Family Story: could life be any more perfect?
It's hard to imagine a more idyllic childhood than what the Koots family are creating for their daughter, Isla. Laura Koots shares her introduction to motherhood with us.
They say that if you find what you love doing, you’ll never work a day in your life. This couldn't be more true for southern woman Laura Koot who has well and truly created a life she is passionate about. Laura and husband Dan, along with three- month-old daughter Isla, live by the lake in Kingston, Southland, in a house Dan has renovated. This is their haven, their place of calm in what is a beautiful and busy life.
Along with running her business, Real Country, which offers authentic farm experiences as well as farm skills and hunting workshops, Laura is Publicity Officer for the Southland Sheep Dog Trial Club, Vice Chair of Lumsden Medical Centre, Secretary of Garston Sheep Dog Trial Club, and Executive Director of The Fairlight Foundation – a charitable trust providing internships for young women wanting to get into the agriculture industry… Oh and she has her own podcast – Stockwhips & Lattes. It’s hard to imagine fitting a new baby in but Laura has taken the birth of their daughter Isla in her stride – as she seems to do with almost everything that comes her way. At eight months pregnant she was still out on the farm mustering sheep, and worked right up until the day her waters broke.
While she breezed through her pregnancy, Laura describes Isla’s birth as a ‘marathon’. “Nothing went to plan, I didn’t have my midwife there as there were four other births that day. Winton Maternity Centre, where I’d planned to go, was full, so we ended up at Southland Hospital in Invercargill which was also chocca but thankfully managed to get us in at the last minute”. Post birth, she and Isla spent two days resting and recovering at Winton Maternity Centre as a space had opened up, “I left there feeling confident and comfortable, and it has set the tone for my motherhood journey.
I feel so grateful I was able to have this sort of maternity care. I know a lot of new mums just can’t get in if it’s full, but it’s so important. All mothers should have post birth maternity care as a right in New Zealand.”
Although Isla is Laura’s first baby, farm life has meant she’s raised plenty of fur babies, including two deer which she took everywhere with her while they were little. “It’s not so different in a lot of ways”, says Laura. When people ask her what it’s like adjusting to motherhood her response is simply, “It’s not easy, it’s not hard, it just is.”
Farming is in Laura’s blood, having grown up on a sheep and deer farm in Mossburn, “We had the best childhood” she says, “our parents gave us loads of independence from a young age, we were confident in our abilities – urban kids don't always get that. We had a sense of responsibility and there were consequences to our actions on the farm. I want to do what I can to build confidence in Isla like that, to create a safe and loving environment for her” says Laura.
Laura's life wasn’t always on the farm though. Rewind five years and you would have found her in a fast-paced corporate job in Wellington CBD – immaculately dressed, and about as far from country life as possible. “I had a pretty turbulent corporate life, I was making lots of money but I was desperately unhappy, I knew I had to make a change, I couldn’t just keep doing the same thing and expect a different result” she says. So one day Laura got out pen and paper and started to draw a picture of her dream life – it was a farm, with mountains in the background, a horse in a paddock and a dog at her feet. This was the moment where she started to realise that her heart was somewhere else and she decided to take the plunge and traded her stilettos for a pair of gummies. “I never dreamed in a million years that I’d be running a rural business, married to the love of my life, and having children… I’ve created a life that I’m so proud of” shares Laura.
Growing her confidence has been a big hurdle for Laura, who struggled with this in the past. Now she’s on a mission to help other young girls believe in themselves and to empower them to learn practical skills. She has the opportunity to do this through her business, Real Country, where along with a number of workshops, she runs a Southern Girl Finishing School where rather than learning how to polish marble and walk with books stacked on their heads, these girls learn to do things such as shoot, jump-start a car, and crack a stock whip. The charitable trust that Laura helps to run also offers year-long internships for young women interested in getting into the agriculture industry, gaining real life skills on the job. Laura hopes to help the young women she works with to develop the mindset that just because they haven’t done something before doesn't mean they can’t. “Lots of young women are lacking confidence, confidence must be built, you do that by putting yourself in unfamiliar situations, doing something new. Once you develop that confidence in yourself you're unstoppable” she says.
When asked how life is going to look from now on with a baby in tow, Laura says “In all honesty I don't know how I'm going to juggle it but I know that my priorities have changed, I’m cutting myself some slack. It’s not easy when you’re used to achieving a lot and I don’t want to let people down, but right now the most important thing in my world is Isla.” While motherhood is still new to Laura, she’s already discovering what it means to her, “For me it’s about love, trust, and mutual respect. It’s easy to love but trust and respect must be earned, and that’s really precious.” She also believes that timing in life is key, “I’m so grateful that I’m becoming a mum now, not 10 years ago. I wouldn’t be enjoying it as much as I am now if I didn’t have that belief in myself. And now I can instill that in Isla too” she says.
Laura is living proof that a lot can happen in five years, and she’s not slowing down anytime soon. Looking ahead she wants to see the charitable trust and her business continue to grow and impact more people, and to buy some land. “Our dream is to have a horse paddock out the front for my horses, and a dirt bike track out the back for Dan – that would be nice, but honestly, everything I've ever wanted I have right now.”
Words: Kahu de Beer
Photography: Francine Boer Photography
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 58 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW