Jaynie Johnson is best known as the creative entrepreneur who with her husband Nathan founded the hugely successful Sydney-based art and design store - Blacklist Studio. But behind the scenes this mum of three and creative powerhouse has been working on a passion project that is very close to her heart. Lucky Mama connects and empowers mums around Australia who are lucky to mother a child with a diagnosis, but are not defined by it. Jaynie recently returned from the first Lucky Mama retreat in beautiful Byron Bay and Bluebird Co caught up with her to find out all about the journey.
What’s the heart behind Lucky Mama?
I really wanted to start a community that was less about online relationships, but one that facilitated the opportunity for Mothers to connect in person. There is always an online element to connection now, but we didn’t want that to be the key focus for creating community for our Lucky Mamas.
What was your first retreat like?
It exceeded all of our expectations. It can seem overwhelming, or risky, to take 27 women who mostly have never met each other away together for a weekend, but when we have a commonality as important to us as our children, the differences don’t matter. It was relaxing, rejuvenating and relational. I can’t wait for our next one.
For a lot of families, receiving a serious diagnosis for their children can be a really lonely, isolating time. How important is establishing and maintaining human connections in this journey?
It’s everything. It can seem easier to retreat (which can be necessary for sometime, for some people) but I always love to encourage mamas to reach out to someONE in the early days. We all need someone who can ‘get it’ a little easier than our friends or family who don’t have a child with a diagnosis.
Mums can be pretty hard on themselves and struggle to take time out, away from their families. How do you see this struggle for Lucky Mamas?
I think it’s tricky for all mums, but for mums who have children with some very practical, high level needs, it’s much harder. Not just the practicality, but also the trust factor. It gets easier overtime, and on our first retreat some Mamas had never left their children overnight before and I think doing it with a group of women who ‘get it’, makes it a little easier and is a great first step.
As a broader community, how can we better support mums of children with disabilities?
This is a big one. Some of my tips and I feel like I could write a book on this would be:
- Don’t try to relate to their situation, you can’t and that’s ok. It’s annoying when people say things like, “My son didn’t walk until he was 20 months”
- Keep inviting them to things even though more often than not they say No.
- Don’t ask how you can help. Just drop something over to help. Some fruit and veg, a new toy or book for each of the children in the family.
- Siblings is another big one. Don’t show more attention to the child with a disability. The other kids in the family notice this, and it hurts them.
- Ask questions if you’re curious, I love it when people ask me questions about Down Syndrome. It’s not an elephant-in-the-room, it’s NORMAL. Difference is Normal.
How did your personal family journey impact your passion to create this community?
Having Dare (now 5) was the absolute catalyst to creating this community, and also having friends who have children with all kinds of differing diagnoses. I wanted to create a space that was for all families, not just families who are lucky to have a child with Down Syndrome. I was so fortunate to have amazing relationships that helped our family greatly, but I did seek out mums who could understand through their own experience what I could do practically to help my child and myself.
What does the future hold for Lucky Mama?
We are planning retreats in March in both Byron Bay and New Zealand. There will be lots of local dinners around Australia that the Mamas who come to our retreats have decided to hold, and we will continue focusing on a community approach to meaningful connection.
Bluebird Co created the “Lucky” necklace as a special gift for all the attendees of Australia’s first Lucky Mama retreat. These special keepsakes are now available to purchase so you can gift them to special “Lucky Mamas” in your world. Xx