She's honest about the shortcuts that often get taken with second children, about the worries that new moms have that they're doing things wrong, about how much preparation we can try to do, but still not have a clue.
It's a comforting read, both for new and experienced mothers - to hear it from someone else that doesn't feel like she has it all together. Reading parenting manuals and advice is great, don't get me wrong - it's nice to have some ideas for what to do in certain situations. But it's also helpful to hear that it's ok to not be perfect, it's ok to make mistakes, and it's ok to do the best you can, even if it's not what someone else is doing.
- What inspired you to write The Unmumsy Mum?When I became a mum for the first time, I fully expected my new role to come naturally. Some things did come naturally, of course, but there were a great many times when I felt like I was doing everything wrong. I looked online and in print for something that would reassure me that I wasn’t alone but I found very little. In fact, a lot of the parenting literature I stumbled across made me feel even more inadequate! So I decided I would write something of my own, and the blog was born. To be honest, I didn’t really expect anybody to read it. It was more my own way of jotting down my thoughts and feelings on motherhood – like an online diary.
- What did you feel the most ill-prepared for when your first child arrived?I think I had massively underestimated the overall impact that having a baby would have on my life. I wasn’t ridiculously naïve – I knew to expect sleepless nights and poo explosions – but I hadn’t prepared for the accompanying emotional hurricane! I struggled to make sense of feeling so completely in love with something while at the same time doubting myself over my abilities to look after him. If anything, I think my expectations were too high and the result was a feeling of failure when those expectations weren’t met.
- What is the “hope-denial-stand-off-rage-guilt cycle” and how might new parents cope with it?I wrote the ‘hope-denial-stand-off-rage-guilt cycle’ to describe the night feeds – in particular, those early days when it feels like the baby is feeding constantly during the night! Firstly, you allow yourself to hope that things will be different and the baby will sleep solidly for more than a few hours. When they don’t, and it’s time to feed them again you find yourself in denial, thinking They cannot be hungry. The stand-off comes when both you and your partner lie deadly still, each hoping that the other will get up. Rage kicks in when you realise how desperately tired you are and is usually accompanied by angry muttering. Finally, guilt washes over you when you sit feeding the baby (again!) and feel bad for being cross as you marvel at how perfect they are and how much you love them (even if they do want a feed every two hours).
- What should the working parent do to help his or her stay-at-home partner?I think the biggest support when you are at home all day is having somebody tell you that they know it’s not easy. It’s tempting to start a ‘my day was harder than your day’ debate but ultimately that doesn’t help anyone - it works both ways! Little things are also appreciated. I remember after my second son was born feeling really tired and my husband phoning to say he’d pick something up for our dinner on his way home from work felt like a massive relief – going to the shops sometimes felt like such a mission!
- How does social media impact our approach to parenting, and what can new moms do to avoid some of the pressure that comes with it?Social media can be both a blessing and a curse as a parent. There are some great online forums and spaces for support and, as a new parent, having that wealth of information at your fingertips is invaluable. However, some of the more ‘aspirational’ accounts where everybody looks happy and smiley all the time can leave you feeling inadequate in comparison. It’s helpful to keep in mind that social media is not real life – it’s a selectively edited snapshot, the bits people want you to see.
- If there can be just one thing readers take away from your book, what would you want it to be?I really hope it offers a feeling of solidarity – that we are in this together – and reassures readers that whatever they are feeling, there is a good chance somebody else is feeling the same! I have been as candid as possible and I hope the result is an accurate portrayal of motherhood – in all its messy, maddening glory! I absolutely love being a mum and writing this book has helped me to realise that I am a good parent, even though I fall short of ‘perfect parent’ ideals.