'Nicole Kidman stole my life'

Kerri Sackville was thwarted as an actress, but her career as a writer has blossomed

By Simon Round, April 26, 2012
Sackville’s disarmingly honest book about marriage and family life is a best-seller in her native Austrailia

Sackville’s disarmingly honest book about marriage and family life is a best-seller in her native Austrailia

Kerri Sackville is not exhausted. This is an unfamiliar feeling for the Australian writer whose debut book about the trials and tribulations of family life has become a best-seller Down Under.

A week into a visit to the UK to promote When My Husband Does the Dishes (He usually wants sex!) the jet-lag has worn off, and Sackville is bursting with energy. As her book describes, this is not a feeling you get very often when you are attempting to work, run a home and raise a family of three children.

She says: "At home I am constantly exhausted and last thing at night I just want to crawl into bed and go to sleep. I don't generally want to chat to my husband… so to speak."

Sackville is clearly a devoted wife and mother. However no one could accuse her of idealising family life. Rather, When My Husband Does the Dishes is a painfully honest (and, at times, painfully funny) dissection of the experience, including chapters entitled "Sleep is better than sex" and "I caught vomit in my hands".

The book is revealing about Sackville's life and particularly her relationship with her children and her husband, Tony, whom she refers to as "The Architect". In fact, most men would consider some of the details a little too personal. Sackville says Tony is fine with it.

‘I thought I'd be a cool mum, but no, I'm totally embarrassing'

"I'm so lucky with my husband. Most men wouldn't be happy with that stuff being written about them. I think partially it's just that he's resigned to it. What I write about are my experiences of motherhood and marriage. Everything in the book is 100 per cent true but it is not 100 per cent of the truth. As far as my kids go - well, my oldest son is 13 and coming up for his barmitzvah and he didn't want to be known for being in the book. But I'm his mother and I'm embarrassing. I thought I'd be a cool mum and they'd all be proud of me. But no, I'm a total embarrassment."

Sackville started writing after her first child was born. She had assumed she would be content to be a full-time mum but after 10 months she was climbing the walls. So she went back to university to do a degree in English and linguistics, and after her first daughter was born began writing articles and sending them off to newspapers and parenting magazines. Her career took off and soon she was writing regularly for a range of titles, including the Australian Jewish News, with whom she has had a popular column for 12 years. "I write about whatever I want. If it doesn't sound Jewish enough I just stick a few Yiddish words in it," she jokes.

But Sackville's career came to a shuddering halt in 2007. "I was expecting my third child. Three weeks before she was born, my sister died. I had this period of total writer's block for 18 months. It was terrible not to be able to write when that's been your whole life. I didn't think I'd ever be able to write again."

In the end the micro-blogging site, Twitter, provided her salvation. "I read this article about Twitter. I saw there were quite a few interesting people on it so I started tweeting. It was amazing. In these 140 character bursts I could write without any of the pressure of producing a 1000-word article. It gave me my mojo back."

One of the reasons she thinks her book has taken off is its honesty. She says: "I get so frustrated with these gurus saying all you need to reignite your sex life is take a night off and dress up in sexy lingerie or costumes. The truth is it really doesn't matter what bells and whistles you try. I've lived with my husband for 15 years. I know him inside out. Your partner is family and family is just not sexy like a new date. The key is you have to get realistic and see what the relationship has evolved into."

One of the hardest things about family life, she says, is finding the time to have a really satisfying argument. "When it's just the two of you, you can fight and one of you can storm out and it doesn't matter. But when you have kids you can't fight in front of them and there's not much time after they go to sleep, so we have most of our disputes by email. And when we're in the same room we'll argue by text, which is fine until my husband shouts out: 'I'm deleting them'."

On the whole, despite the anxiety, the exhaustion and the lack of excitement, Sackville is happy with her life. "I wouldn't change it for anything," she says.

She does, however, have one regret. "When I was a teenager I came runner-up to Nicole Kidman in auditions for the film, BMX Bandits. It was her breakthrough role. So she stole my life. I could be divorced from Tom Cruise by now."

When My Husband Does the Dishes (He usually wants sex!) is published by The Robson Press at £12.99

Last updated: 2:35pm, April 26 2012