How does she do it? Supermum Elka Graham talks about balancing work and home


She’s an elite athlete who swam for Australia at two Olympic Games, but Elka Graham (who now goes by her married name of Whalan) also faces the same everyday ‘struggle to juggle’ family life that all mums do. North Shore Mums spends five minutes with the supermum ahead of her appearance at HomeHQ Artarmon to find out just how she manages – and how you can, too!

What surprised you the most about becoming a mum in terms of how your own life changed?

Biggest surprise was the new love and over filling unconditional care and support I had, not just for my children but my husband Thomas as well. It really felt like a family when we had children. In terms of my own life changing it changed hugely but for the better! You value your time more, you appreciate the “you moments” and you learn that Dr Laughter and Dr Sleep are the best medicines!

You have three children. Can you share the ‘mum hacks’ that help keep everyone on schedule?

image4Yes, three Team Whalan crew under five years! It’s fun and full. I call it beautiful mayhem!

  • I have the house clean before I go to sleep at night otherwise the mornings starts backwards! 
  • When it comes to outfits, we let them choose every now and then so they learn responsibility and that sense of independence. It also adds to a hysterical outburst of laughter based on the combination they choose! This helps with time otherwise I’ll do one child at a time getting them changed.
  • At night we all read a book before bed and then they know routine, teeth, toilet and water!
  • Our biggest investment would be communication we give them ‘transition times’ such as “In 10 minutes we are walking out the door” or “Very shortly we need to leave so is everyone ready?” It seems to work for them…. most of the time. ?

What is the biggest challenge that comes with having three children to organise? Have you had any disasters you learned from?

So many disasters! But that’s what make a real mum, right? Our examples end up being the best advice for other mummies. There are days when I’m walking out the door with hair and makeup done, children immaculate, and house spick and span and I’m like in my head, “You are on fire Elka! Now treat yourself to a coffee, you can take on the world!”

Other times, it takes longer to jump out of the house than the time we will spend at the destination. The children won’t listen, our 2 year old will be fighting with his older siblings, food spills on tops so there’s change of outfits and you’d swear someone had robbed the house with how it looked!

For mums considering more children, what differences came when your family got bigger? 

image3I’d love more myself so can someone with 4 or 5 children answer this for me?! It’s a great questions because every time we have had a child we will then ask someone with more than us the tips and tricks. I did find 1 and then 2 a tough challenge in terms of fitting them both into sleep routines because both were only 15mths apart. But we got there and I loved it. Moving from two to three has been a joy! Honestly you are just so relaxed and number three feels it and goes with it! I’m excited for four. I do believe the real answer lies in the capacity you have and what your husband and you agree on! Thomas and I have always said the day will come when they are all older and we will be sitting at the head of table and looking at our four or five children with their own families and it will be the biggest achievement ever!

How do you and your husband share the workload so the family can balance?

Communication! Unity is strength. We talk a lot and being a mum I mostly take the load. I actually have a sign that says “CEO of the Household”. A mother sets the tone of her household, and I do believe that. Thomas helps in the mornings and we work it so that once a week he manages to drop each one off at school or preschool so he has that precious time with them. At night I’ll clean the kitchen and he will do some reading or learning with the troops so he is having that physical and mental time with them!

You are a great role model thanks to your healthy lifestyle – are there times when you cut corners with your own diet or the family’s? Or are you 100% committed to healthy eating?

Who eats 100% perfect of the time ? Please. Yes we eat healthy, but we also are humans!

  • We have a “let go” day every Wednesday so the children have a treat and I’ll also enjoy a delight (I’m a sucker for cheesecake)!
  • Dinner is either fish or meat with a vegetable most nights and we don’t do juice in the house for the children
  • We love a sneaky Mexican burrito from Guzman and Gomez. We talk to the children about “sometimes” food (chips chocolate party food) and “everyday” food. It’s simple but they understand it and it’s a winner.

You’re soon to launch a new project, The Queenhood website – what inspired you?

image5It’s been in my heart for so long! I love being a cheerleader to every woman. I want women to know their true value and worth and not lose their identity. I want women to care and not compare, to be around a dream team of women! I am starting this to bring together great and real women to connect, share and inspire because we are all doing life and we might as well do it wonderfully well! So www.queenhood.com.au is soon to launch and I’m so excited!

What can we expect from the site?

There are five big pillars:

  1. ‘THAT MUM’: Motherhood
  2. ‘WORK IT’: Workhood
  3. ‘SHE’S GOT THE LOOK’: Style
  4. ‘BUST A MOVE’: Health & fitness
  5. And QUEENHOOD will also do events specific each month for pillars we are creating! Real content with a positive spin and short articles so it can be on the go and you have your dose of attitude awesomeness for the day.

Do you find support in your female friendships? In what ways? 

Absolutely if you have the right women around you they are golden. They will ask the right questions, be honest when you need to be told something and together you share real stories. You realise we are all walking behinds the scenes and going through something so we must remember positivity and compassion goes so far and of course always a great dose of humour!

What would you say to other mums struggling with the juggle?

The power of your words is the biggest and best attribute you can have to do “The juggle without the struggle!”

Choose to have the best attitude, a happy disposition, to find the light in any circumstance, to forgive easily, to speak great words over yourself and your children, to believe in the best, expect the greatest and lift others up!

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