VIP mum Melinda Gainsford-Taylor

Melinda Gainsford-Taylor came to international prominence in the 1990's when she entered the record books as Australia's fastest ever female sprinter.

She won the hearts of the nation when at the '98 Commonwealth Games, she suffered a knee injury during the 200m final. Clutching her leg, she fell out of first place but still managed to finish in fourth.

Today the veteran of three Olympic Gamess and a Commonwealth Games gold medalist says her biggest goal is not to Save finish first but to be the best mum she can. The 35-year-old is mother to Nicholas, four and Gabriella, 20 months.

Valentines Day is coming up, do you have any romantic plans with hubby Mark?

I'm not a big fan of Valentines Day, I'm a bit cynical in that I feel it's a commercial big deal and nothing else. Do you know what I think is romantic? Having some time alone with my husband, whether it be having a coffee alone, or a meal. What I really want to do is go rock climbing with Mark. I think it's much more romantic if you can have fun together without being interrupted every few words by a little one - an adult conversation, that's what I find romantic!

A lot of people would presume you have help with your children because you're a celebrity mum. Is this true?

I am lucky enough to be at home with my kids as a fulltime mum and I consider that a real luxury these days. I had a great running career which I managed really well and so I am able to make that choice to be a stay-at-home mum. I sometimes find myself staring at my kids watching tele or playing and I think to myself, Mark and I created these little human beings, they are a part of me. And I wouldn't change being with them for anything in the world.

You lead a busy life with your work as a Fox Sports presenter and as an ambassador for Weight Watchers. How well do you juggle the work/life balance?

I find it a challenge as I'm sure many parents do. I do a live sports show every Friday night on Fox Sports called News and Views and it's a wrap-up of what's been happening in the sports world that week. In order to be up to speed I have to research all sports duing the week, whether that be on the news, newspapers, the radio. I have to try and soak it all in while I'm making sandwiches and changing nappies. Being in a routine or having some sort of structure to my day certainly helps. A little while ago I had to MC the Weight Watchers Slimmer of the Year Awards and had to interview eight participants on stage. I wanted to do a bit of research on each person beforehand. I did that research with the kids running and jumping all around me. You do what you have to do to get by.

There must be times you have to be away from your children for work. How do you manage this?

In the four years I have been a mum I think I have spent one night and to days away from them and I hated it because I find it really tough to be apart from them. So, I simply don't do it. I have been asked many times to do certain things and I turn them down if it requires time away from the kids. Maybe as they get older it'll be easier but for now they're stuck with me!

Who does most of the domestic chores at home? Is Mark 'hands on' around the house?

I'm the chore girl at home. But Mark is really 'hands on' with the kids.

What chore do you simply despise?

Cleaning the bathroom, there has to be an easier way! I particularly hate keeping the glass shower screens clean.

How do you handle it when your children behave in a way that is challenging or inappropriate?

I ignore it. This is harder when you have your first child and they lose it at the shopping centre. Try as you might to ignore it, you do lose it a little. But with my second I have become really good at ignoring bad behaviour when we're in public. I find if they know it will get them nowhere to behave badly, they are less likely to do it...it's a working theory and is up for revision at times.

Do you find it easy to ask for practical support from family and friends?

Yes I do. When I had my children I was very much aware of things like post natal depression and how important it was to ask for help or to accept it when it is offered. My mum lives in the country but Mark's sister and my brother both live close by and we all help each other out when we need it. I have great friends too that I know I can call if I need help with the kids or just a friendly ear.

What has been your greatest personal sacrifice since becoming a mum?

When you become a mum you stop being selfish. I came from a lifestyle that was completely selfish and dominated by reaching personal goasl etc. As a mum I am much more selfless.

How often do you take time out for yourself?

Saturday afternoon's are all about me. Mark plays golf on Saturday morning and when he gets home, it's my turn. I'll go shopping or to a movie with a girlfriend. Also a couple of mornings a week I exercise with a group of friends down at the beach. It's a good way to re-charge you batteries and I always come home dying to see Mark and the kids. It's healthy for all of us if we can have time out once in a while.

You had just retired in early 2002 when you fell pregnant with Nicholas, so your life was undergoing a major change before you became a mum. But how has the experience of motherhood changed you?

I have become a lot more mellow. I was once so fired up and driven but now I'm a lot calmer and in a really happy place and I can thank motherhood for that. Also, I have learnt a lot about my body since having kids. After the kids came along I couldn't lose weight. I was training, which is what I had always known, but it wasn't working. That's when I went to Weight Watchers and learned all about portion control.

What's your top tip?

I'm a real believer in praising your kids for good behaviour. We spend so much of our time saying “no!” and “don't!” and “stop!” that it's good every now and again to be able to say, “you did a really good job”, or “I'm proud of you.” I find it really goes a long way.

Can you tell us about the last time you had a big belly laugh with your kids?

I was trying to use these tactics I read in a book to get Nicholas to eat his chicken and vegetables. He asked me if he could have a roll and I told him he could after he ate his chicken and veges. He asked again if he could have a roll and I responded after he ate his dinner. This went on a couple more times, then he turned to me and said “Oh, you're killing me Jerry!” just like off Seinfeld. I just couldn't stop laughing, then Gabriella joined in and we were all laughing so much. They make me laugh all the time. They say the funniest things.

Is there something you would change if you had your time over?

Nicholas is a fussy eater and I sometimes wonder if that's because I did not offer him enough variety of food. I give Gabriella everything to try and she's a great eater. So, I guess I would not be so cautious experimenting with food.

If you had just one wish (no matter how fanciful) to change something in Australia to better support being a 21st century parent, what would that be?

I think the biggest problem in Australia is the cost of child care. My wish would be for more Government subsidies for parents who have children in child care and also financial support if you choose not to put your child in care and look after them yourself. In other words, the financial freedom to choose whatever best suits your family...how fanciful is that??

 
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