This week we are down in Eastbourne, chatting to Natalie, a Mum of two, all about motherhood. Natalie lives with her husband Mark and two children, Ava, 7, and Edward, 2. It is a sunny day and we make the most of it by sitting outside in their beautiful garden to chat. The children are excited as, whilst we chat with Natalie, Mark is busy putting up the trampoline, which is having its first outing this year.
In today’s article, Natalie chats to us about what being a first-time mother was like, the challenges, managing time and the best advice she’s received.
Q. How did you prepare yourself for becoming a mother?
I don’t think I did! I don’t think it’s something you can prepare for. You might think you are prepared, but it’s still a massive shock. I’m not going to lie, those first few days I did think ‘Oh my!!!!’. There is suddenly this little person who is so dependent on you, and you can’t do anything, even going to the toilet becomes a mission! But in terms of being prepared, I think it was just about being at a point in our lives where we were willing to make sacrifices. We had been married for 5 years before Ava came along and so we’d enjoyed the holidays and nights out and we’d been able to spoil ourselves. It just felt like the right time.
Q. What was the first year of motherhood like for you?
It was amazing but it was really hard, because I didn’t know what I was doing. People say it just comes to you, which it does, but you do also become reliant on others. I definitely couldn’t have done it without the support of Mark or our family, particularly my mum and Mark’s mum. During the first year, Ava and I went to lots of baby groups together, we went swimming, we did baby massage classes and we use to go out to the park. I think that’s a really important thing in the first year – don’t trap yourself at home, even though that’s where it’s easiest. Getting out the door may be hard work, but when you are out it’s really rewarding.
Q. How was it going back to work?
When Ava was 7 months old I went back to work for 4 days a week. I was ready to go back. I think you can end up losing a bit of your identity when you become a mum. I became ‘Ava’s Mum’, so going back to work helped with that. You do become very good at juggling and multi-tasking! But I enjoyed it because it was something for me. I didn’t want my career to end just because I had children. I was also very lucky that I had weekends and all school holidays off due to being a Teacher, we still had quality time together.
Q. What’s the best thing about being a mum?
For me the hugs, kisses and cuddles. When they’re asleep, regardless of what has happened in the day, you go in and they are just these tiny little things, and they just look so pure and innocent. It also takes you back to your own childhood. For example, when you’re an adult, Christmas loses some of its magic, but when you have children the magic and excitement comes back and you get to see things through their eyes.
Q. What’s the most challenging thing about being a mum?
I think when you are a new mum the biggest challenge is becoming selfless and no longer putting yourself first. And then when I became a mum the second time there was a lot of guilt, because I thought ‘how am I going to have enough love for both of them?’ and ‘how am I going to split my time between them?’. There is a lot of guilt involved in parenting. I don’t think people talk about it enough. In social media people portray an idyllic life and don’t keep it real. Then, when you have your own children it’s difficult to live up to the expectations that life is perfect, as it’s really not. It’s hard to know what to do all the time and it’s tricky being the one that’s always in control and responsible.
Q. What do you want most for Ava?
The normal things like being happy and healthy. She is very clever and so I think she has the ability to do well in life. She’s been saying for a few years that she wants to be a doctor, so it would be nice to see her make a good career for herself and also to grow into a strong, independent woman. Overall, I want her to be able to see her own way in life, and to get the chance to experience everything she wants.
Q. Do you manage to find time for yourself?
That’s difficult. I think with working, running the house, the two children, and then having family time at the weekend, there isn’t much time left for myself. I go dancing once a week which is something that I’ve always done. Also, sometimes it’s the little things like locking myself away in the bathroom, having a bath with a glass of wine and some candles! Even if it’s just 20 minutes, you just need that time to unwind. What I think to myself is ‘this won’t last forever’. In a few years the children may not want or need me as much, so it’s important to appreciate it whilst they do want me.
Q. Is there something your parents did that you swore you wouldn’t do, that you find yourself doing now?
Both Mark and I are really lucky – we come from really stable, loving family backgrounds. There isn’t much we can look back on and think ‘we won’t do that’. Our mums and dads both give us advice and they are good at guiding us. I do find though as the years go by I am morphing more and more into my own mother! Even just the little sayings like ‘It will end in tears in a minute’ or ‘one of you will get hurt’.
Q. What is the best piece of advice someone has given you?
My mum has given me lots of little bits of advice over the years. One of the best bits was ‘take people’s advice, say thank you and then take what you want from it.’ As soon as you have children people say ‘oh you should do this or do that’ and you don’t want to be rude. So my mum said listen to it, reflect on it and then do what feels right. Otherwise you can get frustrated about how many people can try and interfere. Also, nowadays you can check online blogs and forums which are great places for advice. I think it’s important to know that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. No one knows how to do everything. Everyday I learn something new with my children. So it’s also just about listening to yourself.
Q. Do you have any top tips for soon-to-be mums?
Get as much sleep as you can! Ava was two weeks overdue and I was trying to do everything I could to encourage her to make her appearance: long walks, spicy food, I even tried caster oil. I had a spoonful of caster oil after eating a hot curry and when it hit my stomach I vomited chicken out my nose! But I wish now that I had just chilled, relaxed and made the most of ‘me’ time rather than doing all the silly stuff. You will never get the chance to sleep well again, at least for several years! Also, accept help. Don’t think because you are the mum, you can’t let other people step-in and help you where they can. Because happy mummy equals happy baby.
Q. Name a woman you most admire
My mum and my gran, who recently passed away unexpectedly. They both shaped me to be the person I am and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
After chatting to Natalie, we had a quick chat with her daughter Ava and asked her a few questions too.
Q. What’s your favourite thing to do?
Stay up late and watch movies with Mummy and sleep in her bed on a Thursday night when Daddy isn’t home.
Q. What do you want to be when you grow up?
A doctor, because then I can help people in the world.
Q. What is the best thing about being a girl?
You can get your nails done!