How do you avoid parental guilt? Share the workload with your partner? And what about the role of Granny today? Katie Kirby, author of Hurrah for Gin, shares her tips on solving motherhood dilemmas with us.
Katie Kirby, 39, lives with her husband Jim, and their two sons aged 9 and 6. Her first book, Hurrah for Gin: A Book for Perfectly Imperfect Parents , based on her award-winning blog about life and motherhood dilemmas with young kids, was a hit when it was published in 2016, selling over 130 000 copies.
Katie’s story on motherhood dilemmas
Five years ago, when her youngest was six months old, Katie had an idea to start a blog about her experiences and motherhood dilemmas. “We’d relocated, and I was struggling to get back into work,” she says. “I was in advertising, but long hours and a long commute meant it didn’t work well with the kids. While looking for work, I thought I’d write a blog to keep my brain ticking along.”
She called the blog Hurrah for Gin because of its connotations with mother’s ruin, and began sharing her thoughts on everything from making new mom friends to the perils of soft play. Whenever she didn’t have a photo, she’d sketch out stick-people images in Microsoft Paint for the post.
“Friends told me they liked it, then people started sharing my posts on Facebook and it evolved from there.” Many of her musings have gone viral and she’s amassed over 425 000 followers on Facebook, meaning Katie has been able to leave advertising – and her commute – behind for good.
“I think it strikes a chord because of the honesty,” says Katie. “Motherhood is tough. When I started out, I couldn’t find anything online that reflected my experience of being a parent. It was all rose-tinted. I wanted to write about the good times, but also the trials and tribulations – essentially, being a normal mother. Mothers tell me the blog makes them feel OK and that they’re actually doing a good job.”
With that in mind, we asked Katie how to navigate five common motherhood dilemmas that usually come with parenthood…
How do I stop feeling guilty about not being the perfect parent?
Working mom, stay-at-home mom or part-time working mom? You can’t win. If you’re at work, you might feel guilty for leaving your kids in childcare. If you’re at home, maybe you feel bad that you’re not showing them how to have a career. Or (very likely) you’re sick of pushing Thomas the Tank Engine around the floor for the 100th time. If you work part-time, you have the worst of both worlds!
The reality is it’s hard to be the perfect parent all the time. But we’re only human, we don’t have endless patience – sometimes we shout, sometimes we don’t say the right thing, sometimes we truly suck. It’s OK for children to see your flaws – they need to realise that you can’t always be at their beck and call. Besides, your feelings of guilt are actually testament to the fact that you are trying your best.
Top Tip: Parental guilt seems to be a modern thing. My mom says that she didn’t feel anywhere near the pressure we as parents do today: no Internet, no celebrity moms to live up to – you just got on with things.
How can I strike a balance with grandparental involvement?
In today’s age, it seems grandparents are more involved in childcare than ever before – and I know that some get stressed out that they need to follow the parents’ rules. I think if your parents are willing to look after your children for you, you have to let them do their own thing. The grandparent role is to be the fun one.
Top Tip: Let Granny and Grandad take the reins. They’ve done their time being strict parents, so it’s OK for them to give your kids chips/chocolate/treats.
Will I ever have ‘me time’ again?
This is the huge shift in becoming a parent. At the newborn stage, the baby is quite simple: they can’t move anywhere, they feed a lot and they sleep quite a bit. So why do we find it so hard? It’s because this is when life goes from being all about you to being all about someone else. Also, when they’re babies, people think you’ll have loads of free time when they’re napping. Ha! I’d read a Gina Ford book saying that babies should nap for two hours. I’d spend two hours trying to get them to sleep, but they’d be awake again after 20 minutes. It drove me mad.
Top Tip: It’s hard finding time to yourself, but it’s so important – it could be something as small as a bath. That’s what inspired my post about popping out to the shops for some milk feeling like a trip to the spa!
Can I ever have a relaxing time in public with the children?
You do – rarely – see children in their prams who are quite happy to browse the shops/sit back as their moms spritz perfume at the cosmetics counter.
But this has never happened to me! My boys hated being strapped into a pram, preferring to walk/hop/climb on things.
It doesn’t get better as they get older. Take eating out. You think you can eat out a bit more, but by the age of three, they’ve become fussy eaters who don’t like sitting down in restaurants. Not my ideal way to spend a couple hundred. Better to choose activities they like where they can use up all their energy – the park, the farm… the park again.
And as for public transport, Uber is fine, but I’m not a fan of planes. There’s nowhere to go and nothing to look at. Shopping? Do it all online. The Internet really is a parental lifesaver.
Top Tip: When you’re at the end of your tether, keep a stash of ‘desperation lollipops’ in your handbag. They take quite a while to eat and should keep your children quiet!
How can my partner and I divide the workload?
It’s important that you get to a point where you don’t have to leave any instructions for your partner. Jim works full-time, but we split things at home as much as possible. As I work for myself, I’m around more but, by and large, we try to share everything. He often gets the kids up in the morning and makes breakfast, while I get ready for the day. It’s healthy for the kids and for you as a couple to share things, otherwise it will lead to resentment. And it ultimately means you have a bit more freedom.
Top tip: Let it go! The thing with sharing is that you have to be willing to let go of how you want things done. Your partner isn’t always going to do the laundry/dinner in the same way as you do – and that’s fine.