While it may seem to be all sunny skies for lifestyle guru and food writer Magdalena Roze, she tells Body+Soul that she, too, has had her rainy days in finding her way towards a “simpler, sweeter life”.
On the surface, it would appear that Magdalena Roze could be the ideal poster girl for modern motherhood. With her healthy good looks, cute sons, celebrity-chef husband, talent for cooking and idyllic Byron Bay life, it’s no surprise she has become something of a lifestyle guru with a sizeable Instagram following. In fact, during lockdown her images of homemade focaccia gardens prompted many to go on a breadmaking binge.
But the 38-year-old meteorologist and journalist-turned-food writer is the first to admit that her life is far from perfect.
“It’s a beautiful, chaotic mess,” she says, revealing that while motherhood and a sea change from Sydney to Byron with her husband Darren Robertson have brought about a career pivot, it hasn’t happened without hard work, some soul-searching and a willingness to take a risk. Indeed, it was her struggle with breastfeeding her firstborn son Archie, now four, that prompted her to research postnatal depletion and the changes new mothers could make to ease their stress and exhaustion.
“Breastfeeding became a preoccupation with Archie,” she reveals. “I’d had a difficult birth, the milk didn’t come easily and I struggled for four months to get to a place where I felt he was getting enough. The sound of the pumping machine was going day and night, and while I ended up breastfeeding him for another 18 months, it didn’t have to be that hard.”
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Defying the pressure to ‘bounce back’
Roze, who went on to have a second son, Charlie, now two, believes our quest to “bounce back” after having a baby contravenes centuries of history where mothers were supported and nourished by their communities. “In traditional societies, the village would look after a new mother and you would inherit thousands of years of wisdom and experience,” she says.
“A lot of people are suffering in silence because modern life isn’t very supportive when it comes to family, parenting, childbirth and postnatal nutrition. Exhaustion has become the new normal. There’s so much focus on the baby in our society, but it’s time we gave the mother a bit of love.”
Roze, who worked on The Weather Channel and Network Ten’s Breakfast and The Project, agrees with the notion that the first 40 days after birth sets the mother up for the next 40 years. She began researching and cooking with foods that nurture the mother and help with lactation. As she points out, dishes like congee, porridge, soup and stews can even sit in a thermos next to the bed.
Food to fuel
While many of Roze’s recipes are included in her book, Happy & Whole ($25 at Booktopia), she also shares others freely on her website. As she tells Body+Soul, it’s important to just enjoy food: “We can get so bogged down in the nutritional aspect of things and it’s such a vibe killer. Let’s just eat the bloody thing. If there’s too much salt, just drink another glass of water!” As for the headlines Byron Bay has been creating of late, she says simply that it’s a melting pot of different people and that she finds the community respectful and nourishing.
She met Robertson when he joined her for a cooking competition on Breakfast, and the pair moved to the region six years ago when the Three Blue Ducks chef started The Farm, a restaurant that focuses on supporting small farmers and producers. Roze says she was tired of the urban rat race but, even so, it was unlike her to make a decision simply on instinct. “I was tired of the early morning hours I’d been doing in breakfast TV and had been gravitating to a more natural life. Suddenly I was in a town where nobody cared what I did.”
Years on, she enjoys that her life and livelihood are so intertwined, even if it’s meant setting boundaries between her work and family life so she can properly enjoy both. “You can miss out on experiencing a lot of moments of joy by constantly planning for the next thing,” she says. “Most of the time I’ve been tempted to rush there’s been zero reason to.” Children also challenge us to be better versions of ourselves, she says, pointing out that the presence and attention children give to watching an ant on the concrete is something we try to replicate through yoga and meditation.
Work-wise, Roze has plans for more cookbooks, but her most recent project has been developing an all-natural, preservative-free mite, called Oomite, with her friend Katie Graham. The pair supply the spread to restaurants and have plans to retail it down the track. In the meantime, she’s relishing working on projects she finds meaningful and fulfilling. “Life has changed immensely. It’s simpler and sweeter.”
Magdalena’s guide to living the Byron Bay lifestyle, wherever you reside
#1. Start clean
While it can be impossible to eliminate toxins in the home completely, the kitchen is a good place to start. I use basic pantry staples like vinegar and bicarb to clean surfaces like the kitchen bench.
#2. DIY beauty
Homemade skin care is natural, cheap and smells divine. Coconut oil makes a great hair mask and lip balm, while a little mix of oatmeal, olive oil, yoghurt and honey makes a wonderful face mask for nourishing skin.
#3. To market you go
Incorporating a visit to your local farmers’ market into your weekly routine is one of the best steps towards eating better. The produce is fresher and seasonal, and the experience itself is a pleasure, especially getting to know the producers.
#4. Get to know your neighbours
One of the positive things about regional areas is the tight communities, but it’s possible to build these anywhere. Getting to know one’s neighbours, supporting the local businesses and contributing to community projects creates a tribe, which makes us more connected and more resilient. The grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side, it’s green where we water it.
# 5. Trust your gut
In a time when we are bombarded with information, perhaps it’s never been more important to go inwards, listen to how we feel and trust our own intuition a bit more. This is a work in progress for me and it doesn’t have to mean more yoga or meditation. Simple things like not filling every second of the day with something, taking the time to sit down and eat away from a laptop, and escaping the noise of social media create space for my own thoughts and ideas to take shape, and the space for me to listen.