Practical Parenting expert: Author, actress and mum Madeleine West

Aussie actor Madeleine West may be best known for her roles in Neighbours and Underbelly, but it’s her books and parenting (read: juggling) skills that have us talking!

The author of ‘Six Under Eight: When Parenting Becomes an Extreme Sport’ and brand-spanking new children's book series ‘Lily D V. A. P’ (2018) is hilariously engaging and down to earth when it comes to sharing her parenting approach, experiences and advice. And she has a lot of experience, learnt via raising her six younglings Phoenix, Hendrix, Xascha, Xanthe, and twins, Xalia and Margaux. Not surprisingly, with all those youngsters, Madeleine has had plenty of scope to practice, refine and perfect her story time skills and become a master children’s book writer.

So we are thrilled to have Madeline as one of our Practical Parenting Experts!

Madeleine West is the author of four books including 'Six Under Eight: when parenting becomes an extreme sport', and the 'Lily.D' children's book series.

Madeleine West is the author of four books including 'Six Under Eight: when parenting becomes an extreme sport', and the 'Lily.D' children's book series.

Q.  You are a master story teller: what drew you to this area?

For as long as I can remember, all I have ever wanted to do was tell stories. I believe we all have a story, as unique and fascinating as we are ourselves, and everyone’s story deserves to be told. For me, it has never been about fame or fortune, just the singular satisfaction of doing my job well (the very essence of success to my mind) and allowing an audience to see the world through someone else’s eyes, to walk in another’s shoes, if only for just a moment.

Q. What inspired your to write ‘Six Under Eight: When Parenting Becomes an Extreme Sport’? How did you find the time!?

Six under Eight was quite simply inspired by being a mother of many, and wanting to open up an honest dialogue about the trials and tribulations of parenthood. By being candid about my experiences, sharing some of the solutions I’ve found to the most pressing problems faced by modern parents, and openly laughing at my own foibles, I hoped to inspire other parents to seek help when they need it, and know they are not alone in the wilderness that is bringing up kids to be happy, healthy, conscientious global citizens.

Related: Madeleine West on what makes a good parent

Q. What inspired you to write Lily D V.A.P series? Who is the series written for?

Lily D V.A.P is about an aspirational 9 year old girl who dreams of being a true character actor. Each week she is assigned a role from a famous play, and must spend her days ‘going method’ or walking in that characters shoes to better understand what they do and why. Each book in the six-part series is based upon a famous play from history, chosen specifically because they address issues which are topical, still present today, yet seldom addresses by children’s literature. Lily D makes discoveries about friendship, sportsmanship, bullying, illness, isolation, independence… all within a fun framework kids can empathize with and will enjoy.

These issues are faced by our kids, and I hope to present solutions to them, allow them to see these concerns from a fresh new perspective, and hopefully learn a little about the world and themselves along the way! My hope is that Lily D will encourage kids (and some parents too) to learn to walk amid in another’s shoes, to see the world through another’s eyes, and in so doing realise that the greatest gift we can give in this world is respect and kindness to all, regardless of colour, creed, orientation or social station.

I truly hope to inspire kids to believe in themselves, and strive to be the best version of themselves they can be.

Q. Can you tell us about the ‘x’ theme running in your children’s names?

It was unintentional initially but then became a theme. We were running out towards the end...! My tribe are just lucky there are no ‘kleenex’ or ‘xray’ among them!

Q. How would you describe yourself as a mum? 

Perfectly imperfect but willing to learn from my flaws. Curious, considerate, and just a little bit crazy!

Q. How would your kids describe you as a mum?

Heavy on the crazy, but ‘Mum’ all the same. Therein lies to true joy of parenthood, for all our flaws and foibles, in our children’s eyes we are utterly perfect: the only mum/dad they could ever want or need. Therefore, we won’t always get it right but if we are willing to learn and give generously of ourselves, we are a good parent.

Q. Do you have a philosophy when it comes to juggling career and motherhood?

Being a parent is deeply rewarding, and definitely a full-time job, but ‘parent’ is still only part of who we are, and we must give a bit of time and oxygen to the other aspects which define us in order to live a full and fulfilling life. Whether this is work, hobbies, partner time or just ‘me’ time, I believe it is critical to continue to follow your dreams and whatever makes you happy in order to be a truly great parent. We teach our kids that anything is possible, and the way to demonstrate this lies in showing out kids that we are still reaching for the stars too.

Q. Where you ever concerned about your career while juggling your pregnancy and children? 

I’ve always been of the School of Thought that, as improbable as it sounds, the universe only throws at you what you can handle. Sometimes the universe has a rather sick sense of humour but if you can keep calm amid the chaos, are prepared to work hard, and never take yourself too seriously, then anything is possible.

Q. How are you different at work to home? 

Motherhood is my first and foremost job these days, so heading to work feels like a day off! Going on set feels like a holiday! Hot coffee! Someone else to do my hair and makeup! But as being at work necessitates time away from my brood, I am very focused and very organised to ensure that time is maximized and is as brief as possible! Being at home allows the luxury of long strolls kicking leaves through the park, frittering away an hour browsing the local markets, and slopping around in tracksuit pants so it’s the perfect balance!

Q. What did you learn the hard way?

I work within an industry which is built upon facades and make believe, but it took being hit by a bus for me to understand that our appearance makes up a minute percentage of who we are. Yet if we define ourselves by that tiny sliver, and shove all we are, all our dreams, our goals, our hopes, our ability, into that tiny percentage, how much are we missing out on? How much will the whole world miss out on? I’m a nutshell, I discovered that the most attractive thing you can do is believe in yourself.

Q. What are you most proud of accomplishing?

For me, it’s all about the simple things. As an actor, it has been the opportunity to breathe life into such interesting characters, to create a world as seen through their eyes, and to let the audience see, vicariously through my performances, a life beyond the realms of their own, while providing simple entertainment.

As a parent, my greatest accomplishment is still a work in progress: I am dedicated to doing everything in my power to ensure they believe in themselves, and instilling in them a sense of adventure, curiosity, compassion, and a firm belief that anything is possible.

But in simple terms, my greatest accomplishment is getting my little people out of bed and out the door on time (almost) every day, with a good breakfast in their bellies, clean clothes in their backs, a healthy lunchbox in their backpack, and the knowledge they are safe and loved in their hearts. That is an accomplishment no amount of money or fame could ever compete with.

Check out Madeleine's books! 

Six Under Eight: When parenting becomes an extreme sport

Lily D, V.A.P Lost Dorothy 

Lily D, V.A.P Little Princess Snow Bean 

Lily D, V.A.P Orphan Annie 

Follow Madeleine

Instagram: @madmadswest