Jessica Rowe Questions Her "Beautiful Life" - Hope 103.2

Jessica Rowe Questions Her “Beautiful Life”

Jessica Rowe gives a gritty account of motherhood, media bullying and postnatal depression, in her warts-and-all memoir, 'Is This My Beautiful Life'?

By Clare BruceThursday 3 Sep 2015Hope MorningsGuests and ArtistsReading Time: 6 minutes

Listen: Jessica Rowe’s honest interview with Hope 103.2’s Emma Mullings

Jessica Rowe has made a bold entry into the colourful world of memoirs, with her warts-and-all new book, Is This My Beautiful Life?

With more than a hint of irony and humour, the Australian TV personality writes of the blows life has dealt her, the mental battles she experienced after stepping into motherhood, and her journey towards “getting her sparkle back”.

The book’s introduction describes Rowe’s feelings of disenchantment early in her motherhood, with raw humour:

“I am a crap cook, a sloppy housekeeper and a mother who still has her L-plates on… my brain feels like it has turned into playdough…I am jealous that other girlfriends with kids have flourished in their careers when I feel like I am going backwards …I am embarrassed to tell others I am a stay-at-home mum… I am middle class with First World worries. I know I am lucky and that I should be grateful and happy. Why am I so miserable, then?”

Why A Talented TV Star Battled Postnatal Depression

Tired-looking mother

As it turned out, the feelings Rowe was experiencing were underpinned by postnatal depression, anxiety and obsessive thoughts.

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“I’m very passionate about sharing my experience of postnatal depression,” she told Hope 103.2’s Emma Mullings, “because I do believe there is still a stigma that surrounds mental illness, and I think even more so around postnatal depression.

“It comes at a time when everyone around you is telling you, it is meant to be the happiest time of your life, the best time of your life.

“When it doesn’t feel like that, it is incredibly difficult to actually say, “You know what, this isn’t the best time of my life, this is the worst time. I don’t know what I’m doing, and I need help”.

“And that’s why I talk about my experiences.”

Her Struggle To Speak Up

Rowe, who is married to the Channel 9 news anchor Peter Overton, says she experienced a lot of shame over her depression and found it very hard to speak up at first.

“I felt I had to keep pretending for my baby’s sake, for my husband’s sake, for everyone around me,” she said, “but I realised that I couldn’t keep doing that, and that what I had was an illness.

“It didn’t mean I was a failure, it didn’t mean I was a bad mum, or that I didn’t love my baby. I just had an illness and I needed some help to get through it.”

She urges women who feel they might be struggling emotionally, to seek help.

“Please talk to someone close to you, please talk to your doctor and get the help you deserve, and then you can focus on being yourself again,” she said.

“It made such a difference to me. It saved me.”

The Darker Side Of The Television Industry

Jessica Rowe with her fellow Studio 10 presenters

A happy team: Jessica Rowe (in red) with her fellow Studio 10 presenters

Jessica Rowe is currently the host of the Channel 10 TV show Studio Ten, and during her 20-year journalism and broadcasting career she’s worked in all the major Australian commercial television networks.

So needless to say, the dramas in her life are not contained to mothering and mental health.

Her book also details struggles such as a court battle she endured – while in the middle of IVF treatment – against Channel 10, sex discrimination in the TV industry, and a very public and painful experience with bullying-by-media.

She’s also very candid about her premature attempts to re-enter the limelight, including competing on Dancing With The Stars, and an unsuccessful audition for a gig on Playschool.

“I put my heart and soul very much into this book,” she said. “I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’ve always been a very honest person and in this book I lay it all bare. I’m a big believer in sharing our stories and our experiences.”

When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Jessica Rowe and Peter Overton’s first daughter, Allegra, was conceived by IVF and was a much-wanted baby.

But when Rowe stepped into her dream-of life, things didn’t unfold quite to plan.

“From a young age I had envisaged that I’d be having it all, I’d be having the great career, I’d be having the wonderful family, and everything would be incredible,” she said.

“And of course, that’s not reality, that’s not real. And that’s why the title Is This My Beautiful Life. Because I struggled for a long time with keeping up appearances, with showing the wider world, or thinking that I had to show the wider world, that I had it all, that I was coping, that life was good, when in fact it wasn’t. And I learnt that there was real courage and bravery in putting my hand up and asking for help.”

Letting Go Of Career And Finding A New Identity

Working mother

Rowe said that at times she felt a sense of, “Oh my God, what has happened to my life?”, when she was buried in breastfeeding, toileting and tantrums.

“I’d worked so hard earlier on in my career to have this particular career that probably naïvely I thought was all of my identity,” she said, “which is nonsense, it’s not. Suddenly when I didn’t have a job anymore, I was thinking, well, “who am I now, and what am I capable of”?”

She says she tried to impress strangers by telling them she was still busy in her career.

I have learnt that it’s actually impossible to have it all at the same time. We have to be gentler on ourselves. ~ Jessica Rowe

“I remember when my babies were little I’d be telling my CV to the parking ticket attendant, the butcher, the woman at the supermarket,” she said. “I was trying to justify to myself what I was doing.”

It’s a familiar theme for many women who have changed pace from a busy career to fulltime parenting.

“There’s incredible benefits from growing up a woman in this generation,” Rowe said. “We do have so many choices, but with that comes a pressure that we think we have to have it all.

“And I have learnt that it’s actually impossible to have it all at the same time.

“I do think that, yes, you can have a family, you can have the career, but I’ve come to learn for myself that there is a time for everything, and it’s not always going to be going wonderfully on all those different levels.

“We have to be gentler on ourselves.”

The Power Of Laughter

Jessica Rowe on the set of Studio 10

A new season: Jessica Rowe on the set of Studio 10

For Rowe, motherhood is not all fun and games. She describes with wry humour her aversion to playgrounds, swings, sandpits, playdates, and her children’s endless bodily functions.

But she says laughter is her best coping mechanism.

“I think sometimes you have to laugh, otherwise you will cry,” she said. “It’s one or the other. And for me that’s how I have dealt with a lot of struggles.”

“I’m So Much Happier Now”

Now Rowe says she loves her work on Channel 10 more than ever, largely because she has reached a new place of contentment.

“I’m 45, I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin, and I now worry less about what people think,” she said. “And gee, that’s freeing. And I’ve only come to that very recently.

“I used to worry far too much about what people would think of me, how I would be judged, but now I think: “You know what? This is me, and if you don’t like it, well, so be it.”

More Info

Jessica Rowe’s other books include The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times, and Love, Wisdom, Motherhood.