Every now and again you meet one of those amazing mama’s who seems like she’s got it all figured out; the perfect work/life balance.
Well what about an inspiring single mama who has the work/life/community volunteering/self wellbeing/empowering other women/protecting our daughters/happiness/love balance?! Introducing Sandi Walters, a full time working mama who not only works full time but devotes the little spare time she does have to the Mornington Peninsula and Frankston Sisterhood – a community group of driven people with one main agenda: to prevent domestic violence…every since facet of it.
We recently sat down with Sandi for a cuppa and a chat (and we literally could have sat there all day listening to this inspiring women if it wasn’t for school pick up!) to learn all about her various community roles, in particular the Sisterhood and her passion to end domestic violence in our community.
MLTS – Thanks for chatting with us Sandi, for those that don’t know you, can you tell us a little about yourself, your family and perhaps some challenges you have faced along the way as a mother?
Sandi – I am a single mum with two beautiful daughters, Kaitlyn Grace (almost ten) and Rebekah Rose (six). Motherhood was not an easy transition for me. I was a professional Public Relations and Fundraising Manager who pursued my career with a passion. When everything just stopped after I brought my new baby home, I found it really odd being at home alone with a new born.
The phone didn’t ring, there were no meetings, no one really emailed me anymore, there were no deadlines, I didn’t need to wear a suit but most of all it was silent and I had never had that before. For me it was unnerving. It was like the biggest event of my life had occurred and the guest of honour just slept all day. There is only so much Oprah and Dr Phil you can watch!
MLTS – Your “mummy instinct” took over when Kaitlyn was just 18 months old and you felt as though something wasn’t quite right…tell us about that.
Kaitlyn was a really tricky baby and she cried a lot. She didn’t sleep through the night at all until she was ten months old. I was exhausted. As a toddler, her tantrums were out of this world and there were moments when ignoring her was the only answer. People would tap me on the shoulder and say “excuse me, your baby is crying” as though I hadn’t noticed. I felt like a really bad mum. I never really shared my thoughts and feelings with others which in hindsight was a mistake.
At around 18 months I started to get the feeling something wasn’t right and the feeling didn’t go away. When I gave birth to Rebekah and Kaitlyn turned 3.5 years I raised the question to my midwife that perhaps Kaitlyn couldn’t hear me. It took until she was five years old to get a formal diagnosis but Kaitlyn has a hearing impairment and wears hearing aids. It has been a significant challenge for me to get Kaitlyn the support she needs, it has made it difficult for me to return to work and I feel the guilt of raising Rebekah in doctors waiting rooms telling her to be quiet all the time so that hearing tests can be conducted. We have been through hell and back and the journey continues.
MLTS – Mothers intuition, not sure what we would do without it! How would you describe yourself as a mother? What are the key values you try to instill on your girls?
Sandi – In the early days I was convinced that I was a bad mum. The more I understand each diagnosis, the more I forgive myself. I have learned deep patience and advocacy. My daughters are simply amazing. Kaitlyn has had such a difficult start and I deeply respect her. I see myself as a role model for my children. I want to raise my girls to be strong, happy, independent women with a kind heart and a passion to make a difference in this world. I do all that I can to be that for them.
MLTS – You have always been a career women and obviously enjoy being a working mum. Tell us about your job and why do you think it’s so important for women to get back into the workforce after having a baby, how do you juggle it all?
Sandi – I have the amazing opportunity to be the Manager at SAI Home and Community Care in Frankston. We provide in home care to the elderly, disabled, those recovering from hospital care, TAC, WorkCover and new mums. I love my job. I love the diversity in my role, the incredible difference we are making to the community and the beautiful people that I work with.
I think that a woman should always have access to her own money in her own bank account. I think that we should always work even if it is just a few hours a week. You should be with your partner because you want to be, not because you are financially reliant on them. Also a career helps you develop your self-worth.
I am working four days per week at the moment which allows me time to take Kaitlyn to doctor appointments. The mornings can be crazy in my house as I get two children up and dressed, make school lunches, breakfast and then drive the girls to two different schools and try to get to work by 9am. It is a really good day if I get to straighten my hair! After work is a mad rush to pick up two very tired children from after school care, feed them, do homework and get them into bed. I try very hard to separate work and family so that I can spend quality time with my girls each morning and night in amongst the chaos.
MLTS – So true, we couldn’t agree more. Now Sandi, not only are you a super busy corporate mama, but you are also one of these amazing super mums who finds time to give back to their local community! Tell us about your various volunteering roles including your new project, Sisterhood?
Sandi – When my girls were young, I decided to volunteer and try and keep my skills active while I stayed at home. This lead to me becoming the president of the Frankston Toy Library. It was such an amazing opportunity to watch it grow into the largest toy library in Australia during that time. I have had to step out of the role since returning to paid work but I am still involved.
My greatest personal achievement during my time as president was the introduction of Victoria’s largest range of special needs resources. It meant so much to me to be able to make expensive resources available to parents and therapists as part of the normal borrowing of the library.
I also run “Hear Together”, the only hearing support program for parents with children who have a hearing impairment and I have also just started up “Sisterhood” which is a domestic violence prevention campaign.
MLTS – You really are a busy woman! Very inspiring. Tell us more about Sisterhood, what inspired you to start this initiative?
Sandi – I felt compelled to start this initiative as Frankston has one of the highest statistics of domestic violence. The night Luke Batty was killed, Rosie was meant to be at my house having a meeting over a cuppa. That tragedy had a profound effect on me, I couldn’t stand by with my head in the sand. I am raising two little girls and I was in a position to make a change. Domestic violence affects so many women and yet it is unspoken. It is a taboo topic between women and it shouldn’t be. It is naive to think that it doesn’t affect people we know. I am doing my best to shine a light on the issue and inform a community about the facts.
MLTS – The Sisterhood incorporates an important project you have brought to fruition which involves the back of toilet doors! Can you explain?
Sandi – The primary focus on domestic violence is usually physical and looooong after the first incident. Domestic violence comes in many forms though and I believe that it can be prevented long before it may become physical. The idea behind the poster is to raise awareness of early warning signs. I wanted to give people a light bulb moment. The poster was created and then distributed throughout Frankston (by Councillor Sandra Mayer). It tells people what the behaviours look like, that they are not normal and it tells them where to seek help. Calls to help line spiked during the campaign so I will continue to pursue it. I started by putting the poster on the back of every female public toilet door in Frankston and it has only grown in strength from there.
MLTS – Why do you think this poster is so important? How does it open the doors for change?
Sandi – The poster is important because it doesn’t just focus on the aftermath. It focuses on the early stages of an unhealthy relationship. It focuses on the varied types of violence and gives specific examples. The response has been overwhelming so I know that I am on the right path to make change.
MLTS – We have personally seen this poster many times whilst using toilet facilities at our local community centers, it’s very eye opening as to the many ways domestic violence can occur, so hats off to you Sandi. You’re a strong women bringing up two little ladies, when you look at your girls, what do you hope most for them in future?
Sandi – I just want them to be happy and healthy. I want them to respect themselves for who they are. And I hope that they too will contribute to the community around them.
MLTS – You once said to us that you feel like you are destined to help with something big, what do you mean by this?
Sandi – Ohhhhhhhhh that was a secret! I feel like I was put on this earth to make a difference somehow. I don’t feel like I have scratched the surface yet.
MLTS – Well, in our eyes you are definitely already scratching the surface! And when you’re not looking after the girls, being a mama, working and volunteering, what do you do in your spare time (if you get any of course!)?
Sandi – There is always spare time! I make time. I spend time with my amazing and incredibly supporting boyfriend! And I love spending time with my friends. Nothing beats laughter over a lovely white wine! I enjoy my “me” time. That is when I think. I think best when I am out walking in the fresh air or sitting at the beach. I love massages at Endota!! Mama’s need R&R or they forget how to chillax! You are a better mum when you have time to let your soul reboot.
MLTS – It’s obvious you love where you live, What do you love most about Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula?
Sandi – I love the people. We have such amazing people in this area. As a volunteer I had the privilege of meeting so many wonderful people who donate their time to try and make our community a better place. It was an honour. I love our beaches too. My breath is taken away each and every time I drive down Oliver’s Hill. I am proud to live here.
MLTS – We couldn’t agree more with you, hence why we started Mama loves to share! What would you say to other mums who may feel as they want to change the world by contributing more but don’t know where to start?
Sandi – Start with an act of kindness. Simply do something nice and unexpected for someone else whether you know them or not and expect nothing in return. If you are passionate about something, volunteer what little time you have as anything is better than nothing. My favourite quote is “never underestimate the power of a small committed group of people” (Margaret Mead).
Thank you so much for chatting with us Sandi, you’re an inspiration and we look forward to seeing what the future has in store for you.
For more details about Sisterhood, visit the Sisterhood FMP Facebook page – www.facebook.com/sisterhoodfmp/?fref=ts or phone 1800 RESPECT (1800 7377 328) for domestic violence help.
For more details about the Frankston Toy Library or to leave a donation, visit their website – www.frankstontoylibrary.org.au.