Abi Cernik
Team MOM

I don’t know about you, but I love to hear other people’s stories. There’s just something about the lessons, the laughs and the life it can bring to your soul, when you realise you’re not alone, you can do this, and that however lonely the road may feel sometimes, it has been navigated by others who have not only survived, but thrived and blossomed and bloomed.

Today we want to introduce you to Nicola. If you want to know how to balance life with a husband, three children, a role that involves pioneering and pastoring a growing church (Hillsong Melbourne), teaching, preaching, and you know, balancing the rest of what life entails, then she is your girl.

Mamas, meet Nicola Douglass…

Firstly, for those who may not know you, tell us who you are and what you love most in life

My Name is Nicola Douglass. I’m an English girl who lives in Melbourne Australia. I’m a mum to three beautiful kids and wife to Tim. Together Tim and myself pastor our Hillsong Melbourne Campuses. What I love most in life is feeling like I am becoming the woman I was created to be, which in turn is the most challenging and stretching thing at times.

Describe each of your kids in 3 words:

This is so hard! They can be a lot of things all in one minute 😉

Leila- Compassionate

Cooper- Tender-hearted

Elani- Affectionate

What’s your go to album for a crazy sing in the car?

Well this is shameful, but if I want to dance in the car, then I go back to the 90’s RNB songs I used to listen to at school! Usher, Destiny Child, old school Beyoncé.

How have you found your motherhood journey so far?

A roller coaster ride. Each season has been so different. With Leila (my first), I was so stressed and anxious to do everything right. I was very highly strung and drove myself crazy trying to be the ‘ perfect’ mum. By the time Elani (my third) came along I was so much more relaxed. The illusion of a perfect mum had completely gone, so I was able to enjoy it far more. When it comes to motherhood, you are constantly learning. I may have just finished the nappy and toilet training seasons, but now I have kids at school starting sex education! 😬 So I’m having to navigate how to raise and teach my kids a Godly perspective, in a world whose mentality is so different, whilst, at the same time trying to maintain their innocence. I think you never arrive as a parent, each season brings new joys and challenges.

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in this season?

This season of life has been extremely busy for both Tim and myself, which often means being away from the kids. However, one thing I have been very intentional about is making sure my kids know that they are always my priority.

I remember recently, it was Saturday night, and I was meant to be preaching the next morning. Leila came running in to our room and started vomiting. She vomited all night 🙁 Mid vomit she said, “I am so sorry! I know you have to preach tomorrow and I have kept you up all night!” (Leila the compassionate!). Straight away, I told her that there is no where I would rather be, and I would be at home all day with her, so we could stay in bed and watch movies. She said, “But mum you have to preach! I will be ok!’” And I told her that she was my priority and no matter what, I will always be there for her when she needs me. In that moment, she threw her hands around my neck and was so grateful.

I have come to realise that when my kids know they are the priority, they are confident, feel secure and because of this are happy to release me. They are the most wonderful, releasing kids and they’re very big spirited. They amaze me. They just need to know that when they need you- you will be there no questions asked.

What’s been the biggest change/adjustment/challenge since becoming a mum?

Having time to myself!! I am an introvert so I recharge by being on my own. But I can barely go to the bathroom without being interrupted 🙂 I have far less time for myself, especially with three kids and a demanding job. So, when I’m feeling tired, run down, stressed or overwhelmed, I know I’m overdue for some time to myself. Tim is amazing and will have the kids when possible so I can go and sit by an ocean and read, walk around the shops and window shop (ok, let’s be honest I always buy something!), or go to a movie with a girlfriend. I try not to wait till I am overdue for some ‘me’ time. Scheduling it in the diary has been a great thing. At first, I felt guilty about it, but if I am well within myself then everything and everyone around me will do better. If I am running on empty then I have nothing to give others. So, I’ve had to be a lot more intentional with this.

When you’ve struggled what has helped you get through the hard times of parenting?

Prayer & People!

Prayer- sounds like the pastors go-to answer. But it works!! No matter what the situation; your kids are acting up, you are overwhelmed, you feel like it’s ground hog day and you will never accomplish anything other than change nappies, tidy the house and make dinner that you throw out because the kids won’t eat it… no matter the feeling or situation, prayer works. It helps lift your focus from your situation, it gives you a clear perspective on how God sees you and what you are going through, it refreshes your soul and gives you peace, it enables you to draw strength from God when you have nothing left, it changes your confession, it can turn around situations because what is impossible with man is possible with God! Prayer is our greatest weapon, it goes where we can’t and does what we never could.

Second is people! Motherhood can be so isolating and so a huge lesson for me was being intentional on not doing motherhood alone. Do it alongside others. You will find everyone is feeling and going through similar things and if they aren’t now, they have been at some point, so they can give you encouragement, advice and support. God created us for community, it’s not good for man to be alone! So, don’t do the mum journey alone. Friends will be your greatest joy and strength in this season.

How would you say your relationship with God has changed since becoming a mum?

I think my biggest revelation of God since becoming a mum was getting a clearer understanding of His father’s heart for me. Before you have a child, you can’t imagine how you will feel, the love you will have. You would do anything, sacrifice everything to make sure your kid is safe and happy…so how much more does our Father in Heaven feel about us?! This revelation has changed my relationship with God. I know without a doubt God wants me to live happy, secure, thriving, abundant, blessed, fulfilled and called. I don’t have to strive and labour to get in His ‘good graces’. I can rest, knowing that nothing I can do will make Him love me more or any less. This is so freeing.

Have you managed to find a rhythm, a time, a place, a way to connect with God regularly?

This is always a challenge and changes with the season. However, I have found first thing in the morning to be the best, even if it’s just praying and committing the day to Him the moment my eyes open. So, from the outset I am aware and mindful of God and what He is wanting to do in my day, that He isn’t an after-thought. The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. I used to think that this is completely unachievable! However now I find myself doing exactly this. All day; in the shower, driving somewhere, when I am happy or grateful, sad or stressed, in a meeting and making decisions, I just talk to God. Tell Him my feelings, ask for help, ask for wisdom, tell Him thank- you when I feel blessed. Whatever it is I just talk to God. It has become a natural habit.

How important do you think God is to the ‘flourish, Mama, flourish’ equation? (Flourish is our theme for the year)

I think it’s completely impossible to flourish to our full potential without God. He knows our capabilities and purpose more than we ever could.

For you, a woman or mother who’s flourishing, is:

Being faithful with what she has in her hand in that moment.

Finish this sentence, I feel most alive and fulfilled when:

I do something scared (sometimes petrified) and God’s grace helps me to succeed and do what I never thought I could. #hisgraceissufficient

Do you ever get #mumguilt? What about and how do you beat it?

All the time! I think most of the time we are our own worst critics. Every time I hear a mum talk about the amazing organic, home cooked meals their kids get every night I feel guilty. In really busy weeks, when I have failed to be organised, I get home from work some nights and my kids are lucky to have a meal at all 🙂

I have learnt to be kind to myself. I can be really hard on myself. I have learnt to be less highly strung and have a bigger perspective. Some things actually do not matter! Let’s keep the main things the important things. The rest is just a bonus.

What do you do to look after you – your soul, your body, your sanity?

I love going to the gym! It’s an hour by myself and it’s good for my energy, fitness and body. I feel so much better when I make time to exercise. I also need to have time with girlfriends. Going to the movies, long dinners, going to the theatre. These feed my soul.

Realistically and practically, how do you think we can make a difference outside our crayon-covered walls?

Wherever you see a place to be like Jesus – speak truth, bring compassion, help the needy, love people, give community to the lonely, tend to the sick…. the options are endless. Start there. Every little act we do makes a difference to that ONE person. Jesus cares about every ONE. So, start with one and see how God opens up room in your life for more.

If your journey so far has taught you anything – it’s:

What we fill our days with will become our lives. Be intentional with what you put into each day because over time that’s what our lives reflect, model and become.

If you had one piece of encouragement for a mum who is struggling what would it be?

We have all been there! None of us have it together all the time, and you will get through this. Just don’t do it alone. Do it with the help of the Holy Spirit, He brings fruit into our lives! Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I don’t know about you but I need all these in my life when parenting kids!! As well as having friends to support you.

And, you know, just how do you do it all??

I don’t!! I’m never doing it all at one time. Balance is a myth. You cannot be giving church all it needs and kids all they need and your husband all he needs and the house all the attention it needs, all at once. I give the kids time and know they are good, then I spend time working really hard at work, then I will notice Tim and I hardly have seen each other so we organise a few days away, then the kids need some more time, the church needs more attention again. It’s a constant recalibration of priority, based on what’s most needed.

Inspired much?


Hope this has spoken to your heart, Mama. Has anything encouraged you or inspired you to think differently? We’d love to hear from you!

-Abi xo