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Family

Renee Wright: Work is an escape for me

The TV presenter and busy mum of three says home life can be chaos at times.

Exuding the calm confidence of someone who enjoys success both professionally and personally, weather presenter Renee Wright appears the incarnation of the modern woman who has it all.
Rarely seen with a hair out of place, the mum-of-three seems to effortlessly juggle raising a family with being one of the nation's favourite television stars, delivering news of impending storm fronts with poise, beauty and engaging warmth.
So it comes as something of a surprise when she sits down with NEXT and candidly launches into a story about a miniature cyclone that recently raged in her own home.
"It was the morning hustle and it all just exploded," says the 37-year-old. "I had the flu, the kids had vomiting bugs, there was diarrhoea up the wazoo, dirty nappies – and we were babysitting a dachshund that pooed at the front door. I went to clean up the poo and Leo smelled it and vomited everywhere." Renee laughs at the memory: "I just had to take it one step at a time."
Chaotic mornings are just part and parcel of motherhood; a role that Renee freely admits is "the hardest job". And although she adores Leo, six; Giselle, four; and 18-month old Arabella (who she affectionately calls 'Bells'), she concedes her kids "test me in ways I've never been tested".
"I love being their mum but it's so, so full on," she says. "I think I'm at my limit emotionally and physically."

Not that you'd know it when you see her on television. Renee has been a presenter at TVNZ for 12 years, starting on entertainment show Headliners in 2004 before taking on the weather role in 2006. These days working the weekend shift is her escape, her oasis of calm amid her otherwise hectic life.
"I like working," says the former model and actress, who appeared in her first television commercial before she was out of nappies. "I don't get time to myself even to go to the toilet, so work for me is my own time."
Outside the office, this is a woman who is just like most Kiwi working mums. One who looks down at her outfit and spots a patch of dried food – "Is that egg on me? I had Bells' breakfast in my hair the other morning".
Who welcomes you into her chic monochrome bungalow and asks you not to look too closely at the toddler smudge marks on the windows. Who isn't afraid to admit that "when the wheels fall off, they all go".
Renee believes it's important to be honest about the reality of motherhood because it's all too easy to compare yourself to others.
"Those mums of Instagram have either got a lot of help or really great filters," she says. "It's all smoke and mirrors. When you actually talk to mums you realise we're all struggling with the same things and fighting those battles daily."
One of her big lessons has been that's it's a journey you can't do on your own. While she and husband Charlie Waide have long since put their temporary separation behind them, the builder works long hours, often starting at 5.30am, leaving Renee to be a "one-man band". This is where help from her mum and dad is invaluable. Renee's parents moved to Auckland from Wellington soon after Leo was born, and frequently step in when emergency childcare is needed.
"You just have to ask for help – and I'm so lucky to have my mum and dad," says Renee, who describes herself as a "yes person" when it comes to taking on extra work she barely has time for. "They have Bells on Saturdays and if I can't get a babysitter when I do voice work for TVNZ, Mum will have her. It's a real relief and such a comfort knowing if it all blows up, I always have them to fall back on."
As she talks through the roller-coaster of mother-hood, from her experience with mastitis – "the bane of my life", to dealing with tongue tie and seizures – "it was horrendous", Renee is constantly at pains to point out that for all the heartache, she wouldn't change it for anything. Although she has been stretched to her limits, she is aware she's in a very privileged position, having a job she loves which allows her plenty of time to be a mum. She finds daily joy in the experience of having kids.
"You can get bogged down and think, 'I've got to do this' and 'I've got to do that', and then the kids sort of handbrake you and say, 'No, let's go run around on the beach in the sand'.
"They keep you in line, they're just so delicious."
She says the experience has empowered her and helped her develop as a woman.
"Parenthood has taught me a lot about myself," says Renee with a smile. "It has given me such a massive appreciation for my mum. It makes you not take things for granted. It makes me admire other women who are juggling, and really grateful to have role models who are doing it all."

Something else that has given Renee perspective is the support system that has become a mainstay for mothers up and down the country – boot camp.
Soon after Renee gave birth to Giselle, colleague and fellow working mum Toni Street suggested they take a boot camp session together, and it proved transformative.
"Honestly, it's been a game changer," says Renee. "It made me see you can function as a woman and have a sense of self as well as being a mum. It was really eye-opening and helped put things in perspective. It was so much more than a boot camp."
The confidence that's come from being fit and strong, plus the mental benefits of blowing off steam twice a week, have helped Renee keep a healthy balance in her life, even when things feel manic.
"I always feel better if I'm doing my exercises – it's a mental more than a physical thing," she explains. "If you're fit and doing something positive, it feels like you're taking action. If I feel healthy and strong then I can brush negative comments off like they don't really matter."

Unfortunately, those negative comments are constant. She might be up there among the country's most inoffensive celebrities, but being in the public eye makes Renee a target for viewers of 1 News, who take joy in sharing their views on everything from her figure to her voice.
"Even now, people say things and you think, 'Oh, that hurts'," admits the brunette, who was once a body double for Suits actress Gina Torres.
"All those little things chip away at you. One person said I needed a throat operation because they didn't like the way my voice sounds! They tell you how you should get your hair cut, what colour it should be, the clothes you should wear."
And while for most of us, being pregnant is a time in life when people go gooey-eyed and want to share in our joy, it was quite a different scenario for Renee. "People loooove to attack you when you're pregnant," she reveals.
When the trolls really get to her, and even a workout doesn't insulate her from the hurt, Renee turns to a little pampering.
While acknowledging that she still feels guilty when she gets her hair done, she says a trip to the salon or a little shopping is a great form of relief from the day-to-day drain.
"It's so nice and such a treat," says Renee. "You do feel guilty about asking someone to look after the kids, but you have to say to yourself, 'stop and enjoy it'. Be kind to yourself."
Renee is well aware that if she looks after herself, she can be the best mum she can possibly be. She hopes when her kids look back and reflect on childhood, they will feel "they had fun with me and felt loved and safe".
Above all else, that's her priority.
"I just want them to be happy and secure in themselves and do what they love. And know that I'll always support them and be their number-one cheerleader – always. Always."
With that sort of attitude, this weather presenter will ensure her kids ride through any storm that comes their way. *

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