Children: Eleanor, 11, and Sam, 8
Reality of Motherhood: It’s hard to put into words how much the experience has impacted on me, with the way I now see the world, and how I relate to other people. I still have an incredible life, but I’m no longer in the centre of it. This is actually a hell of a relief! It’s great to get some respite from my own little world, and to have felt it widening out in ways I could never have predicted. Eleven years on, I wonder what I’d be doing if I’d decided not to have had kids. Without a shadow of a doubt, I now know we did the right thing- it’s a huge adventure and most of it has been really enjoyable.
Taking your child home for the first time: Well, I wasn’t able to do that, as I was very ill in hospital and missed a lot of her first three months. It all worked out in the end, but it was a shocking start to motherhood.
The best parts of being a mother:The incredible privilege of being able to experience life again and again, by doing things with your kids. The way you can notice things and see things afresh because they are constantly doing that. And of course, the super-sensory experience of being so close to your kids, those unique and powerful connections at all levels. At the heart of it, for me, is that sense of purpose and the feeling that I’m doing a crucial job that I feel enormously motivated about. It’s a corny cliche, but I’ve got no doubt, now, what life’s all about and why I’m here!
Has becoming a mother changed you?Absolutely- especially the whole experience of being so ill during childbirth and the months after. I’ll never really know if the changes were due to motherhood, or to the extreme experiences around that time, but it all changed my perception of the world in a substantial way. It’s given me a much deeper understanding of how humans operate and what circumstances might lead to our behaviours. That’s certainly helped me to be a better manager at work, as have many of the motherhood skills.
As my kids get older, I’m having to question myself a lot about how I represent womanhood to them. It’s making me quite strong and I do feel that real need to be the best role model I can be, both for my daughter and my son. I want them to question and challenge the way life should be and what we need to do to be active in that process.
Hopes for your family: I’d like them to be healthy and fulfilled and if I’m really honest, I hope they are going to be able to use their abilities and privileges to have a positive impact on their community (rather than become very rich and self-serving). I hope they will be able to chose healthy adult relationships with people who are emotionally stable and share their aims in life.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums?: There are lots of myths about how wonderful motherhood will immediately feel, but it can take years for things to feel right. I don’t think I bonded with my daughter until she was three months old (because of my illness and absence) but I’m so proud of what we have developed.
For parenting, I would say that in the long-run, everything is a lot more enjoyable if you can put your kids’ needs first. I don’t mean buy them every toy they want, just try to get their basic needs sorted. As an adult, I’m pretty awful if I’m very tired, stressed, hungry, feeling ignored or scared. If someone helps me get these things sorted, then life quickly becomes pretty nice again and I tend to love that person (quite a lot!). I don’t think kids’ needs are that different. For me, it’s not about buying our kids all the latest gear, it’s about caring about the basics and trying to get that right.