, loud, raw and that maybe you can figure out this thing called ‘life’ together. #YasssKween 🙌🏼

Guest Kween: KYLIE RICHARDSON “I Serial Dated My Way To My Dream Guy!”

Guest Kween: KYLIE RICHARDSON “I Serial Dated My Way To My Dream Guy!”

At 22, suddenly I was alone in a country where I knew next to no one.

I’d moved to New Zealand with my first boyfriend but after 5 years together, I realised that I had no idea who I was or what I wanted. All I knew was that the life I was living was not the one I dreamt of growing up.

Dating should have been the last thing on my mind but I was so used to being in a relationship that I didn’t know any better.

Queue my first taste of online dating.

Can we just take a moment and reflect on what online dating was like 10 years ago? This was the real, online dating world with full profiles, Q&As, ice-breaker messages and a time when you could filter out guys that didn’t meet your criteria; ie were shorter than 6ft, smokers and didn’t like comedies.

Thinking back on that time in my life now, I was pretty naïve and totally out of my depth. But online dating was actually the best thing I could have ever done, and it’s turned me into the biggest online dating advocate ever to exist.

Did I go on some bad dates? Yes.

Did I meet dudes who were not at all like their photo? Yes.

Did I fall for half the guys I met way too quickly? Yeah, probably.

But I was 22 and had never properly ‘dated’ so navigating my way around the ‘dating world’ was completely new to me.

Fast forward 7 years, a few more online dating stints and a few relationships later and the dating game had totally changed.

Helloooooo Tinder! 😉

It was the beginning of 2015, Tinder had been around a while, but it didn’t seem like something I wanted to try in any hurry. I won’t lie, even I was sceptical and hesitant to jump on Tinder after my last long term relationship ended. I wasn’t heartbroken and it wasn’t a bad breakup but it was the relationship that made me realise that I am the only person responsible for my happiness. If I wanted to experience those crazy butterflies, the anticipation and excitement of seeing my man (and wanting to rip his clothes off), and feeling that in his eyes ‘I’m the only girl in the world’; then I would need to focus on creating the best version of myself first.

I was no longer prepared to sacrifice my own dreams and desires for a guy and vowed that the next relationship I was in, would be the one. I was done spending time in dead-end relationships and was determined to not only meet the love of my life, but my best friend, my ride or die and the guy that would find me completely hilarious!

Having that clarity on what I was prepared to accept in a relationship immediately changed my mindset. 2015 was going to be MY year. I decided I was going to focus on smashing all my own personal goals and that I was going to tick off all the bucketlist items I’d been meaning to do since moving to NZ.

I had All. The. Possibilities.

In hindsight at that point Tinder was pretty counterintuitive to my personal goals but after some serious peer pressure, there I was, sitting in the lunchroom at work with my girlfriends egging me on. They were all in awesome, serious relationships and I think they got way too excited about the thought of living vicariously through me. Their persuasion was impossible to resist so I set-up my account, slapped together a quick profile and let the swiping begin.

I had no expectations and was just doing it for some fun. We swiped right on a few dudes and then went about the rest of our afternoon.

‘You’ve got a match’. Ooh, well isn’t this a bit exciting.

The first guy I got chatting to that night was a lovely, charming Spanish guy; who had been in Auckland a couple of years. We had great chats and he invited me to go out and have a drink for our first date. It was awesome.

I arrived at work the next morning and proclaimed to the entire office that I had met my husband. It was slightly tongue-in-cheek of course but I was just so pumped to be back in the dating game that I knew this time around was going to be a game changer.

I was happy, I had so much love for myself and I had rediscovered those butterfly feelings that I had always heard people talk about but had never truly experienced as an adult.

The lovely Spanish guy clearly wasn’t the one, but he was the first date of many, many great dates (we’re talking 25+) on the journey that ultimately led me to meet the love of my life.

During my Tinder stints I got pretty good at the dating game. I had some basic rules and a yes policy. My rules weren’t to do with the guys so much, but around how long matches were allowed to sit without conversation, how many times I would try to make the conversation interesting before giving up, and how long the banter could go on for before one of us initiated a date. My yes policy was simple: if they have the balls to ask me out, I would accept. After all, online chemistry is different to in-person chemistry, and I knew which one was more important.

Can I just put it out there and state that ladies, there is absolutely nothing wrong with dating like a dude (it shames me to even admit there is a gender divide in the way we date)? If you want to send the first message, do it. If you want to ask him out on a date, do it. If you want to be flirty in your messages, do it. There are no set rules, so date however the hell you want to.

Dating isn’t all coffee, wine and laughs. It’s time consuming and serious business; if you’re serious about meeting someone. I had weeks where 5 out of 7 nights were booked out with dates, some days I even had 2 dates. Generally, I was ‘dating’ more than one guy at a time, as most wouldn’t go past a first or second date. Because I was dedicating time to the task of dating, I didn’t want to waste opportunities to meet new people, on the off chance I might meet one that I clicked with. Sure, this meant I had to cancel on dates if I met someone who I wanted to see again but dating isn’t exclusive until it’s exclusive, okay?

I’m sure this will make a few people cringe, or roll their eyes in judgement but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest because after all of my serial dating I found myself a keeper.

I like to tell people that Karl tricked me into going on a date with him, and whilst there is an element of truth to that; there was no way that I was going to let the fact that he actually lived in a different city (island, even!) stop me from meeting him. Yes, despite this semi-vital piece of information only coming to light after a week or so of chats and agreeing to the date; by that point, I was going all in! He was funny, interesting, had great banter and looked pretty hot in his photos. Our first date was at a bar close to the hotel he was staying at whilst he was in Auckland training for a new job (as I knew he would be car-less). When I arrived he already had a drink, so I went and ordered my own. Not exactly dating etiquette but I let it slide as he was even better looking in person and he was wearing a cardigan; it takes a confident man to rock a cardigan. 😉

We chatted, laughed, shared stories and everything just felt so natural. Needless to say we were pretty keen to see each other again and it wasn’t long before we were making very regular trips up and down the country to spend time together.

I never planned to fall for a guy that lived an hour and a half flight away but I think the universe matched us for a reason. There was no way in hell that we would have ‘bumped’ into each other by chance. We had to actively look for each other and it’s bloody good that we did, I say.

During my few months of Tindering up a storm, I learnt a lot. About myself and about dating.

Firstly, I learnt that guys have it tough on Tinder. Hold on, hear me out. Do you know how intimidating women can be to the male species? When it comes to the online dating world women really do call the shots. We swipe left far more than the guys do, we have a list of prerequisites that they need to meet before we even agree to go on a date with them, and we are far quicker to judge them and write them off based on anything that has even the remotest resemblance to a past boyfriend/dating experience.

Secondly, as cliché as it sounds, you should never judge a book by its cover. I had been guilty in the past of making assumptions on a guy’s personality based on their bio and photos but when I decided to stop and give more guys a chance for a second impression, I was beyond impressed. When given the opportunity to be treated as a human and not just an object in a catalogue, people tend to respond positively. That guy with the topless selfie that you immediately think ‘douche!’ may actually turn out to be one of the funniest, most genuine guys you’ll meet and could be the best guy for you.

Thirdly, when I stopped worrying whether my dates would like me or not I had WAY more fun and was able to just be myself. I loved myself enough that I knew the right guy for me would think I was pretty rad, and I focused my energy on getting to know him and if he was the right guy for me rather than whether he thought I was funny or attractive or interesting. Each date was like a catch-up with a friend who I’d not seen in ages; so even the ones with zero chemistry or common ground were actually not so bad.

Fourthly (is that even a thing?), DATING SHOULD BE FUN, DAMN IT. If you’re dating be sure to make the dates interesting. Do something you want to do, go somewhere different, try something new because if the date doesn’t turn into anything, at least you’ve created a rad memory. In addition to traditional coffee and wine dates, I had dates at concerts, comedy shows, arts festival gigs, and even at the airport… seriously. If I had all day I would tell you all about them, but you catch my drift.

And lastly, I discovered that deal breakers should be treated with a pinch of salt because realistically you’ve possibly added a whooooole bunch of things to that list that really don’t need to be there. When you meet the right guy for you, you’ll realise what is really important.

If you’re single (or ever find yourself single) make sure your first priority is YOU. Then once you’ve gotten some clarity on who you are and what you want, get your sexy butt on Tinder. Really. And if you want some help or guidance, then I’ll gladly be your Tinder-Wing Woman.

Kylie is an Aussie Girl Boss, living in New Zealand with her handsome man, Karl. She’s an absolute coffee fiend, laughs at everything and is renowned for her infectiously positive, you-can-do-it attitude. Kylie runs her own business ‘Confident + Crushing it’, which coaches women to ‘be the girl that has it all’ in life, in love and in business. Kylie has just launched her newest side hustle, an e-commerce store selling limited edition pocket squares for men called ‘The Handsome Hombre’.

@kyliejrichardson

Guest Kween: MARIA CONTARINO “An Open Letter To My Firstborn.”

Guest Kween: MARIA CONTARINO “An Open Letter To My Firstborn.”

Dear Carmela (Moo),

I loved you from the minute you were born and still do.

From a young age being a mum was all I ever wanted: I honestly couldn’t wait to fall pregnant.

At 11am on the 21st of February 1986, here you were, finally in my arms. It was a very long labour that ended in an emergency C section but from that moment my life completely changed; you were my world, the air that I breathed. Yep, the bond was there right from the start; I loved the fact that you needed me. Everything finally made sense. I was a mummy, it made me feel important.

You were such a bubbly baby; you completed my days. We were like a team. I talked to you every minute of the day and waited every morning for you to wake to do it all over again. Poor dad, he felt rejected, as all my focus and attention was on you.

When your sister Domenica was born you helped me in every possible way, we were in this together. Team ‘Mum and Moo’ was the best team ever. We filled our days talking, watching TV and having afternoon sleeps together in the big bed (my bed).

Life was great. Having two little girls felt like a sense of achievement. I dressed you both the same whenever I could.

Then came along your brother Sam, and I guess that’s when you really turned into a ‘mini-me’. Domenica wasn’t fussed but I think you thought he was pretty special. You helped me raise Sammy right into his teenage years.

With me being the youngest child of a large Italian family, I was incredibly spoilt. I really had the very best childhood. So when I became a mum I also wanted you to experience the same feeling. I’m just not too sure how I went with that, because with me having to work most of the time, I don’t think growing up you were as happy.

Nonna was always home and I got away with lots. As for you Moo, it just wasn’t the same because you had to step into my shoes when I wasn’t there. You were only eleven-years-old when I was running a supermarket deli (meaning I wasn’t around in the mornings). You would wake your sister and brother up, make them breakfast and walk them to and from school. You were a part- time mummy/part-time sister and were always asking if I needed anything. This is probably why you’re so mature for your age: you had to grow up really quickly. We needed your help but it’s one of my regrets.

Sometimes I feel like I failed you and wasn’t the best mum going around. With the long hours that I worked to bring the extra money into the house (which I thought was important at the time), I missed out on spending precious time with you. I compensated for this in your teenage years. I wanted you to make your own decisions. You probably thought I was the biggest pushover but I wanted you to love life and enjoy being free.

Even though I had the most amazing childhood, your nonno told me who, what, when, why and dictated how things were done. He made all my decisions till the day I married your father and life with your Dad has been pretty much the same. I didn’t want that for you. All I really ever wanted was to be a stay-at-home-mum and not work.

Carmela, we were friends all through your school years. I liked how you trusted me and talked to me about lots of different things. It made me happy.

When you moved out of home for the first time to live in Sydney, you left an empty place in my heart. You were on a journey to build your career and I thought ‘ahh she’s going to forget me’ but we still kept in touch (most days). I loved when you would call asking for advice (like the time you needed to know how to boil pasta) haha.

As the years have gone by, you’ve moved from Sydney to London with no job and no place to live. You’ve been there on and off for three years now and traveled to places I can only dream about. I want you to know how proud I am of you and your achievements; with all the ups and downs, you’ve always managed to survive.

Rumour has it you’re my favourite, well let everyone think what they want. 😉

Thank you so much for all the things you have taught me: mostly to believe in myself and have faith that I can do anything.

Most of all THANK YOU for loving me, still giving me cuddles and allowing me to be your mum.

LOVE YOU Moo,

Mummy.

P.s. Team Mum and Moo Forever.

Carmela’s response:

Dear Mum,

Please don’t feel guilty for having to work during my childhood. I’ve sensed for a while now that it’s been eating you up inside.

Don’t you dare let it!

YOU are the reason I am brave, the reason I am strong, the reason I have an impeccable work ethic, the reason I am resilient, the reason I am a fighter, the reason I am bold, the reason I am successful, the reason I am kind, the reason I am loved (and know how to love) unconditionally.

From a young age I watched a woman raise a family on her own and sacrifice everything to provide for them; you’re still providing for us now.

Don’t you get how fucking proud I am of you? In a world where you’ve never had it all, you’ve always ensured that I did.

For over a decade you held down the fort while dad worked in Perth. You took a small business and turned it into an homeware institution. From not having a proper education; you’re the highest-paid person in your field. You’ve had three kids and somehow are skinner than me. Haha.

You were never just the mum that worked and wasn’t there. You squeezed in as much as you could and juggled it all. Even today (at nearly 60 years of age) you do a 9-5 and still put a home cooked meal on the table every evening.

No one ever has a bad word to say about you; though I brag about how ‘I have the best mum’ all the time anyway. You’re a second mum/nonna to so many and that’s because you’ve welcomed all my friends into our family home and treated them like family as well.

Yes, my childhood was different to other kids but I also got to grow up with a mum that I could tell anything to and never had to hide anything from. You trusted and respected me from such a young age; I think it’s really why I’m a feminist and enforce women empowerment.

You’ve taught me to put memories first before money and never stopped me from living my life (no matter how unusual my choices may be). I am the lucky one.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Love,

Moo

Maria Contarino is Carmela’s mum, she’s also the successful store manager of House in Bunbury (otherwise known as ‘Mrs House’). Maria cooks a mean bowl of pasta, is an obsessive owl collector and is the first one on the d floor whenever ‘Dancing Queen’ or ‘You’re The One That I Want’ is playing.

The reality of being unemployed past your thirties.

The reality of being unemployed past your thirties.

friends-unemployed

In my twenties I hit the ground running, I was focused, zealous and fearless. Some would even say I ‘peaked’ too soon. I landed my dream job at the age of 23 and was on more money than my parents combined at 24, but by 25 it all came crashing down. It wasn’t completely dire afterwards, though I had to rebuild. Everything I thought I knew was no longer. Everything that used to be, now was different. I went from co-hosting a Sydney radio breakfast show which had me interviewing celebrities and getting dressed up for red carpet events to someone who worked at a newsagents, a clothes shop and a jewelry store just to make her rent.

Eventually I got another job in radio, but it came with half the profile and therefore half the money: so I had to keep working one of my part-time gigs. I was also lucky enough to land a manager who booked me regular spots on national TV shows (which straight after I would run to the newsagents and be confronted by customers with: “Didn’t I just see you on TV?”).

Slowly but surely and by that, I mean with a hell of a lot of persistence and tears, everything went back to the way it had been. Bigger radio and TV jobs came along. Some would even say I was ‘back on top’.

My point is, this definitely isn’t a bust out the violins story but, in my twenties, I thought I knew what it meant to struggle and to have ups and downs in my career.

Enter my thirties.

When I was 29, I left my life in Sydney and risked it all for a new, happier life in London. Looking back on it now I can understand why my friends were constantly saying “I don’t know how you’re doing this, I could never!” “Are you fucking mad?” “You brave bitch!” I was moving to a new city, with nowhere to live, no job prospects and no support network.

Also enter a new phase of my career: where I was basically starting all over again. I became familiar with the term the ‘British guard’ meaning: anything I did in Australia didn’t count unless I had done it in the UK. So, while I took meeting after meeting with different TV/production companies and radio stations, I was working in a pub earning a minimum wage of 6 pounds an hour, pouring beers, rolling cutlery and dodging mice.

I came over with some coin to get me started but the conversion rate at the time was shocking: so more than half of what I saved was just gone. Yes, I should have researched more. Yes, I should have put aside more money before I left and I know I’m ultimately responsible for my own life, my own choices, my own actions and therefore my own shortcomings but in my (slight) defense: I was the first in my immediate family to do this. My Mum and Dad had just as much of a clue as I did. Cousins who had done it before did talk about their own ‘London war stories’ but they were from over a decade ago (therefore outdated) and I guess if I had really looked into how fucking hard this was all going to be, I may have chickened out and never done it. Blind hope and a little bit of that fearlessness that I had when I first moved to Sydney at the age of 21 was what I needed again at the age of 31.

So, slowly but surely (but with a hell of A LOT more persistence and tears this time) everything went back to the way it was, I started to get those TV and radio jobs again. I bet you’re thinking that this is where the story ends but either there’s something wrong with me or the saying ‘be careful what you wish for’ really is true.

After 8 months of being ‘back in the game’ I was more miserable than I was when I first moved to London. I was working 14-hour days, 6-7 days a week, my time was filled with catering for the same narcissistic evil radio hosts I came to know and loathe in Sydney and my life was no different to what it was in Australia. “Why was I here?” “What was I trying to prove?” “Was I really doing this for me? Or was I doing it to show those assholes back home that I could do it without them?” (even though the folklore goes that they were ones responsible for my success overseas **eye roll**).

So once again, I packed it all in for the search of something more. I returned home to Australia. I was back under my parents’ roof. I was living in my childhood bedroom (that I shared with my nephew whenever he would sleep over). I went on the dole. I then got a full-time job at the first radio station I ever worked at (which ignited that bright-eyed naive-of-sorts passion again). I got my Italian passport. Cleared my credit card debt. Saved more money to come back over to London with (this time fully aware of what the f**king conversion rate was). Reconnected with my family and friends and prepared for London 2.0.

Initially, I thought I had ‘cracked the code’. Yep, thanks to my new-found research and life experiences London 2.0 was off to a much better start. I aligned myself with recruitment agencies that got me work in environments that were not media-based. I was on better money. I had a better work-life-balance. I was home by 6pm every night. I didn’t work weekends. I had savings for the ‘just in case’ and most of my travels booked for the rest of the year were already paid for. More importantly, I learnt that what I did for a job didn’t define me. I was kicking London in the dick.

So I thought.

Unfortunately London 2.0 hasn’t also been without its psychotic flatmates and work contracts ending unexpectedly.

In the last few months, I was let go at work, forced to move out of the flat I was living in, put all my belongings into black plastic bags and have had them sitting at Carly’s place while I rent out her Airbnb room. I also had to finance two trips back home to Australia. In this time I applied for 60 jobs on LinkedIn alone and woke most mornings with the anxiety that if I don’t find a job soon, I would be homeless and broke in the very near future. Fun! Yeah, London 2.0 has been just as hard at times too.

The good news? I have finally secured another job and I’ll move into my new pad at the beginning of next month. Phew! Today also marks another year that I’ve survived this bad-ass city. Yaasss!!

So the real moral of the story is: while I was home back in Australia for those months in 2016, I witnessed my 60-year-old Dad (who also happened to find himself unemployed) get up every morning, look at the job vacancies online, check his emails (to find no response from any of the jobs he applied for the previous day), and muster up the courage to do it all over again: it nearly broke him.

There is something utterly soul-shattering when you find yourself unemployed past the age of 30. The constant putting yourself out there. The way your heart skips a beat and then sinks when you check your inbox. The realisation that there’s now a much higher chance of someone younger and possibly more qualified than you going for the same role. The acknowledgement of how big the gap is getting from when you last did the job you love. But mostly, ignoring the constant feeling that you’re failing. It got me real dark most days and I had to really try to find the quick wins in life. I can only imagine how my poor Dad felt during his period. If I was struggling with this at 30, what was going through his mind at 60?

The truth: I’d love to wrap this up with something hopeful and with the reassurance that everything is always going to be ok, but I didn’t have the courage or the energy to put this down on paper till I was employed again. It’s funny how that 9-5 life gives you that feeling of purpose and how necessary that is for your mental health and self-care. So I get it: if you’re going through this or have gone through this in the past, it’s hard to hear or take comfort in those words, especially when you’re in the thick of it.

The real truth: I can’t guarantee everything is going to be ok, no one can, in my experience it hasn’t always been. Things that make it a hell of a lot easier? Take those FaceTime calls from your family (even when you can’t bear to actually ‘face’ them), have a good chin-wag with your nearest and dearest and get that ugly off your chest, have someone in your life that encourages you to remember all the things you should be grateful for and have those cups of peppermint tea on the reg.

One piece of advice: in these times of trouble try and avoid alcohol and drugs, if you can. I’m not a saint and it’s absolutely the first thing I reach for whenever I’m in despair, but I read this great quote and it’s really changed my mind set.

‘If you drink to numb all the difficult things in life, you’ll numb all the good bits too.’

Remember, every next level of your life will determine a different you.

Peace out Kweens!

Stay strong.

Big love,

Carmela.

x

Introducing Carmela Contarino, the #PowerKween behind ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…’ 👸🏻♥️✨

Carmela is an Aussie in London with wanderlust. A TV/Radio rebel. Fierce feminist. Loud laugh-er. Emotional eat-er. Pop culture cat. Red wine wooer and karaoke kween. She hopes that her experiences are just like yours, funny, warm, loud, raw and that maybe you can figure out this thing called ‘life’ together. #YasssKween 🙌🏼

Guest Kween: AMY CLARKE “Am I Really Done With Kids?”

Guest Kween: AMY CLARKE “Am I Really Done With Kids?”

This question has been looming on my mind for the last few months: “Am I really done with kids?”. Even though my two critters have been pretty bloody tough work of late, I still feel like I’m not complete. My family may be, but am I?

Apart from the lack of sleep, I just LOVE newborns. I love their smell, their noises, their clothes, their non-smelly poos; but all kids grow up, and then the chaos begins. Most of the time I have about five out of seven good days with my little girl Pippa, who’s now ten months. She is a happy, content and a super cute baby. The other two days you’ll literally see me on the ground in the kitchen crying over a glass (or seven) of wine. I can’t say she’s any easier than my first born, Leo – now four – but I guess it does get easier and I can roughly understand what’s coming.

After the newborn phase, when your eyes feel like razorblades trying to shut and you are always hungry and feel like you’re constantly battling the flu, comes the cute six-nine months phase. They interact so much more, they are playful and I don’t know about you, but they start to sleep better (marginally). Pippa is a great sleeper, and I admit I’m lucky, but we worked hard on it. Yes, we did sleep training, and yes you’d find me crying too outside her door at 2am in the morning, but at eight months, she’s started to sleep through. So why the hell am I considering another child!? I am starting to get my life back now. I’m going out with friends, I’m working and having time to ‘myself’ has just arrived from whatever planet it came from and I can now enjoy things a lot more. Every day can be a challenge in some aspect, but I don’t let it stress me the way it used to with Leo as now I keep saying to myself “This’ll be the last time Amy, so enjoy it”. I mean, I can’t even really cuddle Pippa now unless she needs help to sleep or has hurt herself, so in a blink of an eye, that snuggly phase is over too.

So right now, my life is great. I’m the first Mum to drop off and last to pick my kids up from kindy because I love my alone time: whether be it working, lying on the couch watching Netflix or searching the internet for hours watching funny cat videos, and I really don’t miss my kids (too much) when they are gone. I’m not quite sure I can go back to three hourly feeds, mastitis and the uncertainty of whether or not I can leave the house that day.

So my question is, how do you know if you’re finished having kids? I see some friends with three, even four kids and they still manage to get through it all. I heard going from two to three kids is easier than one to two kids – is that true? I worry not having my Mum and Dad around (who sadly passed a while back) will make life harder? It’s the moments you truly need your parents around that I fear the most. I remember when Pippa was only three months old, and Leo and I both got gastro and it was terrible, like more terrible than any other common sickness. I was bed-ridden, so was he, and I can’t recall life being so hard. It was that one moment in my life that I really really needed my Mum. She would have been over in a heartbeat, cleaning up our mess and looking after us all but that is something I’ll never have, or experience, so that also adds to my dilemma.

I’ve heard that if you think you’re not done, you’re not done. My heart says I’m not, but my head says I am. I guess only time and my weekly income will tell. Let me know your thoughts!

Amy Clarke is a graphic designer, a mum and a bit of an all rounder kind of person. In between running two businesses from home, she attempts to manage a crazy household of kids, pets and chickens. Amy owns Confetti Rebels: which is a brand inspired by women for women, that allows her to be creative and also bring in a little extra income. She’s energetic, honest and sometimes a little crazy.

“Will you be my Palentine?”

“Will you be my Palentine?”

As a single female in her thirties I’m sure you would expect, considering it’s Valentine’s Day, that this would probably be a rant about how I don’t have a man to send me flowers or take me out on a romantic dinner date, it being just another day that highlights that I am still on the shelf, rejected by the opposite sex. Sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not what this is at all. The way I see it, even couples who have been dating for years or are even married don’t treat Valentine’s day like it’s marketed to be treated, instead they cry the cliché “National Hallmark Day” and go about the day as per normal. No teddy bears, no heart shaped boxes filled with chocolate, not even a decent shag. Then again, if you happen to find yourself in a relationship that does do those things on Valentine’s Day then well done, bravo, I condone that behaviour. But from my perspective, no I don’t feel excluded or that I’m missing out; if anything I wanted to take this chance to acknowledge the kind of love that I do have in my life.

Recently I went back home to Australia to spend time with my family. What I noticed was that I don’t have a great relationship with my sister or brother: we’re like aliens from different planets that struggle to communicate with each other. My relationship with my parents is the stock-standard relationship that you have with your parents: fueled with unconditional love but riddled with conflict based on being generations apart. As for my childhood friends, the more I’m away from them, the more those relationships become strained due to the lack of time invested. So, I’m left with a group of people that I now call “My people”; a family that I have created for myself.

In my thirties, I’m starting to realise the things that are really important, and the meaning of ‘life’ seems to ring louder than it did in my twenties. In a way I loathe this, mostly because when I was in my twenties ‘older’ people would say this to me all the time. “Oh you’re only 25? Trust me when you’re in your thirties you’ll know what life is really about.” “When you’re 30, you won’t feel this way.” I resented their wisdom based on me seeing it as an insult of how ‘young’ and ‘naïve’ I was, but the truth of the matter is, I was young and naïve, especially when it came to ‘life’ and ‘life lessons’.

In my thirties I now see that it doesn’t matter how many friends show up to my Birthday party, or how big my circle of friends is but how many friends I can call in the middle of the night in a panic or if I’m having a crisis will pop around to my home or meet me at the pub in a matter of minutes. I’ve always been a person who has put everyone else in my life first. I’ve always worried, cared, loved my friends much more than I actually think they worry, care and love me in return. In my thirties, I no longer want those people in my life, selfishly I need this to be a two-way street, what I put out I deserve to get back in return. Or at least it’s healthy to recognize the friends that do do this (and may always have).

So, this is a shout-out to my pals. Will you be my Palentine? I have a group of people currently in my life and I want to show a great deal of gratitude towards them. These people know who they are. Kelly, Jane, Paul and Mikey to just name a few.

Thank you for taking my neurotic phone calls.

Thank you for hearing my way over-thought thoughts.

Thank you for just hearing me. Even when I’m being outrageous, you know me, so you know what my reaction is really about.

Thank you for being patient when our catch-ups are mostly dominated with my day-to-day silly dramas.

Thank you for making me feel sane when the rest of world is constantly testing my sanity.

Thank you for making me laugh when I want to just cry.

Thank you for loving me in a way I sometimes forget I deserve to be loved.

So, I ask again, “Will you be my Palentine?” Because I want to let you know that being my pal is everything to me these days. I know that ‘Galentine’s Day’ is now a thing thanks to the TV show ‘Parks And Recreation’ but I don’t want to reserve this honour for just the women in my life but the male friendships I have too, because they are bloody fantastic ones.

Yes, I will choose to spend today acknowledging the great loves that are in my life. I will also choose to acknowledge that the great loves in my life don’t have to just be the opposite sex. I can and will celebrate the love I have with my dearest friends like Jenna, Effie and Bel, my oldest friends like Asha, Leon, Caitlyn and Pippa, the friends I don’t see all the time but crazy support me like Ronnie, Yvie, and Lyndsey, my new friends since moving to London, my colleagues, my cousins, my aunties, my nephew, my niece, the close relationship I have with my Mother. I can just celebrate love in general because I am truly surrounded by it, I just need to recognize it when it is staring me in the face.

I guess that song is true Kweens: when you’re open to it, love really is all around.

Carmela

x

Introducing Carmela Contarino, the #PowerKween behind ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…’ 👸🏻♥️✨

Carmela is an Aussie in London with wanderlust. A TV/Radio rebel. Fierce feminist. Loud laugh-er. Emotional eat-er. Pop culture cat. Red wine wooer and karaoke kween. She hopes that her experiences are just like yours, funny, warm, loud, raw and that maybe you can figure out this thing called ‘life’ together. #YasssKween 🙌🏼