Life in My Shoes: Parenting in Mullumbimby, New South Wales with Lotte Barnes-King and Lia-Belle King discussing same-sex parenting, community living and meditation.
Interviewed by Nicole Lutze
Shoutout: We’re proudly partnering with Birkenstock to bring you Life In My Shoes: A series of interviews with parents from all around the world.
Lotte: Lia and I met each other when we were in our late 20s. In effect, we flipped our lives upside down in the best possible way & shaped a new world together…that world now includes our beloved four-year-old daughter, Ophelia. I’m known as Mamma, and Lia is Mummy in our little rainbow family.
Lia: We first met through work in Sydney. I reached out to Lotte to work with her on a Fashion Week project. We met at a point in our lives where we had both worked really hard to achieve career goals but felt the urge to disestablish everything we had created and start something new together. So, we got rid of our businesses, left our belongings at our respective parents’ homes, packed one bag and set off to travel together. We had the intention of going to Bali, India and Sri Lanka for three months. We got to Bali and just decided not to come home. We lived in Indonesia for two years. During that time, we got married, started our business (Worn), and became pregnant with our daughter Ophelia (who is now four).
Lia: We experienced much luck in our process of falling pregnant. I have stage four endometriosis, so that was our first hurdle to overcome with becoming pregnant. Being a same-sex couple was another one.
Lotte: We knew after Lia had her endometriosis operation, we had a pretty small window of time to fall pregnant. We were told we had about 12-months.
Lia: We were introduced to our friend Tyler, Opi’s father, by a friend in Bali. As our wedding present, he said, “I don’t want to have my own children, but if you would ever like to have children, I’d love to be part of that process.” So that happened very organically and in a non-invasive way. We started trying straight away and fell pregnant on our second cycle, but I miscarried early.
We had one last try before we were leaving Bali. We had made the decision to move home because we wanted to birth our child here and raise her in Australia. On the day we arrived back in Australia, I found out at the airport that we were pregnant.
Lotte: We hope to have another baby when we can travel again, and I’m going to birth the next one. We are really excited for Ophelia to have a sibling in her life, and we’re just trusting that when we can return to Bali, it will happen.
Lia: When we lived in Bali, we were living in a very small street surrounded by local Indonesian families. Transitioning to Sydney was not something that translated well in our mind because we didn’t think Sydney would support the slow and quiet lifestyle we wanted. We were also seeking a community that aligned with how we wanted to raise Ophelia. A Steiner education was also important to us, and this region has some good Steiner schools.
So, we chose to live in a little country town called Mullumbimby, but we have no family here. It’s an alternative hippy town, and we live in one of the oldest houses. It’s on a big block, with a white picket fence and lots of light enters through beautiful stained-glass windows and french doors that open onto the verandah. In our backyard, we have a trapeze, a climbing ladder, a swing, trampoline, vegetable garden, pomegranate and mulberry tree.
Lia: I breastfed Opi until she was nearly three, but when she was very young and feeding at night, Lotte would get up and sit next to me in the dark for every feed. It was the most amazing support because sometimes you can feel very isolated, depleted and lonely. To have her with me through that journey made such a difference in my mood and feelings as a new mother.
Lotte: I wanted to be with Lia because I knew it would be physically demanding, but also because, even though Ophelia is my child in every way, we aren’t blood-related. I knew the only way to help build that bond was to be physically present. When Opi got older, Lia pumped milk, and I could feed her too.
Lia: To make sure we aren’t painting an unrealistic picture, I want people to know that it was really hard. Great, but hard. When you’re both working from home, both parenting full time, both sleep-deprived and depleted and have no family around — it’s hard!
We generally try to share parenting roles as a couple. When Opi was little, I stayed home for her early childhood and Lotte worked. As Opi got older, we swapped and Lotte stayed home, and I went to work. Now that Opi is at daycare, we can both work and the balance is really good.
Lotte: Having time to be a primary carer has been amazing for my relationship with Ophelia and helped me understand what Lia went through, and some of the hardships of being a stay-at-home parent.
We also try to be mindful of our language around the house. There’s a list of jobs that need to be done each day, and none of those tasks belongs to one person. We try not to say things like, “Can you do me a favour?” We’re in this together.
That said, Lia’s a better cook than I, so she does lots of the cooking.
Lia: And I’ve never taken the garbage out!
Lia: When Opi was three, she became really unwell. I was in Bali, so Lotte had to lean on the community to support Opi’s health. Ophelia was so unwell that Lotte couldn’t even put her in the car to take her to the shops for medicine. She ended up in hospital with pneumonia and on breathing support for days. During that time, we had strangers going out of their way to get Panadol and drop it off at our house because they’d heard we needed help. Friends were turning up at the hospital with meals and dropping food off at our house. It was incredible.
Lotte: We aren’t people who like asking for help, but that was a really good learning opportunity. When you put yourself out there, people want to help. Everyone has that good in them.
Lotte: Opi and I start each morning with tea on the verandah or inside if it’s cold. She has a rooibos tea and I have Earl Grey. Then we move into reading books together, and make Lia a cup of coffee and bring it to her in bed.
Lia: At night, we always sit down to eat at a table with cloth napkins, and we light a candle. Opi is our fairy helper and takes the dishes to the kitchen after. Making dinner a lovely event is really important to us.
Lotte: On Sunday mornings, we have pancakes while listening to Crowded House, and I meditate twice a day. I try and welcome Ophelia into my meditation whenever she’s curious, and she’s been meditating with me since she was born. We also sing and chant together.
Meditation and self-care.
Lotte: I learned to meditate around the time I met Lia. My career was quite busy, and I was starting to feel anxiety. I had suffered lots of allergies and skin conditions like eczema my whole life and had seen every type of doctor under the sun. When we lived in Bali, we had the privilege of not working, and I could spend lots of time focusing on healing and meditating. My eczema started to repair, and my anxiety passed. Before we left, Lia found an opportunity for me to study as a Vedic meditation teacher. I’m so happy to share the positive impact meditation has had on me with other people.
Lia: I can find it hard to maintain a balance between giving to work, Opi, Lotte and myself. I think learning to achieve balance has been one of the biggest lessons of Motherhood and something I’m still navigating.
Lotte: Something I frequently see as a meditation teacher is mothers (though it can be either parent) not allowing themselves time to sit here and care for themselves. And I say it to Lia as well: “If you’re not good, none of us are good. You are the heart of the family, and you have to nurture yourself.” I wish more mothers would make time for themselves and understand it’s not selfish; it’s selfless because the whole family benefits.
I take time to meditate every day because showing up as the best version of myself is the best thing I can do for my family.
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