My parenting sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. Of course I love my children unconditionally and each and every night when they are tucked up in bed fast asleep (and silent) I wonder how on earth I managed to produce such bundles of utter perfection. But I'll be the first to admit that I'm about as maternal as a brick wall.
I hated everything about pregnancy… Having to abstain from everything that I love to eat and drink. The loss of my waistline and my ever-expanding arse. Living in nothing but leggings and Uggs. The rashes, nosebleeds, indigestion, wind, exhaustion, leg cramps, morning sickness, back ache, the constant need to pee.
The first time round I spent MAT leave attending baby massage, baby yoga, baby Mozart, baby sensory and every other rip-off-twelve-quid-a-pop baby group in North London alongside my fellow NCT mums Natalie and Becky and our bundles of joy; Teddy, Loula and Bella.
When we weren’t at baby groups we were at each other’s flats eating cake, comparing cradle cap and discussing everything from every last detail of our birth experiences, the positioning of our stretch marks and the quickest ways to ditch the baby weight, and JoJo Maman BeBe’s latest range of dribble bibs. Deep down though I was bored of baby talk and yearning to get back to work.
I wanted to be talking SWOT analysis, not SNOT analysis.
I was back at work full time within four months much to the horror of many. My mum was simply mortified that I was abandoning my child; leaving a complete stranger to raise her beautiful grandson. “Why the hell have you even bothered having him if you are going to palm him off on someone else for four full days a week?” was her take on my decision to go back to work so soon. Meanwhile little Teddy was benefiting from all the advantages of being looked after at a private North London nursery by patient, composed, tolerant, softly spoken nursery nurses… all the things I’m quite frankly NOT.
Motherhood comes with guilt and lots of it. The bolshie demeanour and ‘don’t give a f**k’ attitude my husband fell head over heels in love with me for, was replaced with self-reproach about everything that involved my child in any way. I even felt guilty for not feeling maybe as guilty as a I should have for sending him to nursery for nine hours a day.
Second time round pregnancy was just as unbearable. The birth was a lot easier but the isolation of being at home in London with a newborn for nine whole months was tough. This time I gave into the guilt and convinced myself that I was going to be earth mother for nine months. Take full advantage of the nine months off work that I was rightly entitled to and dedicate every last second of it to my new daughter.
But the reality was I had no NCT buddies to keep me company and no real support network. Baby groups where pretty awful alone. No one to join me in taking the piss out of the far too mumsy, make-up free, hair scraped back, linen-wearing North London mums taking the nursery rhyme singing to an unnecessary level of seriousness.
This time there was no one to join me in the park. No one to spend sunny afternoons with in North London beer gardens rocking our Bugaboos with one hand and sipping a glass of Pinot Grigio with the other. My mum was 200 miles up the M1 and my husband was working long hours. Post Natal Depression kicked in and I started to lose my shit. I struggled in silence for the best part of a year.
It was only when my husband threatened to divorce me and run off with our kids around the time Ferne was 18 months old that I admitted that I wasn’t coping very well and my short fuse and bad temper were two of many symptoms of PND. Of course with this comes even more guilt. My short fuse and bad temper was suffered not just by my husband but by my children as well.
I’m now on medication to alleviate some of the symptoms for PND and anxiety, which can be another side effect of having children. I’m never going to be Mary Poppins but there is a lot less Mrs Hannigan in me.
I’m a self-confessed workaholic, and sometimes my work and my phone come before everything else including my husband and kids. I struggle to switch off and working from home makes it all the more difficult. My bundles of joy who are now two and a half and nearly six, bound in through the front door at 6pm on the dot every evening throughout the week and although I’ll leave my office to spend quality time with them before they disappear upstairs with Daddy for bath and story time, my phone is always within reach and should that all too familiar sound of an email, WhatsApp message or text be heard then I’m quick to grab the thing.
Ferne (affectionately known as Inferno because of her rather spirited personality), the youngest of the two is shipped off to our wonderful childminder Leanne most days. Teddy joins them after school for a few hours. Leanne is one of those angels sent from above. Put on earth to lend a helping hand to mums like me who are quite frankly shit at the job a lot of the time. Leanne is the one who spends time sticking, gluing, drawing, building, baking, singing with my children.
My controlling nature and OCD prevents me for doing most of these activities with my children because I can’t bear to watch them colouring outside of the lines or distributing the cake mixture unevenly into the bun cases. I shout far too much, look at my phone far too much and bribe them both with chocolate far too much. I expect I let my children watch way more Peppa Pig than most parents and consume way more sugar than most. I work far too much, drink far too much wine and should play with them a hell of a lot more than I do.
By now you are probably thinking A) I can relate to this poor cow. Or B) why the F*CK did the selfish bitch have kids?
So when someone introduces themselves to you as the owner of a business that involves supporting you to become a positive role model for your children, you’d rightly expect her to fall into the B list if she were to learn the extent of your parenting techniques.
Anisa is from Oz now residing in Ilkley in West Yorkshire. She’s big, bubbly, boisterous and blunt in a tactful, no-offensive way. She’s a far cry from all the preconceptions one may have of someone whose business was set up to run workshops to help families create healthy child rearing habits.
When I met Anisa and she talked me through her venture – essentially a business set up to advise and coach parents to be better parents – I associated the idea with Birkenstock-wearing Americans who breastfeed their kids well beyond most – those that carry their offspring around in a home-made slings and whose social life is put on hold for a minimum of three years . The types who love crafting, never raises their voice, don’t swear, manage screen time and shun Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and any other social networks. A woman who would patronise me, judge me, and try and, in a condescending way, turn me into something I quite simply never will be – an earth mother put on this earth to do nothing but raise children.
Naturally I was a little anxious when Anisa invited me along to one of her Parenting Success workshops. Not least because by accepting the invitation I was, in my mind, openly admitting that I needed (a lot of) help to become a successful parent. And this is one of the hurdles she faces – getting parents to admit that actually, it’s ok to reach out to others for advice now and again, and parenting is an ongoing process of learning and doing what is right for you and your family set-up.
Anisa, an early years primary school teacher, is a mum herself and openly admits that she wasn’t born an earth mother. However, she’s a passionate mum and ex-school teacher who’s ambition is to coach parents and inspire and empower their parenting abilities. I challenge any parent to state that they find the parenting path a breeze. It’s not, and having someone like Anisa who offers support to parents through non-judgmental, interactive workshops is worth its waiting gold.
I arrived at Anisa’a house and immediately felt at ease. Four of us were ushered into her dining room and invited to sit at her dining room table and Anisa told us that the little table games and chocolate in front of us were there in case we grew bored of her ramblings, and wanted time out. The Time Out chocolate bar that we all were presented with was just one of the many little personal touches that contributed to a friendly, thoughtful, relaxed environment. It added a little camaraderie to the group and in turn provided a relaxed environment for participants to instantly open up and discuss in detail their parenting techniques and challenges. Straight away I felt at ease and able to discuss in detail with the other participants, my everyday motherhood struggles.
The structured three hour sessions that involved discussing tips, techniques and tools to being a successful parent was inspiring and self-assuring and down to earth. Anisa certainly gave me the confidence and self-assurance to discuss in detail, with strangers around the table, my trials and tribulations of raising my children, to the extent that actually, she wholeheartedly agreed with, and related to some of my concerns over my parenting abilities with no judgement whatsoever. With coffee and tea, wine and treats on tap, the evening was more a ‘parenting party’ than a boring workshop on how to be the perfect parent.
I don’t want to give too many of Anisa’s successful techniques away, but what I will say is that I came away feeling inspired, but more importantly a lot less guilty about how I raise my children. I was given tips on how to deal with my children in situations that all parents experience. How to empower them, and how to discipline them positively, boosting their confidence and supporting their independence, but most importantly embracing their characters.
I came away with a toolbox of easily implemented ideas and activities that have already helped me to communicate better with my children; discipline them positively and reward them without filling them with copious amounts of sugar.
Most importantly, I now have a new found respect from my children and they visa-versa after implementing some of the techniques that the Parenting Success workshops highlight.
All I’ll say is don’t dig yourself out. Being a parent is the most difficult job in the world. We all beat ourselves up every day and our children push the boundaries and our buttons far too often. If, like me, you sometimes feel that you are failing as a mum, book yourself onto one of Anisa’s workshops and come away with a few everyday tips that will enhance communications and the relationship between you and your children, but most importantly, reinforce the fact that whatever your parenting techniques, and however many hours you work, you are a great mum.