Monday's Local Mum Michelle Lee
Where and how long have you lived in Sydney's east?
All my life! I was born at the old Royal Hospital for Women in Paddington, was raised and went to school in Randwick, moved to Wollongong for 3 years for university, and then came to Maroubra Beach upon my return to Sydney. That was 19 years ago!! The longer I live here, the more I love it.
How many children?
I have a teenage son, and currently a 4 year old foster child. In our family, we fondly think of all the foster bubs we’ve had over the years as ‘our children’, so that’s another 15!
Centennial Park.Some of my earliest memories as a kid are feeding the ducks in the pond, and playing with my sister on the tall rocket slide and merry-go-round that used to be there. It’s been wonderful as an adult to take my own children there, creating new memories and traditions in such a beautiful park.
As a kid, it was Coogee. But since moving to the Bra, Maroubra wins hands down! I never tire of its magic. It’s the best on a quiet weekday, to take a walk with a friend and soak up the glorious sunshine and serenity.
Favourite kid friendly café?
It’s easy to park your pram at an outside table at The Pool Café, Maroubra (probably not suitable for a gaggle of prams though). Or out the back you can grab a table inside or bench space on the side while toddler happily plays with cars or toys within eye-view.
Favourite Coffee Spot? I actually don’t drink coffee! At Maroubra Beach, I love an iced-chocolate or banana smoothie from Zeebra Café, or a freshly-squeezed juice from Fresh & Juicy. My little guy is a fan of babycinos from Marini Café.
Favourite date night place?
My partner and I love sneaking down for an easy, chilled dinner at Maroubra Beach, at either El Toro (so sad they are moving!) or Sea Sand Thai. We can walk there in minutes, for reasonably priced, tasty food.
Favourite Local Day Out Activity?
Gotta love some salt-water therapy taking a swim at Mahon Pool, Maroubra. A magical, little piece of heaven right on our doorstep! Nothing can describe the divine experience of diving into the crisp, rejuvenating ocean water, releasing all tension, floating on your back with your eyes closed while the sun warms your face. Some of my friends have dubbed it “Doctor Mahon” as it is nature’s best medicine. And it’s free!
Favourite Local Shop?
I’d take food over buying ‘stuff’ any day! So some of my favourite shops are … oh basically all of the cheapie Asian restaurants along Anzac Parade in Kingsford! Such great value and variety there, and sharing a meal with friends is so good for the soul. It’s like a mini Chinatown, and you almost feel like you are in another country amidst the chaotic buzz of the busy eateries.
Favourite wet weather location?
Why let the rain dampen your spirits? Kids love putting on their gumboots and raincoats, grabbing the umbrella, and going for a walk in the rain. Jumping in puddles, and exploring what the beach or playground looks like when it’s wet and nobody else is around is awesome fun! When you get home, a nice hot bath and hot chocolate feels extra good.
Describe an ideal day in Sydney’s eastern suburbs for you?
My ideal day would start by meeting a friend for a morning walk along Maroubra Beach, walking up the hill to have a swim at Mahon Pool (we like to call it ‘mermaiding”), then grab some brunch at The Pool Café opposite (‘I’ll have the seared scallops and bacon on sourdough with mashed avocado, goats cheese and rocket, thanks”). With kids, probably meet up with friends for a picnic lunch at a playground somewhere, perhaps Wild Play at Centennial Park, and end our fun there with a gelato.
Without kids, I’d love to squish in a 90 minute massage from Adele at Inner Wave Therapies in Waverley – THE BEST!! For the afternoon, head back home and get a yummy pho from the bakery in McKeon Street. But wait! I forgot yum cha… and the Hungarian cheesecake from the Coogee Bakehouse… damn it, so much good food, so little time!
What area of the east have you yet to explore much but would like to?
I haven’t properly explored the areas alongside the harbour, all the little bays and coves hiding there. It’s been decades since I’ve been to Parsley Bay. I’d really like to do the walk along Malabar Headland as I haven’t had a chance yet.
With kids it’s hard to get out at night, but would love a date-night in Bondi to check out some of the cool new places that have sprung up.
Also Charing Cross in Waverly- I’ve driven through there a zillion times in my life but never properly stopped to check it out!
Work or SAHM?
Full time foster mum at the moment. Although my friends would chuckle over the “Stay At Home” bit – we are always out and about, on the move, and hardly ever at home!
What is the best part of foster parenting?
The best part is being blessed to have had all these beautiful little souls come into our lives, and be able to watch them grow, and flourish, and really thrive in our family. We will never, ever forget them and all the special times we shared. Seeing how much my own son has loved the experience brings me a lot of joy.
What are some of the more challenging parts of foster parenting?
Obviously saying goodbye is really difficult (often heartbreaking). The children may have extra needs, like withdrawing babies, learning delays or emotional issues, due to a traumatic history. Sometimes you have to adhere to certain policies and procedures you may personally disagree with. But all in all, fostering has been an amazing journey.
They always need new good foster carers, and I’d encourage anyone interested to find out more about it, and give it a go if they feel it’s right for them. Fostering NSW on 1800 236 783 can assist with enquiries.
What three qualities do you think you need to consider becoming a foster carer?
Compassion, flexibility and commitment.
Compassion – keeping an open mind and open heart, with love and understanding.
Flexibility – things can be thrown at you last minute, changes can be unexpected, and children (as we all know) are unpredictable (especially coming from trauma). You need to be able to go with the flow and be ready to calmly adjust yourself in any situation.
Commitment- These children need stability and to know you are there for them, no matter what, no matter how hard they push, or how challenging they are. You need to be truly committed to giving them every opportunity to heal and be happy and healthy, and feel loved and wanted as part of your family.
Do you think the current system is helping children in the foster care system or hindering them? What needs to change do you think?
Hmmm. This answer would be a verrry long conversation. I think the system is generally “trying” to do the right thing to help kids but reality is that too often things fall short. Case-workers are over-loaded and the burn-out rate and turn-over is high.
A lot of old policies need updating and personalising. More individual attention is needed for each individual case, taking into account each particular child, and their own personal circumstances. They do say that this is supposed to happen.
I also think that whilst reuniting with the birth family is the ideal outcome, we need to recognise the notion of “family is best” is sadly not always the case.
Motherly advice :
I tell all my friends who become new mums, “Politely smile and listen to everything that everyone tells you, take in all that advice through one ear, keep what resonates with you, and then let the rest just drift out of the other ear! Trust your own instincts because 99% of the time, YOU know what is best for your child. No book, seminar, web forum or even doctor can give you the golden answers.
Sure, they can inform you, and offer educated opinions and good advice, but still it is up to YOU to decide how you want to run with thing