Blogger, TV cook, author and general kitchen queen Sarah Graham dishes on having a three-child family and a celeb career. By Lisa Witepski
How do you do it?” It’s the question moms of one or two love to ask their counterparts with three children – and yet, for Sarah Graham, there was never any doubt that she wouldn’t stop after her first child, Sophie, was born. “Both my husband, Rob, and I come from three-child families,” she explains. That said, she admits the first year after her second baby Isla’s birth was a struggle. “She suffered from silent reflux, and it was so painful for her to eat that she eventually had to be hospitalised and put on a drip. Plus, she didn’t sleep through the night until she was three.”
How did you know it was the right time for baby number three?
It’s not surprising that the question of baby number three was left unanswered for some time. So, what made her change her mind? “It all came down to Rob,” she answers. “He’s such an amazing dad, and I knew he would have been heartbroken if we didn’t go for it. He was very clever, though − he never pushed the issue.”
Emily has been as much a gift to her mom as her dad, living up to her second name, Joy, from day one.
The transition to a larger family was a smooth one. Emily’s sisters have been smitten since the moment they met her, and she feels the same way. “It’s really beautiful to see all the girls together,” Sarah comments. “No one ever told the older two that they had to be nice to their baby sister, and yet they’ve been over the moon since the time they learned they were going to have a new sibling.” Jealousy also hasn’t been much of an issue: although Isla once made an observation about the extra time that Emily’s care requires. Sarah attributes this generosity of spirit to the fact that she and Sophie have each other.
It’s also been heart-warming to watch Sophie in her new role as head of the tribe. She was still a little young to be aware of her “big sister” status when Isla was born, but she now relishes her responsibilities. “Her favourite thing is to put Emily to bed. We all have to move out the room while she reads to the baby.”
Emily herself laps up the attention. Sarah says her eyes light up when she sees her sisters. “I know she’s going to spend the rest of her life running after them!” she laughs. The easy-going baby isn’t shy with her smiles, which are a constant source of delight to the family, as are the sloppy kisses she’s just started planting on their cheeks.
The thorn among the roses
Does Rob feel overwhelmed by his house full of girls? “Not at all,” Sarah replies. “He grew up with two sisters and he’s very close to his mom, so he’s used to the female energy.”
Like Sarah, Rob gets an enormous kick out of introducing his daughters to the wonders of the world, and the family is at their happiest travelling together. Since both Sarah and Rob were raised on farms in Zimbabwe, the bush is their favourite destination. They also spend a lot of time in the countryside, where Sophie indulges her passion for horse riding.
Balancing a busy career and motherhood
How does Sarah’s high profile career fit into all of this? “It can be a little strange,” she confesses. But, really, it’s like a whole other hemisphere I inhabit when I have to. Our family life is actually very normal.”
It is, however, wonderful to have been able to give her children the gift of seeing her at work and loving what she does – an important lesson for any child – while she revels in the pride they obviously feel when they see her TV shows.
That’s not to say work and family responsibilities don’t clash. “There’s one word to describe life with three children: busy!” Sarah laughs. “Seriously, there’s no downtime. Luckily, I’m a Type A personality, so I love plans and schedules.” It also helps to have an “incredible assistant and nanny”. She’s also learned to lighten up a little. “There’s not as much time behind the computer as there used to be, but I’m fine with that. I’ve realised these moments are so fleeting, so I’m happy to have been less productive these past few months.”
As a food guru, especially one who promotes healthy eating, it’s easy to imagine Sarah has managed to sidestep weaning issues. And, yes, she says Emily is happy to try most tastes and textures. She believes this may be down to the advice she received from her paediatrician based on new research showing children should be started on solids as close to four months as possible, and from there should be introduced to the entire spectrum of foods.
Sarah makes home cooking as easy as possible by preparing food in batches. “My motto is cook once, eat twice,” she says. Although the freezer is her friend, she points out there are times when it’s just not possible to present your kids with something fresh from the kitchen. “Every now and then, Emily will eat something pre-made, and that’s absolutely fine. I think as moms, we need to stop beating ourselves up about what we feel we ‘should’ be doing. There’s too much judgement, and we need to let go of it.”
Mothering Emily has been such a special experience – a kind of redemption after the struggles with Isla’s health – so Sarah says the idea of a fourth child would be quite tempting if she were younger. “I’m kind of sad that the family is growing up, but also kind of happy. It definitely gets easier as the children get older, but it’s bittersweet.”
- Emily’s best breakfast: Bulk cook oats, then add a spoon of peanut butter, some fruit purée, yoghurt and a scoop of formula for extra creaminess.
- Favourite baby products: Pure Beginnings’ range of wipes and creams.
- Best advice: “Don’t be too busy. I’m such a planner that I’m always trying to squeeze something in to any spare minute, but I’ve learnt to slow down since Emily’s birth. There’s nothing wrong with sitting on the veranda and talking to your baby for two hours – that’s also productive.”
- Best thing about being a mother: Experiencing a child’s ability to love unconditionally.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.