Want to know WTF a Woke Mama is? Each week, we’re introducing awesome women who are making the world a kinder place, one happy baby at a time.
Babe(s): Fergus, very nearly 6 years old, and Olive, 20 months
What does being a Woke Mama mean to you?
I guess it’s about listening to your instincts, and raising your child in a way that feels right to you. And that might mean co-sleeping, baby wearing, breastfeeding for 3 years. Or it might mean bottle feeding, sleeping in separate beds, sticking to a routine… or a mix of the above.
Any of these are compatible with kind, gentle and loving parenting. Just as long as you’re happy. One thing I know for sure is that to be kind and loving, you need to be happy.
To me it’s also about respecting other people’s choices and making sure that as women and mothers, we don’t undermine each other. I see it happening all the time and it annoys the hell out of me.
Parenting is hard. Fact. It’s also fun and exhilarating and totally bonkers, but we’re all just trying to muddle through, doing the best we can and making mistakes along the way, and that’s fine. There are plenty of people judging, scrutinising and undermining women out there, so let’s be supportive of each other at least!
The other important thing for me is making sure my husband, the papa in our life, is fully on board and plays an equal role.
I want my kids growing up knowing that they can go to either of us for comfort, and knowing that there are lots of different family models, and that gender should not define your role in society.
Men too can be tender and loving and nurturing. I went back to work full-time when our son was 8 months old. My husband took over and became a full time papa. An awesome one. That created an amazing bond between Gus and him.
With Olive I went back to work 4 days a week when she was 10 months old, and my husband took on a part time job, working 3 days a week. So really he’s the main carer, which means that whichever way I choose to do things, it’s also important I respect his views and approach.
What made you choose gentle parenting? And what is your favourite aspect of it?
I don’t think it was a conscious decision, and I don’t know if that’s how I would describe my style of parenting! Maybe I’m more of a free styling/winging it mama.
Sure, love and cuddles feature heavily, and I was never big on routines. I didn’t really read any books on parenting either (probably more out of laziness than anything else tbh).
I’m French, and I remember going home for Christmas when Olive was just 6 weeks old — people were asking me how many feeds she was on and if she was sleeping through… Give me a break!
You can stress yourself out trying to get a small baby into some kind of routine, or you can just relax, accept that for the first few weeks/months they just want to be strapped to you, and try and enjoy what, in the scheme of things, is a very short phase… Because it all goes soooo quickly. They’re born and then you blink and they’re 6 years old!
With Olive I’ve been a lot more conscious of this, trying to make the most of each stage. Sure, it can be annoying to have a 5 year old sneak into your bed at night and wake you up with his sharp elbows and knees digging into your back, but actually I quite enjoy the cuddles, and i try and remember that in a few years’ time he won’t want to come anywhere near us…
Most awesome moment so far?
Hard to choose after nearly 6 years on the job! I have a really clear memory of being sat in bed feeding Gus in the middle of the night though, when he was 5 or 6 weeks old: he came off the boob, looked up at me and gave me a big smile as if to say ‘hey it’s you! this is awesome!’.
But there are so many to choose from, including watching him totally come out of his shell and go from being a super shy 4 year old who refused to take part in the nursery end of year show, to a super confident 5 year old nailing Max in his Christmas school performance of Where the Wild Things Are. Many tears were shed.
With Olive, I fell hard in love with her the moment she was born — with Fergus the whole birth thing was so overwhelming, I was in a total daze. I felt much more with it with Olive, and getting to meet her and hold her against me was just magical.
The other big highlight was watching Fergus’s reaction when we brought Olive home — I didn’t know a 4 year old could fall in love like that! And watching their relationship develop since has been awesome.
Biggest struggle so far?
Well, let’s see… the constant battle about food, the monumental tantrums (that phase is over now thankfully, just waiting for it to start again with Olive), the transition back to work, the settling into nursery/childminder, the crazy mornings trying to get everybody ready and out the door in time for school/childminder/work and the ensuing guilt for rushing my kids and shouting… take your pick!
How do you cope with stressful moments?
By getting out of the house! Spending my hard earned cash on overpriced coffee and cake… having a moan/bitch/cry with like-minded mums/dads… and/or pouring myself a large glass of wine.
At work how do you juggle gentle parenting life?
Juggling it with said awesome husband, awesome childminder, lots of strong coffee and constant guilt.
Any advice you would give to new mums?
Make sure you have a great network of supportive mums and dads around you. I had an amazing group of mama friends when I had my son, and they were a total lifeline. They kept me sane.
And find yourself a big bed. The biggest bed. We didn’t co-sleep with ours when they were babies (well we had Olive in a co-sleeping crib attached to our bed for the first 7 months, which was THE best thing), but Gus likes to sneak into our bed at night on a fairly regular basis and we only have a standard double, so it’s musical beds for us! Fun.
What’s on your soundtrack to your first year of being a Woke Mama?
For Gus it was Lippy Kids by Elbow. It was on BBC Radio 6 Music pretty much constantly during the end of my pregnancy, so for me it’s totally associated with becoming a mama.
I can’t say I have one for Olive… once upon a time I was really into music — nowadays I get to listen to whatever is my son’s latest obsession, currently the Neverending Story theme song, on loop.