Former Black Stick Gemma McCaw is no stranger to the demands of a busy – and public – life. But as she herself enters a new era, the wellness expert and new business owner has realised just how tough women have it right now. So, she’s decided to do something about it. How are you today, Gemma McCaw?
Hey Gemma, how are you today?
Yeah, good thanks – that’s what I want to say, it’s the social convention, isn’t it! [Laughs]. But yeah, it’s a bit of a wild ride at the moment, do you know what I mean – with kids and all the sickness, it’s been tough. We’ve had a couple of bouts of gastro and I got the flu, so it’s very much a balancing act.
It’s definitely been a tough winter for everyone right? You’ve always had an interest and health and wellness and you’ve worked in that space a lot before – when you’re dealing with your own wellness, especially as you’re getting older, has your approach changed at all?
Yes and no – my keystone habits are important, but I think I’m paying more attention to them as I get older. I’m a big believer in the little things every day, you know? Small, daily habits are the keys to success, I think. For me, it’s going to bed early, and trying to get some exercise in as often as I can. It’s probably still the athlete in me!
As you get older you really do realise there’s so much you can’t control so I focus on the things I can, especially when you have kids [She and husband Richie have two daughters, Charlotte and Grace] and you need to turn up as the best version of yourself. I didn’t realise how important that was.
I don’t have kids and I can barely look after myself, so God knows how mums do it! One of Capsule’s biggest stories has been on ‘The Mental Load’ which seems to be a real issue with women in particular – do you think it’s an issue?
Yeah – I call it in ‘The Invisible Load’ – I always say, husbands will just walk out with a phone and a wallet, and I’m like, ‘how reckless!’ when you compare how much stuff we take out of the house. It’s part of why we’re launching The Sunday Series.
Oh yes, tell me a little more about that!
It was born out of the idea that myself and co-founder Dr Sarah Anticich, and the idea is for women to push pause for a day. They’re day-long retreats, happening all over the country, where like-minded women will come together and put down the devices and be present. We want to give them some fun, laughter and joy and hear about ways to manage that stress and overwhelm, and some other aspects of wellness.
The idea is like it’s a warm hug – everything is taken care of for you, for once!
Sounds like bliss – it really does feel like for women who are in that child-bearing age that there is no winning: You know, the whole ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ thing about children, career, marriage. It’s bloody draining!
This – the 30s and the 40s too – is a really interesting age. You know who you are, you’ve got the self-awareness and you know where you want to do, but then society judges us. You must work, but you can’t put your child in full-time day care, but you can’t stay at home either?!
It’s tough, and that’s why having some good, ingrained habits down early is so key, because they can help you through this hard time. I’ve met a lot of women in their 50s and 60s who have this new lease on life, but say these years are really hard, with the guilt and the juggle.
But, what is about is living a life you want to – not what others expect of you.
And how has that been for you – I remember when you first started dating Richie, you (very understandably!) put a lot of pressure on yourself to be a certain way.
Yeah, especially early on when I met Rich, I thought I had to post the perfect picture of the nice event on social media, and then have caption anxiety for two hours afterwards. It sounds ridiculous now, but when you’re in your 20s… there’s a gap between what we are presenting to the world and who we actually are.
Man, that’s a lot – and being in your 20s is tough at the best of times!
Exactly. But now I’ve realised that I wasted so much time on it. I mean, it’s a great tool when you use it the right way, but I had an epiphany about this time last year. I was doing all of these partnerships, which were great and I thought I should do them, because it provides a lot of flexibility so I can be with my kids. But the energy required to post every move… I thought, I’m not going to look back in 10 years and wish I had posted more – probably the opposite.
Social media is such a beast and I totally get looking at other women’s feeds and thinking, ‘wow, she’s really got this life thing nailed’.
Yes – for other women, it looks like everyone has it together! But everyone has their struggles, but we don’t see that, we pretend that everything is great and we get rewarded for that. I totally get not focussing on the negative, but it’s not the whole picture. We did some research before we launched The Sunday Series where we asked 400 women what they were dealing with, and so many of them said they felt so much worse after being on social media.
What else came out of that research in terms of what women are struggling with?
The one that got me was loneliness – so many women are so lonely, despite being around so many people all time and it absolutely broke my heart. I thought the biggest thing would be not enough time, or not enough sleep, or too many wines. All that is at the surface level, you know, those things can be improved. But it was the idea that so many women aren’t being seen or heard. There were all of these people in relationships and with kids, telling us they were so alone – most between 30 and 45. So we realised that connection is one of the most important issues we need to focus on.
And that’s what you’ll be doing with The Sunday Series?
Yeah that’s a huge part of it – connection, wellness, vulnerability. It’ll be about women giving themselves permission to make the day what they want and need You’ll sit, you’ll listen, you’ll talk and you’ll connect and if nothing else, you’ll have a beautiful day with some soulful connections, and be seen and be heard.
The Sunday Series, hosted by three-time Olympian and wellness director Gemma Flynn and clinical psychologist Dr Sarah Anticich during the four Sundays of October, aims to reset women’s wellness and right the balance between the demands of life and the necessity of self-care. Click here to find out more.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.