Zoe, Olivia and Jacob

Name: Zoe

Children: Olivia, 8, Jacob, 6

Location: Sale

Expectations of Motherhood: I felt for a long time that being a Mum was going to be ‘the’ thing I was going to be good at – I had never really known what I was going to ‘be’ and was raised to think that intellect and career paths were the be all and end all. So I grew up feeling like I was never going to be successful at those things.

Wanting a family felt like something I could actually achieve and be ‘successful’ at. I was desperate to be a Mum, but suffered with very bad mental health in my mid-late 20s which meant I lost a few years…and for a long time my partner feared I was too ill and not ready to be a parent. He was right, I couldn’t look after myself let alone a child and my motivation to get better was very much around being able to become a Mum.

After a lot of counselling and different kinds of therapy I got back on track and started living again….so we decided to try for a baby. I was pregnant within two months and so delighted. I don’t remember being scared at all. It was exactly what I had saved myself for.

Reality of Motherhood: SO hard. Yet so precious. I remember when Olivia was a new-born telling my own Mum that I was cross with her for not telling me how bloody hard it is being a Mum. She laughed and told me it wouldn’t have made any difference, nothing would have stopped me or prepared me, and she’s right.

Every stage is a new kind of hard, horrendous and wonderful all wrapped up. I am often terrified of getting things wrong, of what they will become, but always come back to hoping that I can teach them that the most important thing in life is trying to find your happiness – they won’t find that in being richer or thinner, trendier or cleverer.  It’s a lesson I’m still trying to learn and wish I had grown up believing it.

Life is precious and society today is so full of pressure and expectations. I want my children to just be happy and grateful to have the opportunities of exploring and enjoying being. 

Taking your children home for the first time: Olivia came home the day before Christmas Eve and I remember spending the whole of the first night feeding. Literally 10 hours of feeding. I cried and cried, shouting at Mark to call the hospital and tell them something was wrong. Slightly dumbfounded to hear that no, it was quite normal until my milk came in.

Why did no one tell me that might happen?

Even my NCT classes didn’t prepare me for that!!

It was all so overwhelming and I was pretty anxious about holding her too much, or not enough, when I would next get woken up, how bloody tired I was and how to make sure I was getting it ‘right’. It was overwhelming, and by no means what I had imagined.

That said my children are still the best thing that’s ever happened to me, they are wonderful miracles.

Jacob on the other hand felt like such an easy baby, despite being born with Pneumonia and in intensive care for a week. Second time round life is so busy and the baby bits felt easier to enjoy with Jacob as I had a better idea of what I was doing and Olivia was a great 2 year old so they felt like good times.

I also had made friends with local Mums who had second babies around the same time, so the support network was much better established.

I miss the time I had with my Mum friends, sleep deprived and lost our bubble of nappies, tantrums and pureed food….time goes sooo fast!

The best/worst advice: The best advice is don’t sweat the small stuff. There are so many battles about sleep, food, iPads, clothes, play dates, vegetables…We are not super human and can’t fight them all.

Giving in sometimes will not suddenly turn our children into monsters! I hope!

That said I still battle the small stuff….I stress far too much about making the right on the spot decision, and comparing myself to other mums and their children. Trying my best to stick to what I believe is probably the best advice I have been given!

The worst advice I had was that what I was doing wasn’t best for my children. I was so angry! No one gets to tell me that…

The hardest parts of being a mother: The mental load…. I feel like I am being torn in so many directions all the time.

I moved from self-employed to full-time employed this year and I feel so guilty that my time is compromised more with the children. I didn’t have children to not be with them during the school holidays, see them at sports day and the Christmas play, ….but money needs to be earned and I am on a great work journey at the moment which is really important, not just for me, but for the whole family.

Consequences of working full time is that so much of my time is taken up with admin, cooking and coordinating a family – I don’t get enough time to enjoy my children, which breaks my heart and I know they miss me. I am going down to four days in a few months with the hope that I can find a better balance for them and for me. Their happiness is far more important that the money.

The best parts of being a mother: I am so very proud of my crazy ginger nuts – and seeing them grow, learn and be is such an honour and pleasure. Olivia is very much a mini me, and Jacob is just like his Dad.

Life is an adventure with them and I love building traditions with them and building a bank of wonderful memories and experiences. They make me laugh so much and I am in awe of how much they change and grow, the wonderful things they do and the little people they are becoming.

Although they do bicker quite a lot, I love the friendship they have for each other, and how much they love and look out for each other. Their personalities are so very different but when they are agreeing on something, I love hearing them plot adventures and giggling together. I want to pause time on those bits.  

I really feel that being a parent is a privilege that gets taken for granted sometimes. My role as their Mother will shape the rest of their lives and although that is terrifying, its also wonderful.

Watching them being so awesome is pretty special. My life is so much richer because of them and what I have become as a Mum.

Has becoming a mother changed you? I have become a much happier and grounded person – I have learnt so so much, and so many things have been put into perspective.

We are surrounded by people that think bigger houses, flash holidays and big careers are definitions of success – and they were things I used to crave. I still do sometimes… BUT  my definition of success is having children that are happy and loved.

I will forever hold their hands and wipe their tears, mend their broken hearts and hopefully be someone they will always turn to for support and comfort. The rest might make life a bit fluffier, but I can live with not having that. 

Being a Mum has also meant I have made some amazing mum friends, some of the best friends I have ever had and who I would not get through motherhood without!

Has your perspective on work changed since becoming a mother?  Yes – It is important, and I realise more so now that me doing a job I love, is an important lesson for my children.

Passion for work is important, and I wouldn’t be doing my job, sacrificing time with my kids, if I didn’t enjoy it. I have always sacrificed our household income for being with the kids – being with them in the early years was vital, but as they have started school that has shifted and doing something for myself became more important.

It is so important that we keep pushing the message that being a Mum is work – society struggles to accept that – which makes the battle between the working husband and stay at home mum so difficult sometimes.

We are undervalued yet so vital! Now I am earning money I feel like I actually have a role that justifies me spending money (and paying for a cleaner!!)

Hopes for your family: Short term goals are for the kids to pick their pyjamas up off the floor and stop answering back…the day to day battle is tough sometimes, but hopefully we will keep making happy memories and they will grow up feeling loved and listened to and still want to tell me about their day in ten, twenty and thirty years.

What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: That no matter how tough a day might be, you must remember that you have never done this before. No one gave you a manual and there is no right answer…..  and make time to look after yourself.

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