For me, becoming a mother was like being hit by a bus. I knew there was a baby coming and that babies were full-on and hard work but I was not expecting the complete shift in my identity that I actually experienced. I didn’t see it coming.
I was in my thirties by the time I had my first baby and I had lived a wide and adventurous life. The baby was conceived while I was living in Mongolia, a place where life and death come and go daily in a nomadic life too focused on the basics of food, fuel and water to get introspective about identity. I waddled back to the UK at 34 weeks feeling like a cow about to calve, more concerned about how I would fit all the baby kit into my suitcase to take back to Ulanbaatar than about how becoming a mother might change me.
And then the bus hit me. It turns out, babies aren’t just a practical undertaking after all. Continue reading
A few weeks ago I attended a refresher course on safeguarding children and sexual exploitation. As a professional working in children’s services, I have attended dozens of these courses over the years and dealt with many child protection cases so I have become inevitably a little hardened to the topic. I am no longer the rookie who cried all the way home after her very first child protection workshop.
But, as a parent, I find it impossible to remain unmoved by a whole day thinking and talking about child abuse.
Of course my thoughts fly automatically to my own children. Then fly away again just as quickly. Because thinking about my children coming to harm in that way is just unthinkable… My instinct is to push it all away and seek refuge in denial. Continue reading
Working mums often ask me “What’s the ideal number of hours to work if you want to be a good parent?” It is, of course, an impossible question and – like most coaches – I usually counter it with a question of my own (such as “How do you feel about the number of hours you work at the moment?” or “How would you define a good parent?“). The truth is that there is very little hard evidence with which to tackle that question objectively.
There’s definitely research that demonstrates that working mums are good for their children in certain regards (particularly daughters and particularly where lack of money would otherwise tip the family into poverty). Comparisons between the children of working mums and stay at home mums show no consistent evidence that one is better for children than the other overall – though there is emerging evidence that part-time working mums can bestow some benefits above either of the full time extremes. Continue reading
Constant juggling is stressful: it impacts on our health and wellbeing and usually doesn’t contribute positively to mood or to work-life balance. So why do we do it?
Often, we juggle because we think it is enabling – that we need to accomplish all these tasks in order to create the life we want. But then we can find ourselves so busy creating the right conditions for life that we have no time for enjoying it.
Sometimes it’s a case of conflicting priorities. As parents, we want the best for our children. But in trying to shoehorn too much into limited time we can squeeze out other essential family ingredients.
And sometimes it’s just hard to switch off from professional mode. When we spend all day at work honing our efficiency, planning and analytical skills, it can be difficult to step out of that role and take a different approach when we get home. Continue reading
The problem with working mum’s guilt is that it doesn’t get you anywhere. In fact, it can actually make things worse. Parents who feel guilty about spending time apart from their children are far more likely to give in to whining or complaining. By giving in or reversing our decisions when children turn up the emotional (or actual) volume, we accidentally reward this type of behaviour and therefore make it more likely to reoccur. Home becomes a battleground – not because you work – but because of a misplaced belief that your working might somehow be bad for your children.
Banishing guilt is hard, but here are some ideas to get you started. Continue reading
Everyone experiences becoming a mother differently. For me, it was a bit like being hit by a bus. Of course, I knew there was a baby coming and that babies were hard work but in terms of the fundamental irreversible impact on my sense of identity, I just didn’t see that coming. For the first two months I sleepwalked in a post-traumatic haze: I was a mother who hadn’t yet become a mother and I was utterly conflicted. I couldn’t let go of the pre-birth me (the person I had invested 30 years into becoming) but I couldn’t see how to be that me in the face of the sheer scale of demands and love that had arrived with my new baby.
Life After Birth by Kate Figes was the catalyst that eased me through the transition to
motherhood. Or, as I melodramatically announced in my sleep-deprived haze, “This book saved my life.” Continue reading
As a parent, it’s often hard to know what’s important and what isn’t. Does it matter if your child eats their chips with their fingers at the dinner table? Or is it more important that they can sit and have a pleasant conversation with you while they are eating them? Should you push them to keep playing the cello when they want to give it up? Or allow them to make their own choices about how to spend their time? What’s the best balance between structured activities (classes and sports) and unstructured downtime? And does any of it really matter as long as you love them and give them your attention?
Feeling a bit bewildered by so many judgement calls (and in a bid to silence my inner doubting voice) this Mothers’ Day I decided to get back to basics and ask an expert. Continue reading
My house has gone really quiet and I don’t know what to do with myself. Aside from brief forays for food and toileting, the kids have retreated from the rest of the house and taken up residence in their bedrooms.
It’s my own fault. This Christmas I caved in and set the boys up with the wherewithal to watch DVDs in their rooms. Even as I write that I feel the need to justify it – we have very strict parameters on completion of homework and eating together and both boys participate in heaps of sport and, after all, teens need their space and they promised me they wouldn’t retreat to their bedrooms! I firmly maintain it is the complete box set of Friends that my brother gave them for Christmas that is the real root of the problem.
A lot of attention is paid to the process by which mothers bond with their babies, but not so much on how we are supposed to unbond at the other end of childhood. Continue reading