Mummy blogger Constance Hall brings her views on modern parenting to Belfast
Her online blog has over one million followers and now Australian mum-of-four Constance Hall is bringing her views on life as a mum to Ireland. Jenny Lee chats to her about parental guilt, body image, sleep deprivation and why we should all allow our kids to get bored
BLOGGING about the unspoken terrors of parenting and the taboos of parental sex and female body image anxiety, Australian mother-of-four Constance Hall wasn't quite prepared for the response. As well as positive comments from thousands of parents drowning in their own uncertainly came a deluge of hate mail from internet trolls.
The 33-year-old's blog Queens of Constance currently has more than 1.1 million followers. She has also penned her debut book Like a Queen and this month she is carrying out an international book tour, including stops in Belfast and Dublin.
Constance's views on the ups and downs of parenting have attracted media attention from around the globe. American actor Ashton Kutcher has praised her and she has been a guest on the Ellen Degeneres Show.
But Constance, despite also having been a contestant on Australia’s Big Brother when she was 21, says she has no interest in fame and laughs off comparison’s to TV personality and former glamour model Katie Price. “I'm certainly no celebrity. I'm just a mum who is wiping bums everyday," she laughs.
Constance admits she had really high expectation of herself as a mother. "I was the black sheep of my family. I was always getting into trouble when I was younger and when I got pregnant everyone thought I was going to be a mess of a mum. But I proved them wrong. I was a long-term breastfeeder and had my kids in strict sleeping routines. I ticked all the boxes, but I felt miserable," she admits.
Mum to seven-year-old Billie-Violet, Arlo, who's five, and two-year-old twins Snow and Rumi, Constance looked for solace from the loneliness of parenthood online, starting her Constance Hall Facebook page in 2015, after her partner Bill moved out.
"My life was out of control. I had four kids, including six-month-old twins. On the rare occasion that I had enough time to stop and think about things, I’d realise how lonely I was," the former hairdresser says.
"I turned online hoping to connect with some other mums who might be feeling the same way. But every parenting forum I visited was so boring. So I started up a blog. A real one, full of real stories real questions, real ideas."
So why does she think her blog on the trials and tribulations of parenting has resonated with so many?
"It makes them feel better about themselves when they see my stomach rolls," laughs tattooed Constance, who encourages women to be proud of their post-natal bodies.
"The reality is that after you have kids it's hard to lose weight. I'm a huge advocate for loving yourself as you are, accepting yourself as the imperfect, dented, naïve, wrinkly, fresh, unique masterpiece you have become."
It may be Constance's blunt assessment of parenting that has proven her biggest following, yet beneath the headlines is a heart of compassion and a desire to bring her children up to be rounded, caring, resilient individuals.
Keen to educate them on bullying and the dangers of social media, Constance encourages her eldest two children to explore nature, climb trees, surf and skateboard.
"With Billie-Violet I'm trying to encourage her individual strengths and steer her away from being body conscious. She did tell me recently she didn't like her skinny legs, but I replied by telling her how strong her legs were and praised her ability to climb trees and skateboard."
Her children's emotional wellbeing is top of her goals as a mother.
"I don't care if they don't go to bed on the dot of eight o'clock but I do care if they hate themselves. I want them to feel love and compassion. You should show your children what kindness looks like so they too can be kind," adds Constance, who has led by example crowdfunding more than $200,000 for a woman’s refuge in Kenya.
While all parents dread the words "I'm bored" coming from their little ones' mouths, Constance believes boredom is vital for children's development.
"We spend so much of our lives scared that our kids will get bored. But boredom is a workout for the imagination and the more bored the child, the more elaborate the fantasy. A kid with nothing to do is a million things: a pirate, a doctor, an astronaut, a fairy who lives under a mushroom or a mermaid."
Constance has coined herself and her followers, and fellow mums as 'Queens'. Her book Like A Queen reads very much like her blog and she isn't afraid to use the odd expletive. It covers childbirth, the reality of the early months, controlled crying, co-sleeping, relationship woes and how to be less-stressful 'Queen'.
"As Queens we put so much pressure on ourselves; everything has been upped to unreachable degrees nowadays. You don’t necessarily learn how to get babies into good sleep routines just because you have had four babies. What you do learn, however, is to not stress about it too much," says Constance, who admits she "stuffs up" daily.
Her realisation that she couldn't be 'the perfect parent', led Constance to put aside the baby books, exercise routine and duster and instead fill her time lying on the floor tickling her babies and taking her children for afternoon walks on the beach.
As well as encouraging couples to implement "the Wednesday rule", where one day a week a couple take half an hour to vent their gripes with each other, Constance is passionate about ensuring new mums get necessary sleep and that partners help out with the dreaded night feeds.
"I don’t believe that sleep deprivation should only be suffered by the primary caregiver. New mums are relied on to make clear-headed decisions, decisions that impact the safety of their little baby. So many times I have caught myself doing something really weird due to sleep deprivation. I have been lucky, leaving my remote control in the fridge is just weird, not life changing. But what if that was a baby left in a hot car?
"I can't help but feel resentful that if something did happen in these exhaustion-related scenarios, it would be me who would be on trial for neglect."
Constance will be bringing her children with her as she tours Britain and Ireland.
"I don’t put on a performance. It's about uniting our sisterhood and having a fun night sharing wisdom and laughter together," she says.
:: Like A Queen Q&A with Constance Hall takes place on April 23 16 12.30pm in Radisson Blue, Ormeau Road, Belfast. Tickets at bit.ly/2nSaSRo. Constance's book can be purchased online at LikeaQueen.com