I recently began a new series about how upbringing influences parenting. It remains to be seen whether it has as great an impact as I imagine, but that’s why I find these interviews so fascinating! I hope you will too.
(If there are any guys reading, please don’t be put off by the title – you’re more than welcome to get involved! I apologise for the un-PC title, but quite simply, I love alliteration. If you have any less sexist suggestions I’d love to hear them!)
This week, we have Jen, the person behind Mum In The Madhouse.
Jen Walshaw is an award-winning parent blogger who is passionate about crafting, cooking and living a creative family life in the digital age. She can often be found in the kitchen teaching the boys (aged 12 and 11) to cook, or making homemade gifts for family and friends. When not up to her eyes in flour or paint, she can be found writing about family life at www.muminthemadhouse.com.
1. Can you describe your relationship with your mother today?
My Mum is no longer with us and that is something I am learning to live with. I have a Mum shaped hole. It never goes away, but it does change shape day to day. She died suddenly on Christmas eve in 2010 when my boys were four and three.
2. How does this differ/is this similar to the relationship you had growing up?
I had a volatile relationship with my Mum growing up. I think that our personalities clashed, but I always knew that she loved me, even though I chose to leave home at 16. Leaving home really was the making of me and my relationship with my Mum did improve, but it truley transformed when I had children of my own and I appreciated what she had done for me.
3. In what ways has your relationship with your mother influenced your character and outlook on life?
Due to leaving home early I learned that I was not responsible for my mum’s happiness and she wasn’t responsible for mine. My family is my life and watching my Mum and Dad together made me realise that you had to work at being a parent and a partner. The older I get the more I realise I am just my Mum’s echo, but I like to think that I have lots of her good points and not as much of her temper as I used to have. I am more tolerant than she ever was.
4. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve taken from your relationship with your mother?
My mum was a really tactile person and a hugger. She gave the very best hugs and there was nothing I loved more than snuggling in and breathing in her perfume. I never wanted to parent the way my Mum parented me as we used to fight quite a lot, but I have always made sure that I hug my boys.
The funny thing is that I never wanted to be anything like my Mum when I was growing up and being likened to her was an insult. Now I feel exactly the opposite, whether that is due to rose coloured glasses or the fact I am mellowing, I will never know!
5. In what ways has that affected your parenting style?
I make a real effort to try and listen and understand to my boys. I really never want them to leave home as young as I did! I really wish she was still here to ask advice and discuss things with her. I try to let them make their own mistakes and rather than do everything, I encourage them to give things a go.
6. What’s the best/worst piece of advice your mother ever gave you?
My Mum never really gave me parenting advice that was one of the great things about her. She let me make my own mistakes and gently led me in the right direction. She did admit that she was no expert and that I slept for about four hours a night until I was six years old. Even now I am an insomniac and that nothing she did got me to sleep. Mini is my karma on that front as he is very similar.
7. How do you hope to influence your own children as they grow up and become adults, and does this reflect your relationship with your own mother?
I really hope to light my boys way by the bridges I burned. I think that parenting has changed a lot since I was young. I hope that I have a long term relationship with my boys and I delight at watching them grow up and develop. I understand from my experience that they will never appreciate me until they become parents themselves.
I really want them to be happy and comfortable in their own skin. To stand up for what they feel is right and to know that I am there to support them no matter what.
8. Based on your relationship with your mother, what has been your biggest surprise/revelation/epiphany when you became a mum yourself?
I never realised how hard being a parent was and just how much my Mum and Dad really just wanted the best for me. I have also learned that I had and have a lot of quirks that Mini has too. It can be challenging and so rewarding. But in all honesty, I never really realised just how much I wanted and needed my Mum until she died.
9. Has your mother’s relationship with your children followed a similar pattern to your own relationship with her, or is their relationship very different? How do you feel about that?
My mum had a very different relationship with my boys than she did with me as a child. She was so much more relaxed and she LOVED being a grandparent. She relished having the boys around when she was with them she gave them her undivided attention. I think that is the joy of being a grandparent. She made them feel like they were the most important people in her life at that moment and they were.
10. Can you share a memory about you and your mother which illustrates your relationship?
Most of my memories of my Mum are based around her cooking and sewing. She was an amazing cook and seamstress and I remember watching her work. In fact, it left me quite intimidated and for the longest time I didn’t cook or sew. Now I do both on a daily basis if I can! I think that my mum was quite a hard act to follow and live up too.
However, once I had my boys she never made me feel inferior. In fact she relished telling me that she thought I was an amazing mum.
If you’d like to take part in the series about how upbringing influences parenting, please email me.