Having experienced trauma and isolation in her life, mother-of-three Alena Turley set out to create spaces in real life and online for mums that, despite adoring their children, wished for connection beyond the home. After connecting thousands of women in mum-communities and sharing powerful ideas on how they can reconnect deeply within themselves as they emerge through motherhood, she was inspired to create Soul Mama, providing simple, accessible ways for mothers to have more fun, feel less lonely and walk confidently through life. Through activation workshops presented by globally respected practitioners, monthly mama-circles and group coaching sessions, side-by-side with a supportive and soulful women’s community, she is able to reach new mums who are feeling isolated and disconnected. Here, Alena talks to the Natural Parent Magazine about the inspiration behind Soul Mama, the importance of support and connection for new mums, and her hopes and dreams for the future.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
Growing up, I had always felt different. Perhaps it was the single mother, diverse cultural background, or my hippy, motorcycle-riding Dad. Back then, it seemed like those things made me ‘weird’. I was an only child, and a deep thinker – an awkward combination that led to a pervasive sense of shyness and isolation.
Jump to many years later, well into my 40s, now with three children, actively recovering from earlier traumas, I had still never once fit into mainstream mothers’ groups. It was crystal clear that many new mums felt similarly isolated and disconnected. The powerful combination of social shifts, physical depletion and emotional changes that parenthood brings often leaves women feeling lost and thinking, “where did my life go?”.
I sense many of us yearn for an experience akin to washing clothes together down by the river, but with our women friends and sisters in scattered locations, being slaves to complex schedules, we often miss out on regular get-togethers.
Although becoming a mother seems to write a new story on our hearts in indelible ink, there is still only one obscure and little-used word for it: matrescence. I find it strange that we don’t have a common language for such a momentous thing in a woman’s life.
Personally, the sense of ‘feeling different’ never really left, however, armed with the knowledge that many of us feel the same, I went about creating spaces in real life and online for people who, despite adoring their children, wished for connection beyond the home.
Eventually, after connecting thousands of women in mum-communities and sharing powerful ideas on how to reconnect deeply within ourselves as we emerge through motherhood, I stumbled upon my life’s work.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
Soul Mama began back when ‘blogging’ was a new and exciting medium. It was 2009 and I was living in a shabby rental right on the beach in south-eastern Sydney. A Twitter friend helped me set up my first page online and I started writing about healing from addictions, recovering from abusive relationships and transforming myself through soulful parenting and ‘living green’.
My son was just 6 and I had been a solo parent since he was 4 weeks old, studying construction and working part-time in an art centre. Life gave me plenty to write about.
Eventually, I started a new family and over the course of several years, we had multiple miscarriages, birthed our first child, got married, then moved to Bath, in England.
We began to eat and grow organic food, clean our home with natural products as we endured fertility struggles. Soon it led me to study permaculture design and education. I experienced just about every health and wellness modality under the sun along the way too.
Finally, after four years of trying for a second child together and shortly after our move to Bath (an ancient healing place), my partner and I had our second child together. I was 45 and a new parent again in a foreign city with very little day-to-day support.
Again, I felt alone and out of place.
But this time, something different happened. Out of sheer desperation, I built a local online community around values of inclusiveness, real woman-to-woman support and non-judgement.
Almost 3 years later when we left Bath to return to Australia, the community had grown to around 3000 people (it is now up to more than 7,000). It became clear then that many of us needed this kind of connection and real mentorship within a safe, accessible space. Even more real to me was the confidence that I could lead it.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
On returning to Australia many different ideas presented themselves. I focused on finding the best way to offer an experience to women who needed a soul-sister community, but like me, were time-poor and had often gotten lost in the murky trenches of early parenthood.
I was determined to find a way to support lonely mothers who yearned to bring their alternative and earth-loving values into daily family life in light and fun ways.
I asked the question, how do we harness this unique opportunity, this moment in time, when so many of us seek to discover a greater purpose as our babies grow into children and we start to look up from the endless nappies, breast pads and sleepless nights?
How do I support women who know deep down that their entire presence is the best present they can give to their families?
After exploring everything from non-profits to tech start-ups to documentary-making, I discovered a proven model that combines the gold of expert educators and wellbeing practitioners worldwide with the magic sauce of a supportive community of women.
The Soul Mama Academy offers a combination of monthly activation workshops presented by globally respected practitioners, monthly mama-circles and group coaching sessions side-by-side with a supportive and soulful women’s community.