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Mother's Day 2024

Happy Mother’s Day to all the incredible mothers and mother figures in our lives.

12 May, 2024

From biological mothers to foster mothers, stepmothers, fathers filling both roles and single mothers – to the aunts, sisters, and grandmothers who have nurtured and guided us – thank you.

We also want to recognise those who may find this day challenging; those who are missing their mothers, longing to become mothers themselves, or navigating complex emotions surrounding Mother's Day.

Motherhood is a journey filled with both challenges and rewards. Read some valuable tips and tricks from members of our Defence Force, sharing insights on balancing the demands of motherhood with their professional lives.

Brigadier Rose King

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you? The Defence Force has helped in lots of different ways. I took a year off work with each of my children when they were born and I’ve work on reduced hours at times. The service has also been flexible with my husband, so both of us have been able to work on reduced hours at different times, and to have flexible working arrangements, like working from home etc.

Top tip for any other mothers or parents: Don’t be too hard on yourself. As women, we put so much pressure on ourselves to excel in everything. We can be very self-critical. I remember a story my midwife said to me: if you’re having a bad day, but at the end of that day, you and your child are both alive – that is a good day. 

And enjoy it – being a mother is such a privilege and your children grow so quickly. Make the time to be with your whānau, and do it your way.

Commander Bronwyn Heslop

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you?

Absolutely Nigel, my husband. Teamwork is essential. I couldn’t do what I do without him. In times when he and I have both been busy, Alli Campbell (wife of former Commodore John Campbell MNZM RNZN) has been the fairy godmother. Communication and planning – think ahead.

Top tip for other mums or parents: Be involved with your kids when you are home; you obviously can’t when you deploy (for those in service), but invest when you can so the balance remains in credit. Email them when you’re away; I don’t expect novels back (I have sons!), but they know you’re thinking of them.

Commander Bronwyn Heslop

Commander Bronwyn Heslop

Corporal Maddy Butcher

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you?

Being a mum while being in the Defence Force can definitely have its challenges sometimes, especially when having to deploy on operations or exercises and be away from home and my son.

I am lucky enough to have an amazing fiancé and extended family nearby who are always happy to help out when either my partner or I have to deploy.

Having that village of family around us to help and support has definitely helped us to make it work.

Top tip for any other mothers or parents: Being a mother is the hardest and also most rewarding thing I have ever done. But don’t be afraid to ask for help, it really does take a village to raise a child.

Corporal Maddy Butcher

Corporal Maddy Butcher

Able Chef Leilani Westerlund

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you?

What has helped me in the NZDF as a mum is the work/life balance the NZDF provides and the ongoing support I get each day working with my friends.

Top tip for other mums or parents: My one tip that has worked for me in parenting is that while parenting is challenging, to go with the flow and to not put so much pressure on ourselves. Memories are being made so why not make them the best!

Able Chef Moesha Masoe James

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you?

I had a great support system at home when I first joined in 2021. I was so excited and grateful when I got a placement in a Navy house. Towards the end of 2021, I moved my family up from Wellington to Auckland to be closer and raise my daughter. In 2022, when my daughter was two years old, we enrolled her at the Navy Childcare Centre just up the road from my workplace. So convenient.

From early on in my career, the Navy has supported me as a mother and a sailor.

If it were not for my support system at home, I would not be a sailor. If it were not for the Navy, it would have been difficult to be an active mother.

Top tip for other mums or parents: Carry snacks EVERYWHERE.

Able Writer Courtney Kapi

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you?  The flexibility and normality of being a māmā in service but especially in my trade, where there is ongoing support from friends, colleagues and family support workers both in and out of the workplace.

Top tip for other mums or parents: So cliché but time truly goes by so fast - embrace all the good and bad moments and in ALL phases because you’ll blink and they’re already grown up and acting too cool for you.

Able Chef Leilani Westerlund pic Andrew Bonallack v2 Able Chief Moesha Masoe James pic Andrew Bonallack Able Writer Courtney Kapi pic1 Andrew Bonallack

Left: Able Chef Leilani Westerlund, centre: Able Chief Moesha Masoe James, right: Able Writer Courtney Kapi

Flight Lieutenant Shirley Barakuta

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you?

I am currently posted to the Future Operations Plans role within Headquarters Deployable Joint Interagency Task Force (HQ DJIATF) and recently have been blessed with a bubbly four month old baby girl, Taylor.

Together we have gone to gym classes, NZDF mum & bub coffee groups and attended NZDF community events such as ‘Forces in the Park’.

For my little family we love that the NZDF has policies in place to support mums returning to work and adjusting to mum life whilst balancing a career in defence. I personally have become confident as a new mum through the support of my command who have provided me with a pumping room as I am still breastfeeding Taylor, supported my request to wear breastfeeding friendly shirts with my uniform, and made both Taylor and I feel included in team events such as the DJs bush walk.

Top tip for other mums or parents: Do what works for your family. My return to work, attending gym classes and choice to continue breastfeeding works for my family but may not work for other families and that is completely OK. Navigating a new normal is challenging but has been rewarding for me and my family as we work out what works best for us.

Flight Lieutenant Shirley Barakuta

Flight Lieutenant Shirley Barakuta

Commander Fiona Jameson

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you?

My boss as I returned from parental leave was fantastic. He ‘got it’ and provided the environment for me to find my new work self and start to deliver.

My village who support my children and look out for them when I’m away, Grandad, the school, their friends and families.

My husband who is my keel.

Top tip for other mums or parents: If you’re feeling it then someone else is, we judge ourselves way harder than anyone else does.

If what you are doing works for you and your family then keep doing it.

If no one is giving you feedback to the contrary then I would put money on the likelihood that you’re doing a good job, it’s just there isn’t the time to be brilliant at everything. Just be the best you, that you can be today.

Corporal Payal Jeffries

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you?

Having that community. My husband was Army before I joined and we got to know people in a tight-knit group. We don’t have any family close to us, so the community network helps me and my husband.

Top tip for other mums or parents: Lean on the support that’s offered. You might be a mum that’s not sure about the NZDF programmes offered, like school holiday programmes, but honestly, they are safe and fun.

Be open and honest with your bosses. There’s no point struggling at home and not telling them. Talk to your boss and ask, can we work something out? If full-time hours aren’t working, can we try this? Just have that honest conversation. They can support you, or direct you on how to get support.

Flight Lieutenant Charlotte Wood

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you?

The community of parents within NZDF who are willing to help and colleagues in the workplace who understand the ups and downs of parenthood!

Top tip for other mums or parents: Make the most of the NZDF whānau network, go to the events (Mess Family Happy Hours, Children’s Christmas Parties etc) and be part of the reason the NZDF is such a great organisation for families.

Commander Fiona Jameson pic Andrew Bonallack CPL Payal Jeffries 1 Andrew Bonallack FLTLT Charlotte Wood Andrew Bonallack

Left: Commander Fiona Jameson, centre: Corporal Payal Jeffries, right: Flight Lieutenant Charlotte Wood

Squadron Leader Melissa Mikaere

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you?

I think for me it's about mums being really honest with themselves about what you want when you return to work.

It seems simple, but I think all too often we want to come back with the same level of commitment to our work and we want everything to be the same. I think that is great in theory, but the reality is different which makes it difficult for command, partners and family to support. Being truthful in what you want while thinking about different options (gold plate option through to a bronze) meant I could have better discussions with those around me to help, the way I needed the help to work and be a parent.

Top tip for any other mothers or parents: Talk to people you trust or respect and ask them honestly about what they went through for their return and what they learnt? You're not alone in returning so have a support person to help you with those questions and concerns.

Warrant Officer Jeanne Rabbitte

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you?

Last weekend we celebrated my oldest daughter’s 21st birthday and it made me sit down and reflect how we got there.

What helped me to achieve a successful career in the NZDF was flexible working hours to enable me to spend maximum quality time with my girls and reaching out to my village (the community I lived in) for help when I was absent. The parents that attended my daughters 21st had all played a part in helping to raise my three beautiful daughters and for that I am truly grateful. The saying is true "it takes a village to raise a family"; having two military parents this definitely rang true in our household, we were very reliant on our village.

Top tip for any other mothers or parents: My top tip for other mothers is "guilt is a wasted emotion" don't suffer it! Your kids are not missing out when you are absent, others are stepping up to fill the void. I now have three very independent and resilient young ladies and I am extremely proud to be their mum.

Major Lisa Hopa

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you?

I have been fortunate to have flexible bosses who have allowed me to parent when I need to. Leadership in the Defence Force have been largely supportive when I’ve needed to balance work and mum life. And it’s been pretty cool living in defence housing. You look around and see a community of children. Neighbours take an interest in each other’s children and there’s a comfort in knowing she’s safe in a like-minded community.

Top tip for any other mothers or parents: Probably the biggest thing is don’t be too hard on yourself. Be kind to yourself. You don’t need to try and be all things for everyone. Be there for yourself.

Squadron Leader Melissa Mikaere Warrant Officer Jean Rabbitte Major Lisa Hopa

Left: Squadron Leader Melissa Mikaere, centre: Warrant Officer Jean Rabbitte, right: Major Lisa Hopa

Flight Lieutenant Rhea Hornby

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you?

The Defence Force is amazing for supporting flexible working arrangements – utilise these to create a better work life balance for you and your family.

Flight Lieutenant Rhea Hornby

Flight Lieutenant Rhea Hornby

Jamie Nilsson

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you?

I faced significant challenges on the road to motherhood, undergoing IVF treatments that often felt like managing two full-time jobs. Throughout this difficult time, I'm incredibly grateful to my manager and team for their unwavering support, providing the flexibility I needed.

Upon welcoming my miracle baby, the support from my manager and team continued, allowing me to transition back to work with flexibility. This flexibility has been essential, especially with a young child and a partner who works shifts. Being able to work from home when needed has not only eased the juggle but also helped me be a better manager and team member. 

Top tip for other mums or parents: Prioritise what works best for your family amidst the masses of conflicting advice. Simplify when life gets hectic, and don't hesitate to support others in your community by sharing resources like easy family-friendly recipes. Do things for yourself, have your you time when you can even if it’s just an ‘everything shower’.

Petty Officer Melissa Gilmartin-Kara 

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you?

Being a first-time māmā and experiencing all the wonders of parenthood while being a service person has been a whirlwind of uncertainty. When I apply the word uncertainty, its context is relevant to the fact that I have no idea what I am doing as a parent and what this looks like wearing a uniform. From conception, hapūtanga, birth, and now being responsible for my pēpī, I have learnt that the people who surround you are what get you through all the uncertainty. Had it not been for my circle of support champions, who provided me with alternative/ flexible working arrangements, promoted me in Hamilton, and worked through the process with me, I would have had a challenging and lonely experience. One thing that being a māmā has taught me is that I now understand what 24 hours in a day really means. LOL.

Top tip for other mums or parents: Know and voice what you need regarding support for yourself, your whānau, and your workplace. I recognise that every parent has various circumstances and experiences that sometimes require different approaches, which is okay. Help others understand what you need to feel safe, respected, and comfortable as you transition through changes. If you don’t get the support you need from your direct chain, talk to co-workers, friends, or other people because you never know who can help.

Lieutenant Colonel Cate Webb

Being a mum and being in the NZDF; what’s helped to make it work for you?

Definitely the support and understanding of my family during periods when the demands of the service required more of my attention and time.  Also the creation of increasingly family-friendly policies and an openness to talk about the challenges has helped generate greater awareness, understand and flexibility when there is a need to shift the balance between family or work.

Top tip for any other mothers or parents: Be present - make the times when you are with your family meaningful and engaging.  It strengthens connections and make the times you have to be away or work long hours more bearable for both you and the family. 

Screenshot 2024 05 10 at 9.19.34PM POYDS Melissa Gilmartin Kara Andrew Bonallack Lieutenant Colonel Cate Webb

Left: Jamie Nilsson, centre: Petty Officer Melissa Gilmartin Kara, right: Lieutenant Colonel Cate Webb