Edwina Bartholomew: Sunrise presenter on mother’s guilt and Witchery White Shirt campaign 2024 | Stellar

In an interview with the Stellar podcast Something To Talk About, Sunrise presenter and Witchery White Shirt Campaign ambassador Edwina Bartholomew tells host and editor-in-chief Sarrah Le Marquand about the conversation she ignited when she revealed that she and her husband live separately during the week, explains why she won’t be shamed into feeling bad about her parenting choices and reveals the contents of the text messages she can’t help sending in the middle of the night.

You became a Stellar columnist this year, and your first official column – which was published in March – got a massive response. You’d already spoken about how you

and your husband Neil sleep in separate bedrooms; this time, you revealed that

you live in separate houses during the week. What was the reaction?

Well, today [April 21] is actually my [sixth] wedding anniversary, and I can confirm we are still married. It was an amazing response. It’s just something people don’t talk about, but so many couples do. It absolutely went bananas, because I think it’s not “the done thing”. So when you talk about what you’re doing in your relationship that just works for you – and that’s it for us, for many reasons and on many levels – I think that resonates. I was just being honest, [which] is what I’ve tried to be in all facets of my life, be it social media, TV and now in my writing.

Listen to the full interview with Edwina on Something To Talk About below:

I know people reached out and thanked you for talking about your situation, saying things like “I thought it was just us.” Clearly many of us are increasingly questioning so-called conventional norms. We see it across the board, with people talking about the troubles they might have had with breastfeeding or the fact their kid doesn’t sleep or, on the other end of the spectrum, talking about menopause. We’re seeing a lot of honest conversations on issues that perhaps were never spoken about in the public domain before. And maybe that’s because we’re hearing more female voices. Or maybe it’s OK to be different and run your own race. If anything, what I’ve learnt from being a journalist for 20 years is you never know what’s going on in someone’s life – how they deal with it, how they get through each day. I teach that to my kids. If someone is mean in the playground, I say, “Well, maybe they’ve got something going on or they’re having a bad day, and that’s OK. Give them a chance the next day.”

Your daughter, Molly, is now four, and your son, Thomas, is two. Here at Stellar we try not to ask people how they juggle it all, especially mums, because even in 2024 there’s seemingly still a huge legacy of “mother guilt” that follows every working mother.

You know what? I just don’t give a sh*t about mother’s guilt. People ask me about the juggle all the time, and I just say: I get a lot from my work; I love my work. In order to do what I do and provide for my family, yes, I have to work weird hours, travel a bit. I end up with a lot of time with them because of the hours I work, so I’m often home by 10am or 11am and get the rest of the day with them. I just don’t buy into [mother guilt]. I know I’m raising two amazing kids because they’re funny, they’re delightful, they’re well-mannered most of the time. They don’t always eat their vegetables, but we try. That whole guilt thing … it’s rubbish.

You and your husband, fellow journalist Neil Varcoe, have become quite prolific

in the property renovation game, and are renovating a pub in central NSW with the aim of transforming it into a boutique hotel. When did you discover this was something you enjoy? I’ve always had a love of design and architecture. We [previously] renovated a farmhouse, originally thinking we’d just put in an Ikea kitchen and make it really simple. That kind of escalated. Then we did a house in Sydney. This is the third project together. I love it. My Instagram algorithm is just Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce and interiors … and the odd recipe for fussy eaters. That’s all I’m seeing on social media. It’s an absolute obsession, which probably drives our architect and landscape architect nuts. Imagine waking up to five WhatsApp messages from me, having been up since 3am, with: “How about this? What about this? Love this plant!”

Your colleague Natalie Barr (co-host of Sunrise on the Seven Network) spoke

to Stellar recently, and we talked about constant speculation and assumptions – particularly of women in high-profile roles – that they simply can’t like each other. She said, “I’m telling you, I haven’t seen any catfights at Sunrise.” Can you confirm or deny?

I went to an all-girls school. I have the best crew of girls I went to school with. Same with uni – still great mates, 20 years on, guys and girls. I’ve always found that in the workplace, as well. I love supporting other women who are coming up the ranks because that’s how I did it. I literally started making coffee on Sunrise 20 years ago, then worked my way up. The way I could do that was with the support of colleagues, and being able to see the behaviour you want to emulate. Yes, there were arseholes. There are in any workplace; that’s not exclusive to media. But I look to that and think, you know what? I don’t want to be that person to people I’m working with. The same with friendships across the media ditch. Sylvia [Jeffreys, co-host of Nine Network’s Today Extra] and I used to be on the road together when she was the Sydney reporter for Today, and I was the reporter for Sunrise. We had our first babies around the same time. Along with Jayne Azzopardi from Nine and Jesinta Campbell, we had a little Zoom mothers’ group during Covid. I don’t need to fight people from other networks. They’re my mates, my friends.

Same with Nat, you know? Every day in the make-up chair, we’re talking about struggles with my kids and the things I’m going through and she’s reflecting on that stage with her [now grown-up] boys. It’s been lovely to have that shared experience and to see her shine and thrive. The work she puts in to being the host of Sunrise blows me away. Often after an interview goes to air, I’ll be like, “Nat, you’re so frickin’ good.” I say that genuinely. We’re great mates in there. Any narrative that suggests otherwise is just bullsh*t.

This is your second year of involvement as an ambassador for the Witchery White Shirt Campaign, which donates 100 per cent of the proceeds of every white shirt sold to the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF). What attracted you to this issue?

I was chuffed to be asked. It has been running for 16 years, and they’ve raised $16 million in that time. It’s a devastating cancer, and up until now there hasn’t been an early detection test, but because of the support through Witchery for the [OCRF], they’re on the cusp of having one. You know, imagine that. When you talk about ovarian cancer, often the symptoms are things like bloating or tiredness … I mean, how many women do you know who have those symptoms, but never get checked? Because they’re busy raising a family or working full-time or have umpteen other commitments, their health comes last. That’s what really resonated: a simple, easy way to raise money, [and] a great cause clearly having an impact.

Vigilance and early detection are among the goals in increasing awareness of this insidious disease. You’re 40 now. Have you become more aware of staying on top

of health checks, or generally being more aware of your own mortality?

I think I’ve become less self-conscious in terms of body image, but more conscious of taking care of myself. The past four years [since having children] have been a slog. Everyone has been there, but it’s exhausting. It’s only recently where I thought, if we’re going to achieve what we want to achieve over the next year, having our family across two places and wanting to be there for my kids – and not just come home and have a nap, which is what I was having to do for awhile – I need to shift focus. I bought a bike so I can come home and go for a ride and clear the air a bit. I bought a lockbox for my phone. I’m trialling intermittent fasting. I’ve cut back on coffee. Before you turn 40, you have this false sense of: things have gone so well, what could possibly go wrong? After 40, you think, OK … actually, you do need to take care of yourself. With Neil’s ill health [Varcoe was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome a few years ago], I see every day how impactful that is on the family. So I think it was a case of: I need to take care of myself, because I’m kind of at the centre of holding this whole shebang together.

To support the 2024 Witchery White Shirt Campaign and the OCRF, buy a white shirt between now and World Ovarian Cancer Day on May 8. Shop online at witchery.com.au or at Witchery stores throughout Australia.

Listen to the full interview with Edwina on Something To Talk About below:

Originally published as Edwina Bartholomew: ‘I don’t give a sh*t about mother’s guilt’

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