I have three children under the age of 7; a daughter Mirabelle, and two sons Caspian and Aleph (before you ask it’s pronounced ah-leph, and yes that’s our bad for naming him one of those weird names nobody knows how to pronounce!).
My daughter Mirabelle is the total opposite to me; incredibly high energy all the time, loves people, would literally shadow me all day long if she could. She is the kid who will just sit outside the toilet waiting for me not because she needs anything, just because she loves being around me! My son Caspian is the middle child like myself, so I am probably most sympathetic to him and what he wants, plus he is so sweet natured and sensitive it’s the best. My third child is honestly the epitome of a third child; he is bolshi, wild, determined and basically thinks that by the age of 2 and a half he knows everything and can conquer world domination without anyone's help (except to change his pooey nappy but even that is on his terms, when he wants it to be changed!!). If you remember The Wild Thornberry’s, imagine Donnie the little wild child they adopt in the one day whilst they are out exploring; that is honestly the best way to summarise Aleph. So parenting is a lot, all at once all the time, all day every day!!
I had my children young unintentionally, but also nobody else can be blamed for said activities I quite willingly participated in. Almost 7 years later and here I am at 32 years old wondering how I ended up with an almost 7 year old, almost 5 year and almost 3 year old! The days are long, the tantrums are real and the feelings that our family go through on the daily create total chaos. I’m not going to sugar coat it and say that it’s beautiful, we ‘gentle parent’, we don’t raise our voices etc. etc. but I am an honest person so I will stay honest here too! I will say that I absolutely love my children and my little family to death, I wouldn’t change anything for the world, and I have become the best version of myself since having had 3 children. So here are 6 things that I have learnt through my 3 beautiful children over the last 6 years (although sometimes between my children and my husband I feel like I am parenting 4 kids; hopefully he never reads this!).
1. Fight to stay brutally honest with your children and your spouse
One of the things we have fought to do with our kids is to stay honest about absolutely everything. From the smallest decision about why they can’t have more candy, to the biggest questions they might ask like why Mum isn’t feeling her best and wants to be left alone, the principle of honesty is highly valued in our family. The more we fight to be honest with our kids, the more they are going to feel confident in themselves and their choices as they grow up and face the world, the more they are going to feel as though they can trust what you say and therefore grow up respecting and trusting themselves too.
If your child asks for more candy and you say no, don’t fib and say it’s because there isn’t any left, tell them the truth and say it’s because they have had enough. Sometimes I think we don’t want to deal with the tantrums or meltdowns that follows because they don’t like the decision and trust me I get it, but If we don’t allow kids to grow up understanding disappointment they will be entitled kids who learn that lying is the best way forward when it’s hard to be honest and open. It also helps to empower kids to face their feelings, learn how to navigate them and how to move forward without getting stuck in their big feelings.
If you have multiple kids you know how hard it is to meet all of their needs at once, but again when the going gets tough explain to your kids you’re stretched thin and that you are doing your best. The amount of times my kids now step up to help each other because ‘Mummy is busy with such and such, so how can I help you’ is more than I can count! They understand the why, they don’t have to like it but they get it and therefore end up feeling empowered to help each other too.
Kids need to know that everyone has needs and desires that won’t always be met, but we can talk through it with each other and stay honest with how we are feeling.
2. Gentle parenting in the modern sense is unhealthy
This whole idea of gentle parenting is not helping any Mum, it’s just putting more pressure on parents to be this perfect, carefree, easy going, I don’t need help but I am actually drowning type of Mum that is causing more harm than good! Don’t raise your voice, don’t get upset, let the child lead you with what they want, spend 8 hours making pasta from scratch with a toddler because you need to slow down and enjoy the process…..I understand the principle but it’s just not realistic! Gentle parenting to me is being kind to yourself. Go gentle on yourself when you have a moment of frustration, or when you can’t afford to spend more time doing what your children want because you need to go grocery shopping. Don’t feel embarrassed when they misbehave at a birthday party because they are drunk on sugar, and don’t feel guilty because you’re not a super mum who can be in twelve thousand places at once, operating in every single positive emotion and energy that all your different children need all at the one time!! At the end of the day when you kiss your babies goodnight, forgive yourself for how you behaved, and for where you couldn’t do more and be proud of yourself for what you did do. Your children are safe and happy, tomorrow is a new day with more opportunity and you’re still their most favourite person in the whole world.
3. Nothing is absolute so stop trying to control everything and everyone
You can try and put your child in the most perfect linen frilly onesie with a head bow, but at the end of the day that child is their own person and if they don’t want to wear the bow on their head you can’t make them! It took me longer to realise this than I care to admit, but if you can just let that little person be who they want to be, you will teach them from the get go that who they are is perfect and they have nothing to be ashamed of (even if that means their choice in clothes makes them look like a member of the village people!!).
4. It takes a village to raise a family
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it really takes a whole village to raise the child, the mum and everyone else in between! It’s not just your children that need extra support, but usually you are the one whose needs get pushed to the background and need the most help! Sometimes it helps to have people outside of your spouse to talk to that understand what you’re going through, and usually the best people are those who have lived through the trenches you are deep in. I have called on my Mum and sister in law more than I can count, and I have gone from feeling as though I am doing it alone to calling my Mum every single day to ask her for advice. If people offer to have your children for an hour so you can have a moment to yourself, please say yes! Let people in to help you, you don’t have to do it all by yourself and we were never designed to!
5. Give each child 10 minutes of undivided attention a day
I read something on this parenting blog that said that children don’t need your undivided attention all day long, they just need 10 minutes of uninterrupted time with you doing what they want to do. No phones or devices, no siblings or other people around, just uninterrupted ‘Body, Mind and Soul Time’ to fill up their power and attention buckets. Regardless of what age your child/ren is, 10 minutes once or twice a day roughly at the same time each day will speak volumes to your child/ren for the rest of their lives. I use a timer to make sure that I stick to the 10 minutes just so I can fit in doing it with 3 children each day and keep it fair, and once time is up you will find that your child is happy to stay playing by themselves, or will be a lot more regulated and settled!
6. A Mother’s intuition is incredibly accurate
Children can be incredibly resilient, and usually it’s a good thing but other times they also need you to step in and advocate for them! Just the other day we were at a kids party, and my girlfriend's little boy fell off the slide and let out a big scream. She quickly ran and picked him up and within 5 minutes he was his happy self again but carrying his arm around because it was sore. He said he was fine, but her motherly intuition told her to get an x-ray done and it turns out he had broken his collarbone! Had she taken his lead and left it, who knows what may have happened with his recovery! Another girlfriend of mine's daughter would feel excruciating pain everytime she lay down. The Dr said it was a UTI, but 3 months of pushing to get to the bottom of it led to an MRI which revealed she had cancer growing in her kidneys and spinal cavity! She is ok and made a complete recovery, but again a mothers intuition never lies and should not be disregarded.
Whether you are an expecting mother, an overwhelmed mumma, or just a mum who needs to feel encouraged I hope that my lessons spark some reassurance that all the things you’re feeling are being felt by us all, you’re not alone, and that the hard moments will pass.