The Mum My Mum Made Me, Featuring Devon Mama
Last week I 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.
This week, we have Hayley, the person behind Devon Mama.
Devon Mama is run by Hayley – a 30 year old mama, wife and recovering sleep addict. Living with her husband, baby and the world’s bounciest dog in rural Devon, she can usually be found attempting to cook, Googling everything and embracing the strange new world that is parenting. Add in a house with ‘a lot of potential’ and a return to her ‘real’ job as a Company Director and it’s organized chaos at the best of times.
1. Can you describe your relationship with your mother today?
I’ve never been closer to my mum than I am at the moment. We live about ten minutes away from each other, work together and speak on the phone at least once a day. She looks after my little boy every Wednesday and I see her in the evening when I go to collect him as well as at least once over the weekend – so we see each other a lot!
We’ve always been close as a family but over the last couple of years Mum and I have gotten very close, especially since I became a mum myself. She understands me and what makes me happy/frustrated/angry/sad so she’s great as a sounding board and advice giver although sometimes that can backfire when I don’t want to hear it. She also knows my family (obviously) and my work so if I want to have a moan, she gets it! I’d genuinely describe her as one of my best friends, if not the best. It’s taken me a long time to get there but I admire and appreciate her so much, I would be completely lost without her.
2. How does this differ/is this similar to the relationship you had growing up?
Through my childhood I was always very much a daddy’s girl; I was always far closer to him than I was my mum. I don’t know if part of that was because I am the oldest and Mum was taken up with dealing with my brother and sister or it was just a natural drift towards him. As a teenager, I would fight consistently with Mum about anything and everything. I was a typical teen and I hated that she wanted to know about my life, I thought she was weak for some of the decisions she made and that she let my father walk all over her. We knew exactly how to wind each other up and hurt one another and so it went on.
The turning point for us was when I went to university. I had a mixed time of it whilst there; breaking up with a long-term boyfriend and struggling with housemates. My mum became my lifeline! She’d ring me every day just to ‘check in’ and the normality of chatting to her whilst she cooked dinner or did the ironing helped keep me sane. When I moved back to Devon after university, I went back to the family business and saw her daily there so that relationship continued to grow and develop and has done ever since.
3. In what ways has your relationship with your mother influenced your character and outlook on life?
My mum has always acted as my conscience – she always makes me look at things from another angle, put myself in someone else’s shoes or ask the questions I’m afraid to ask myself. I often find myself thinking what she would say at a situation; if I was telling her about it, what would she say? Would she be proud of my actions or would I lie to avoid telling her the awkward truth? I think it’s helped make me more considerate of other people and their feelings.
4. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve taken from your relationship with your mother?
Not to try and force a relationship with someone. For years I resented the fact that she would try hard to have a relationship with me and push back against it. When we both relaxed about it, it turned out we needed each other more than we realised. I think when you let things take their natural course, what will be will be. Also not to judge people; I didn’t respect some of her decisions when I was younger but now I’m older and have a family of my own, I appreciate that life isn’t quite as black and white as I used to think!
5. In what ways has that affected your parenting style?
It’s shown me that providing children with structure, boundaries and support is the best thing that you can do. We weren’t raised in a strict household but there were boundaries. Yes, I pushed them whenever possible but that’s only natural! Without that support and her pushing me to succeed when all I wanted to do was laze in bed, I would never have achieved half of what I have.
It’s made me quite aware of how I act about my own insecurities. My mum has always struggled with her weight and spent her life on various diets etc. I think that influenced me in feeling similarly about my own body. I don’t want my son to see that side of me and think it’s normal to not like bits of yourself.
Finally, it’s also made me appreciate how important it is to be a constant. I want my son to know what to expect when he speaks to me and I try to use a similar approach at work. I don’t want to be up one day and down the next otherwise people don’t know what to expect. I want him to know that I’m there when he needs me, just like my mum was… ironing, cooking, being the slice of normality regardless of whatever is going on in his life. I think that’s hugely important.
6. What’s the best/worst piece of advice your mother ever gave you?
Oh, that’s a hard one! The best would be to ask myself ‘what if it were me?’ when dealing with others. It really does help you understand people’s thoughts and feelings better. The worst? Probably any piece of technological advice, she’s awful at that!
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’d hope to be a similar positive influence on my child as he grows up. I’m passionate about showing him that you don’t have to give up things in life if you work hard for them, I always found it difficult that my mum took a step back from her career because of us children and it’s made me want to show my child that that’s not necessarily what has to happen. I’d love for my son to have a similar relationship to me as I do with my mum but, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I do think there’s a difference between mother and daughter and mother and son. Lots of the bonding experiences, things like wedding planning and pregnancy are far easier to share as mother and daughter than they are as mother and son. That said, if I can manage just half of that relationship, love and respect then I’ll be a pretty happy mama.
8. Based on your relationship with your mother, what has been your biggest surprise/revelation/epiphany when you became a mum yourself?
How much love you can have for one person. I love my mum to pieces (in case that didn’t come across already!) and I always imagined she felt exactly the same but now I’m a parent myself I realise how much more intense that love is when you’ve created that person, from scratch! She said the other day that that feeling of protectiveness for your child doesn’t change, how she’d kill for us and before I thought it was just a saying. Now I know that she wasn’t lying at all!
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 looks after my son one day a week so they have plenty of time together. I love seeing their relationship develop, it’s similar to ours yet different at the same. Similar in so far as she adores him and uses similar parenting skills to those she used on me but different because the pressure isn’t there. She’s not having to juggle him, two other children and all the chores that come with raising three children, working and keeping a home. She can just enjoy her time with him and hand him back at the end of the day. I thought I would be jealous of their relationship and the fact that there’s no discipline or jobs to juggle but I’m not. Seeing two of my favourite people delight in one another is actually beautiful to watch. I see both of them in a different light when they’re together and it makes me proud that I’ve created that magic. I’m totally taking the credit.
10. Can you share a memory about you and your mother which illustrates your relationship?
I’ve really struggled with this one, just because I have so many memories. Some of my favourite would be around the time I found out I was pregnant. We didn’t tell my family until eight weeks when I had to have a scan to check it wasn’t ectopic. From that moment on, mum accompanied me to all the appointments that my husband couldn’t make, most of which she cried at. Both her and my dad really threw themselves in to being supportive, to the point that one weekend we were away and I happened to text her and say how constipated I was (early pregnancy – yay!), could she see if she could get me some laxatives from the pharmacist as it would be shut before I could get there. She went to every pharmacist in town only to be turned down due to the fact I was pregnant. I came home to find a bag of ‘movement-inducing’ foods on the doorstep… prunes, dried apricots, bran, figs… if she thought it would help, it was there. On top were two Lindt reindeers to help wash them down. It must have taken her half of the morning to sort but she did it without a second thought because she knew I needed to be trying something at that point. It’s a silly memory but it still makes me smile now!
If you’d like to take part in the series about how upbringing influences parenting, please email me.