This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Emmylou Maccarthy Takes Motherhood’s Invisible Labour And Makes It Visible - And Paid

Family

Emmylou Maccarthy is a producer, presenter, fashion designer, social media influencer, businesswoman and mum. She can now add ‘author’ to her list of accolades. Her first cookbook Confidence in the Kitchen is set to be released in June (you can pre-order it here!).

With a hugely engaged following on social media and beyond, it’s clear that people are FASCINATED by Emmylou. She spoke openly about coping with criticism, co-parenting with her partner Aaron, and the switch from primary to secondary carer for Sage (9), Camellia (7) and Vida (4).

21st February, 2020

When you live your job on the Internet, everyone has their say. ‘People criticise me about not spending enough time with my kids.’ Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

Sage, Vida and Camellia. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

‘The camera doesn’t change how I do things. I’m the same way whether I’m being recorded or not.’ Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

‘I was pretty single minded in the beginning if I’m honest. I think I’ve got a better balance these days. I put my career first for about 24 months, but man, did I see that affect my family.’ Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

Making the switch from the primary to secondary carer doesn’t come easily. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

Emmylou, Aaron, Sage, Camellia, Vida and their two pups! Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

Emmylou’s nominated Sunday activity is a morning spent at the South Melbourne Market. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

Happiness (as well as confidence) in the kitchen, always! Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

Emmylou’s dream dinner party would be alfresco, with bifold doors folded in so she can cook but still hear the chatter. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co.

Ashe Davenport
Friday 21st February 2020

‘You can let the opinions of others feed into how you see yourself, but at the end of the day, it’s just a career, and it’s mine. It’s driven by joy and excitement.’ – Emmylou Maccarthy.

Emmylou Maccarthy carved out her media career with nothing but an Instagram account and a dream. Her story is the digital equivalent of rubbing two sticks together to make fire – seemingly impossible at first, but ultimately achievable with time, dedication and the right hashtags and/or wind conditions.

The term ‘influencer’ has become somewhat of a dirty word, but in Emmylou’s case it’s simply an accurate description of how she got her start. Her audience is astoundingly engaged. If Emmylou so much as mentions a brand on social media, product sales tend to skyrocket. Her Instagram stories are a seemingly endless tangent on domestic life, with over 50 instalments a day. She might be making hummus, plaiting her daughter’s hair, waiting for an Uber, applying or removing her makeup, but the activity is irrelevant. Emmylou’s charisma is undeniable. Why else are tens of thousands of people tuning in to watch her do a fishtail braid? She’s luminous. She makes mistakes often and genuinely laughs when she does. She’s a comfort to people at home on their phones, craving connection with a real human person, with the emphasis on real. 

We talked over coffee at St Ali in South Melbourne. In person, Emmylou was shorter than I’d imagined and significantly more professional. My instinct was to greet her with a hug, my bestie, the person I’d watched cooking in her pyjamas, but she held out her hand as she approached the table, establishing a boundary in the process. It was a gesture she seemed to have had some training in, a gentle reminder to people that they were, in fact, strangers.

She gets a bit of flack – for not spending enough time with her kids, not having a ‘real job,’ for not fitting the traditional moulds/straight jackets of ‘wife’ and’ mother’, you name it. The reason is obvious. She’s a self-made woman who doesn’t play by the rules. People don’t know what to make of her. I stan

What do you say to people who question whether or not you have a ‘real job’?

You can let the opinions of others feed into how you see yourself, but at the end of the day, it’s just a career, and it’s mine. It’s driven by joy and excitement. Everything I’ve done, I’ve loved: beauty therapy, skydiving, working in hospitality, working as a receptionist. I’ve done it all with a massive smile on my face. So I just try and not let it affect me. People don’t see the emails and hundreds of DMs. I’ve got staff members now, a legal team, accounting, the whole thing. Emmylou Loves is a business, no question.

You’ve taken a lot of the unpaid invisible labour of motherhood and made it paid and visible, it’s hugely impressive, actually.

People criticise me about not spending enough time with my kids. They say: ‘Oh! Her poor husband is stuck with everything.’ And in fact, he’s not the poor husband, he’s their dad. When he did fly-in-fly-out he was away for four weeks at a time working in the mines. Four weeks! Then he’d be home for five days, and he’d be knackered because he’d have worked 12 hour days for weeks on end, and never once did I hear how lucky he was that I was doing everything at home.

How do you share the parenting load now that you’re so busy with work?

For the last six months, Aaron’s been a stay-at-home dad. He’s the primary carer. He does all the school drop-offs and pick-ups, kinder drop-offs. I often do them with him, then I’m off working every day. I’m home in time to cook dinner. We all pitch in for the housework. We wanted to have one of us as the constant figure at home, so the kids would feel more settled in a routine. It makes the most sense for us right now that Aaron is that person.

How’s that going?

It was hard at first. It doesn’t matter what your situation is, if you’re changing things, it’s not all going to click straight away. You have to give it a trial to see if it’s going to work, and to allow for the icky, uncomfortable part. With any job you have a three month trial, it’s exactly the same as changing the roles up at home. After three months have a sit-down with your boss, or partner in this case, and see how you’re both feeling. Discuss what’s working and what’s not, where the gaps are and how you can fill them.

How did you build your business while being the primary carer to three young kids?

I was pretty single minded in the beginning if I’m honest. I think I’ve got a better balance these days. I was starting late in life. I wanted to go for it, and I did, I really went for it. I put my career first for about 24 months, but man, did I see that affect my family. It impacted our happiness, my personal happiness too. Aaron and I weren’t together during that time, we were co-parenting, so that didn’t help. We were living in the same house, but we were emotionally disconnected. I was prioritising emails at the dinner table over enjoying the meal with my kids. I was so focussed on keeping the momentum going with Emmylou Loves, sometimes it felt almost like the kids were impeding on that. I had to take a good hard look at myself. Like, they’re my kids! What am I doing?

What was it like not being in a romantic relationship with Aaron, but still living in the same house?

Man, did it hurt. Did I spend a lot of time crying? Yes. Did we go long periods of time without speaking? Yes. But did we try to fill that silence with nasty hateful things? No. Sometimes couples will come upon a time in their family life where things are silent. Not much is going on. It’s a bit fucking boring. So what do we do? We get snarky, we get restless. We think, hmmm there’s not much love happening here, let’s try and get a spark going with a bit of hate. That was the one thing Aaron and I decided not to do. We didn’t fill our silence with nastiness. We were just silent for a while, and we were okay with it. I just kept pointing out that it was the hardest time in our lives.

My partner and I have two under four, and our relationship has been hanging on by a thread at various stages since becoming parents. How did you guys get it together?

We let go of expectations and the fantasy that we should still be in the honeymoon period. My advice to any couples going through a tough time is to not under any circumstances compare your relationship to anything you think you’re seeing online or in the world. Aaron and I completely understand that romance can die, and die in a scary way, where you think it’s not going to come back. Make a conscious effort to lead with respect, which is easier said than done when you’re new parents, underslept and stretched so thin.

Is it hard to stay present when so much of your life is on camera?

The camera doesn’t change how I do things. I’m the same way whether I’m being recorded or not. That’s why I muddle up my words, they’re just flying off my tongue. That said, I’ve had to work at staying present with my kids. It doesn’t come naturally to me. When they want to do a jigsaw puzzle for example, the easy part is saying yes, but I have to make a conscious effort to sit down and bloody enjoy it. My instinct is to be in 100 other places in my head, whether it’s what I’m cooking for dinner, or replying to emails, or whatever it is that needs to be done. Being present is a discipline, it’s a muscle that needs building, and I’ve had to work at that.

Describe your perfect dinner party…

Hmmm… An open alfresco area with bifold doors going inside. I don’t know much about interior design, but I know about bifold doors, because I want them. Then I could be in the kitchen cooking, but still be able to see out and hear the party going. I’d want cool beats playing in the background, hip hop or funk or something chilled out like Erykah Badu. I’d make a communal feast with some of my mates helping out. We’d bring out big bowls of gorgeous food and people would be drinking gorgeous wine. It could be anytime of year. Summer, Winter, don’t care!

What can people expect from your upcoming book Confidence in the Kitchen?

It’s a collection of really easy recipes, but tasty, with beautiful imagery. It’s a happy book, one you can flick through and smile. You don’t have to be a wiz in the kitchen to follow the recipes. The point is to give you some spunk and vibe in the kitchen. It’s food that’s meant to be enjoyed with people and that’s enjoyable to make. That’s what food is all about for me. It’s about the experience.

Family Favourites

Activity or outing

Definitely movies. Colouring in. Nothing better than a fresh batch of play-dough. And cooking!

Sunday morning breakfast?

South Melbourne market to shop, coffee and a quick bite. Almost every Sunday we have my sister and her family over. She and I will cook up a storm while the kids play.

Date night?

We’re more into date days! We’re so tired at night and we just want to watch a movie and not talk. But date-days are great. A walk, a swim, just simple things together.

Desert island album?

If I could cheat and say my Spotify playlist…. Oh my God… This is the hardest question I’ve ever been asked… Okay… breathe… okay. Mama’s Gun by Erykah Badu.

Family getaway?

Torquay. We love love love the beach.

‘Confidence in the Kitchen’ will be available from all major retailers in June 2020. You can pre-order a copy here.

This Week

Gardens

A Native Garden Made With Recycled Renovation Debris

This Sydney garden by Fig Landscapes maximises drought tolerant plant life, and inventive upcycling!
Sasha Gattermayr

Food

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's Roasted Tomato Summer Soup With Mozzarella

Celebrating the best of easy summer eating with this sweet roasted tomato soup, creamy mozzarella and a drizzle of basil oil.
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Indigenous Art

Two Strong Sisters Connected In A Powerful New Exhibition

Aunty Eileen Harris + Aunty Rochelle Patten celebrate a shared sisterhood at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Melbourne Museum.

Art

Baden Croft's Landscape Paintings Quiver With Human Energy

The young Mornington Peninsula artist capturing the Australian ecosystem in exquisite detail, stillness and gore.
Sasha Gattermayr

The Good Room

A Stylist's Good Room In South Yarra's Most Coveted Apartment Building!

Heather Nette King shows us around 'THE room' in her apartment in Melbourne's Beverly Hills apartment complex.
Lisa Marie Corso

Architecture

A Low-Tech, Handmade House Clad In Shingles

This owner-built home for a family of six brings together texture and memory in Northcote.
Sasha Gattermayr

View Comments

Similar Stories

Family

Clare Bowditch On Overcoming Self-Doubt + Being Your Own Kind Of Girl

The Melbourne-based singer and storyteller talks family, and fills us in on her brand new book!
Ashe Davenport

Family

Parliamentarian Adam Bandt Talks Family

The Federal Member for Melbourne reflects on parenting across states, recognising unpaid work in the home, and what the future may hold for
Emma Eldridge

Family

Best-Selling Author + Feminist Clementine Ford Reflects On Motherhood

The prominent women's rights advocate opens up about parenthood and her new book, 'Boys Will Be Boys'.
Emma Eldridge

This Week

Interiors

Introducing The 2020 Dulux Colour Awards Finalists!

From a candy pink bathroom to an all-green-everything living room, take a closer look at our favourite residential projects shortlisted for

Architecture

A Victorian Terrace Transformed, With Minimal Intervention

Let there be light! Austin Maynard Architects illuminates a dark Carlton terrace with a new renovation, including internal gardens!
Amelia Barnes

Architecture

A Serene Japanese-Inspired Home In Melbourne

Japanese design principles underpin Highbury Grove by Ritz&Ghougassian, designed for the studio's co-director.

News

This Artist Is Live-Streaming His Isolation ‘Residency’ For The Next Two Weeks

Soul McKenzie is living, breathing, eating and painting in a one-room space atop At The Above gallery.
Sasha Gattermayr
  2 hours ago

TDF Design Awards

Announcing... The Design Files + Laminex Design Awards 2020!

It's time to enter The Design Files + Laminex Design Awards! Our broad-reaching and inclusive awards program that shines a spotlight on Aust...
Lucy Feagins
  14 hours ago

News

Go To Caroline Walls’ Gallery Opening Via IGTV!

Let’s be real, what else are you doing? The Melbourne-based visual artist is taking to the virtual realm to open her solo show, Resemb...
Sasha Gattermayr

Homes

A Designer’s ‘Curated Maximalist’ Apartment in Sydney

Interior designer and stylist Jono Fleming shares his treasure-box apartment in Sydney's Waterloo.

Gardens

How To Start A Productive Garden TODAY!

We turn to three seasoned experts for tips on how to get started, what to plant in small spaces and how long it will take to start seeing re...

News

'Design Lives Here' Takes You Inside Other People's Houses, From The Comfort Of Your Own

Sick of the inside of your own house by now? Take look at someone else’s in this new book by the former editor of Artichoke magazine...

Times Like These

Times Like These... With New York Times Food Columnist And Author Alison Roman

The New York-based bestselling author and beloved cook talks about feeling all the feelings of COVID-19, finding the motivation to work, and...

The Good Room

A Magazine Maven's Sentimental Good Room In The Southern Highlands

Former head of Vogue Living and Monocle magazines, Robyn Holt shares her 'Good Room' at home in regional NSW, layered with pieces collected
Lisa Marie Corso

TDF Collect

'I Been Born There' By Maggie Green At TDF Collect – A Virtual Walkthrough!

In lieu of being able to open this spectacular exhibition, we made a video with SIRAP to bring Maggie Green's debut solo show to you!

Studio Visit

Kayleigh Heydon's Paintings Will Light Up Your Life

The Melbourne-based multidisciplinary artist takes us through her Northcote studio.
Sasha Gattermayr

Food

Week 2 Of Pantry-Friendly Meal Ideas From Julia Busuttil Nishimura

The queen of home cooking returns to warm our hearts with another seven day's worth of meal ideas, and a shopping list for everything you'll...
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Interiors

Creating The Best Kids Bedroom Ever!

...got some time on your hands? Lauren Li shows us how to create a kids bedroom that is sure to keep the kids AND the grown-ups happy!
Lauren Li

Similar Stories

Family

Clare Bowditch On Overcoming Self-Doubt + Being Your Own Kind Of Girl

The Melbourne-based singer and storyteller talks family, and fills us in on her new book!
Ashe Davenport

Family

Parliamentarian Adam Bandt Talks Family

The Federal Member for Melbourne reflects on parenting across states, and what the future may hold for us all.
Emma Eldridge

Family

Best-Selling Author + Feminist Clementine Ford Reflects On Motherhood

The prominent women's rights advocate opens up about parenthood and her new book, 'Boys Will Be Boys'.
Emma Eldridge