Being a darling of Australian television isn’t for the faint-hearted. Whether it’s filming a show, presenting, acting, producing, glamming up for a photoshoot or involving herself in a myriad of other commitments that fill her plate, Julia Morris has a schedule that doesn’t lend itself to downtime.

But, despite the hectic timetable, she has a generous energy that she shares with everyone from work colleagues to people on the street. She emits the sort of warmth you might expect and, yes, she really is that funny. Yet for all her celebrity – and probably more sequins – Julia is all of us. At the heart of it all, she’s just a hardworking mum, juggling the ups and downs of this crazy life and doing it all with her inimitable cackle.

When Julia chats with us via Zoom from her Melbourne home, she’s multitasking like the mother-slash-internationally-acclaimed-wearer-of-many-and-varied-hats that she is. First, she’s making a cheese sandwich for her daughter, who’s home sick. Next, she’s brewing herself a coffee in a mug cheerfully emblazoned with the words ‘Productive as F**k’. “How does she do it all?” she half-jokes, finally sinking into her couch.

“By making sure she gives absolutely zero time to herself. That’s how she does it!” And with a typically comedic flourish, “It’s very relaxing.”

Relaxing isn’t something Julia does very often. For starters, she’s an in-demand TV presenter, actress, comedian, writer and producer who’s graced our screens with her delightful brand of charisma for more than 25 years. She’s also mother to Ruby, 15, and Sophie, 13. Last year, like so many others, she navigated the many challenges of Melbourne’s enduring lockdowns with her family.

She wrote a satirical self-help manual, Julia Morris Makes it Easy: Hilariously Half-Baked Life Advice From Yet Another Deluded Celebrity. And she filmed the eighth season of the hit Network Ten reality series I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! – a job she’s clearly passionate about.

Her favourite aspect of the show’s latest instalment? The honesty. “Every year, people open up more,” Julia says. “I think that, after the past few [difficult] years, everyone’s really dropping their masks. Not their actual face masks; they’re dropping the mask of life. I’m hearing a lot more of my friends now saying, ‘I’m not actually coping that well,’ which is the first time I’ve heard that. I’m always brutally honest about all that stuff because I figure that, if I’m being honest, other people will be honest back with me.”

Transition To Joy

Honesty is Julia’s stock and trade; what you see is what you get. She really is naturally upbeat, though she says she works at being positive, too. “The majority of the time, I do wake up genuinely happy,” she shares. “I think that’s also because I’m on the other side of my menopause. What an extraordinary treat that process is. I know everyone around me really enjoyed me going through that,” she says with a smile and a hint of sarcasm.

“Honestly, I thought I was going nutty. I was thinking, ‘Oh, my God, I’m so cross all the time.’ I definitely don’t feel like that anymore. That crossover between the first half and second half of your life is an interesting transition. “I feel like, for years, I’ve been a bit of a people pleaser. But there’s something in the transition postmenopause that makes you stop doing that and start honouring what you need. Sometimes it feels uncomfortable, speaking up, but you reach a certain age where you think, ‘I don’t know why I’m disrespecting myself when I don’t disrespect another human being.’ I have to set an example for the two girls I’m raising.”

A New Perspective

Postmenopause, Julia is seeing the world through new eyes – literally. In August last year, she underwent a surgical eye lift – or blepharoplasty – and it’s made everything brighter. “I see a dermatologist once a year, because I’ve had a few melanomas, and I said to her, ‘Look at all the beef on top of my eyes!’” Julia recalls. “It’d got to the point where I’d be in the make-up chair for work and the make-up artist would have to drag back a whole handful of skin to put my eye make-up on.

“I didn’t think I’d ever be a ‘facelift person’, but the dermatologist told me about this amazing surgeon downstairs. I made the appointment and he sent me for a field of vision test. When the results came back, I discovered I didn’t have access to 25 per cent of my eye. So then I started saying to people, no, it’s not cosmetic… it’s actually medical. It’s not a cheap adventure, but it was worth every penny. I can see the difference, the colour of my eyes is super obvious now, even the light feels different. Beauty hasn’t been a big part of my business. Making fun of myself has been a big part of my business. So this wasn’t something for work or for anybody; it was just something for me.

“Somebody said to me recently, ‘Oh, you’ve had your eyes done. What will you have done next?’ But, no – I remember lying in bed in the recovery position, thinking, ‘This is the only surgery I’ll have.’ It’s great for my eyes, I can see better – unreal – but if I’m going to wave the honesty flag, then I need to age gracefully.

Embracing Midlife

At 53, Julia is still at the top of her professional game, but does she ever worry about succumbing to the sense of invisibility that often consumes women of a certain age? No – the key, she says, is accepting when each stage of your life is over. “I’m sure people will disagree with me, but I no longer feel like a sexy person, so I’m no longer in a low top,” she shares. “I’ve turned down the volume on that because I’m becoming an elder. Instead of being worried that I don’t look 20 anymore, I’ve let that go. What I can accept is that, suddenly, my opinion is being heard.

“I know that it’s not old in the general scheme of people, but at 53 I have confidence that I know what I’m talking about. There may be an invisibility if I’m trading on looks, but there’s also a large awakening; I won’t be talked down. Invisibility as we get older is real, but only if you need to be seen in a certain way. If you can accept that, then once you start embracing the next part of your life, it really doesn’t matter.”

Less easy for Julia to accept was the pandemic addled bin fire that was 2021. As Melbourne succumbed to yet more gruelling lockdowns, Julia, like so many of us, struggled. “The most challenging part for me was that, when my children were younger, I felt like I could make things better,” she says. “This was the first time in their lives that I couldn’t do anything about it. We just had to take each day at a time. I have watched my kids and their friends go through very upsetting times, missing out on these great life markers and never getting that time back again. The feeling of sadness was palpable. The uncertainty was beyond unnerving. The interesting thing is that I wasn’t feeling aggressive. I wasn’t feeling cross. I was feeling bereft. It’s like we’ve been going through a weird period of mourning for the past two years.”

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Finding Peace

One positive to emerge from the past year was Julia’s recognition that she, like so many women juggling the insurmountable pressures of work and family, needs to find more time to just breathe; to find slivers of time and space for herself, when every spare second is usually spent for others. “I need to turn down the volume on the cortisol and the adrenaline and just smell the roses a bit,” Julia says. “It feels like I get up at dawn’s crack and punch chores until I get into bed at 10. I just keep on going like an Eveready bunny.

“I’m realising I need to find where the stillness is. It’s the quieting of the mind I’m having a little trouble with, but I’m getting there. One change that I have made is slowing things down in the house and doing more things together. When the children were younger, I wouldn’t have bothered them, but now I say, ‘While I’m cooking, you can do the dishwasher.’ It’s about being okay with sharing the load and not having to make everyone else’s life okay by doing it all.”

As for the year ahead? Julia’s New Year’s resolution is to never make New Year’s resolutions. For now, she’s just waiting to see how it all unfolds. “I’m happy if my children are happy,” she says. “If we start seeing some more normality in 2022, then we’ll be closer to that. I’d love to be able to say something inspirational here – like, in 2022 I’m going to learn how to tap dance and finally get my Singer sewing machine out and do some embroidery. No! As I get older, my pleasures are becoming more and more simple. My new life lesson is just accepting how things are going to roll.”

© Prevention Australia