‘We’re not doing our kids any favours by letting them rule the roost’ - Irish chef Domini Kemp
Chef and co-founder of the Itsa food company, Domini Kemp on what being a mother to Lauren, who is 18, and Maeve, (6), has taught her.
I’ve had different experiences raising Lauren and Maeve
I think in the sense with Lauren, I was a single parent. I had huge help from my mum and my sister and so on; there was a lot of family support. But being a single parent is very different to the experience of raising a child with two parents — the kids both have different dads. All the anxiousness, the fear, the joy — it sort of doubles the joy but it halves all the other things that go along with child rearing. I think I had more time [with Maeve] and less pressure so actually I got to enjoy the baby part of it a lot more than the first time around.
I didn’t have any preconceived ideas as to what kind of mother I wanted to be
I was always very close to our mum and the only thing that I was very firm about was that there was the same kind of open relationship in terms of communicating and always being able to go to her with any problems, big or small, and not having that sense of judgment. She was such a practical and good and open person, she was great to go to with anything, during the teenager years or whenever, and that was something I was definitely keen to foster. I think I’ve done it really well with Lauren who is 18 now. She knows she can come to me about anything.
Your whole system changes when you become a mother
You have this whole different layer; it’s just responsibilities and different priorities. I think you probably become more introverted and your focus changes more towards home and the household as opposed to going out and things like that. I love hanging out with my kids so it works well.
It was very hard for Lauren when I was sick
There was some confusion around my initial diagnosis [Domini was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and is now three years post-treatment]. We had told her one thing and had to go back to her a week later and say ‘Actually, it’s a lot more serious’. She was very concerned then that we were hiding information from her or we weren’t being straight with her and I promised her that I always would be straight with her with regards the information I was getting.
I might have taken a day or two to digest what a doctor had said to me and decide what language I would put it into but we didn’t keep her in the dark and that was the advice that nurses had given us at the time. With Maeve, she was young, she was about three and it largely went over her head.
She knew I was sick and that I was going to lose my hair, she knew I was getting surgery, she knew all these things but kids just tend to get on with things. You can get very anxious about them but they just carry on with their lives to a large extent.
Garvan, my husband, definitely had to take over a lot more of the duties at home. That was fine and he did it brilliantly, but the dynamics probably shift a bit; you’re not pulling your weight for obvious reasons and that used to bother me — you don’t want to be a burden and just stay at home — but that’s just the way it is. You hope that it’s not going to go on indefinitely and it brings everyone closer together as a result.
As a parent, I’m quite strict
I’d be very firm and fair, and I would be quite old-fashioned. We were all raised, very much, that children should be seen and not heard and I think today there is probably a lot of overcompensating because of that so we tend to let our children dominate and rule the roost.
I don’t think that’s right, I don’t think we’re doing them any favours by that. I think manners are really important, and they’ll serve you well throughout. My husband and I are fairly united on all that so that makes it easier. I think if you have a very different parenting style as a couple, that’s hard.
Eating together as a family is a priority
There’s no telly in the kitchen. Breakfast is always a bit rushed and not everyone is always there for it, but unless you’re working or out and about, we have dinner. That’s just the way it is and we sit and chat. I think that’s really, really important. It’s how we were raised and it’s where children learn to have conversations, form opinions and learn to argue, and forgive and discover, and all those kind of things.
I would say not to beat yourself up
Don’t worry if you are a good parent or a bad parent. We’re doing an incredible job and the next generation will do even better. It’s a continual process, so enjoy it and don’t stress about the small stuff. We can get very wrapped up and torment ourselves with things we could or could not be doing better with our kids but actually, kids have a ball of a time. Let some of that zest for life rub off on you instead of fretting about what you aren’t doing.