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Celebrity Families

Sylvia Jeffreys' beautiful chaos: As she prepares to welcome her second son, Sylvia reveals why she's never been happier, both in life and marriage

''I've got a rock solid partner to get me through anything.''

By Tiffany Dunk
Sylvia Jeffreys is reclining in a make-up chair, eyes gratefully closed, as she has the final touch-ups before beginning her photo shoot with The Weekly.
With her son, Oscar, having just turned one and her second child (another boy, whose name she and husband Peter Stefanovic are keeping to themselves for now) due in April, it's a precious moment to rest.
Oscar is an active baby – too young to grasp the concept of a new arrival – and has spent the past few hours clambering happily all over his mother's growing bump.
In the phase of her pregnancy where she's "feeling a bit slow and like I'm entering that fatigue stage again", Sylvia's desire for a brief break is understandable.
But her eyes snap open when her mother Janine, who flew to Sydney for Oscar's birthday, delightedly cries out, "Sylvia! Quick, he's standing!" Sure enough, Oscar is in the garden, sturdily planted on both feet, beaming while clutching a flower.
Despite a little swaying, he remains triumphantly upright.
Before you can blink, Sylvia has jumped from her seat, whipping out her phone to video the momentous occasion.
"To see him standing like this for an extended period is a first," Sylvia, 34, explains with a smile almost as big as her son's.
"Because we're so on edge, waiting for him to take a few steps, which could happen any day now, we're always ready with the phone to capture that moment. This is a very proud mum moment."
"We're always ready with the phone to capture that moment," Sylvia says of her one-year-old son's first steps. (Alana Landsberry)
Sylvia's phone is filled to bursting with similar proud mum moments. Having waited so long for Oscar's arrival, going through IVF to conceive him, she clearly relishes her role as a mother. Oscar was a longed-for baby; one who was difficult to conceive and had her privately despairing that she may never have a child of her own.
"There were a million stories written about me being pregnant while I was trying to get pregnant and not being able to," she says of the years following her 2017 wedding to Sky News presenter Pete, who she met in the Channel Nine car park in 2014, sparking an almost instant romance.
"That was probably more upsetting than any of the other ridiculous things you read [about yourself] because it's just so insensitive."
Life has certainly thrown its share of surprises at the couple. But none have been more welcome than the news that a second child is on the way – meaning she'll soon be a mother to two children under the age of two.
"The second time around it was… spontaneous I'd say," Sylvia says, chuckling.
"We hadn't planned to go down that path so soon, but having had not an entirely easy path the first time around, you can't be anything but thankful or grateful to have fallen pregnant this way.
"Having said that, it's definitely a tight turnaround and people think we're nuts! When we tell them our boys will be 14 or 15 months apart, they roll their eyes and say, 'Good luck!' But the silver lining is that, with the world being the way it is right now, we're not missing out on anything being stuck in the baby bubble. So we may as well stay here in the zone and ride it out."
That doesn't mean they're planning to stay in that zone forever, though.
"Look, I'm no Octomom – we're not going to pump out a dozen," Sylvia jokes.
"But both Pete and I grew up really close to our cousins and aunts and uncles, and we'd like to replicate that for our children. We've been fortunate that, on both sides of our family, Oscar was born at a similar time to other babies. So we've got a lovely little gang of cuzzies, which is great."
Those "cuzzies" include Harper Stefanovic, who arrived three months after Oscar.
"She's a sweetie," coos Janine.
Harper is the daughter of Pete's brother Karl Stefanovic and his wife Jasmine, and it's clear the bond between both children and parents will be strong.
"I love Jas, and Tom's [the youngest Stefanovic] wife, Jenna, as well. I've got two fantastic sisters-in-law through marriage, as well as Pete's sister Elisa, who is thoughtful and caring, and puts the whole family ahead of herself. I've got so many people to call on. I've been very lucky."
Sylvia hopes to give her sons the same tight-knit family dynamic she had when growing up, (Alana Landsberry)

A golden age

Sylvia's childhood was bathed in sun, sand and togetherness. She was born on April 23, 1986, to Janine, now 67, a social worker, and Richard, now 72, a Vietnam War veteran.
The youngest of three (brother Andrew is seven years older; sister Claire is five years older), Sylvia was the last to fly the family nest, and has a particularly close bond with her mother.
"I call her my little mate," Janine says. "She was the last one left behind in the family home, so we've been on road trips and camping trips together. Of course, I missed her when she moved to come down to Sydney, but it's lovely to visit and spend time with her and all the family."
"Becoming a mother myself has made me very aware of the enormous sacrifices your parents make," Sylvia says.
"Mum worked full-time as a social worker when we were kids and that gave us a great understanding and respect for her work ethic.
"Plus, Mum has definitely influenced my sense of social justice. She's done a lot of work in Indigenous health and welfare, family services and the area of disability. It was that work which was the inspiration for me joining Youngcare [a charity that provides suitable and appropriate housing for people with disabilities]. She's passionate about equality, she's passionate about accessibility for [people from] all walks of life."
Both of Janine's sisters lived in the same Brisbane suburb of Coorparoo where Sylvia grew up – and they each had three children too.
"The kids used to go en masse from one home to another or up to a local school oval," Janine recalls.
"Sylvia was the youngest and very often the little one trailing behind, but they've grown up so close, the nine of them."
"It was lovely," Sylvia adds.
"It was a very boy-dominated cousin clique, so Claire and I were always trying to keep up with the boys. My grandparents had a couple of old units in one block at Broadbeach and we used to all pile in and share those units at Christmas and Easter.''
"There was a school across the road, so we'd go there and play brandy, touch footy and cricket. Then we'd head across to the beach and swim, or go up to Macca's for a 30-cent cone. It was so much fun and we're all still just as close today."
Sylvia continues to have a close bond with her family to this day.
That brood has expanded even further, thanks to the equally tight Stefanovic clan which, says Sylvia, has mixed effortlessly with her own tribe. Like Sylvia, the four Stefanovic siblings were born and raised in Queensland and have a close network.
"I think it's nice when your priorities – your family priorities – are aligned like that as a couple," she tells us. "I always describe family as a safe harbour."
That harbour has been especially welcome through the tough times the family has faced – not least the fallout from a certain late-night Uber phone call back in March 2018. As Sylvia sat beside him, Pete allegedly called his brother Karl on speakerphone to complain about their Today bosses and peers. In the media storm that followed, all three – and several others – eventually departed the breakfast show in a blaze of disglory.
It could have been a breaking point for a less secure couple. But Sylvia insists that, not only did she and Pete, 39, weather the media controversy relatively unscathed, they emerged stronger for it.
"A few years ago, professionally, that was a rocky period," she says, choosing her words carefully.
"But, personally, it just drew us closer together. It made me so appreciative of the choice I made in marrying him because I know I've got a rock-solid partner to get me through anything that comes our way. And that's what puts all the external noise into perspective. You've got the most important thing in your life sorted – the rest can unfold around you."
And there were happy endings professionally, too: Sylvia found a new home at Today Extra; Pete moved on to Sky News; and Karl is now back at the helm on Today.
Sylvia is a natural on-screen. (Channel Nine)

Finding her voice

Sylvia has become increasingly used to the "external noise" during her years in television. From rumours of feuds between rival female hosts to Twitter trolls making nasty comments, it's an ongoing battlefield.
Sylvia laughs about the time she offered Sunrise's Edwina Bartholomew a piece of banana bread when the two were reporting on the same story, but for competing networks.
An innocent photo of the women with "resting bitch face" became fodder for a tabloid story that put them at war.
"I was sharing cake with her!" Sylvia says, chuckling, adding that Edwina is among many women of television with whom she shares a close friendship.
"It's just old-school sexism, isn't it – to try and build up this dialogue around women being at war and in catfights… things like that," she adds.
Other supposed "rivals" who she counts as close friends? Former Today colleague Lisa Wilkinson is one – in fact, Janine excitedly tells us that the three of them had lunch in Brisbane while the ex-colleagues were up there for work.
"Mum is extremely fond of Lisa," Sylvia says, grinning.
"She's such a fangirl. Look, I've got friends at every network. And when you look around the Nine newsroom, most of my friends are there: Jayne Azzopardi, Lizzie Pearl, Amelia Adams, Airlie Walsh, and that's just to name a few. We all have each other's backs and we are all trying to propel one another forward whenever we can."
The pay gap and gender inequality in the workplace is real, and Sylvia has been aware of it from "the day I entered the industry," she says.
She knows there's a way to go, but says she appreciates the fact that her employer has been so flexible with her maternity leave. She's planning to take six months off with her second baby, as she did with Oscar, but with the option to either extend or shorten the period.
"I think, at this point in my life, I am benefiting from the fights that other women had to have two decades ago, a decade ago, maybe five years ago to be honest," Sylvia admits.
"I'm very conscious of the fact that a lot of women probably had to go through hell and back in order for it to be a much more family-friendly environment these days."
Sylvia and Lisa Wilkinson remain close. (Instagram)
She's also appreciative of the work that other women – fellow Nine veteran and 2DayFM radio's Erin Molan, in particular – have been doing when it comes to tackling those aforementioned online trolls.Erin was sent death threats – along with other disturbing messages – via Facebook Messenger when she was pregnant with her daughter Eliza. Rather than retreat, she chose to speak up – despite more people targeting her online as she did so.
Erin's bravery in the face of personal attack has now led the government to enact new laws which include fines of up to $111,000 for adults who post "seriously harmful content" online, including but not limited to death threats, menacing messages and revenge porn.
"I absolutely tip my hat to Erin for putting herself out there and making enormous personal sacrifices to put herself at the centre of that debate," Sylvia says with what is clearly a sense of gratitude.
"Because, as she has pointed out on several occasions, it isn't just people in the public sphere who are the targets of this behaviour in terms of online bullying – it's our children. It's teenagers. It's children even younger than that who are on the receiving end of consistent abuse online. This will have enormous ramifications for people in all areas of society."
Putting herself out there isn't something that came naturally to Sylvia as she entered her journey on television. As the co-host of Today Extra, she is often asked for her opinion on a range of topics, and it's a responsibility she doesn't take lightly.
"As a journalist, it's your job to remain impartial," she explains. "But when you're working on a show that involves panel discussions and you're invited to share your opinion, then there is both an opportunity and, I think, a responsibility. I often reflect for hours or even days on something I've said on the show. It can eat away at me. Sometimes I think, 'Oh, stuff it – I said what I truly believe and the consequences are the consequences and you have to roll with it.' But, the reality is, you're not always going to get it right… "
"I also think that having people from different backgrounds – diverse backgrounds with diverse schools of thought – and broadcasting that on mainstream media is really important because we have to be aware of where other people are coming from. Being exposed to people with different views can only really educate me on things."
Sylvia is empowered by her fellow female presenters. (Alana Landsberry)

Raising boys

While Sylvia and her Today Extra co-host, David Campbell, often approach topics from different viewpoints, the duo agrees unequivocally that a loving marriage and children have been the best things to ever happen to them.
Having known each other for years before pairing up on the Today Extra desk, David (a father of three and happily married to wife Lisa for 12 years) says he had only one reaction when Sylvia revealed her second pregnancy – he cried.
"I get very overwhelmed when people tell me happy news like that," David admits. "The eyes start to water. It's not a very manly reaction, I know. It's very much in touch with my feelings. But I'm just overwhelmed for her because I saw what she and Pete went through, and how much Oscar means to them – just how invested they are with him. To know it's going to happen all over again and it's going to be just as good? I'm so happy. I don't have more of a visceral reaction than that."
"I love who Sylvia and Pete are as people, and they should create more humans because they are good people. We need more humans from them – that's a good combination in the world."
The co-hosts spend the ad breaks comparing children's photos and stories. And while David is adamant he's given Sylvia no advice on parenting apart from: "Good luck!", she says he's been a font of knowledge and support, and one she hopes to continue drawing on.
Raising two boys, Sylvia says, will be an interesting ride, but she feels that with her team of loyal friends and family by her side, it's certain to be a fun one.
"I love the idea of being a boy mum because I was a tomboy as a kid, very sporty, and I like the idea of rumbling around with a couple of boys," she says, smiling.
"I'm not sure how I'm going to navigate the teenage years – that might be where Pete really has to step up – but I'm not worried about it. I know it will be a lot to keep up with two turbo little boys, but for now, I'm just embracing the beautiful chaos."
Read more in the March issue of The Australian Women's Weekly, on sale now!

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