As mother to two boys (Oliver,6 and Ru, 3) and Editor of Mr Fox, the super-stylish magazine for modern families, we thought that the lovely Lydia Gard was the perfect person to ask about her own parenting experience. From the importance of delegating to being a strong female role model for her sons, Lydia talks us through the five things she’s learned about being a parent…
Ten minutes wins you an hour
I recently realised that spending ten minutes sitting on the floor, showing an interest in whatever the boys are doing – LEGO, monster snap, drawing – buys me a good hour to do whatever I need to do. After that they will be far more likely to play independently while I do laundry or make that important call. Trying to do it the other way around is a recipe for tantrums: the attention-seeking behaviour escalates with every ‘hang on a minute’ or ‘please play quietly until I’m done here.’
Comparison is dangerous
It’s really hard not to draw comparisons. Especially when you get sucked into the Insta-feed of families with immaculately dressed children playing calmly in dappled sunlight in tidy playrooms on gorgeous rugs. But it’s crucial to remember that that’s not real. Those kids also throw tantrums, spill milk, refuse their dinner, wake up at night and slam doors in each other’s faces. The rest is just veneer. No mother goes to bed every night thinking ‘My house is immaculate, the kids are angelic. This is easy.” Instead we worry about our work/life balance or berate our choices or actions to our partners. But the more you talk to other women, the more you realise that the most capable, brilliant women are insecure about who they are parenting. We should be more supportive of other mothers, and more realistic with our expectations. Comparing ourselves to others rarely makes us feel good.
Kids are adaptable
Self-doubt gnaws at every parent relentlessly. From, ‘did they eat enough veg today’ to the big stuff. It’s when you lack confidence that you might reach for a guru to give you the answer. When I recently moved Oli from the local village school he was really averse to the change but in my heart I knew the other school was the right environment for him to thrive in. It was hard seeing him as the anxious new boy and coaxing him through the inevitable wobbles (especially as I felt like the new girl at the school gates myself!). Within a few weeks he was flying in school and had made new friends. Nobody knows your child better than you, and the more you trust your instincts, the less the kids will wobble. Be brave for them and they will adapt more quickly. Sometimes you will have to do things that they are completely averse to because in the long run it’s in their interests. But kids are adaptable, if they are secure in your love, everything else can change and they will often grow from it.
I’m their female prototype
I hope one day my boys become good husbands and fathers. So while I can tell them a million times to show respect or kindness, it’s far more important that I demonstrate it every day by showing them how to navigate the world and deal with the people they come across. I believe they will learn how to respect other people, particularly women, if they have a strong, self-respecting mother – I try not to manipulate, coax or charm them. I am training myself to keep it together when they are around and try and take a minute or two to gather myself when I feel shouty or short tempered. It’s not how I want them to treat other people and it never gets the desired response anyway.
You have to let go of the reins
It takes a village to bring up a child (but nobody tells you where it is or how to get there). The first couple of years of being a parent, I didn’t delegate a thing. I micromanaged everything from sleeps to meals, and declared the rules unilaterally. It was my way of coping with the enormity of becoming a parent, but I came off as a total control freak and nearly lost my mind in the process. Not only did it mightily irritate my husband but it left little room for him to gain confidence as a parent. A good friend sat me down and said: “He might not do it the same way as you, but he will do it.” As time has gone on I’ve realised that the same goes for grandparents, friends, and babysitters… the more people who have a role in your children’s lives – especially those who reinforce your values – the more rounded your kids become. Letting other people have autonomy to handle my kids their way has also taught me a few things…
Read Mr Fox magazine, style and substance for modern families here. You can follow Lydia on instagram @MrFoxMag and Mr Fox on twitter @MrFoxMag.