In an industry where youthfulness and beauty are so often revered, getting older can be confronting for TV and film stars. But Kiwi actress Debbie Newby-Ward, who turns 40 in December, feels nothing but contentment and peace as she heads towards the milestone birthday.
"I don't think age is particularly important," she says as she sits down to chat after chasing her adorably energetic preschoolers, Zeppelin, four, and Phoenix, two, around the garden of her Auckland home.
"For me, it's all about where you are in life. I have my beautiful family and am at a place where I'm quite happy with everything. Age becomes irrelevant when you look at it like that. I actually feel better now than before I had children!"
She admits, though, she's had to grow a thick skin when it comes to her career – she was once asked to audition for a character described as "well past her prime".
"I just had to laugh when I read that," she tells us.
"We're all a little insecure, but you have to see the fun in all of it. You really do have to take this industry with a huge handful of salt."
As she wrangles her sons into position for our photo shoot, it's clear that motherhood brings her the greatest joy. It wasn't an easy road for Debbie and her husband of nine years Brendon to become parents, and they are grateful for their gorgeous boys every day.
"We call them our double blessings," she smiles.
"We had two rounds of IVF – the first didn't work and with the second, we got two viable embryos. And those embryos are Zeppy and Phoenix! We are so incredibly lucky."
While the odds of successful IVF are often stacked against people, the devoted couple never gave up hope.
"We just didn't want to miss out on the opportunity of enjoying what hope felt like. If you don't grab on to something to believe in, then you're not left with much."
And they were right to have faith, with Zeppelin arriving in 2013, and Phoenix two and a half years later.
"They're chalk and cheese," tells Debbie, who found fame on Nothing Trivial back in 2011. "They're both very determined, but Zep is quite chilled about things. Phoenix is ridiculously independent and a bit of a fire cracker. He's a box of dynamite!"
She loves every minute of parenting with Brendon, 42, who runs a swimming pool company.
"He's their idol. They're always walking around with hammers and nails, trying to be just like him. He can't mow the lawns without the boys out there too, pushing it with him."
Before becoming a mum, Debbie would have baulked at the idea of turning down dream TV roles, but that's been her recent reality after making the conscious decision to stay at home with her boys.
While she starred in Shortland Street as Margaret Hannah when Zeppelin was a toddler, she turned down the opportunity of reprising that role when Phoenix came along.
"When I go to work, someone else has to step in," Debbie explains. "And when they're babies, I was never very good at getting them on to bottles and all that stuff. They're just completely and utterly connected to me.
"The team at Shortland Street were amazingly supportive – they were happy to wait for me to be ready and said I could bring a nanny along to the set. But ultimately, the logistics of having two very small kids and trying to make it all work were too hard."
While Debbie's confident it was the right decision for her family, it was wasn't easy to say no.
"It was really tough, but I am totally OK with the fact that being a mum is more important to me than any acting job."
However, with Zeppelin starting school next year and little Phoenix recently weaned off breastfeeding, Debbie has been able to take on a handful of smaller roles recently.
She's delighted to be starring in the current series of The Brokenwood Mysteries, which screens on Prime.
"I loved filming Brokenwood," she says. "It was really awesome to be mingling in the New Zealand countryside with laid-back country folk. It was just such a down-to-earth shoot, with all of us in our gummies trying to get from A to B."
And with her family complete, Debbie's excited about sinking her teeth into more acting work.
"Both kids are finally sleeping through the night now and I'm starting to feel like we're emerging from that baby fog. It means I'm able to be getting back out there and able to say yes a bit more. It's exciting!"
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