Aisling O'Loughlin tells Joanna Kiernan what motherhood has taught her so far...
Ultimately becoming a mother has brought a lot of love into my world. It's made me way more patient and has given me a deep understanding of humanity and the plight of mothers and children worldwide. It's quite serious, really. Right now, I can't stop thinking of all those women who had 11, 12, 13 children in Ireland because of the contraception ban. My heart breaks for them.
My body is still recovering after my third. I can't imagine what it was like for them having back-to-back babies and very little support. There was no choice in it for them. On top of that, they were expected to perform all of these so-called 'mommy duties' with barely any money, back-breaking work, feeding and washing all day long; they were terrible times for women in this country. We should remember these women with the deepest compassion and if they had failings, it's understandable in the circumstances.
Multi-tasking isn't a skill, it is a necessity
I've learned that I can do the night shift and the day shift every day. I used to listen to my sister and her husband get up in the middle of the night for their kids when I'd stay over in their place and I'd think, "How are they doing that?" Now, here I am doing it for my own. You just do it, fuelled by love.
You find joy in the simple things
I've learned that there can be joy in changing a nappy or seeing a little face looking back at you in the middle of the night.
Motherhood transforms you
Everything has changed for me. I love all children now, even the brats - especially the brats! My kids have given me a deeper understanding of just how vulnerable our little people are and how we need endless patience to support and nurture them. They are bananas! They break stuff, they rebel at bedtime, they sneak sweets at every turn, they scream and they scrap with each other. Instead of being too uptight about these things, I try to soothe them and not react with anger. This approach is so much easier with help. The days when I feel overburdened are the hardest to be patient and calm.
Our bodies are amazing
For my first pregnancy with Patrick, I read every book that I could get my hands on and it was a magnificent help. I couldn't believe my body was making a human being and every day something different was happening. It was head-spinning. As I had the information for the others, I relaxed into it more and enjoyed the process, but each pregnancy was a wonder. Our bodies are remarkable.
Breastfeeding is not always a wonderful experience
Breastfeeding is not as natural as we like to imagine. I always advise friends to do a course in advance to be more prepared. Get the latch wrong and it can be the most torturous, distressing and downright frustrating thing in the world. Also I'd say buy or rent an electric breast pump to get the milk out if you're having trouble, and for weaning. You don't want your milk ducts getting blocked. I shudder just thinking about it. Breastfeeding was a nightmare for me.
Support is essential
It is vital to have help. It's so much easier to be a great mother if you have help; I'm at my best when the workload is divvied up and at my worst when I'm exhausted and feeling the pressure. I absolutely don't want to be that mother who works herself into the ground. I'm always reminding the boys that I am not their slave.
We have to be so careful to mind ourselves, ask for help and sometimes demand it, in no uncertain terms. Right now, grocery shopping is my free time and I know that has to improve, because time passes and neglecting your own needs is not wise. Most moms are just doing the best they can with what they have. We've got to look after each other.
There are challenges almost every day
School runs after broken sleep take a lot of effort. Thank God for sunglasses and woolly hats - it is the only way I can leave the house without frightening the kids' friends.
There are rewards almost every hour
With Joseph, who has just turned seven months, it is when he breaks into a smile; it is divine. With Louis, who is three years old, it is when he says, "I wuvv (love) you, Mommy." It is too cute. With Patrick, who is five, it is when he wants a cuddle and to be close, which is rare and scrumptious!
Aisling is the founder and editor of Exquisite.ie