I am so excited about this weeks In Conversation With. This is Week 2 of the new series on Over Heavens Hill. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to talk to so many awesome parents. This week I spoke with Mum Danielle aka Dannie Kitten who is a mother of two. Danielle shares with us her honest insight into pregnancy and parenting and the challenges she faced as a young mum and her journey through preterm babies, eclampsia and studying with two smallies at home. As a Stay-at-Home Mom, Danielle is also an awesome Game Reviewer. If you’re a gamer you can check out her reviews here at DKPlaysGames. B is also an avid gamer, so I was interested to see what Danielle had to say about technology and kids.
How many children do you have?
I have 2. A 7 year old son and a 4 year old daughter.
Are you a Working Mum, a Stay at Home Mum, or a Work from Home Mum?
I class myself as a Stay at Home Mum, but when my son was 18 months old I decided to go to Uni to study for my English degree. I took as many of the evening classes as possible so that he wouldn’t notice though. I had my daughter whilst I was in my 2nd year and went back as soon as I could to finish my degree. I got a 2:1 and decided to pursue an MA in Children’s Literature & Culture, which I have just graduated from. I also review games on my blog (dkplaysgames.blogspot.com) but I don’t get paid so can’t class myself as a Work from Home Mum!
Do you think it’s easier or harder to be a Mum now than when you were being raised?
I’d have to say harder. I’m not yet in my 30’s so I don’t think it is as clear a gap as some of the other mums at my children’s school would have experienced. I was brought up by a Stay at Home Mum too and it was because of this that I wanted to if it was at all possible but I think I have had to sacrifice more than my parents did to do so. We still rent our home because a deposit for a mortgage seems so far out of our reach, for example. I also think that being a Stay at Home Mum then was more of a positive experience socially – I have lost count of the amount of snarky comments I have received when I tell people that I don’t work. I find that other Mums are more judgemental of your personal choices these days, and we’re often made to feel like we’re not doing enough (whether we work or not). Working Mums are not immune to this either, they get just as much flack now.
What advice would you give other women about pregnancy and parenting?
First off try and enjoy your pregnancy. The day will come when you’re done with having babies and you’ll really miss the feeling of carrying a baby inside you. I had morning sickness from waking up to going back to sleep with both of mine right to the end, and I wish someone had told me to stop complaining so much and remember the good bits more.
Advise on parenting is always a tough one to tackle, because it can easily come across as patronising. The biggest advice my mum gave me was to be confident in your own abilities to know what is best for your child. My son was born prematurely at 31 weeks after I had an eclamptic fit and for the longest time I found it so difficult to follow my mums advice, believing that the Dr’s would certainly know what my child needed better than I did. He was in the hospital for 5 weeks and in the 3rd week my partner and I were advised to leave the hospital for the first time since he was born, just to try and relax and stop worrying. My son had been doing well, had come off his breathing machines and was finally being bottle fed – but it took a long time for him to even drink 20ml. Whilst we were out one of the nurses decided that he was taking too long and put him back on an NG tube for his feeding. It set him back at least a week and from that moment on I questioned every single one of their decisions until I was satisfied that it was what he needed. They probably hated me for it, but I didn’t care. I wanted the best for him, and I knew him, rather than just knowing the figures on his charts. He came home 2 weeks later.
What is the best part about being a Mum?
You probably get many a cheesy answer to this question! And, honestly, I think the answer could change almost daily. Yesterday morning it was the snuggles in our bed that we had time for because we’d all woken up before our alarm. It’s the collection of frankly awful drawings all over my cupboards and fridge that they bring home from a busy day at school. It’s hearing them play nicely together in their bedroom when they think I’m not listening (because the minute there’s an adult in the room they fight like cat and dog!). It’s my son bounding out of his classroom so excited to see me after school. All the adventures we’ve had and all the adventures that are yet to come. The companionship, the laughter, the fun. It really is an amazing thing, watching these little babies grow up into little personalities all of their own.
What is your biggest fear as a Mum?
I think that most Mums now know the feeling of second-guessing yourself quite well! I am constantly worrying that I have done the best I can with them, wondering what I could have done better. When I was pregnant with my daughter I cut out everything that was ever mentioned to me, despite being told that I could just cut back. By the time I was pregnant with my daughter I had suffered two miscarriages and wanted to do all I could to ensure this pregnancy progressed healthily. In the end she was born at 34 weeks because I was showing signs of eclampsia again. Luckily, she was fine and we were more prepared – they were able to administer the steroid injections for her lungs before this c-section which made a massive difference as she didn’t have to go into SCBU at all. I felt like I’d failed, again. I’m so afraid of failing them in anyway. I think it is definitely exacerbated by what happened when we left our son in the hospital. I cried for hours after that, chastising myself for not being there for him, despite the fact that I had lived in the hospital since his birth and hadn’t left the SCBU except to sleep in 4 hour shifts so I could be back upstairs for his next cares. I felt so guilty – I still feel guilty about it.
What’s the one thing you would have done differently as a first-time mum?
As a knee-jerk reaction I could probably give you a list as long as my arm. But in truth everything I have done since becoming a mum has shaped who I am, and more importantly who my children are. Learning from mistakes is really important, and I feel like I did have a lot to learn as a 20 year old first time mum. I was really young, and I was thrust into motherhood 9 weeks earlier than we had thought. None of my family had ever had experience with premature babies and we all learnt together. It was bloody tough, but motherhood is. If I could rewind time I would do it all again in a heartbeat. My mum could probably do without the stress of that though!
Have you ever caught yourself repeating something your parents said to you?
Yes! It drives me mad everytime! I was the eldest of two and was constantly told that as I was the eldest I had to set the example. I found myself saying that to my son just the other day! I find myself doing it more and more as they get older.
As a game reviewer, how do you feel about technology and kids?
I think technology is here to stay whether we like it or not. In my son’s class there are a few parents who have tried to shield their children from technology and it has only lead to problems when they have been required to use an iPad or computer in school. There are some that are completely the other way too, I remember one getting a console in his bedroom for Christmas when they were in Nursery. We have always had iPads, computers and consoles in our home and the children have always been allowed to use them, but I do have limits in place. They can’t go on a game before homework is done, and more often than not they are not allowed to go on a console or tablet on a school night (unless it’s family game night).
I am fairly traditional for what I want for my children, I want them to play imaginatively and creatively for as long as possible – I may choose to spend my spare time on a game, but they have plenty of time for that as they get older so for now I want them to enjoy things like Play-Doh, colouring in or the myriad of Imaginext toys they have. I think teaching our children to use technology is valuable, but it is all too easily adopted as a kind of babysitter. I’ve lost count of the amount of families you see when out for dinner where all of them are looking at a separate screen and if that’s what you want then that’s fine, but I don’t want that for us. We talk around the dinner table, or if we are out we all do some colouring or play I-Spy. My childhood was fairly devoid of technology and I don’t feel hard done by. I have so many fond memories of my childhood, playing with my brother and my friends.
I wanted my children to have the best of both worlds, but maybe I’m being greedy. It doesn’t come without it’s issues. Limiting technology use means that when the weekend comes they ask when they can play almost the minute they wake up, and they would binge on it all weekend if I allowed it. No matter what you do another kid in their class always has it better (according to them) so do what works for you and stick to your guns!
Anything else you would like to share with other Mums-to-Be?
I feel like I’ve probably whittled on for far too long now. People will be bored!
And I have to ask who is your favorite Disney character?
Haha! This is a really tough one! I did my MA dissertation on the Disney Princesses, not the twee princess-y ones but the ones that could kick some butt and changed the Disney ideal slightly. I think my favourite is Rapunzel though. She captures childhood naivety so perfectly, yet she is a kick ass pan wielder. The relationship between Flynn and Rapunzel is one that isn’t really seen in Disney. They’re very much equals by the end of the film, and she broke the mold of a girl having to find a Prince before she could find happiness. Plus the song in the film Tangled is just amazing.
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