MEET YOUR ZEN MAMAS TERESA PALMER & SARAH WRIGHT OLSEN

Words: Cassandra Kerr 

Images: Gemma Pranita 

Well-known actresses, businesswomen and founders of YourZenMama.com, Teresa Palmer and Sarah Wright Olsen have written a book; Zen Mamas – an extremely candid and practical guide on remaining zen(ish!) whilst embracing motherhood. We sat down to find out more!

Who is in your beautiful family?

TP: My family consists of Mark, my hubs, Bodhi our 6 year old son, Forest our 3 year old son and Poet our 11 month old daughter! I also have a “bonus kid” , my beautiful 11 year old stepson Isaac.

SWO: Eric and I met 15 years ago on a Tv show on Fox. We married in 2012 and have two babies Wyatt 6 and Esmé 3.

Why was it important for you to put Zen Mamas out in the world, and to be so candid and honest throughout?

TP: We wanted to be as open and vulnerable as it gets. I think without real transparency we wouldn’t have been able to write a book that would be both insightful and helpful to new and existing parents. We utilised so much of what we have learnt from our YZM community and mentors alike. We wanted to write the book that felt like chatting to a friend about her personal experiences with pregnancy, birth and beyond. We didn’t have the intention of creating a detailed how-to guide but more a reflective look on all the aspects of bringing a baby into the world and the journey that unfolds before you once you’ve made that decision. Embracing all the ebbs and flows of parenting.

SWO: When we started Yourzenmama.com it was important for us to always be raw and honest about our struggles, mishaps, little victories and things we learned along the way about this journey. It does feel sometimes like some people have it all figured out but truly we are all just learning and trying to navigate pregnancy and parenthood. The beauty of our site is that it feels like here you have community to reach out to and to learn from. Teresa and I share our stories on the site and in the book as well as stories from our friends, folks in the YZM community and professionals that we look up to. This book states very clearly that we are not professionals and we do not have it all figured out, we are trying to learn and grow alongside all the other mothers and caregivers out there and it is comforting to do this in a community that feels supportive.

What was your favourite part of the writing process?

TP: It was a wild and colourful journey! A lot of the book was written in the back of a camper van, bouncing around trying to follow all my different train of thoughts whilst wrangling four kids in a small space driving up the coast of America. It was a smash up of crazy inducing, inspiring, therapeutic and enjoyable.

SWO: I loved writing this book with Teresa. There were moments that felt a bit overwhelming, deadlines that felt very quickly approaching. The best part though was being able to share this with someone who I consider my family. We would go off and write our own chapters and then switch and add in our voice to the others chapter. I constantly felt inspired throughout the process no matter how overwhelming it was at times because at the core this is what we are most passionate about so it was continuously fascinating even in its most tedious moments.

What do you hope readers will take away from Zen Mamas?

TP: Just that it’s really normal to feel as though you can’t get all your ducks lined up perfectly in a row. Every day is a little give and take, a lot of negotiating, part acceptance and a ton of embracing the changes in the moment. I really hope readers will take away that they can arm themselves with all the tools in the world to be the most loving, present, conscious minded parents but that the art of letting expectations go and allowing the experience to be what it is without the self critical voice is key. You might not land where you aim but where you land is where you’re supposed to.

SWO: We very thoughtfully laid this book out to talk about everything from the moment you decide you may want to have a baby, to that first pregnancy test, through all the months of pregnancy, postpartum and the first year with baby. It was very important to us to write a chapter all on its own about pregnancy loss. This subject is very quickly brushed over in most books but this is a very real and common thing that happens and we hope that talking about subjects like this and sharing our stories of loss and triumphs after, will bring comfort and help women to feel a sense of connection through all the stages of motherhood.

The best parenting advice you have received?

TP: Just to parent intuitively. Be moment to moment without the clutter of ensuring everything is done to a rigid routine. Let the days be slow and the expectations low. Be observant and mindful of how your own stuff can trigger you emotionally. Loosely following this idea has been very rewarding in my parenting journey.

SWO: Try not to over schedule your life. If you can avoid having to nap at home in a crib with the blackout shades and noise machine then you will be able to have a more mobile existence as a new parent and won’t feel so bound to your home. It was really helpful for me not to feel so structured. I had some structure but this advice gave me some freedom to try having my little ones nap in the car or a stroller or the carrier so I could still go to lunch or the park or somewhere with my friends.

Your number one tip of letting go of the innate anxiety and stereotype of being the ‘perfect mother’?

TP: I think the process of striving to be “the perfect mother” often ends up backfiring and results in mothers being too hard on themselves. I think if we all have an idea of the kind of parent we want to be and then acknowledge that some days we’ll land in that vicinity and other days we just won’t then we can all move forward cradling the notion that gifts come from the rollercoaster like motion of parenting.

SWO: It is just not possible and honestly at the end of the day what does that even mean? We make mistakes in every part of our lives and that is how we learn and grow. It shouldn’t always look cookie cutter and easy because it isn’t. I have posted many photos on my social account of my children destroying one room when I have gone to clean another one and honestly that is just how it goes some days. Don’t compare yourself to others because you don’t actually know what goes on in their home. I started off going to mommy and me groups and I really loved doing it. I learned very quickly that it would be a huge mistake to compare myself to others or put pressure on myself to be like some of the other women in the group. I decided to listen and try to learn from them, ask questions and not be afraid to try some of the things they were trying. I like a little bit of mess and I appreciate the growth as it feels so good to look back and see how far I have come.

Your favourite motherhood mantra?

TP: I don’t have any one in particular but Janet Lansbury says “When we let feelings be, we let go of reacting and, instead, stay anchored, accepting ups and downs, letting life flow.” I love the letting life flow part.
SWO: A mantra my father-in-law taught me. “happiness is the journey”

And lastly, Happy Mother’s Day! What will you be reflecting upon and celebrating this Mother’s Day?

TP: My mother and my mother’s mother and how grateful I am to them both for the many ways in which they’ve shaped me. I’ll also be reflecting upon these beautiful children of mine and all the colour and richness they have brought into my life. I’ll too be thinking of all of those folks out there who wish to be a mama but due to varying reasons haven’t been able to walk that path just yet.

SWO: I am so grateful that we had the opportunity to work on this book over the last year and a half. I will never forget what went into this and how honoured I have felt to have the opportunity to write these pages with Teresa.

Favourite parenting podcast?

Australian Birth Stories by Sophie Walker
Janet Lansbury’s Unplugged is also an amazing resource for mindful parenting ideas.

Teresa and Sarah’s book Zen Mamas ($34.99, published by Penguin Random House), is available to purchase now.

Yourzenmama.com / @yourzenmama
@teresapalmer
@swrightolsen