'I tell my little girl you can be anything that you want to be, you can smash through any boundaries' - Irish businesswoman Louise Stokes
Jewellery designer and owner of Loulerie Louise Stokes — who has two children, Ellie (7) and Sebastian (4), with her husband Christian — on what being a mother has taught her
Louise Stokes shares her experience of motherhood, what vital support from friends via Whatsapp - even at 5am - has meant to her, and the values she tries to instil in her children.
The main thing for me with parenting is to love them and to make sure that they feel that they have a base
I think that the world that we live in today, with all of the social media and everything that they face, to have a grounded, secure family, whatever format that family is in, is crucial so that you can prepare them and give them the tools to be resilient.
My friends and the WhatsApp groups at 5am helped me in the early days
My best friends were just amazing. When I had Ellie there wasn’t as much — or maybe I just didn’t know about it — in terms of the online content, which is now is so helpful. You sometimes wake up thinking ‘Oh God, I’m not doing it right’ or ‘How come my baby isn’t sleeping?’ It’s very lonely because you’re responsible for this human being and if you’re up all night, you can feel you’re the only person experiencing this, especially with breastfeeding. I found that really tough and isolating and it was my friends and WhatsApp groups that get you through it.
In my family, it’s very much a co-parenting thing
My husband worked for himself for years, I’ve always worked for myself. and now he travels, so you have to approach it like a team. We’ve tried lots of childcare situations and now I really want to be there at the school pick-up a lot of the time and do homework. I think the balance is very hard and I don’t have the perfect answer. The only thing is you have to do what’s right for you and we had an amazing childminder for five years, when the children were very young, and to be honest I owe her everything because that took a lot of the stress off. I don’t have a nine-to-five job — I travel, I could have an event so I definitely found for me, getting to a crèche by closing time really didn’t work but it does work for people who have more flexibility. I think you really have to strike the balance. Of course I suffer guilt because December is my busiest month of the year and it’s also the month that children want you to be around. This year, I took Christmas Eve off, my first one in 10 years, and nothing fell down. I have a very capable team and they’re my backbone.
I want my children to be happy, to live a happy life and take joy in everyday things
I try and instil in them to be kind and to be aware of other people’s feeling. The other thing I instil in them is being strong — not physical but resilient. I’ve been through a lot of things in my life and I think how you bounce back is the making of a person. I have a little girl and I tell her you can be anything that you want to be, you can smash through any boundaries, and the same with my little boy. It’s not so much about gender for me, I don’t think they have to be one way because they’re a boy and a girl, but they have to be good people.
I was an only child
The only thing I was certain of is that I would have loved to have two, which is funny because now I have a boy and a girl and of course there’s lots of fights sometimes and I’m screaming at them, saying “I would have loved to have a sibling to play with”.
You think life is going to move on and you just have this extra person but that’s not what it’s like at all
I thought that I could bring the baby to work but your entire life is upside down for a few months and I learned to give into that. You’re so bowled over with love but it’s also an extremely big change in your life. There are days when something happens and it might be sleep or teething or any of those things where you mightn’t even leave the house, never mind brush your hair.
Obviously I love them and we have great times, and I’m so lucky to have them, but in beginning my perception and the reality were quite different. Also I love sleep, so that was a major life change and the hardest thing for me.
I’ve learned that you can’t plan everything
And you can’t fight against that because you’re always going to lose and at the end of the day, if one day or morning is a write-off, that’s not like you’re failing or doing badly. I’ve learnt to go with the flow. You might be all ready and everything is going great; you’ve got dressed for work and everyone’s lunch is packed, then someone is sick or a babysitter cancels. I used to really panic about that but now I’ve realised I’m only one person. I can’t be in two places at the same time and my children are my priority. Ellie is seven and I just can’t believe that time has gone so quickly. I want to treasure the moments rather than rush through them.
I’m big on routine
I think that kids thrive on that — they get tired and if you let them do what they want, everything would end in a mess. I know they’re much happier, in my head anyway, when they know what’s going on and what time they’re going to bed. I’m pretty strict on that, and healthy eating as well, because I want them to grow up to be healthy and strong and I like to promote that in the house. But I’m not crazy strict. As a kid, because I was an only child, I would have been hanging out with adults a lot and there was a lot of treats. My mum’s attitude, which I have adopted as well, was if you’re exposed to a lot of that, there isn’t this want to gorge. I think if you forbid things, you make them more appealing. When you have a treat, have it and enjoy it.
I like to do really different things with them
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I love art galleries but my son has zero interest. I remember bringing him to one and the guard saying, ‘he needs to leave’, but Ellie liked it. My son finds it boring and he just wants to be outside. I’ve learned that you have to think about everybody’s personality and what everyone wants to do, because you could have this idea of the perfect family day out and all the wheels come off.