Jessica Rowe has outed herself as a crap housewife and she’s the happiest she’s been in years. The gregarious TV presenter, journalist, author and mother of two daughters has dialled down the stress in her life by simply accepting her failings on the domestic front and taking the pressure off herself to be perfect in all aspects of her life.
And the funny misadventures she shares on her website have struck a chord with women around Australia.
“Crap Housewife is meant to be fun,” she tells My Weekly Preview of the site.
“I’m a big believer in having a laugh and using humour to diffuse difficult, dreadful times in our lives. Crap Housewife is a way of taking the pressure off all of us and doing it in a fun, lighthearted way.
“It would be wonderful to be a domestic goddess, but that’s never going to happen for me.
“That’s not my skill set and that’s all right.There’s no point tying myself in knots because I have a messy house and washing that hasn’t been put away for three weeks.
“I’m all for supporting women and saying, ‘You know what? You’re good enough’.”
Ms Rowe says she wasn’t expecting the website to resonate with so many women – she now has 72,000 Instagram followers – and sees it as an antidote to the glossy images of gourmet children’s lunchboxes clearly crafted by supermums and spotless homes that flood social media.
“Pressure can come from a variety of sources but I think for a lot of women, it’s the pressure we put on ourselves we need to look at,” she says.
“When I went through postnatal depression I thought, am I the only one? What’s wrong with me?
“Through getting treatment and hearing other women’s experiences, I realised I wasn’t the only one. I had put the pressure on myself.
“I think it’s so important that we give one another permission to go, ‘No, my life isn’t perfect and I’ve had a really crappy day’.
“Being a modern mummy is wonderful, but it’s also messy, chaotic and sometimes boring.”
Ms Rowe loves it when women come up to her in the supermarket and share a laugh about her burnt lasagne photos or her steadfast reliance on mince and panko breadcrumbs to come up with kid-friendly meals.
But until recently, she would have been horrified had anyone known her impeccable public image didn’t extend to the homefront.
“No way!” she laughs when asked if she could have done the website when she was younger.
“I’m 47 now and it’s really only since I’ve been in my forties that I’ve become more confident in being honest.
“Part of me does still worry about what people think, but I now care less and less.”
Ms Rowe has battled severe depression and anxiety and is an ambassador for beyondblue and a Member of the Order of Australia for her mental health advocacy.
She has no shame in speaking about taking antidepressants to keep her on an even keel.
“If I had a physical ailment, there’d be no issue with me taking medication to help with that,” she says.
In the lead-up to Christmas, she advises people to get real with themselves and their families, and not buy into the expectation.
“Christmas is a stressful time of year,” she says. “My sister taught me to lower your expectations.
“We’re having Christmas at our house but I’m not cooking. I’m providing the cutlery, drinks, nice tablecloths and crackers.
“My sister enjoys food and knows what she’s doing, so she will cook. Play to your strengths and ask for help.”
Ms Rowe has a weekly house cleaner she calls a “miracle worker” but is relaxed about her house becoming messy.
“You live in a home, not a showroom. You want it to be a home and full of fun.
“When you’re time poor, you want to choose to spend time with the things that bring you joy.
“We’ve got so much pressure as parents with this generation because we are expected to be present and in the moment with our kids, to have the career, to have this, to have that.
“For me, I’d rather be watching my girls run on the sand and have a swim than be at home cleaning the house and unloading the dishwasher.
“We’ve got to cut ourselves some slack.”
RACHAEL SHARMAN –psychologist
Senior lecturer in psychology at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Dr Rachael Sharman says stress is a normal part of life and parents need to build more resilience in their children in order to better equip them to deal with it.
“We live in a society where children are mollycoddled and protected too much from stressful events,” Dr Sharman says.
“One of the things we’re seeing in today’s parenting culture is children who’ve never had to deal with stress until into their teens or adulthood and they fall apart.”
Apart from the cushioning effect that too much overprotective parenting can have on children, Dr Sharman also has concerns for the impacts on children of living with permanently stressed parents.
“I think people forget that for children, the home really is the basis of their security. The relationship with their parents is really important to them and the dynamics of the home forms a platform for their security.
“Not till they venture out into the world do they realise there’s other people to rely on.
“Anything that threatens their security or is problematic has much stronger implications than parents appreciate.
“You’re an adult, you have a wider net of security, but kids don’t. For them, whatever is happening in the home is the core feature of their lives.”
Constant work demands even outside of the workplace are one of the major factors in our rising stress levels, she says, and while we think we’re working hard for our families, they’re the ones bearing the brunt.
“The only way to deal with stress is to learn what’s caused the problem,” she says. “I know it sounds basic, but few people do it.
“Rather than trying to control the symptoms, you’re better off directing your energy to controlling the cause.”
JODI CHAPMAN – naturopath
As the owner of Advanced Wellness in Maroochydore, Jodi Chapman, meets a lot of stressed people.
“Most of the people that come to see me have had ongoing stress for a really long time that’s pushing them into adrenal fatigue,” she says.
“Even when they rationalise and say there’s nothing happening at the moment causing the symptoms, the hormones have been depleted and it takes months to rebuild those hormones.
“Cortisol is increased, which has an instant effect on all the other hormones. DHEA, which is involved in ageing, decreases.
“Often our memory declines, vision declines, muscle strength declines and when I say muscular strength, I mean the gut as well.
“Things start to shut down during intense stress, including our ability to feel happy.”
Ms Chapman says chronic stress causes us to burn through the nutrients required to sustain a healthy balance of hormones and causes overall depletion.
“You need to look at your nutritional status,” she says. “Dopamine is made from B vitamins, vitamin C, copper and magnesium – these are all burned up by stress.
“You need to look at your diet and sometimes you need nutrients in higher amounts during stressful times.
“Especially if the gut is shutting down, we do need to rely on high-quality supplementation to reduce inflammation and repair the gut.
“Getting good quality sleep is also one of the best ways to rest your adrenal glands so you can make more hormones.
“It all comes down to how well you manage your stress and that’s where other modalities come in, like psychology and meditation.”
GESHE PHUNTSOK TSULTRIM – Buddhist monk
Geshe Phuntsok Tsultrim is the primary teacher at Chenrezig Institute for Buddhist Studies and Meditation at Eudlo.
He was born in Tibet in 1969 and became a monk at the age of 14. From a Buddhist perspective, which focuses on mind states, stress arises from our tendency to be too self-centred and out of touch with reality.
“Often, not only do we not understand how reality works, we imagine things to exist in a way that does not accord at all with reality, so we set ourselves up for situations in which our expectations and wishes are not going to be met,” he says.
Geshe Phuntsok Tsultrim says materialism also plays a part in raising our stress levels, not just in Western countries, but across the world.
“The world around us is geared up to increase our level of material dissatisfaction and to make us believe that true happiness and wellbeing comes from external sources – money, fame, possessions, etc.
“With lack of knowledge of reality, being conditioned to thinking of ourselves first, to being less concerned with the welfare of others, our level of dissatisfaction is bound to increase.
“There is not enough knowledge that is being provided to us about how to develop inner wellbeing.
“I think that basic methods for sustaining mental wellbeing can be introduced into our education system to provide better coping mechanisms.
“I think that being more open-minded with an attitude that is oriented towards others, rather than being self-centred, is helpful.
“Developing a deep sense of concern for others – love and compassion – is the key to mental happiness and wellbeing in my opinion.”
KUREK ASHLEY – success coach
Kurek Ashley is an American actor, author, speaker and success coach who lives in Eudlo with his Australian wife Erin and three children. He coaches individuals and Fortune 500 companies around the world.
In his bestselling book, How Would Love Respond? he shares the story of pulling himself back from the depths of depression, drug and alcohol addiction and attempted suicide after he was involved in a horrific helicopter crash in 1989 while filming a Chuck Norris film and lost five friends.
“One of the key things that really changed my life in those days was asking myself, ‘how do you want to be remembered Kurek?’ I said, ‘every day I have to work on myself’.”
Mr Ashley has a deep understanding of the havoc stress can wreak and follows a daily recipe for creating happiness.
“The first thing I always work with people on is, you have to start off your day strong,” he says.
“Mentally strong, physically strong, emotionally strong and spiritually strong. I call them your four main muscle groups.
“If you don’t work one of those muscle groups, the weak link of the chain gives up.”
Mr Ashley prescribes exercise in the morning – whether hitting the gym, dancing, walking, running or swimming.
“Next he advises engaging the mind – reading, learning a foreign language, audio programs that coach you in your business. Next comes emotional health.
“The funny part is, we’re actually emotional creatures,” he says.
“We’re not rational creatures. It’s a very strong muscle. We’ve all said and done things when we’re in a bad emotional space and we regret it later.
“The exercise could be to quit beating up on yourself, acknowledge yourself for everything you’re doing approximately right. Hang out with happy, positive people.
The final exercise is for the spiritual part of ourselves, and Mr Ashley recommends trying this exercise: “Look at yourself in the mirror every day for 30 seconds and convince yourself that you love the person you’re looking at.
“It feels weird and you feel stupid, but that’s just a toxin and your body will flush it out. Pump love back into yourself.”
If you’re suffering from stress, speak to your GP. Alternatively, call the Australian Psychological Society on 1800 333 497 or visit findapsychologist.org.au. Call LifeLine on 13 11 14 for 24-hour crisis support.
5 tips to manage stress
The following tips from the APS can help you cope with stress before it takes hold:
1. Identify warning signs
These might include things like tensing your jaw, grinding your teeth, getting headaches, or feeling irritable and short tempered.
2. Identify triggers
Triggers might include late nights, deadlines, seeing particular people, hunger or over-tired children.
3. Establish routines
Having predictable rhythms and routines such as regular times for exercise and relaxation, meal times, waking and bedtimes, can be calming and reassuring.
4. Look after your health
Make sure you’re eating healthy food and getting regular exercise. Take time to do activities you find calming or uplifting, such as listening to music, walking or dancing.
5. Notice your self-talk
When we’re stressed we sometimes say things in our head, over and over, that just add to our stress. This unhelpful self-talk might include things like: ‘I can’t cope’, or ‘I’m too busy’, or ‘I’m so tired’, or ‘It’s not fair’. Try more helpful self-talk like ‘I’m coping well given what’s on my plate’, or ‘Calm down’, or ‘Breathe easy’.