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Family

How Toni Street juggles the demands of work and motherhood now that new baby Lachie has arrived

Lachie was famously brought into the world by Toni's best friend and surrogate Sophie Braggins. “He’s just so easy to love,” gushes Toni. "It's been perfect from the start."

By Sophie Neville
With his long limbs, olive skin and gorgeous dark eyelashes, little Lachie France is the apple of his family's eye.
Now six months old, he's the miracle baby that broadcast star Toni Street and her husband Matt France welcomed via surrogacy. And while he'll one day learn his amazing story, for now, this smiling, cooing bundle of joy is blissfully unaware of the incredible impact he's had on those around him.
"Some days, I actually forget that it wasn't me who carried him," tells Toni as she settles into the make-up chair at our Woman's Day photo shoot at her home on Auckland's North Shore.
"Even though I was expecting it to feel different, I can say 100% that my love for him and our bond feels exactly the same as what I have with my other children. It's been perfect from the start."
But not a day goes by that Toni and Matt, both 35, don't think about their friend Sophie Braggins, a business-woman and mum-of-two who selflessly carried Lachie to term after doctors deemed another pregnancy too risky for the broadcaster.
She's a huge part of their lives, regularly flying to Auckland from her New Plymouth home to see the baby boy who grew inside her, and the two families share an unbreakable bond.
"I love seeing Sophie and Lachie together," says Toni. "It's an incredibly special thing."
On the day of our shoot, Toni has been up since 4.30am for the Hits radio breakfast show and the hours before her alarm went off were hardly restful – her daughters Juliette and Mackenzie were battling croup and coughed half the night.
But as ever, the mum-of-three is determined the show must go on and she's thrilled to have the chance to show off her little Lachie, who last graced the pages of Woman's Day as a tiny newborn back in August.
"He's delicious," she sighs. "I could talk about him all day! It does feel a little different having a boy. People always talk about that mother-son bond and it's true, there's something very special about it – he's just so easy to love."
Watch: At home with Toni street and her newborn son Lachie. Story continues after video.
Toni also can't help but notice the similarities he has with her late brother Stephen, who tragically died at age 14 in a farm accident. The arrival of a boy baby after two girls felt like a special nod to him.
"It's almost uncanny," she tells. "They have exactly the same colourings and my mum says they're very similar as babies – very placid and smiley. It definitely feels meaningful in some way."
Toni laughs as she tells us about how much her "chunky monkey" loves his food – "he's on five meals a day!" And with two doting sisters on hand to entertain him, he's never bored.
"They love him so much and are always playing with him. Sometimes it's verging on manhandling, but he never complains."
She adds that he seems to have a "devilish sparkle in his eyes" and hates to be left out of the action. "He'll start screaming if we walk out of the room and leave him there."
Big sisters Juliette and Mackenzie are the perfect playmates.
Toni's incredibly grateful that her job at The Hits makes it possible to spend most of the day with her little ones.
While she has a nanny for back-up, she's there most days to pick up the girls from school and kindy, takes them to their activities, and is always home to read stories and tuck them in at night.
And she tells us it's taken many years to get to the point where she feels she's struck the right balance between home and work.
"When I was a young reporter, I remember thinking, 'How on earth will I ever be able to have a family and maintain this amazing job?' There seemed to be hardly anyone working part-time back then. But things have definitely changed for the better and I've been lucky to have flexible employers. Flexibility is everything when you're raising children."
Toni knows she's fortunate to have negotiated a nine-day fortnight and is well supported when she needs to leave early or take days off if her family needs her. The broadcaster recently pre-recorded part of the morning show she hosts alongside Sam Wallace and Laura McGoldrick so she could take Juliette to her first day back at school.
"She had a brand-new teacher and it's only her second year, so it meant the world to me that I could be there," she says.
Having recently read Michelle Obama's auto-biography, Toni is inspired by the former US First Lady's approach to balancing work and children.
"She writes about how she once took her daughter to a job interview. It was about saying 'this is me' and really owning the fact that you're a mother as well as a career woman. And I love that – why do we feel we have to hide the fact we have a family? It shouldn't be a taboo subject.
"If that kind of honesty is good enough for Michelle Obama, then it's good enough for me!"
And closer to home, Toni counts fellow broadcaster and mum Pippa Wetzell as an important role model, admiring the way she's put her loved ones first.
"Like me, her family is her first priority, but she's still managed to have a successful career," says Toni. "Her roles have morphed and changed, and I respect her for that. It's helped show me it's possible."
But Toni confesses it hasn't always been easy to find the confidence to say no to opportunities. One of the hardest times in her career was in 2017, when she was working at The Hits in the morning and presenting TVNZ 1's Seven Sharp at night, leaving her little time with her family during the week. She eventually made the courageous decision to walk away from her TV role.
"It was an amazing job, but working at both ends of the day wasn't sustainable," says Toni. "I constantly felt like I didn't have enough time for anything. I coped at the time because I had to, but when I came out the other side of that, I looked back and thought, 'That was insane!'"
And while many parents find the juggle gets harder the more children they have, Toni insists her life is functioning more smoothly now as a mum of three than it did with just one or two kids.
"Yes, I've got two kids and a baby, but my life now is a much better balance," she enthuses, explaining that she's able to freelance for TVNZ when it suits. "I have the mental space to cope with everything a lot better. I feel I'm a lot more in charge and in control of what I commit to."
And she urges working women to ask their employers for more help when it comes to flexible working arrangements.
"As a mother, you actually have far more control over these situations than you might think," she insists.
"But you need to take the first step – you need to tell your employers what you need to make it work for you. If you don't ask, you don't get.
"It's about backing yourself and knowing your worth, and being prepared to take a different path if they're not willing to help make it work for you."
She believes that it's men who are often missing out on flexibility in workplaces, with fewer concessions made for dads, and adds that she'll be forever grateful to events planner Matt for stepping back in his career to let her flourish.
"Matt gave up his full-time role so I could go on working and I expect he got more sideways looks than if I had made that decision," says Toni. "But he was excited about doing it. He wanted to spend more time at home and be involved in the child rearing."
With a full-time nanny at home, she's loved being able to maintain her fitness with regular F45 workout sessions. "It's my new obsession," she tells.
And after a terrifying health battle last year when antibiotics damaged her liver, Toni – who suffers from autoimmune condition Churg-Strauss – is thrilled to be feeling back to her best.
"I'm still on a low dose of steroids, but other than that, things are totally normal," she explains. "I think back to last year and can't quite believe it happened. I won't ever take antibiotics again unless it's a matter of life or death."
And as she scoops her adorable boy in for a kiss and a cuddle, Toni says it's thanks to him that she's slowed down to appreciate all their little moments together.
"I'm a naturally on-the-go sort of person, but nowadays, I just love chilling at home with him. I know how fast these years go – I can't believe he's six months old already! We just feel so lucky. Every single day, I wake up and just think, 'Thank goodness we have him.'"

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