Wednesday 26 October 2016

Amanda Brunker reveals what being a mum has taught her: 'There's no such thing as having it all'

Novelist and parenting columnist Amanda Brunker on what being a mother to sons Edward (9), and Setanta (8), has taught her

Published 24/02/2016 | 02:30

Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin
Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin

There are certain rules that my kids have to stick to, then the rest of the time I encourage loads of fun.

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I'm strict on education, manners, eating healthy and respect for others. That might sound like a lot of rules, but it's not. My kids know if they want to scoff junk, they must eat healthy food first. Everything must have a "please" or "thank you" - doors get held open for people but, that said, my sons can often be described as "street angels and house devils". In other words, they may not embarrass me in public, which is nice, but can be mini-terrors at home where they feel comfortable. We always laugh together throughout the day. That's really important to me. I want my kids to remember their childhood as fun.

I'm not sure motherhood has changed me.

I'm still the same person I always was. I've probably become a little more focused on work since the kids. A mortgage and having to pay for endless football boots and gymnastic fees and blah, blah, blah, definitely makes you more motivated about earning a crust. I think everyone will agree that having kids is an expensive pastime!

Writing a parenting column has made me question everything I do.

I feel more accountable now because of my column in The Herald. Like those leaders on Operation Transformation who are dieting in public, I feel my parenting is more public now and people are scrutinising me. Then again, having won Miss Ireland back in 1991 aged 17, I feel I've lived my entire adult life through the media. And because of that I realise I've always been judged. Which is weird in a way but I'm used to it.

Becoming a mother has definitely changed my world view.

I get so wounded by looking at suffering on the TV now. Before kids I wasn't as soft but now I cry at the news constantly. Being a parent has heightened my sense of wrong in the world. I can't understand why people want to hurt each other and at how neglectful people can be. We're big on equality in our house. I will definitely be encouraging my kids to volunteer for charities when they're older.

There's no such thing as having it all.

Yes, we all feel pressure but mostly from ourselves. Yes, there's a lot of keeping up with the neighbours or the other mums at the school but seriously folks, chill out. All you can do is your best for your kids. If they don't eat their broccoli one evening, big whizz. It's not the end of the world. And if you need to take one of your kids into your bed to get sleep… for two years, so what! We all just need to muddle through this parenting malarkey as best we can. Ignore the people who tell you, you must do this or that - do your best and get on with it. No one has to live your life except you. So don't be worrying about others and theirs.

I never feel there's a need to sugar-coat what it's like to be a parent.

It's hard. I was surprised at how little I valued my freedom when I had it. And how little sleep a person could survive on and thrive, plus how instinctual parenting can be. I always tell new mums to trust their instincts when it comes to their child, especially with their health. No one will ever understand your child better than you. And that even goes for doctors!

There's no perfect time to have kids.

There are pros and cons to having them young or a bit older. You'll never have enough money to spend on them, so basically the best advice is want them and love them. And keep your fingers crossed it all works out.

Thanks to the internet they'll learn everything about me in time.

But I'm not worried. They know that their mum loves them more than the world so that overrides everything!

I worry about dying before I can teach them everything they need to know to cope and thrive in the world.

That sounds glum but it's my job as a mother to mould these small people so they can be kind, honest and rounded human beings. I can't wrap them in cotton wool and hide them indoors. I need to pass on life skills so that I can send them off into the unknown and they will be able to be great. I won't be around forever. But if I give them the right tools they won't need me to.

Irish Independent

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