Libby Babet spills on the working parent juggle

With authenticity and an unrivalled energy, Libby Babet is living her best life. After turning a passion for fitness into a successful career, Libby has spent the past decade building brilliant brands and inspiring women to get active and feel fierce.

But it’s Libby’s role as working parent that has us glued to her Insta feed for inspiration. One scroll reveals a business woman as thoughtful and honest as she is passionate and driven; slaying it with an infectious smile and a toddler in tow.

Here, Libby shares the realities of the work-life juggle, learning to embrace a simpler life, and her number one fitness tip.

You have an awesome track record in health and fitness, working in media and building some incredible businesses. Can you share a little about your career journey with us?
Sure! As you mentioned, I began my career in media as a journalist and later as a magazine editor, but all that hit a brick wall in my early 20s when I was diagnosed with chronic hypertension and my blood pressure was more than double safe levels. Doctors had no idea what caused it, but told me I’d be on medication for the rest of my life which would harm my liver and make it next to impossible to have kids. It also gave me terrible skin and destroyed my confidence. I was trained as a journalist, so I put those skills to use and started researching how I might be able to improve things through the right kind of fitness and nutrition.

Within a few years of working closely with a number of specialists, to the surprise of all my doctors I got off the blood pressure pills completely. This set me on a course into health and fitness because the more I learned, the more passionate I became about sharing that knowledge. Over the following decade I built a number of businesses including dance-inspired fitness with The Upbeat, healthy snacks with Chief Bar and Beauty Food, and more recently business/wellness retreats in Fiji with Nurture Her and Nurture 360.

We love that you’re wholly focused on inspiring women to find joy in fitness by making it simple and fun. Were there ever any times in your career that you needed a little inspiration, and how did you find it?
Yes! The whole reason I started The Upbeat (which was originally an outdoor group training business under another name) was because I was at the beginning of my health journey, and even though I was a sporty kid at school and ran 200m for Queensland, I was turned off by ‘fitness’. I just wasn’t excited about going to the gym or going to a regular bootcamp and being shouted at, and I knew if I wasn’t excited I wouldn’t stick with it. 

For me, sport was always a joy, not a punishment, and because I couldn’t find anything like that, I went and got qualified as a personal trainer and created it for me and my girlfriends.

You have a gorgeous daughter, Izzy. How has motherhood changed your perspective on life and career?
Ahh she’s pretty darn gorgeous our little Izzy, and a handful! You know, I think the biggest change for me is I used to spend so much energy before Izzy came along worrying about stupid s*** that really doesn’t matter, like worrying about what people think about me or making sure I’m seen at the latest industry event. 

Being a mum means you have a lot less time to worry about things that don’t lift you up, but also for me, it put things into perspective about what truly matters. I’m actually so much happier now just doing my thing, circling between the work and communities I’m so passionate about, and being mumma to my favourite little human!

What does a typical work day look like for you?
Most days start at 4.30am to get up, prep and then run classes at The Upbeat. I finish up around 8.30am, clean the gym and then have a quick bite of breakfast if I have time. (Side note: the fact that I lead classes for a few hours on end means that I need food that is high in nutrients to get me through to breakfast. This may sound like a promo, but I honestly wouldn’t make it to breakfast if not for Chief Bar and Beauty Food.)

From there it’s team management, customer service, marketing, meetings, collaborations, shooting video content, clearing emails (which I’m terrible at), and generally trying to fit everything into my three days that Izzy is at daycare. 

Izzy comes home with my husband, Justin, around 5.30pm and then it’s dinner, bath, books and bed! She shares our bed these days as it’s just easier for me to manage her ups and downs this way when I’m up so early in the morning myself. I used to worry about that, but now I’ve realised so many people do exactly the same! 

On my ‘Izzy days’ I plan fun adventures and off we go together! The hardest days are when I have to combine work + Izzy, for example if she’s sick or I have a big project due and have to work a little while she’s home… Those are days I dread, I like to keep things separate!

How do you share the work-life juggle with Justin?
Justin usually does the Izzy drop-off and pick-up to daycare which means I get the most I can from my work days. When Izzy isn’t in daycare, I try to switch off the best I can and be present with Izzy, which means Justin often checks my email or helps keep me organised. 

It’s not perfect, things slip through the gaps on a regular basis, but we’re doing the best we can and surviving!

What do you love most about being a working parent?
I don’t know if I love being a working parent if I’m honest. I would both love to soak up all this time with Izzy as well as have more time to chase my career dreams and goals. I’m trying to have it all but at the end of the day, the reality is some compromise just needs to happen and, while I don’t love that, I’m okay with that. Life is never perfect, and saying yes to one thing will always mean saying no to something else. That’s just the way it is, I guess!

The juggle sure is real! What are some of the challenges you face as a working parent, and how do you keep up and keep smiling?
The hardest thing for me is when Izzy and work both need me at the same time. I end up doing both poorly and while I can cope with one of those stressors, both of them at once are what I find hardest. I’m getting better at asking for help from my team, having the right people and processes in place, and learning to do one thing at a time, which usually means turning my phone on silent when I’m with Izzy (as much as practical at least!).

How do you set work-life boundaries and make time for the things you love?
One good tip I got from Layne Beachley at Nurture Her is to ask, “Is it a ‘hell, yeah’ or a ‘f*** no’?” If it’s not a ‘hell, yeah’, I’m now getting better at saying ‘f*** no’!

I’ve had to get a lot better at saying ‘no’. I’ve always tended to get excited about new things and chasing new opportunities, which is part of why we have quite a few businesses. Since Izzy came along, we had to work hard to simplify all of those businesses a hell of a lot so they’re much easier to run, and it’s much easier for me to focus because we have the right people in place. I also sold another fitness business I had and we moved to the apartment right above The Upbeat studio which honestly saves me about one and a half hours a day in travel, not least of which because I can shop across the road! So those were my first steps – simplify, make space, start saying no.

And while it’s been particularly hard to set boundaries while we’ve been trying to navigate through the challenges of COVID, we’re in a good place now where I can schedule the odd day off, turn off the phone, and just be with my little family. We like the simple things in life like walking to a local cafe for breakfast, reading a book if Izzy will let us, and then going for a long walk to wherever.

Your effortless approach to health and wellness is so refreshing. What is your top wellness tip for busy working parents?
Thank you! Well, you know I think the key thing for busy people is to just understand that the 80:20 principle is the most important part of health and fitness. The rule says that 80% of your results will come from 20% of what you do. Where most people go wrong is they focus on the wrong things, or try to do everything at once and they get overwhelmed. 

When it comes to fitness, the number one thing you can do is move more. That can simply mean more walking: aim for 12,000 steps a day (10,000 is maintenance; for me, the magic with your health and body shape come at 12,000+) and get yourself a step tracker to make this real. That’s it. I get so many girls asking me, “What’s the best workout,” but they’re doing maybe three workouts a week and then sitting down all day for the rest of the time. Just focus on the basics. If you’ve got your movement down pat, then look at doing some form of fitness that you really look forward to. For me, that’s dance- and music-based fitness like we do at The Upbeat.

With nutrition, it’s the same. I see people following calorie restrictive diets, keto diets, paleo, plant based, etc., but they don’t understand the fundamentals of good nutrition, so while they might lose some weight they’re not setting themselves up for long-term success or health. The basics include: cut down the sugar (aim for foods with less than 5g per 100g, and don’t drink sugar like soft drink or fruit juice – vege juice is great), avoid inflammatory oils like seed and vegetable oils (they’re in so many packaged foods), and eat enough protein, especially for breakfast (aim for 1g per kg of body weight per day). 

When I need a good laugh… I chase Izzy around the house with lots of tickles, or watch a really corny comedy movie.

Favourite time of the day… 5am when it’s still and quiet and ‘just me’ prepping for the day, or 5pm when Izzy gets home from daycare and runs in screaming MUMMY with her arms open!

I’m grateful for… my healthy family, my creative work… and books. Always books.

Discover more Real Stories from our Circle In community HERE.

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