Saturday 24 September 2016

Life lessons: Model Alison Canavan

Published 05/08/2015 | 02:30

Alison Canavan
Alison Canavan

Model and mum, Alison Canavan on what becoming a mother to four-year-old James has taught her

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New mums aren't given enough information

When I became a new mum, what really struck me was what little information I had been given about being one. We prepare women really well for birth in all Western countries but we completely forget about post-birth. I don't think we're prepared properly for what happens to our bodies, what happens to us emotionally, to looking after the baby. I know that we all survive and we all get through this stage but I just think that information is power. I'm an information person and I would have loved to have been a lot more informed. When I got home and there were different things happening, I was very lucky because I had Amanda Brunker [the novelist] texting me every couple of hours from the minute I gave birth. She would text things like 'If you are feeling like this now…' or 'If this is happening…' or 'If you're having problems going to the toilet….' All of these things were happening to me but nobody had mentioned them before. I was just very grateful she normalised things.

I'm emotional that James is going to school in September

I'm just sad it's gone by so fast. Everybody says to you, enjoy it because it goes by so quickly, and the more people say things, the less notice you take because that's just the way we are. But they were right. He's a little boy now, he's starting big school and he's my only child, it's just the two of us. I think it's more emotional for parents than it is for kids.

Being a single mum is all I know

People who are married often remark to me 'I don't know how you do it, I love having the support of my husband when he comes home'. I don't dwell on any of that. This is all I know. I was single when I had James and I've been single ever since so I don't know parenting any other way. We're kind of like a team. He's at the age where he's asking questions about my parenting and us being on our own. I'm just trying to parent with as much honesty as I can, which I think is really important and I'm trying not to smother him too much. We're in an age where we smother our kids so much and try to protect them from the world. I'm trying to be mindful and let him be himself. I want James to grow up and become the person he wants to become, and I can hopefully guide him on that journey.

I always say that James saved my life

I was modelling since I was 15; my feet never touched the ground and I was living in New York. People often ask if I suffered from depression and anxiety because of modelling. I always say no, that it gave me the ability to escape from it all. What James has done is that he's grounded me as a person. I've learnt more through him in the past five years since becoming a parent than I ever did in my previous 32 years. I've learnt the power of gratitude and being present; I'm really grateful for what I have. I appreciate each day and I say that with 100 percent truth. Now I notice the tiny things, those small moments that I never used to see before and I feel that for so long I was looking outside of myself. Thinking of my next big campaign or the private jet down to Miami that we used to take at weekends or hoping that the next time I did something big I would finally feel happy. That happiness that was always so elusive. After James was born I had nothing in the form of material wealth at all. I had to start from scratch again and yet I had never felt like I had more. It was a time in my life when I first felt I was content and that was a very powerful moment for me.

Motherhood has changed my worldview

If there was ever anyone who has changed their life dramatically it's me. I was the best drinker in New York in the fashion industry. I was 'Party Ali', and partied hard and was very good at it. Now I'm studying to be a nutritional therapist. Becoming a mum and having James meant wanting the best for all our children and also wanting the best for me, finally kind of dealing with my depression and my anxiety. One of the ways I dealt with that was through my diet and my lifestyle. When I cleaned up my diet and my lifestyle, I understood the power that a healthy lifestyle can bring. I always thought that living a clean happy life was incredibly boring. Now I realise I was working really hard at drinking and not sleeping and living like a rock star but all I got at the end of that was tiredness, depression, moodiness and the inability to be the best I could be. Now that I'm healthy and happy, treating myself well and being good to myself, I feel great everyday. What I used to think was boring was actually the best thing I've ever done.

Alison is relaunching her website alisoncanavan.com this month as BEComplete, which focuses on joining the dots with our health and wellbeing.

Irish Independent

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