Entertainment How ex-Neighbours star and single mum-of-six Madeleine West makes parenting work
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How ex-Neighbours star and single mum-of-six Madeleine West makes parenting work

Madeleine West
Madeleine West with Red Cross Regional Manager NSW/ ACT Judy Harper (back left), and a family of the Red Cross Young Parents Program (YPP). Photo: Red Cross
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As a former Australian television actress and single mother of six children, suffice to say Madeleine West is no stranger to the daily challenges of parenting.

This week she was a guest speaker at a Red Cross Young Parents annual recognition ceremony in Sydney to celebrate the achievements of 30 young families who’ve got through a difficult year. West, who has worked closely with the organisation for several years, delivered some sound advice in the lead-up to Christmas.

“Programs like this one at the Red Cross are ensuring our young people still have the opportunity to reach for the stars but be great parents … be proud of yourself, continue being the amazing role models you are for your children because your kids are lucky to have you,” she says.

Earlier, West, herself a child of teenage parents (both aged 16 when she was born in 1980) told The New Daily her best advice to young parents is to “work hard, be proud of what you’re achieving – parenthood is not easy for anyone.

“As the child of teen parents, I understand intimately the struggle, the judgment you face and the sacrifices you have to make to keep your little families together.

“It’s not uniquely difficult for teen parents. Yes, you face certain obstacles and hurdles … but every parent does.

“Just trust that when your kids look at you, in your mind you might not be getting it right all the time, but to your kids you’re the most perfect, imperfect parent they could ever ask for.

“All they want is for you to be your best,” says the 41-year-old, who now calls Byron Bay home and works mostly in philanthropy, in the homeless sector as a facilitator to support people who are “falling through the cracks” and with refugees and asylum seekers.

West, who shares parenting of their children (aged from 15 to seven) Phoenix, Hendrix, Xascha, Xanthe and twins Xahlia and Margaux, with her former partner, says the young group she met on Thursday were all “legends”.

With young parents in the program aged between 13 to 25 with complex needs, manager Jahnvi Singh tells TND it has been a challenging year.

“It has been a year that has challenged most of us and we are in awe of the drive and motivation of the young parents that continue to strive towards their goals despite the challenges they face,” she says.

‘Critical to have a village around you’

In the lead-up to Christmas, West says a good piece of advice she follows is to “know your capacity”.

As discussed in her recently released podcast Meanagers, West tells TND that if you’ve had a long day and can’t finish what you started, there’s always tomorrow, and if an argument with your teenager is hovering, “step away”.

“This is the principle we’ve come up with on Meanagers. Drop, stop and walk. Come back when you have the capacity, when you’re refreshed, when the maelstrom of the day has come to an end and you and your teen can have a meaningful conversation.”

With the Red Cross ever-present in the lives of families in crisis, or who just need that extra support, Christmas can be more stressful for multiple reasons including family separation, domestic violence and financial hardship.

“There are frequently commercial stresses caused by notions of what Christmas should be, or financial strains [which] can never be avoided … influences come into play, alcohol consumption.

“Know, at all times, there are people out there who are willing, and want to help you.

“There are programs and organisations like the Red Cross who are trained to help those in crisis and if you find yourself in a situation where you feel unsafe, if your instincts tell you this is wrong, then you are right.

“Reach out, there will always be a shoulder to cry on. There is always someone just at the end of the phone line,” says West.

Asked what advice she would give her younger self when she had her first child at age 25, she says just have faith in your ability as a parent.

“Part of parenthood is knowing those little munchkins come along to turn your life upside down, give it a good hard shake and steal your wallet,” she says with a laugh, but “love them, know that they are a part of your self, and in order to love your children, you need to love yourself and the whole experience”.

“If things go wrong, no-one expects you to be perfect – we all make mistakes, that is part of being human. But if you learn from your mistakes, that makes you a good human and importantly, a good parent.

“You are all they want.”

  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • beyondblue 1300 22 4636
  • Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged five to 25)