Sunday 19 May 2019

Life Lessons: 'My son hates when people think we’re siblings'

Jennifer Rock is the award-winning skincare expert, facialist and founder of online skincare consultancy, The Skin Nerd. She is mother to Matthew, who is almost 15 years old

Young mum: Jennifer Rock had her son Matt when she was 18 years old
Young mum: Jennifer Rock had her son Matt when she was 18 years old

I had Matthew when I was 18

It wasn't the plan necessarily, but it's possibly the best thing that's ever happened to me in that it's given me so much drive and taught me how to prioritise things such as work-life balance. He's travelled with me and he's come with me to Thailand, Australia, Hong Kong, America… he's definitely had a different childhood to perhaps other people his age.

My parenting style is quite relaxed

We're very close. We're not friends, and that's the main thing I often see when people who've had children quite young, that they might try and be friends with their child. He would call me strict; I would say I'm quite flexible and fair, but I don't think there's a child on the planet who doesn't think their parent isn't strict. We laugh a lot, we have a really good relationship. He is actually a really good human - touch wood - thank God. He's really mannerly and kind and caring. But he detests when people ask if we're brother and sister, whereas I think it's brilliant.

It doesn't feel like that long ago since I was 15

I can put myself back in his shoes and I know when to choose my fights and when to let things go. The odd profanity in music that he listens to isn't going to mean he will treat people differently. I'm also very wise to social media and we have an open relationship with that. I know how Snapchat works, I know how Instagram works. I can't be conned by anything, so he doesn't even try.

Anyone who says they achieve a work-life balance is telling a white lie

It's impossible to balance them both at all times. There are definitely days when family would have the majority of my time, but there are days when work would get it. I supopose the stage Matthew is at now, he can walk himself to school, he walks himself back to my mam and from there, he walks back to me. I feel that I have more time back now than when he was a tot, but I think that anyone who says they jog, meditate, has the nine-to-five, has the really successful business, cooks their child's dinner and then practically home schools them, is not portraying a reality and I think it then puts a lot of pressure on people. The term 'mom guilt' is so commonly accepted now that it's frightening. The interesting thing for me is that I've been career driven and I have had certain people commenting throughout the years saying, 'Should you not be at home?' At certain stages, I found it frustrating that if I was a father, it wouldn't have been noticed so much, but I'm lucky that Matt's father was around and he did a more traditional nine-to-five. Now, we're in a place where we can have a better quality of life because of the slog I put in earlier.

As a parent, every age brings its own concerns

Now for me, he's almost 15, and it's just being in tune with what he might want. He's very much his own person and he's so independent and quite ambitious and so, guiding him in the right direction and not imposing what I would want for him, would be my challenge for the next few years.

I go to my parents for advice and support

Because I had Matthew young, I lived at home with mammy and daddy for the first year or two. I had the most amazing childhood and I'm still supported beyond what I should be emotionally. My mam is very much involved in Matthew's life and he goes to her house every day after school and she helps him with homework and she's just the best childminder. I'm lucky that they have my back always.

Looking back, I think I was very hard on myself

I remember when Matthew first went to school, I found it hard to have any common ground with the other parents who were talking about mortgages and shopping trips to Lidl. I was still saving for a house and it was a just different world. I used to beat myself up that Matthew didn't have his own room and have his own everything. Realistically, in other ways, I think he's turned out quite well-rounded as a result of living with my parents and my boyfriend at the time's family before we bought our own house. He understands you have to work really hard for things. He gets that there's a slog to get there. I think if I had thought of that back then, I wouldn't have been so hard on myself.

Irish Independent

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