Firstly can you introduce yourself and your family?
I am currently a full-time stay at home mum to my beloved and cheeky kids aged five, three and one. My adventurous husband works in Christian Outdoor Education and I earn a crust (between having babies) as a psychologist.
You are a mum of 3 beautiful kids, who are all very different. Can you give us a bit of insight into what it’s like being a mum to such different kids? Did your parenting have to change for each, and if so how did it change?
It really is amazing to watch the personalities of your children develop as they grow. I am completely fascinated by traits that emerge (seemingly) innate at times – I find myself thinking ‘where did he/she learn that?’ My youngest has just turned one and we feel like each day lends us a little more insight into his personality. He has started to transition from the laid-back baby, cutely minding his own business in the corner to the cheeky, vocal and assertive little boy, ready to make a mad scramble towards the door, should you happen to accidently leave it ajar.
My older two are less of a mystery – me eldest son is sensitive, curious and introverted while my daughter is energetic, spontaneous and extroverted. As parents, I think we settled in to a parenting style that worked well with our first son and naturally continued in the same way with our second child. But as our daughter has grown, we have had to adapt our way of going about some things, such as discipline. It has pushed us to be more creative and think further about what matters to each child and how they are likely to react to different situations. I guess the differences in our kids personalities have driven some changes in the way we parent, but I also think we might have learnt more (from our mistakes!) and potentially become more relaxed with some things too. Lately I have reflected on how I allow my third child to do things that I probably would have stopped my first doing and wondering what impact that has had on their respective personalities.
I am really overjoyed at my children’s individual natures. Of course, they have commonalities that shine through too – like their love for building Lego together, listening to a story or a good rumble with their dad but they are definitely their own person, with different outlooks on life and different ways of approaching it. It creates tears and fire-works on a daily basis but also fun, excitement and laughter. I like to think that their differences are an excellent training ground for learning to challenge their own way of thinking and hopefully building patience and compassion.
With a background in psychology, has that had any impact on how you’ve raised your children?
I am obviously influenced by the theories and techniques I have come across in my training as a psychologist and found it an interesting platform. When I learnt I was pregnant with my first child, I started a more focussed look into parenting. These days parenting books/blogs/articles are so prevalent, it’s easy for anyone to read up on the various theories and approaches – I feel like most new parents, psychologist or not, are just as aware!
One thing I’m mindful of is how my husband’s and my parenting will shape my kids as they grow into adults. Since becoming a parent, I have caught myself imagining my children talking to a psychologist as an adult and what they would say. What would they think was helpful and valuable? What would they wish I had never done? A common reason people seek counselling is family issues and as I’ve counselled clients through these issues, I’ve seen the importance of communication. One thing my husband and I are keen to value in our family is honest and open communication.
As an ‘experienced’ mum (with 3 kids you’d have had many experiences!), do you have any advice or tips for new mums?
Oh, gosh. I always find this question so difficult! Parenting is one of those experiences where there are certain aspects that seem to ring true for most (like how hard it is to survive without sleep) but also highly unique because each child is different and so are we as parents, for that matter! So, with the risk of contradicting myself by now offering some advice, I would say if you are struggling, seek help – professional or from a friend or relative, but don’t suffer along. Take any advice (including mine) with a grain of salt and trust that you can manage as a parent without having to strictly follow any particular parenting regime if it feels all wrong. There is a lot of trial and error in this whole parenting experience – just try to reflect and learn from each step and above all, enjoy your kids. Each stage brings new challenges but also so many wonders and joyful moments. One day you’ll look back at the time your son cut your daughter’s hair with laughter and the moment they emptied the contents of various types of cereal across the kitchen floor in order to make their own breakfast with absolute pride.