Today FM's Alison Curtis: "It breaks my heart that my parents aren't here to see Joan"
Today FM presenter and producer Alison Curtis reveals the lessons that being mother to her four-year-old daughter has taught her.
In Joan, I've found my partner in crime
I like to think that we are very gentle and encouraging with Joan. We possibly could be stricter, I'm sure a lot of parents say that. But I feel like it all changes. You're growing with them and I feel like there was a light bulb moment when she hit four. Now she's like a partner, we can discuss things and she makes decisions on things. Some parents might think that that's not parenting but I believe that it encourages her to think about other people and to have empathy and to make decisions for herself and it gives her confidence. We chat a lot! I've got a partner in crime now.
Becoming a parent has made me less selfish
It's changed me. The core of who I am has stayed the same in the sense that I've always been ambitious when it comes to work; I've always been kind of hyper, I've always talked a lot and loved laughing. All of that has stayed the same. I think good traits have gotten stronger and I've learnt to be more patient. You certainly learn to be less selfish. I wouldn't say I've learnt to be any more organised although I know a lot of parents say that they have. And not to sound too corny but I think you learn love that you didn't even know was possible until you have a child. I loved my parents very much, love my husband very much and I have a twin sister who I love very much. But this is a love you don't understand until you have a child.
It's hard not to feel guilty sometimes
We do feel pressure as modern-day mothers to balance the crèche, the school, the job - and the end result of that pressure is this hamster wheel of guilt. When she was born I was on maternity leave for 10 months and that was good, I didn't feel any guilt. But when you go back to work you have guilt. Then I went onto contract and I had guilt because I kept her in the crèche full-time so I'd be available to the station to do shows at the drop of a hat, which happened quite a bit. You have to learn to deal with that and recognise that you look at your child and you think she's very happy, she's very healthy, she's well adjusted, and she's social so obviously you're doing something right. You need to take a step back and say 'Don't feel guilty, you're doing a good job'. And it's a tough job.
I named Joan after my mother
I was 14 when my dad died and 19 when my mother died. I see a lot of my mother's traits in Joan, that skipped a generation. It does break my heart that my parents aren't here to see Joan but I tell her stories most evenings about them so she's aware of who they were as people. She loves hearing them. It's a way of preserving the memory and keeping it alive but it does hit home every so often that they'll never meet.
I'm more of worrier now
There's a good balance between my husband and I, and I know most couples are like this. One will see a rash on the baby and go 'Oh my God!' and the other one is 'Ok, just calm down for a minute'. I try very much not to react to it because obviously Joan will internalise that so I've been working hard and try to be calm in those situations. But I worry. She had a trip with crèche where they took them to a park with an animal petting zoo recently and it was one of her first big journeys without me. I did worry about her just because I wasn't there, knowing full well she'd be fine.
I'd like more children
I actually had a really good pregnancy, where my friends were jealous and I wasn't sick once. But then I developed that very serious thing, pre-eclampsia. I got into a bit of trouble there and I was in high dependency for a couple of days and in the hospital for eight days afterwards. It was my first operation, my first time in hospital, my first time on IV, my first anything. I would love more [children] and it's just getting over that hurdle of 'That was quite scary'.
You need patience but also to be kind to yourself
You're human and you're tired and certainly in that first year I breastfed Joan for quite a long time. She was one of those babies who is a grazer and she'd finish and I'm thinking, 'God, it's only been 11 minutes and she'll want more in a hour's time!'. I didn't sleep for more than three hours in the first six months of her life at any one go. Your fuse gets short because you're so sleep-deprived. My advice would be that patience is good and it's your biggest weapon, but don't be hard on yourself when you don't have that in your reserve, when you've not slept or you're grumpy or you're hungry. And don't worry about your house. I used to worry about my house that I hadn't tidied it - what the hell was that for? Don't put your energy in that, certainly for the first year.