Rachael’s story: reflecting on the fourth trimester

Obviously supporting new mums’ wellbeing is a high priority and something the Cheshire Parenting Collective team is passionate about as well as focusing on the newborn. When I signed up for the Fourth Trimester course I thought it would be helpful as I had no idea what to expect with a newborn baby. My gorgeous baby girl Charlotte was a little late so when I first attended the course she was only a week old. Some people think this was bonkers but it was the perfect time to go as my husband was still on paternity leave and could support us getting out of the house.

After the first session, I was hooked for more. The sessions were light and informal, babies take the lead – so if you need to feed or change this is encouraged. There is also a lot of discussion rather than being preached at and the group as a whole was very supportive. We had plenty of laughs and even shed a few tears at times. For me, the hardest part of having a newborn was when she was 3 weeks old. Everything suddenly became extremely overwhelming. Charlotte had bad reflux, wind, struggled to settle, screamed a lot and I was so sleep deprived. Also, my husband had just gone back to work and breastfeeding was extremely painful. This course has firstly encouraged me to get out of the house and drive early with a newborn. Something I think is positive and now I am extremely confident with getting out of the house and all the equipment.

The sleep session was very helpful as it gave me lots of tools to try and eventually some of them worked and we both got some sleep. Also with breastfeeding during the feeding session it was picked up that we had thrush. This completely explained the issues we were having with feeding and we promptly got treated. What I found most helpful was that there was a lot of focus on your wellbeing too. In the first session, Ellie was very open about baby blues and I never expected it to hit me. But it did and thanks to this course when it did I recognised it quickly and got help straight away before things got worse. Mine was only very mild but I definitely think it could have got much worse.

Focusing on yourself is not something that comes naturally with a newborn but thanks to how much self-care was encouraged I think I have managed to address things quickly. She is now a healthy, happy and very responsive 2 month old. Reflecting on our fourth trimester now, the course was definitely one of the most helpful things we did.

Read These 5 Books If You’ve Got A Wild Toddler

Jenny Neill from Connect Emotional Education shares five books that can help you to better understand your tiny human. *this blog post contains affiliate links – if you use our links to buy the books mentioned here, we receive a small commission.

You’ve got through the pregnancy part, the birth bit, the first year (woohoo!) and now you’re into your little one’s second year (how did that happen!). You might have a two-year-old and be reading this – you’ve got even further along – but with increased age comes greater challenges.

The baby books didn’t tell us that they would develop their own personalities and preferences and, shock horror, not do everything we ask them to do in a timely manner. I went into our local bookshop to see what books there were available on parenting a toddler – there were around 10. Online shopping offers an even more bewildering range, so how do you know which one to choose?

The following five books are ones that I have read or are highly recommended by Cheshire Parenting Collective community members. Check out Cheshire Parenting Collective’s online catalogue if you’d like to borrow one. If you are wondering how to fit reading in while parenting a toddler and juggling one hundred other things, then audio books might be the way forward!

So much has been discovered about the human brain in the last twenty or so years. That’s why you will find most of these books talking about parenting in relation to what we know about child development and how our brains develop over time.

ToddlerCalm: A guide for calmer toddlers and happier parents by Sarah Ockwell-Smith

ToddlerCalm is a comprehensive guide to some of the common challenges that toddlers and toddler parents face. The basis of the approach is firmly rooted in helping parents understand child neuropsychology and broader child psychology thus giving realistic expectations of what we can expect from our toddlers and not just what we think they should be doing.

Using the CRUCIAL (Control, Rhythm, Understanding, Communication, Individual, Avoiding, Love) approach the book works towards helping parents to form their own action plan for their own parenting concerns. Above all, I know that it has been reassuring for many parents to know that their child is acting in a developmentally appropriate way as well as having some strategies for how to deal with typical
toddler behaviour.

Amazon link: ToddlerCalm: A guide for calmer toddlers and happier parents

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Proven Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Dr Daniel Siegel and Dr Tina Payne Bryson

The tagline to this book is ’12 proven strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind’. This is a great book that will help throughout your parenting journey. There isn’t lots it that is toddler specific but the simple way that Drs Siegel and Bryson explain the emotions in the brain is, in my opinion, the crucial part of the book which makes lots of toddler behaviour fall into place.

A short video explanation by Dr Siegel can be found here:

It’s a very accessible book with pictures and scenarios of how you might react and what a better response might be. I know lots of parents find this useful.

Amazon link: The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Proven Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

Discipline Without Damage: How to Get Your Kids to Behave Without Messing Them Up by Dr Vanessa Lapointe

This is another book that combines scientific research with the author’s clinical experience as a child and family psychologist to offer parents a practical resource with effective strategies. It shows parents why connection and communication are so important when helping to guide our children and offers advice on how parents can regulate their children’s behaviours in constructive ways.

The book is highly regarded by Dr Lapointe’s fellow parenting authors.

Amazon link: Discipline Without Damage: How to Get Your Kids to Behave Without Messing Them Up

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

This book has been around for a while and is a classic when helping parents to understand effective communication with children. It has been adapted into teenage-specific and young child-specific versions. The young child book (How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King) deals with children from 2 – 7 years and starts with a great quote from Peggy O’Mara, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice,” which is so true and is the premise of all the books.

It provides parents with a toolkit of communication strategies such as ‘acknowledge feelings with words’. It is then organised into chapters based on common, everyday challenges faced by parents of young children.

Amazon link: How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk

The Toddler Brain: Nurture the Skills Today that Will Shape Your Child’s Tomorrow by Dr Laura Jana

This is quite a new book but deserves a mention. I was lucky enough to see Dr Laura Jana talk at a conference last year. She is a paediatrician who runs a large daycare centre in the US so she really knows about young children. Her book is such an interesting one: it borrows from the business world (to consider the skills that children will need to grow to be able to participate in adult life) and combines the science of wellbeing with parenting.

I include it in this list as I think it might really speak to some parents who are firmly embedded in the business world whilst also needing a guide on how to adjust to their relatively new role of parent. It takes a skills-based approach to parenting,
looking at the key skills (or Qi skills as they are called in the book) that children need to develop to become well-rounded individuals and then examining what this looks like in early childhood. It’s a very comprehensive book, offering lots of practical examples of ways that you can support your child.

Amazon link: The Toddler Brain: Nurture the Skills Today that Will Shape Your Child’s Tomorrow

One thing that all the books in this list have in common is that they are taking a long-term view of each child’s development, helping to lay foundations for lifelong communication, problem-solving and relationship building that will support our children into adulthood.

When you’re dealing with a ‘wild’ toddler it is easy to slip into thinking that you are somehow ‘failing’ as a parent, which can lead to resorting to stricter or harsher ways of communicating. Taking a long-term approach and arming yourself with a range of strategies can really help to get through those tough, toddler times.  Research and strategies from most of these books form the basis of the Understanding Your Toddler workshop that I designed and deliver on behalf of Cheshire Parenting Collective.

Working Parents: Hayley

Hayley is self-employed and runs Fiddlebeads. She has six children aged 16 months to 19 years.

At Fiddlebeads we handcraft fiddle, teething and sensory necklaces and accesories, which are made from wooden and/or silicone beads and natural wooden teethers. They are absolutely perfect for babies, toddlers, children and to adulthood and cater for a range of needs including fiddling, teething, sensory or just a stunning, handmade, safe statement piece I am married to Rob, we have been together for 21 years this year and married for 5. We have 6 wonderful children Ryan 19, Olivia 16, Harry 6, Isabella 5, Madeleine 3 and William 16 months. We also have 3 fur babies Luna, Ziggy and Ted.

When Isabella was born she was a complete fiddler when feeding, she was nosy and distracted at the breast and pulled off at every noise. In the sling, she was a total hair puller so Fiddlebeads was born out of me trying to fix my own problem and find something that I would like to, wear as I am not really a massive necklace wearer (well I wasn’t before, I am now, I am never without my Fiddlebeads.)

Rob and I decided together that this we wanted to have a business at home, where we could both be, I wanted to be home for the children and Rob was a carer for his mum. We needed to be flexible for our family needs and this fit beautifully.

Work happens pretty consistently throughout the day, once the children are at school and nursery. Usually, William will nap or sometimes he is in the sling on my back and that is when I will organise what necklaces we have to make and send that day.

I am a total organiser and list lady so I make lots of lists, to do list, to post list, posted list….you see my point! We generally work until 9.30am until 3pm then collect the children and then a little more work and a post run, which is the end of the making part of the day.

Once the kids are in bed, that is usually when I try to do some marketing, social media and make sure all messages are answered. Weekends are less structured and work happens as and when but mostly when the kids are in bed.

The small children think my job is cool and love looking at all the colour combinations. They sometimes ask us to make something for them….perks of your mama being the boss! The older ones, don’t really say much but I know they like that we work from home. I think it’s also really important that we can show them what can be achieved through hard work and dedication.

The best thing about my situation is the flexibility: doing something I love and making products I truly believe in. Being a work-at-home mum is really amazing and I am blessed I can be home with my small people.

Sometimes it is hard as Fiddlebeads is our only job and therefore our only income, and not having a fixed salary is sometimes challenging.  Also, our work is in our home so we never really turn off from it.

If you’re a parent looking for flexible working, I would advise you to firstly believe in your product.  Do the best you can, research thoroughly and don’t take shortcuts. Working for yourself is hard and building a good, successful business takes time and effort, don’t do something just to make a quick buck.

View all posts in this series. Are you a working parent? We’d love to hear your story – please get in touch to talk.

Working Parents: Eve

Eve is the founder of Baba+Boo, a brand of reusable nappies and online planet-friendly baby store.

I am chief everything officer. I design our products, run our website and our social media platforms. I am married with two children, a boy aged 10 and a girl who was born 14 but is just still only 8.

Before I had children I was a senior buyer at a procurement company. I loved it but it was really full-on. I realised quite soon after I had my son that I wasn’t going to make it work being a mum and carry on with the hours I did. The company was really young and I was the first to have a baby, so there was not going to be much flexibility. When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter while still on maternity leave, it was the decider. It turned out I was made redundant so it worked out ok, as I got a decent package that gave me a little financial breather to decide what I wanted to do.

I have worked since I being 14, so not working and being at home was a shock to my system. I threw myself into being a mum but needed something for me. I wanted to be around the children growing up, so decided to have a go at starting a little business. My husband was all for it, he knew that I wanted to be with the children and supported me while I got the business started.

No day or week is the same. In my ideal day, I get up early and have a brew before the house awakes which is the best start. Then it is making breakfasts and getting the children off to school. 3 days a week, I go to a gym class. I love them, really gives me focus and I usually get more work done after I have done them in the morning.

As I do most things within the business, I usually have set days to do certain jobs such a product development, social media and so on. This doesn’t always pan out but I like to have a plan.

I pick the kids up and we usually have something on – guitar lessons, football, gymnastics – so I am ferrying around after school. Then it’s tea, homework, reading and bedtime. I am usually exhausted before the kids go to bed but as soon as they are asleep, I get a second wind. I’ll usually spend a couple of hours working before I go to bed. I am always usually in the middle of something at 3pm, there are never enough hours in the day.

My children love what I do. They help pack orders in the school holidays and always help me pick prints for our new collection. My son is really interested in the planet and animals, so he loves that my business is helping leave a better planet for his generation.

When they were smaller, they used to come and shut my laptop. That was really hard but I had to squeeze every last drop of work out of every minute. It is so much easier now they are bigger.

Being able to work around my family and the flexibility it brings. I love that I have been around them since they were babies. I can also work when I choose to work, so if I am not feeling it that day, I can take the day off and make up for it at weekend or when it suits me.

I am never off. Holidays are really hard to manage and I never switch off completely. You have to live and breathe your business and it is hard work. Many times, I have wanted to pack in and get a job but the grass isn’t always greener.

People think running a business is so daunting and impossible. It really isn’t, as long as it is something you feel passionate about. There is so much help and support out there for start-ups. It is hard work but being in control of your own family’s time is the best feeling, it is worth it. It just takes a spark sometimes.

View all posts in this series. Are you a working parent? We’d love to hear your story – please get in touch to talk.

Working Parents: Jenni

Jenni owns Your Birth Antenatal Classes and offers MummyNatal mindfulness-inspired birth preparation courses and birth partner workshops in Stockport, Manchester and Tameside. 

I have 2 children, my son who is 3 and a bit, and my daughter who is 18 months but already acts like a threenager! My husband, who also runs his own business, works full time while I balance running my business with further training and being with the children.

I made the decision to leave my job as a high school teacher when my daughter was just a few months old. My own experiences while I was pregnant had left me thinking there must be something more for expectant parents. I’d heard about MummyNatal from a friend and thought it sounded exactly what I wished I’d had during my own pregnancy – except there was no teacher in my area. The Natal Family ethos is all about empowering parents, allowing them space to find out what works for them and their babies, and providing an unbiased antenatal education, giving parents the chance to make fully informed choices. I wanted to bring that opportunity to other families and help them have positive birthing experiences.

At first glance my job seems simple, I teach a few classes per week and I’m with the kids the rest of the time. But the reality is there are many ‘behind the scenes’ hours of hard work that I need to balance with spending time with my children. Each day and each week is different depending on what point of my term I’m at. I’m continually researching information connected to newborn welfare, child development, maternity and postnatal care issues. As an educator, my own education is never finished, I continually reflect on my teaching, learning is never finished!

My family and friends are all very supportive of my career change. My mum takes care of the children a lot if my husband is working long hours so that I can go out to teach. The kids are great about it too, they know when they see me in my purple MummyNatal top that I’m going out to talk with other mums about their babies.

The best thing about my current job is that I am around much more for the children, so it is exactly what I need right now while they are so young. When I’m with my children I try to be mindful of really being present with them, but as I am also on call for my current and prospective clients whenever they need to get in touch, it is a balancing act to make sure everybody gets the care they deserve.

If you are thinking of changing jobs to working for yourself, I’d say it’s vital to make sure you’ve got a support network around you. Without my mum and husband, I just couldn’t do what I’m doing. Also, it’s important to think about not just what you’ll be doing, but how you’ll do it: I’ve gone from being a very social person, interacting with many different staff members and numerous children, to being with just my own 2 children, and working closely with around 10 women per class. Some people might find that difference difficult, and realise their personality isn’t suited to a more isolated type of working. It’s important to balance following your dreams with the realities of any potential job situation and its implications before making a decision.

View all posts in this series. Are you a working parent? We’d love to hear your story – please get in touch to talk.

Our ultimate parenting playlist

We recently asked our social media followers to tell us their favourite parenting songs, and we were overwhelmed by the response! It’s clear that many of us use music to help us out on tough parenting days, so we thought we would curate an Ultimate Parenting Playlist on Spotify.

On it, you’ll find tried-and-tested songs to lift your mood, make you laugh, and feel connected with other parents. Your little ones might enjoy a few, too!

You can find the playlist here – tell us in the comments which songs you would add!

Working Parents: Chloe

Chloe is a self-employed graphic designer. She lives with her husband and their almost-5-year-old daughter, who has just started school.

I worked for a local publishing group for 8 years prior to becoming pregnant, but after 5 years took voluntary redundancy from part of my job – so I went from full time to working 3 days a week. I’d learnt an awful lot from my colleagues but I’d always dreamed of choosing my own working hours and my own clients. I’m also quite an introvert. I like people, but working in a very large company in an open plan office made me quite stressed, so reducing the time I was there was the best of both worlds! My now husband was very supportive of my decision, and luckily we were able to afford it.

My daughter was born in 2013 and after a few months I found that I was able to maintain my existing clients thanks to slings – I got quite adept at working while swaying! The closer it got to maternity leave ending the surer I was that I didn’t want to go back. After a terrible experience with a childminder, our minds were made up! My high-needs child was clearly not ready for external childcare, and I felt confident that I could work a small amount while she slept, so I resigned.

It has got progressively easier to work as childcare has increased over the years, and now my daughter is at school I can get quite a bit done at last! Her school is only 5 minutes walk away so I am back from the school run by 9am normally and work pretty much continuously until I leave to pick her up at 2.50pm. I can sometimes get an extra half hour in while she chills out after school, and if needed I can work when she’s asleep.

I love the flexibility that working from home affords me – I can go to Stay and Play every week and school assemblies, it’s not a problem if she’s sick, and we can get plenty of special time in after school. I could definitely earn more by becoming employed, and the school day is so short that I tend to prioritise work over exercise, but it’s worth it!

I think you have to make a concerted effort to overcome the downsides. I’m getting a dog to make me take a break and get some exercise, and I’ve started a Facebook group of local home-working creatives to provide support. We’re aiming to meet up once or twice a month so we get to talk to real life adults occasionally! I sometimes really struggle with the transition between working and parenting, as the school day is just long enough to get my teeth into a project, only to have to stop mid-flow. I have to be quite mindful not to be irritable about it, but it’s getting easier as we settle into the school routine.

For me, the biggest downside is the school holidays. I’m now working enough that I can’t just stop during the school holidays, but my work is unpredictable enough that booking holiday clubs in advance is not especially helpful. My ideal solution to this problem would be a hot desk/studio space like Ziferblat, but with on-site childcare.

It’s not perfect, but I really think flexible working is the right choice for my family – I am doing fulfilling work, and I can give my daughter the support and attention she needs. It’s pretty satisfying!

View all posts in this series. Are you a working parent? We’d love to hear your story – please get in touch to talk.

Working Parents: Lindsay

Lindsay is a 38-year-old married mum of 5. She makes and sells beautiful hand-dyed items at All The Small Things.

My husband and I have 5 children, aged 15, 13, 10, 7 and 4. We also home educate our youngest. I run All The Small Things, where I hand dye things – mainly clothes and fabric, but also baby wraps and slings, and other bits and bobs as custom orders. I specialise in tie-dyes, ice dyes, but also have an interest in wax resist work, which I’m starting to explore more.I stopped work after having Niamhy, our second child, mainly because of child care costs, and at the time we thought if we could manage it, I would stay at home with the children.

When Iris, our youngest, came along I decided that if I was to make any money, it would most likely be doing something that meant I could work from home, especially because childcare can be so expensive, and asking others to look after 5 kids would be taking liberties.

We knew Iris was to be our last, and honestly, though I loved being a stay at home mum, and running our local sling library, I wanted to do more. My husband had recently changed his job, and also hours, which meant that we would be spending less time as a family than we were used to, so this needed to be considered too. Though I discussed this with Rob, the actual decision was mine. Rob made it clear that whatever I decided he would support me.

I opened All the Small Things, a small, online shop, selling work-at-home-mum (WAHM) made items, mostly baby/child related, made by other people. I’m very lucky that I knew several talented makers who were happy for me to be stockists for them. Iris was 5 months old when I became self-employed.

As the kids got older, I wanted to do more. I’d always done tie-dye, mostly for family and friends, so when friends suggested that I do some for the shop I thought why not. At first, it was just as and when I could, then as custom orders, and before I knew it, the hand dyed items were my most popular, so I made the decision to focus just on that.

Most weekdays, we get up at around 6 am – animals are sorted, sandwiches packed for lunches and then I answer any messages whilst having a coffee, whilst the kids have breakfast. Rob goes out to work at 7.30am, until about 6-6.30pm, so then I concentrate on seeing kids off, helping the younger ones, having a quick tidy up and school runs. I’ll check in a few times a day to check for messages, or uploading/sending photographs, invoicing and the like, but I just fit this in around other things.

I tend to dye (with all the associated washing and rinsing) between 3 and 5 times a week. I try to get the bulk of it done at the weekends when Rob is about, but sometimes I end up dyeing once we get back on from the afternoon school run. I usually set the younger kids up with some craft, maybe a film to watch, get them settled and then go and do my stuff in the kitchen. The kids know where I am, I can hear them and they know where to find me if they want me. We have our own little rhythm now which seems to work quite well.

Mostly, I think the children like that I work from home. They like that I can take them to school, pick them up, go to open days and such. Though my eldest will often tease me about being a ‘hippie’, I think they are quite proud of what I do too.

When I’ve had a particularly busy period for whatever reason, the younger ones have told me that I was doing too much work, so I have to stop and take a step back and explain to them why, but that’s not a regular thing thankfully, as the guilt is awful. And it’s as frustrating as hell.

The best thing is that I can still (mostly) raise my children in the way that I wanted to, and that the effort I put into my work makes me feel proud, and actually, that I can contribute financially too. Not that who earns what has ever been an issue, but it still means that me doing something that I love can help pay for school uniforms, the occasional treat, that sort of thing.

I love dyeing things, I love the artistic freedom, and the fact that it can genuinely make people happy, it makes me feel that I’m more than just everyone’s mum. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I was needing more, for me.

If you’re looking for more flexible work, do what works for you. There isn’t a right or wrong way, everyone has things that work best for them. If something isn’t working, change it, things don’t need to be set in stone. Try to look after yourself a bit. This is something I struggle with. It’s easy to get burnt out, but surround yourself with people who will support you and who aren’t scared to tell you that you need to chill a bit! It’s very easy to get caught up with it all.

View all posts in this series. Are you a working parent? We’d love to hear your story – please get in touch to talk.

9 Ways To Get More Rest In The Fourth Trimester

Having a baby can be amazing, and amazingly difficult. One of the most common questions we hear from the new parents we meet is how to get more sleep, or at the very least, more rest. We talk about this a lot in our Fourth Trimester Course, because looking after yourself is so important – especially when you have a newborn baby.

We asked our online community how they carved out more time to rest when their babies were born – we hope this list gives you some inspiration!

Rest when you can

“Don’t try to plan your day – just rest or sleep whenever / wherever the opportunity arises.” – Lucy

“Rest! all the time! as La Leche League say – never stand when you could sit, never sit when you could lie, and never lie when you could sleep.” – Lyzzi

Keep expectations realistic

“Redefine ‘rest’.” – Alex

“I found this time that realigning my expectations has vastly improved my mood.” – Vicky

“Relax and go with the flow. Don’t plan the day or have any expectations- just see where you end up, and if you’re showered/dressed by tea time – awesome, if you’re wearing the same pyjamas that you’ve been wearing for 3 days – so what!?” – Nikki

Huddle down…

“Ban visitors completely for a while and just be a new family for a week or so. Longer if they are energy drains. For us, it was so important both times that we had time to enjoy our new babies before family started traipsing through. If you feel the same don’t feel you can’t say ‘no visitors please until x date’.” – Alex

…Or throw open the doors

“People talk about banning/minimising visitors but actually I love that side of things but I would go to them. It meant a) the house didn’t need to be tidy b) people wait on you much more in their house c) I could get up and leave when I/baby had had enough! Oh and d) being around people relaxed me!” – Nichola

Invite ignorance

“Don’t look at the time during night feeds! When I stopped doing this and adding the hours up that I’d been awake for every night, I felt so much better!” – Angela

“Don’t time night feeds either (if breastfeeding) with apps like Feed baby or similar. There’s no pattern (or if there is it will change very soon). So don’t torture yourself, knowing this information is not necessary or helpful!” – Rachel

“If you have a Fitbit (other devices are available) make sure you take it off at night – looking back at the lack of sleep only makes you feel worse!” – Charlotte

Ask for (and accept) help

“Accept your partner can take a turn, even if baby is unsettled. It’s hard to not intervene and think you can settle baby better yourself… But your partner needs to find his/her way and mum needs a break.” – Emily

“Give partner a sling- my other half loved my little boy falling asleep on him from 2weeks old.” – Anne-Marie

“If your baby is unsettled, see if a friend/relative will walk them round the block in a sling/buggy – they’ll probably be happy to have time with the baby, the fresh air will help settle the baby, and you can have 10 minutes quiet time. ” – Nikki

Change your scenery

“Fresh air!” – Karen

“Go for a walk. Fresh air is wonderful.” – Emily

“Definitely getting out of the house every day for me, I don’t know if it is the fresh air or the change of scene but I sleep better and rest better when I’ve been out and about. I walked 8 miles the other day back from the soft play, stopping at parks, cafes and restaurants on the way. It was marvellous.” – Alex

“I always felt better after making it outside, even just for a ten minute walk with baba and loved carrying them in a sling.” – Jackie

Re-evaluate your sleeping arrangements

“Co-sleep or attach cot to your bed. We tied ours to our bed with cable ties and put a rolled up towel in the space. That meant much less getting up at night.” – Ruthie

“A safe bedsharing/cosleeping arrangement.” – Lyzzi

“A family nap has worked.” – Louise

[For info on safe bedsharing, check out the LLL Safe Sleep Seven here]

Talk about how you’re feeling

“Don’t be a martyr – rest when you need to, and admit it when it’s hard. Struggling doesn’t make you a bad parent.” – Nikki

Are you a new parent in need of more coping strategies? Check out our Fourth Trimester Course and Fourth Trimester Groups.

Working Parents: Ruthie

Ruthie, a self-employed photographer, tells us about balancing work and family. Ruthie lives with her husband and two daughters. 

I am happily married to Alex for almost 7 years. We have two daughters: Mia, 5 years old and Annabelle, one year old. I also have a 13-year-old dog. I live and breathe photography. I take portraits of people of all ages, mainly in natural light: Family portraits, individuals, babies, breastfeeding mummies (and any other kind of feeding), life at home and even fashion (which I absolutely love doing). I also do more arty kind of photography that looks great on canvas prints.

The job chose me. I always took photos, and always got great feedback from people about my photos. I come from a background in filmmaking so it was not a strange field to me. After I gave birth to my first daughter I slowly discovered what kind of a mother I am. I am a breastfeeder, which means that feeding a baby only I can do… I am a home cook, I care about the food we eat and that takes up a lot of my time. I am a have-messy-fun-with-your-kid kind of a mother. 

All that meant that going back to 9-10 hour shift a day kind of a job as a film editor was not going to work for me. Moreover, a lot of the work I was offered meant going away for a few days and I would not part with my daughter. Slowly I fell out of love with filmmaking while I fell in love with being a mother. I must admit I had a few very confused years, during which I did not know what I was and who I was, other than Alex’s wife and Mia’s mummy.

But I had an inkling that I should buy a good camera. So I did. It kind of snowballed from that.

I am building my business around mothering. Bearing in mind that with time, my girls will be less and less dependent on me, and I will be able to focus on my business more and more. Long distance planning is my game.

Having my second baby, I already knew what kind of a mother I am. So for the first year of her life, my business was put on the back burner, taking the odd job, and mainly taking care of my Annabelle.

Mia is now in school. Annabelle started nursery two mornings a week and her grandparents babysit one morning a week. That gives me 3 mornings of work. During this time I completely dedicate myself to work. That would be editing pictures, updating my Facebook page and website and getting in touch with people. Nothing else. No tidying, no cooking, no washing, no cleaning. I am like a horse with blinders – eyes on the target.

I have a truly supportive partner who is happy to take care of the girls when I have photo shoots on the weekends. Luckily he works for himself so he can be flexible with his time during the week. Therefore I can ‘steal’ an afternoon if I have a midweek photo shoot.

I also work weekends and sometimes late nights. Luckily I love it. The rest of my time is dedicated to my family.

The best thing for me is that I discovered my true professional passion in life. I enjoy every stage of the process. I enjoy learning new software, new tricks, honing my craft. I love getting to know new people and new places on the job. I love combining my talents, likes, and passions. And I love the fact I work for myself and can still be the mother and partner I want to be.

My advice to anyone wanting to balance work and family would be to first understand the parent that you are. How long are you happy to be away from your children? How much can you afford it?

Secondly, after becoming parents we will never go back to be the same people we were before. So if your job has too many demands, rethink. Maybe you could be amazing doing something else?  Maybe you can do the same thing but differently?

Also, if you can afford it, it is ok not to work while you rethink. If you take time off to think about it all, do not feel guilty. I did, and I am sorry I did. Taking care of your children is so much harder than any job. Do not feel guilty.

View all posts in this series. Are you a working parent? We’d love to hear your story – please get in touch to talk.