Life Parenting

Thursday 2 October 2014

The seven well-kept secrets of successful mothers

Kathy Donaghy

Published 26/08/2014 | 00:00

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Supermodel Miranda Kerr has admitted having a full-time nanny to help with her son Flynn
Busy mum-of-four Roisin O'Hara with her kids Riona, twins Eanna and Marcus, and Fionan
Victoria Beckham with eldest son Brooklyn and daughter Harper

There are some mothers who make it look easy. They're the ones who never look frazzled and always seem on top of their game.

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But, a bit like the swan who seems effortlessly graceful as she glides along the pond, these mums are still working just as hard as the rest of us under the surface.

Supermodel Miranda Kerr has admitted having a full-time nanny to help with her son Flynn

So what separates the supermums from the mere mortals? We asked three successful mothers for their top tips.

Get help

While not every parent can afford to pay for childcare, not being afraid to delegate and ask for help when you need it is the key to every mother's survival.

Supermodel Miranda Kerr has just weighed into the debate about how she makes motherhood work for her, saying her three-year-old son's nanny takes the pressure off.

The Victoria's Secret model also says that the nanny stays with her son when he spends time with her ex-husband, actor Orlando Bloom.

"The nanny is with him all the time when he's with Orlando," says Miranda. "Don't get me wrong, he's a great dad, it's just me being a protective mother and wanting to make sure all his needs are met. I want to keep Flynn's routine. Orlando's fine with it. In fact, he likes it, it's less pressure."

Dublin-based broadcaster and mum-of-four Roisin O'Hara says getting help is vital. "My family live in Galway and it's difficult to ask other people whose lives are equally busy to help out so you really just have to pay for help. A really good au pair is an invaluable source of help. I can't recommend this enough," she says. Roisin, who is mum to Riona (7), Fionan (4) and twins Eanna and Marcus (3), says having an au pair provides a more flexible form of childcare which allows you to come and go as the au pair lives in the family home.

Read more: Michelle Doherty: Pressure on mums to lose weight 'ridiculous'

Busy mum-of-four Roisin O'Hara with her kids Riona, twins Eanna and Marcus, and Fionan

"A lot of people don't like the idea of someone living in your house, but you get over this very quickly when you see how much they can help out. The pros definitely outweigh the cons," says Roisin.

"We had a lovely au pair recently who could drive and she was a great cook too. She was able to collect the kids from school if I had a job and the odd time where both myself and my husband were working late she could fill in for us. It's also nice to spend time as a couple and if you have an au pair, it allows you to do that a little bit more easily."

Be honest

According to Dubliner Helen O'Keefe, a town planner and mum to Ruairi (4), Meabh (2) and five-month-old baby Dathai, it is impossible to do everything and be everywhere.

She says the pressures that come with trying to balance family, career and relationships mean that being honest about things is vital.

"I think it's best to be honest - honest with your family about what can be done - even if it means saying no to activities that you just can't fit in or things you can't afford either the time or money to do. Be honest with your partner about how you feel about family, life, work yourself and them. Be honest with work about how flexible you really are or what your absolute 'cut off' is in terms of working hours. Be honest with your friends about what you can do to carve time out for yourself while juggling everything else," says Helen.

Susan Reeves and her children
Susan Reeves and her children

"The one good thing about the recent hard times is that I think we are all being much more upfront and that's great. It's the norm now to compare your grocery bills in Aldi to what they used to be in Superquinn and delight in the savings. Everyone is chuffed to bag a bargain, get a good deal on a holiday or save some money and then tell everyone about it," says Helen, who also writes a blog called The Busy Mamas.

Similarly she says families are more open to the tough times they've experienced and that's a really positive development. "The more we talk the less likely everyone is to think that everyone else has it perfect and that we're the only ones struggling".

Read more: The reality of new motherhood can be difficult and really lonely

Keep a little something for yourself

Victoria Beckham with eldest son Brooklyn and daughter Harper

According to Helen, motherhood can sometimes leave very little time or space for anything else. "In order to stay just a little sane, it's really important to carve out something nice that's just yours so you can tune out for a few minutes or hours. It doesn't have to be anything extravagant or expensive - just a little corner in an otherwise chaotic world," she says.

"I love knitting and crochet too and run a community-based crafting group each month which has about 50 members aged from their 20s to their 80s. It's amazing how popular it's become to want to make something yourself. I also write my blog which is the perfect platform for a one-sided rant - a nice space for me to just be me and not always mummy," says Helen.

Go to bed early and get enough sleep

This may seem straightforward but according to Roisin O'Hara, it's really difficult to cope with difficulties as they arise if you're tired. Roisin says the smartphone often makes it difficult to switch off from the world even when you're supposed to be getting some shut-eye.

"I've recently started leaving my phone downstairs when I retire and I find I sleep better and earlier. Mothers should go to bed when the kids go, but we rarely do. You should get everyone to help you tidy up a bit before bedtime so you're not filling the dishwasher at 10pm. And don't open that bottle of wine when the house is quiet. Save it for the weekend and you'll be thankful you did," says Roisin.

Take regular exercise

While we all know the benefits of exercise, in a busy schedule sometimes it's just too difficult to find the time. But Helen O'Keeffe says while she hates the thought of setting foot in a gym, her walk to and from work is a vital source of headspace and exercise. "If that exercise wasn't part of my day, it, like everything else, would get squeezed by family time and excuses, so it's really important that it's part of my routine," she says.

Roisin O'Hara, whose chat show is returning to TG4 this autumn, says exercise doesn't just help keep you in physical shape -which in itself is great for self confidence - but it also helps in maintaining a happy mind.

"When you exercise regularly, your mind is clearer. Getting out for a regular jog or swim, especially on my own, helps me gather my thoughts and gives me the space I need to think things through".


Be organised with your time

For Dublin-based kids' fashion designer and 
mum-of-three Susan Reeves, planning ahead so that certain hours are for work and certain hours are for the kids is essential for everyone's sanity.

Susan, who launched her own kids label clothing earlier this year, says it's important to compartmentalise time for work and time just for her three boys Sebastian (6) and twins Senan and Noah (5).

"I've found out the hard way that not having a cut-off point with work can cause ructions in the home and is unfair on everyone. I used to spread my work throughout the day and get very frustrated with the kids," she says.

"Mid pattern-cutting and designing I was turning ninja costumes inside out and attaching turtle shells. This had to change and I now set the kids up with a game that takes ages like turnings the couches and chairs into a farm and I get some focused work time. Then after lunch we all go to the park and stretch our legs and everyone is happy".

Don't be too hard on yourself

Most mums are their own worst critic fearing that everyone else is doing it better than you are.

But Helen O'Keeffe says that there's no such thing as perfection so the sooner 
we all admit that we're muddling along the happier we'll all be.

"I'm not perfect as a mum. The vast majority of people in my circle would say they're doing their best - you just can't do everything and be everything," says Helen.

Irish Independent

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