Gemma McCaw: raising daughters & staying grounded

We chat with former New Zealand Black Stick, women’s wellness advocate and mother Gemma Mccaw about kids, family and coping with challenges.

Tell us about your delightful daughters.

Our 3-year-old Charlotte is a real character. She makes me laugh every day and teaches us patience with her multiple outfit changes that happen every day. She loves reading books, especially fairytales and never misses an opportunity to dress-up as her favourite characters, Rapunzel and Elsa. We do a lot of walks and bike rides, which she enjoys, especially when it ends up with a trip to the park. I love that she also enjoys playing with her baby sister Gracie, apart from when she takes her toys. 

Grace (11 months) has the most enormous, cheekiest grin, and her giggle makes our hearts melt. She’s really engaged with us all now with plenty of pointing, clapping, saying ‘Da-da’ and ‘Ma-Ma’. She has a toy bunny which she sleeps with and adores, almost as much as she loves smooshing blueberries into her face! She has a pram which she loves pushing around inside, and she’s just started standing and walking around furniture, so I think her first steps are imminent. She’s also a bit of a water baby and loves a splash in the bath. She absolutely adores her big sister, and puts up with getting her hair brushed and styled, and the big bear hugs.

What do you enjoy doing as a family?

We are definitely ‘active relaxers’, so both girls have been out and about from a young age. We love taking family bike rides to our local parks. I have a seat for Grace on my bike, and Rich has a shotgun seat for Charlotte. We also do plenty of walks together, especially around our beautiful local, Hagley Park.

I’m originally from Mount Maunganui so we’ve been taking the girls to the beach since they were little, and they’ve been up the Mount a lot in the front pack, and with a few bribes and some carrying by Dad, Charlotte now walks up too.

During the week, you’ll generally see us out and about for early morning coffee and fluffy dates with friends. We try and get away for weekends when we can, especially if we can time it around an adventure race for Rich and me, and we always make sure my mum is there to help too. 

What do you think are the big challenges facing families these days?

I think the biggest issue we’re all facing is that we are more isolated than ever. It feels like a never-ending list of competing demands around work, family and life in general and it can be really hard to get the balance right. We are often hyper-connected in a tech sense, but I worry that this is often at the expense of good, meaningful connections in person. We have become so reliant on technology and are contactable almost 24/7. This constant state of ‘busy’ and juggling multiple things means it’s harder than ever to disconnect properly so that we can genuinely connect with each other and be in the moment. 

How do you cope with the hard parts to being a mum?

It’s true when they say being a mum is the most challenging yet most rewarding job in the world, and I definitely have some days that are harder than others. For me, two crucial things are sleep and exercise, which are also the most challenging to get. I can handle almost any challenge during my day if I’ve had a reasonable sleep – sleep deprivation impacts your ability to self-regulate and everything seems harder. The better we all sleep, the better we all show up, and that impacts everything else. The other thing is exercise. I know just 20 minutes can change the course of my day, but having two kids makes it even harder, so I have to prioritise it each day. 

Like any parent, I really struggle seeing my babies sick and try to wrap them up in cuddles and love. Of course, there’s also the adjustment to having much less time for yourself when you’re a parent but I try to remember that they’re not little forever and to make the most of the small moments because they’re actually the big ones.