This week…Susie Hetherington, textile designer and mother of three.
Susie Hetherington lives in Gloucestershire with her partner Ollie and their three daughters. She is a graphic designer turned textile designer, and designs, makes and sells beautiful fabrics and homeware, inspired by her natural surroundings, via her website.
My little Munchkins are… all girls. I have a five year old, a three year old, and a one year old. When you have three girls, everyone either tells you how much easier they are than boys, or they tell me how hard it is going to be when they are teenagers. I daresay both things are true, but you get a bit tired of hearing it.
No-one ever tells you that… the ‘Terrible Twos’ actually starts soon after the first birthday and ends some considerable time after the third birthday, if at all. Whoever invented the name just couldn’t think of anything catchy enough to cover this reality, or was a ‘glass half full’ type of parent.
Birth was… very straightforward and the last bit was super-quick. I know how incredibly lucky I was. So lucky… I had no complications, I could handle way more pain than I expected, and I had wonderful care from excellent midwives. I semi-prepared for my third birth to be at home, but kept my options open, as I felt I might be tempting fate. But in the event, circumstances made my mind; my mother-in-law was due to look after my eldest two but at the last minute got called to hospital to where my baby niece was very unwell. I nearly panicked about it, but in general, labour makes me strangely calm. I am in another place in my head. In the end Ollie managed to get the girls to bed and then put up the pool, and the timing worked out perfectly. She was born just after the midwives arrived (they got a bit lost) and my mother-in-law had returned. It was so wonderful to be at home and to be able to introduce her Nan straight away, and then to the girls as soon as they woke in the morning. I couldn’t have asked for more…family never felt so real. Oh, and my niece was fine too.
I couldn’t have survived the first three months without… my partner Ollie. Perhaps that’s an obvious answer, and he would say he often feels a bit redundant at the newborn stage, what with his lack of boobs. But my second daughter had 3+ months of the dreaded colic, and every evening, between the hours of 6 and 10pm, it felt like we were dwelling deep in a living hell. Had Ollie not been there to take her off me, rocking her poor little screaming soul in a darkened room whilst I lay crying in a ball on the bed… well I couldn’t have coped. Luckily, as with all things, it passed. But if anyone tells you their baby has colic, give them the very best support you can muster… it is seriously intense, for the parents and the little one.
I wish I’d known before that… every sentence my children speak starts with “Mummy….”, and that they all choose to talk at the same time. If I’d known, maybe I would have given myself a more long-winded or humorous name, for my own amusement.
It used to drive me mad when people said… “Well done” to my partner Ollie, on the handful of occasions he has been out and about with all three children, without me. Firstly, he’s their Dad and is more than capable, so he might find it a little patronising – though people mean well. But more to the point, why aren’t you saying it to me?! I do it every single day! If I get any comment at all, it’ll be “You’ve got your hands full, haven’t you?”. Thinking about it though, perhaps this is just because he looks calm and in control and I look exhausted and harassed.
The best present anyone gave me was…. the gift of really good food. When I had my third baby, not one, but TWO wonderful friends gave us home-made meals for the freezer. Several of them! And they both happen to be excellent cooks. Both had been given meals when they had newborns and are brilliantly continuing the gesture. Everyone should do this.
Our first holiday was… in France for a week, with my family. That meant six devoted adults to one, very lucky nine month old. My family aren’t on the doorstep for helping out week to week, but my children have a wonderful relationship with my two siblings and grandparents on both sides, and with wider family. I had some amazing aunts, uncles and friends of the family when I was growing up, and I love seeing this happen again.
The most important that I’ve learnt is… this is so hard to answer. I’m learning every day. In fact I am also forgetting and re-learning, often the hard way. But in the top five most important things I have learnt, these would feature:
- Do less to entertain… young kids don’t need a schedule of activities. With my first baby I joined everything, partly because I needed the social contact, but at home I was also actively playing with her the whole time. I am sure she benefitted in many ways, but actually, as I’ve had more kids, I’ve learnt that letting them get a little bit bored is when they take matters into their own hands; inventing games that knock the socks off anything I could think of. And it’s less full on for the parent too.
- Let things go… if something awful nearly happened but didn’t, don’t dwell on it. One of my best friends taught me this. ‘”what if…’ scenarios in parenthood just turn you into a gibbering wreck.
- There is such a thing as ‘Good Enough’ parenting. Thanks to my friend Oonagh for reminding me of this when I am guilt-tripping myself for having lost it, on occasion.
I worry about… oh, pretty much everything, when it comes to the kids. How they’ll get treated when they are older, body image, Meningitis and all other serious illnesses, THE INTERNET, giving them equal attention and opportunities, whether I have made them into sugar addicts, whether I have made them into screen/social media addicts (*checks mobile phone 100th time*), whether I will handle the void when they deny me the affection they currently give so generously, whether I can let them go. But most of all, I worry that I will outlive one of them. I guess that’s the biggest fear of any parent; having to see them suffer or losing them. By having children, you really up the stakes. But they are so worth it.
I wish… I could wake up in my own time, voluntarily. I used to be such a good morning person but now my default morning mood is a grumpy one.
Motherhood is…. EMOTIONAL… (see above!). Parenthood is unrelenting hard work, that regularly brings me to tears, BUT, it is also full of intense joy and happiness, like I have never known before, that also brings me to tears. In short, it’s a wall of tears.
Work is… all around me. When I was pregnant with my second I had to sell my third of a successful graphic design business (very painful at the time but definitely the right decision), and since then I have freelanced from home, part time. In the last year or so I have started working entirely for myself, designing and making my own line of textiles and related homeware. I have no child-free hours currently, so this is entirely in the evenings, and as a result I am totally knackered. However, you can find a lot of energy for pursuing your dream, and I love not having to have employee guilt when you have a sick child to care for, or want to make sure you see the Playgroup show.
I want my children to know that… they can be themselves, and do whatever they want to be. When doing my A Levels I had two separate teachers tell me I would be ‘throwing my life away’ by pursuing art at college rather than the more academic choices. Luckily, I knew they were wrong to even think that, let alone say it. I always had unfaltering support from my parents, and I hope I will be the same when my kids are older. I want them to know that no one has the right to tell you who to be.