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5 things I’ve learned about motherhood

Acclaimed author (and Muddy favourite) Clover Stroud is in the midst of raising her 5 children. Miraculously she's found time to write a book about it all. Here's a taster.

Muddy contributor and Oxon gal Clover Stroud’s new memoir, My Wild & Sleepless Nights, is all about motherhood – a subject about which she knows a thing or two, as the creator of five (yep) children. We reviewed the book here (spoiler: it’s a thing of beauty) and last week had a chat with Clover about her unique take on parenting. Here are five nuggets of wisdom she’s picked up along the way.

 

Consider putting a lock on your bedroom door

People are sometimes shocked when I say that my husband Pete and I have a lock on our bedroom door. Is it right to stop your kids coming in? they’ll ask, horrified. But preserving some space of your own, that’s not being constantly invaded by children, is so important for your relationship. It will help your sex life – it’s hard enough to feel sexy at home, as a parent, at the best of times, let alone when you’re worrying that kids will come rushing into the room. But also, sometimes you just need some privacy to finish an important conversation about summer holiday plans or mortgage providers without distractions.

 

Keep on believing in your teenagers even when they’re being awful

With teenagers, you go through some very difficult, often confrontational times. It can be so upsetting when they become this stranger in your house. But I’ve learned to keep on believing in them – don’t just throw up your hands and say, “Teenagers are impossible.” Keep on connecting, keep on having faith, keep on communicating. They naturally become quite estranged from the family at that age but don’t fixate on the sweet little child they once were, who’s been replaced with a lanky stranger. Just keep talking to them  – car journeys are always good, as they can’t escape but don’t have to make eye contact. And don’t constantly talk to them about school and grades – you can end up doing this all the time if you’re not careful and they don’t like it one bit.

 

Obsessing over me-time is a fool’s errand

When you have a family, you work a lot, you’re running a home and you have a relationship, creating time for yourself is really difficult. Finding time to do that yoga class, swim or walk can become so difficult, weeks might go past without it happening. And we can become obsessed with this. It can become yet another task on the to-do list and another way of chastising ourselves as mothers. At the moment, I find it impossible to do pilates, even though I really want to and get jealous of other women who have time to take a class. But that’s not healthy. If you can’t carve out big blocks of free time, then maybe it’s more realistic to just enjoy a sliver of it, now and then. Sometimes just a 15 minute hot bath with some nice oil can be enough.

 

It’s important to be honest about parenting on social media

I don’t like the visions of perfect motherhood that you see on Instagram. I think it’s dangerous, especially for vulnerable, new mothers. It’s so important to put some honesty out there. And if you write something genuine and from the heart, you’ll get that back from other women. When I was writing the book, I wanted to talk about how I was finding motherhood difficult – the ups and downs made me feel very conflicted, even though with five children I feel like I should what I’m doing. I asked other women if they also felt like this and it was very comforting to hear that they did. I work on my own and spend a lot of time with small children for company, so I find it a massive joy and pleasure to connect with other mothers on social media.

 

Everyone thinks having five children is nuts

People always express surprise or shock when I say I have five. It does seem unusual now but when I was growing up, we were surrounded by big families. It doesn’t necessarily follow that the longer you’re a mother, the better you get at it. With my fifth, I felt out of control in a new way – that’s why I wanted to write the book. Going from four to five was a massive change. And I had post-natal depression with my 3rd and 4th. The anxieties of motherhood can strike at any time. I don’t feel like an old hand – raising children constantly challenges me and changes me. You’ve got to remember you’re playing the long game. Motherhood is the hardest but best experience of my life. It’s dazzling and it makes me the person I am – while simultaneously driving me to frustration and desperation. I love it.

 

My Wild & Sleepless Nights by Clover Stroud is out now

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