Monday 21 October 2019

'You're exhausted all the time' - AA Ireland's Arwen Foley says parenting is like 'being a manager'


Arwen Foley from AA Ireland
Arwen Foley from AA Ireland

Arwen Foley is AA Ireland's digital content manager and spokesperson. She and her husband Brendan are parents to Beren (3) and Nala (16 months old). Here, she reveals what being a mother has taught her

I learned an awful lot from my mother

My mum is the absolute greatest and all I wanted to be when I was older was to be just like my mum. She worked when she had my sisters and for a while when she had my brother but when I came along she was already a homemaker. She was a PE teacher, so sport and learning were so important. But she also had such a strong focus on family and caring for each other and being a good person.

She encouraged us to go and get an extremely good education. She's always pushing me to do more and go further. She would be just as happy with me staying home and being a homemaker as she would with me in the workforce but because I'm in the workforce she just really wants me to strive to do better.

Before I become a mother, I thought it would all come naturally

I thought everything would go swimmingly - but you're learning every day. You're not naturally a good mother - you have to work for it, you do your homework, you study what you can and you learn from other people. You're never going to figure out by yourself how to deal with the toddler tantrums. You need to listen to other people and find the information yourself. I'm lucky I have my husband with me and I just think that single mothers are honestly the heroes of this world. I absolutely don't know how they do it. If you're a single working mum, hats off to you. I think you've got the hardest job in the world.

I'd like to say I always stay calm but it's not always possible

You're exhausted, all the time. We learn from each other and I'm learning what works for one child doesn't work for another. It's like being a manager. I spent many years managing the AA Roadwatch team and different things work for different people and different people react differently to different situations. I think boys are vastly different to girls. All my son wants to do is play and run around and I'm slowly learning that my daughter wants to be by my side. She's not clingy as such but she's not as free spirited as my son. I think when it comes to discipline, it's different strokes for different folks.

When I did shift work it was a bit chaotic

I now have more stable hours but before, I think it was unmanageable. My husband is a pilot so his hours are all over the place. With me, I was working five or six days a week and starting really early in the morning and finishing up early, or else I was starting late in the morning and finishing late in the evening. It's a little less chaotic now and I think the secret is planning.

I was used to getting up early, between 4am and 5am to start work in AA Roadwatch, so I keep that up. I'm getting up between 5am and 5.30am and I get myself showered, my make-up done, my hair, get dressed and get as much of that done as possible before my two kids get up. They'll give me maybe 15 minutes of the two of them playing in our room or watching Paw Patrol before they start getting hungry.

Parenting changes a lot - but I think it's made me a bit more confident

The only things that really matter are my family, and that my family is happy. It's hard to describe your confidence changing - you're more self-assured is probably a better way of putting it. Obviously your priorities change. I work five days a week, so I get mummy guilt if I'm doing stuff at the weekends that doesn't involve my children. I'm quite happy if they're asleep and I'm going out but it does mean that if you're out the night before then you're really paying for it the next day. They're not going to let you sleep in and they're not going to let you stop.

Mummy guilt happens whether you're working or not

It was certainly there when I was on maternity leave and I think it even starts before the baby is born - the guilt of 'Oh dear I'm feeling run down and I didn't look after myself and now I'm sick' and you shouldn't be sick when you're pregnant and you should be looking after the baby. You worry then that reason your baby is breach is that you didn't do enough exercise. But I work because I want to, and I work because of money, but I think it will teach lots of life lessons.

I think you need to make sure that you're giving plenty of quality time to your children when you have it and when you're home. That's why I'm getting up early so that when my kids want breakfast, I'm there and I sit down with them. And I go into work that bit earlier so that I can get home and we can have dinner together. I think mealtimes are the most important so I think with work it's finding the balance.

I'd like my children to be confident

I'd like them to be ambitious and to understand that working hard pays off. But also understand about having a good set of family values - family first. It was always 'family first in' my house and I always want it to be 'family first' for my kids. I don't want them to be looking at money as something that they aspire to just make more and more of. Money isn't important but family and enjoying life is.

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