10 questions with Suzy Cato

Children’s television icon of the 1990s, SUZY CATO, is back to entertain a whole new generation of young people with The Totally Awesome Kiwi Kids Album, as well as their parents with the Double Strength Mama Power podcast series. KINETA BOOKER caught up with the Kiwi legend.

How different are you now from before you had children?
I’m far more confident; far more content; far more responsible and proactive and motivated. I am also older. Okay, that was going to happen whether I had children or not, but I’ve had to “grow up” and make decisions much bigger than “what colour the playdough will be today”. I’m a much better person for having had children. Beyond learning what it is to feel so much love, joy, and frustration about one human being, I have learnt so much about myself and about my relationships; about patience and multi-tasking; about ballet buns and soccer side-lines. Also, about Lego, Loom bands and Instagram – yes, I have a teen!

What sort of mum are you?
I’ve been a hands-on mum since the moment I realised that there was a love-bug in my belly.
I sang, chatted, giggled and jiggled, then once they arrived, I rocked, read, danced and chatted some more.

School drop-offs and pick-ups have always been a big part of my day, so too has being a stay-at-school-full-time-working-mum; which basically meant when I could lend a hand as parent help, I did and in the early years that was a lot more often. Now I’m the “always there when you need me” mum, with one at high school and one at intermediate. It’s a natural progression as they strengthen their own independence, although, they need you just as much emotionally as they needed you physically when they were babies/toddlers. The snuggles and bedtime story sessions have become cosy conversations about the day, but they are still treasured times.

When you’re not listening to NZ children’s music, what’s your choice of tunes?
My playlist is an eclectic mix. My family was very musical. I had a fabulous stint as one of NZ’s youngest female radio announcers, in the late 80s, so I experienced everything from the Doors and Led Zeppelin to John Denver and Hall and Oates.

Now I enjoy a healthy diet of Broadway musicals, pop, alternative rock, dubstep and jazz – jazz/funk, courtesy of my kids and my husband’s thirst for good music. (Yes, the Doors and Led Zeppelin still get a spin on the turntable from time to time.)

Top parenting tip?
Be gentle on yourself and get sleep, when you can, especially with a new-born – the housework and chores will wait (unfortunately). You’re not going to get it right all the time – we are human, just like our kids. Tomorrow is a brand-new day, filled with wonder and joy and we (our beautiful families) are a part of it all.

Favourite family tradition?
When the babes arrived, we would often make the pilgrimage across the ditch to see “Grandma and Popa”.  It was simply a case of packing up and going and the kids loved the surprise.  We’ve continued that surprise factor. It becomes a little more difficult with each year, as the kids become more aware, but we’ve managed to bundle them off on camping trips within NZ and on plane trips overseas without them having an inkling – the looks of surprise and squeals of sheer joy have been worth the days of planning and the late-night packing.

What social media advice do you have for parents?
Personally, we’d chosen not to share our babes’ photos on social media, until just recently. We did this is to give them a chance to grow up in private – the way we did when we were kids. We could make our mistakes or do funny things without the world viewing it. We also limited the amount of screen time; life is for living – not for watching via a screen. Now that we have teen apps that provide an opportunity to communicate, give good consideration to what other options those apps provide – access to videos, memes, images, and conversation threads can broaden your child’s horizons beyond their years.

The thing you enjoy most in everyday life with your family?
The time spent talking, playing and laughing. Everyone’s lives are so busy, we rush to get out the door to school; to get home in time for activities; to eat in time for homework/shower/bed.

I’ve been consumed by work from time-to-time (Dancing with the Stars was a great example of this, last year) so when the opportunity is there, I relish the time I spend with them.

Board games are a staple in our family – the game of Trouble is our go to.

Biggest thing you hope the audience of your parenting podcast will learn?
That there’s no right or wrong way to parent. We’re all muddling along as best we can, with the knowledge, experience, and energy we have at the time. Those gorgeous babes don’t come with manuals, and that’s okay, it gives us permission to use our intuition.

Each stage is just that – a stage. Some will be more challenging than others, especially as outside influences (our work, adult relationships, finances) challenge us at the same time. But everything is going to be wonderfully, amazingly and happily… okay!

How do you juggle being a working mum?
Sometimes badly. The juggle is real. My work is so varied and takes me to parks, libraries, schools, preschools, and boardrooms, all over NZ. Also, as chair of Kiwi Kids Music and being involved with a number of charitable organisations and incredible projects, like the two songs I released last year, I’ve always tended to work while the kids are at school and then after they’ve gone to bed. The balance is wrong. I’ve missed adding in some “me time”. I eventually realised that an Epsom Salt bath or a spell in a bean chair with a good book was even more beneficial than working until 1am. It was much more beneficial for my family too.

Love needs to start at home. But, even more importantly, it needs to start with you.

suzy.co.nz