The mamas are baking it for themselves

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Karen Swan... “The domestic stuff has to happen, no matter what, so you need to find a way to manage it that doesn’t make you resentful.” Photo by Gary Schafer
Karen Swan… “The domestic stuff has to happen, no matter what, so you need to find a way to manage it that doesn’t make you resentful.” Photo by Gary Schafer
COOK with a group of friends, make it fun, then share out the meals so everyone gets some time off – MamaBake is a simple idea that Karen Swan, MamaBake’s Canberra community manager, says is more about community and camaraderie than food, although it helps that you’ll come out of it with dinner organised for the week.

“The domestic stuff has to happen, no matter what, so you need to find a way to manage it that doesn’t make you resentful,” says Karen.

“I’m not shy when I have people over, I’ll say here’s a basket of laundry, how about you fold that while I make you a cup of tea.

“It’s that idea of it takes a village – who has time to sit and chat for an hour? We all have so much to do at home, and it’s about bringing back that sense of working together to lessen the load.”

Karen says that’s what appealed to her about MamaBake – it encourages honesty in motherhood.

“We’re not saying it’s a problem that needs fixing, but we’re helping mums find the support they need to nurture their baby and keep themselves sane,” she says. is a huge online community, providing access to more than 600 big-batch recipes – anything from curries, pies, muffins and dips to homemade bath salts and dry shampoo. They also have more than 20,000 members on Facebook.

Karen says they’re also aiming to get people to look up from their phones and facilitate real-life interaction instead.

“Sure, the online village has its place, and can be essential when you’re a stay-at-home mum, but at MamaBake we want to bring people together in real life,” she says.

“Sometimes those networks just aren’t there, for people who are new to Canberra, for example, and we can help bring together like-minded people.”

This will start with a series of meet-and-greet workshops, the first on October 9, which will bring MamaBakers together and give them the tools and connections to organise their own group.

The movement started in 2010, when Byron Bay founder Michelle Shearer hit upon the idea of group big-batch cooking to free up more time for surfing.

Karen came on board three years ago, and says it was a logical step for her as she was keen to give back to her local community.

“We want to recognise that sometimes getting the evening meal on the table is really stressful with small kids,” she says. “It all adds to the maternal stress. And what I notice in my home is that my mood sets the tone for the entire house.”

Karen says the most important thing about organising a MamaBake is to keep it simple.

“Don’t over think it,” she says. “Bring the kids and your biggest pot. We’ve found it’s less about the food and more about the mood – the camaraderie and the conversation. But we are keen on the collaborative consumption movement, helping with family budgets and reducing excess and wastage.”

It’s not solely in the domain of mothers, either, with a BlokeBake Facebook page that hasn’t seen much love, and a more successful SistaBake movement targeted at young, working women.

“MamaBake doesn’t discriminate on gender, relationship status or even if you have children – obviously the basic model is targeted at mums doing the lion’s share of the domestics, but there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ family unit, so diversity is welcomed,” Karen says. “A village is a village, whether that includes the traditional family unit or not!”

Part of MamaBake’s “Mamafesto” is no judgement, and the acknowledgement that there’s no such thing as a perfect mother or the perfect house.

“MamaBake is just come as you are. Whatever works for you is fine, whatever that might be. You don’t need a big kitchen or a tidy house.

“You do have to abandon yourself to a bit of chaos, noise and mess, but isn’t that all part of life?”

The first meet and greet is at Gungaderra Homestead Community Centre, 24 Sapling Street, Harrison, 11.30am-1pm, on Thursday, October 9. Alternatively, join the group on Facebook or visit

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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist with a particular interest in homes and gardens.

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