Claire, Reuben and Isaac

Name: Claire 

Children: Reuben (8) and Isaac (20m)

Location: Sale, Manchester

Expectations of Motherhood: Daunting, exciting, confusing. There’s quite a big gap between my boys so my expectations were quite different for each of them. First time around, I think I worried more about the ‘logistical’ side of getting a baby out of my belly and how this new addition would impact my life. Now when I look back, it was probably quite selfish. Second time around, I was still a little anxious, but more about the effect a sibling would have on my son, how the two of them would get on and how I could provide everything they needed. 

Reality of Motherhood: 24/7 contradictions. Motherhood really is a rollercoaster. You can laugh, cry, be overwhelmed with energy and feel absolutely shattered all in one day. Sometimes I feel like I’m kicking ass at this parenting lark, sometimes I’m surprised my kids have turned out ok (so far!). I’d love to give them everything they want at the click of a finger, but then I want them to have values and appreciate hard work. I deal with some pretty demanding clients, but none of them compare to how demanding children are. They are such unpredictable beings.

I’ll be honest, both of my labours were fairly straight forward (even with the pain), so my entry to motherhood, so to speak, was fairly smooth. What really shocked me, both times, was just how powerful sleep deprivation is. There were times when my body was in pain because of tiredness. The monotony of feeding for hours, changing nappies, wiping puke was tough, but it was the tiredness that got me.

Yet, in spite of it being so bewildering, it is bloody brilliant.

Taking your children home for the first time: I took Reuben home after one night in hospital and couldn’t stop staring at him. I was quite overwhelmed with emotions and even shocked. I couldn’t believe this little person was all mine and now I’d have to look after him and be responsible for his future…forever. With Isaac, I felt less overwhelmed by his presence but more nervous about how I’d love and treat my sons equally.   
The best/worst advice: Worst – sleep when baby sleeps. A bit of a cliche, but everyone knows how difficult it is to do. Best – do your pelvic floor exercises! In all seriousness, it is important to think about your health and wellness as much your babies’.

Photo taken by Reuben

The hardest parts of being a mother: Always questioning your decisions. No matter how confident I might be, there’s always a little voice asking if I’ve made the right decision when it comes to doing things for my children, even with the smallest of things. I want to push them to achieve their best, but I also want them to be free and enjoy their childhood. At the same time I want to protect them from the outside world and all of the terrible things happening, but I also want to make sure they are enlightened and aware of the challenges the world faces.

I’m extremely aware of just how much children learn from example, so there’s the additional pressure for me to speak and behave in a way that I’d want them to reflect. I don’t think I set a bad example, but I often wonder if I’m setting the best example. 

Knowing that I’m responsible for ensuring they become positive contributors to the world, is very scary. There’s no rehearsal, no chance to start again and I don’t want to ruin it for them.

The best parts of being a mother: Love. Love is an amazing feeling, but the love I have for my children is crazy. There isn’t a day goes by when my heart doesn’t smile because of them, even after the most stressful or emotional of days. My kids are bloody hilarious – at least I think they are. I love the fact we can all laugh together, even with the 7 year age gap of the kids! I genuinely feel so lucky to have the honour of being their mother. And even though I don’t tell him nearly enough, its made me love my husband more. He’s a great father and makes me a better mother. We have become a much stronger team now that we are parents.

Has becoming a mother changed you?
 I wouldn’t say its changed me, more like refined me. I have all of the same characteristics and personality traits I had pre-kids, but some have become more prominent since motherhood, whilst others have taken a step back. I don’t know how much of this transition has been intentional, but I’m definitely happy with the person I am because of becoming a mother.For the first few months of motherhood and maternity leave, I did feel like I’d lost my sense of self, probably because of the sleep deprivation! I felt like I was just an extension of my babies. But with time, once my confidence went back to normal, as did my sleeping patterns, I felt like ‘me’ again. In fact I felt like a better version of me, that didn’t really care what others thought.

I know my priorities have changed since becoming a mother. Not just superficial things like what I spend my money on, but how I spend my time and energy and who’s opinions of me actually matter (I’ll give you a clue, not many).

Hopes for your family: That we work together as a unit to support each other to grow and achieve our goals. That we continue to laugh together. I want my children to have opportunities. Success is important, whatever that means, but I want them to be in a position whereby they have the confidence to pursue their dreams and aspirations and celebrate who they are as individuals. I hope they will become good people with good, positive friendships. Ultimately I want them to be happy.

Now that I’m a mother myself I’m so much more grateful to my own mother for the hard work and sacrifices she made for me and my siblings. She moved here from Ghana when she was just 18. She worked extremely hard to give us all a good education and showed us the importance of hard work and self-worth. I just hope I don’t let all of her dedication go to waste through my own approach to motherhood!

I want my children to be aware of just how blessed they are to have the lifestyles they have been given, thanks to the decisions my mother made back in the 70s.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Listen to what everyone has to say, but don’t necessarily do it! If you don’t agree with or admire someone’s parenting style, why would you copy what they do? Every child, parent and situation are different, so what works for one person wouldn’t work for another. Your instinct will be good at telling you what’s right for your child and your circumstances. At the same time, I think its really important to establish your own ‘mum squad’. Whether they are from your NCT, antenatal group, Rhyme Time, it doesn’t matter. What matters is having like- minded people to share and air your troubles and concerns with. Nine times out of ten, they’ll totally understand. And if they don’t they’ll probably have cake (or Prosecco)! Oh and do your pelvic floor exercises.

Follow Claire on her blog or on Twitter @aniteyec 

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