Child/children: Conor, 4 and Saoirse, 2 months
Expectations of Motherhood: I never had a clear vision of what to expect entering motherhood, having seen friends go through such varied experiences. I expected I would be tired, although I think I underestimated the sleep deprivation! I felt anxious, having had little experience of looking after children, particularly newborns. I really hoped that I was able to be as natural as my friends had been with their lovely newborn babies. I looked forward to the happy times, and watching my children become little independent people, and for the moments of joy that made all the hard bits worth it. I expected a degree of chaos, although (my friend reminds me of this fairly regularly) I’d hoped to get into some sort of routine after a couple of months with my eldest as a newborn. Oh how we laugh talking about that now!
Reality of Motherhood: Extreme tiredness! More chaotic than anticipated, never really managing a routine with a baby in tow. I was naive to think that babies would be in any way predictable, and that we would be in a routine within a few months. I have become much more relaxed about this now, and am happily going with the flow the second time around. I find my children endlessly surprising, especially my son who comes out with some amazing phrases and insights at times (although mainly he runs around causing havoc).
Seeing my tiny daughter smile for the first time has also recently been wonderful, making the newborn fog well worth the hard work. I find that the tough times can be so challenging (e.g. one recent bedtime involved tears from me and both children simultaneously) that it seems almost ridiculous, although somehow the good bits seem to balance it out, and make it all worthwhile.
Taking your children home for the first time: I found this absolutely petrifying with our eldest child. His birth had been fairly traumatic and we had been in hospital a few days. I was incredibly worried about how fragile he was, and how big and scary the world seemed around him. I also had a fair few moments of ‘okay, so he’s here. Now what?!’ I felt honestly clueless in many respects. I really feel like there should be lessons at school about these things!
This time around (with baby Saoirse) I felt much more relaxed. I was more worried about the reception from her brother and the dog. Her entry into the world had been much more smooth, and I felt fairly confident that, having done it before, I could look after this tiny little person reasonably well.
The best/worst advice: The best advice has been that babies, and children to an extent, simply need love and food- so do it however you need to!
I can’t think of any specific bad advice, but remember being given advice around weaning with our eldest. People gave me all sorts of different, and at times contradictory, advice which was very unhelpful. I concluded that it was sensible to do what suited us, mixing the various methods and figuring out what suited our child.
I realised that we are all essentially winging it, and much like the good advice- we just have to do our best for our children with love and care and the details will sort themselves out.
The hardest parts of being a mother: Finding time. Sometimes it really feels as though there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything required as a modern day mum. Navigating this is tough, and I haven’t got it figured out. The world seems very different now to when I was little, so understanding how best to support little people in this climate is also a challenge. I realise that I just want my children to be happy in a general sense and try to prioritise this, without spoiling them. The balancing act here is also something I find challenging.
The best parts of being a mother: The little surprising moments that catch you off guard. My son will come out with a hilarious phrase, or a funny dance move that will crack me up. My daughter (she’s not up to much yet at 2 months) will smile spontaneously and literally brighten my day.
I find that being a mother has made me much more aware of the bigger picture, and I feel much more able to appreciate the small things, and the little moments. I didn’t prioritise making memories and having simple nice experiences prior to motherhood, although that’s a big part of my ethos now. Kids are fairly simple, and live for the moment, so I try to embrace that with them.
Has becoming a mother changed you? Yes, definitely. I’m more relaxed in many ways, and more able to go with the flow, as there’s so much you can’t change with children. I feel like I’m more appreciative of the ‘off-time’ like an afternoon of doing nothing, or a beautiful morning walking the dog. I’m also more aware of the future, and more fearful about the state of the world. I massively appreciate any alone time I get now, and really try to enjoy listening to a podcast, having a bath, or a walk with just myself and the dog. Precious moments indeed!
Has your perspective on work changed since becoming a mother? Yes. I have really had to re-jig my priorities. I prioritise my role as a mother now, over that as a doctor, although this is still a huge part of my identity. I feel that I have been as dedicated to my job, but less able to commit the time to it since having children.
I’ve been necessarily more boundaried, although not always successfully! I’m an NHS consultant therefore inevitably I take some work and anxieties home with me. Although, my colleagues are incredibly supportive and understanding that I’m a mum of young children and that has helped me moving into the world of working motherhood.
I also realised quite quickly that work keeps me sane, and that being a stay at home mum was never for me in the longer term (my gosh, I absolutely salute all SAHMs!). Not working has never been an option, financially or practically, although this suits me and our family set up.
Hopes for your family: Happiness and health are my first priorities. I’d like as much quality time with my family as possible, spending weekends and holidays making memories. I’d like to reduce the stress of the daily grind as much as possible for my children and family. I really hope that my children are happy and that I can help them navigate this funny old world as well as possible. I hope that my children are kind and respectful and understand the value of work. I fully sound like my own mother here but it is true!
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Please reach out when things are tough. No (wo)man is an island. It honestly does take a village (another cliche!) and no-one will turn you away if you ask for help with a new shiny baby in tow. My husband, parents and in-laws have been incredible. My sisters and good friends invaluable. It’s hard to be vulnerable, and admit you can’t do everything, but absolutely all of us need to do that sometimes. Try to figure out what suits you, your family, and your little one. Love and food (however that is delivered) are the important things and as long as you remember this, the details will follow.
Nb. For those of you struggling with name pronunciation, Aoife is ‘eefa’ and Saoirse is ‘seer-sha’.