Saturday 15 September 2012

CBN Interview: Hannah Roberts

Today's interview is with inspiring Mama Hannah Roberts. Hannah talks to us about the joys and challenges of being a single parent and her passion for crafting and making with her son.

Who are you?

Hi, I'm Hannah, a 24 year old mum in York. I'm the youngest of my mum friends, which is strange because I'm the eldest of my non-mum friends. I previously studied as a Montessori Directress in 2009, and am currently doing my level 3 in child-minding. I have done a few courses offered by Family Learning through my local Children's Centre and am starting some more in October, just to add to my experience. My goal is to start running my own arts and crafts classes for under 5's (and parents) and a possibility of a bigger project has come up as well. So with goals in mind, I take my first step and am really quite chuffed to be doing this interview.

Tell us about your son Oscar

My little boy Oscar is 2. He is the beat of my heart and the total love of my life. He is quite sensitive, sweet and caring. He shows a lot of empathy toward others and always like to make people feel better (unless it's all too much for him and he will just cry). He can be quite shy with new or estranged people, but is so comfortable when he is ready. He doesn't like dealing with or talking about sadness and he has always hated goodbyes ('no mami, don't like it a say goodbye, don't like it a too sad mami'). He is also really funny, very inquisitive and knows exactly what he wants and when he wants it, just like his mama. (He is good at vocalising it too, just like his mama!)

What is the most challenging thing about being a single parent?

Not having someone feed me chocolate and make me tea while I nursed the new-born through the night! Just kidding. It definitely has to be not having anyone to bounce ideas off, no one to give me input or insight, or to call me out on my bad parenting moments (because I'm not going to front; I shout, I snap, I swear and I do time-out, because I'm human, and I fuck up sometimes).  Being a single mum means that my ideas are the only ones I have, but (and this is really hard for me) I have to accept I might have made a bad choice somewhere (as listed above), and the fact is, I have to realise it and fix it by myself which can be really hard to do. No one likes to think they aren't doing the best for their child. I might be 'mum' but I am not always right.

What is the best part about being a single mum?

I think being a single parent is such a sensitive subject to some people and others daren't ask about what one might actually enjoy about it. Are you kidding? I get to be mum and dad! That is so freaking cool. Not only does it mean Oscar will see me doing hair and make-up, cooking, cleaning, baking and making, but he will see his Mama changing tyres, wrestling him to the ground, chasing spiders outside, fixing pipes and unblocking toilets, barbeque-ing and playing a bit of football. Also there is no change of routine, there is no favourite parent. There is just me. I love being able to make decisions as they suit Oscar and I like eating porridge for supper if I dont feel like cooking a meal. I love the words of encouragement I get from friends and family and (teehee) I love the male (and quite often very good looking) supermen who always feel the need to help a single mum up the stairs with her buggy. It can be hard and it can be stressful, but it's the best choice I could have ever made and at the end of the day, it's me and my boy against the world. And we make a damned fine team!

Tell us about any parenting philosophies or ideals you may have

I kind of just do things that make sense to me and go with the flow. I wouldn't say I followed any kind of parenting style in particular, but I do take ideas from wherever I can and I'm always open to new ideas or advice. If something isn't working, I change it. I take my cues from Oscar and I try not to be an obstacle to his learning and development. One of my favourite quotes is "Follow the child" by Maria Montessori - I guess I do that with Oscar. I'm just a mum trying to do the best I know how to do for my child - like we all are.

How has parenting changed your outlook on life and your aspirations for yourself?

It has made me realise even more how important the little things in life are. I have always loved taking time to smell the flowers and finding out what makes things work, but now that I have Oscar, things like that have just become so important because there is just so much learning involved in it, and I didnt realise it before. I think the world is so fast-paced and not enough time is spent on enjoying the's a prize driven rat-race, and if there's one thing Oscar learns, I hope its just to stop, take a step back and take it all in. And I constantly try to do the same.

Tell us about any creative hobbies you have and how you manage to incorporate them into your busy days.

I love making and preparing activities for Oscar, and homemaking, and they are my hobbies... I love a bit of DIY, but my newest loves are baking and gardening and upcycling, they can be included in the answer to the next question too. I'm not too good with needle crafts but I would love to work on them, especially applique and embroidery, and some crocheting! I think my house is starting to become a reflection of all the things I love and do (it has taken a while, and started from nothing but I'm getting there!), and that makes me very happy. I get stuff done all the time, I do lots with Oscar because he loves helping so much and I do lots of stuff after he goes to bed.

When you get the chance, what is your favourite thing to do purely for yourself?

This is an easy one... My 'me-time' is post Oscar-bedtime (usually from 7pm). I eat shitloads of chocolate and paint my toenails! When I'm not too lazy, I have looong (yes, 3 o's long) baths, with loud classical music playing...and I leave my mobile downstairs (because I am a CrackBerry addict and am constantly checking my BBM or Facebook).

You've always slept next to Oscar - what has been the best and most challenging thing about bedsharing?

The most challenging thing (other than being forced to lie still in a specific position so Oscar can have his hand on my boob in exactly the right spot), would be overcoming the common misconceptions people have about co-sleeping.

It's the most natural thing next to breathing for us, and the most beautiful. Oscar was in my bed from the first night of his life and still is today. We have experimented with a toddler bed, (next to mine/in another room) but he is not ready and I'm so ok with that. It's what he knows, it's safe and familiar, it's mummy's arms, and it's *our* space. Just like a child will decide when he needs to drop a nap, or start using a potty, so will he decide when he wants his own space to sleep in and his own room. I always give Oscar the option for naps or bedtime in his own bed, but he freely chooses mine and I wouldn't have it any other way. *And I love the snuggles*

What is the worst parenting moment you’ve experienced?

I was going to London with my mum for the first time by megabus. What a trip that was! The bus was full, and in the hour and a half it takes to get to East Midlands Station (where the we change from bus to train), Oscar was sick all over his clothes, then after we changed him, filled his nappy, then after we changed him and as we were arriving at the station, filled his nappy again. We rushed to the babychange and as I pulled out the wipes, a voice over the intercom alerted us that our train was now arriving at the platform, on the other side of the station. Mum told me to grab the bags and run, she would catch up with Oscar. I was to tell the conductor to hold the train! Well, that experience traumatised me to the point I didn't visit my mum in London for about a year, I made her come up to York instead! Can you blame me!?

What springs to mind when you think of one of your favourite moments since becoming a parent?

The one thing that will always stick in my mind and heart is the feeling of that new born head fitting into the palm of my hand, with that soft, silky hair and those big malteser eyes looking up at me, realising this is it, here he is. My baby, we did it.

What are some of your favourite crafty or creative things you like to do with Oscar?

I love taking Oscar to the river, he loves being outside so much and we are so lucky to live minutes from the Foss so we spend a lot of time down there, exploring. We collect treasures on our walks for our nature table, and Oscar always asks me to take pictures of things he likes. I then take from what we have seen outside and 'bring it in' by preparing mini-projects and activities for him related to what we have seen or felt or remembered. I try to include a lot of sensory things in our every day, and I guess I kind of shift my house around seasonally, so that makes a big impact on what we do together too. 

Right now we are in the process of celebrating the beginning of Autumn (as we see it). We have pressed and laminated leaves to make a sun-catcher. We have baked the most delicious stoned-fruit crumble and we have 'read' why leaves change colour.

And my favourite: we are making a life-cycle mobile based on caterpillars we have watched. This was truly the most amazing lesson and for Oscar to have been so interested in it, was something we had to do.

(We grew some purple sprouting brocolli in one of our growbags, and they grew and grew  After collecting our first purple sprout, I noticed the leaves had holes in them. We went away for a couple of weeks and when we returned home, we found laced leaves...not brocolli leaves...laced! Upon further inspection, we found some really fat caterpillars, and some really tiny ones. So began our lesson. We observed them daily and the tiny ones became bigger, and the bigger ones vanished. One morning, Oscar called my attention to our 'dirty window'. I looked and looked until I finally saw the smallest little cocoon right at the top of our glass door. I told Oscar that it was a special bed called a cocoon that the caterpillar had made to have a rest in, and when he comes out, he will be a beautiful butterfly! Oscar asks to check the cocoon every single day -and we have had to read 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' every single day too! -, so hopefully we will see our very own butterfly emerge from its cocoon, and bazinga, the 2 year old has learnt first hand about metamorphosis!)

What are the best and worst pieces of parenting advice you’ve been told by others?

Best: Sleep when the baby sleeps. I still do this even though Oscar has practically dropped his daytime nap.Take lots of photos. Spend lots of time outside. Don't try to do too much. Let your little one help you, because they love to! Respect your childs 'no's'. And *dont put too much pressure on yourself, your best IS good enough!'*

Worst: Leave him to cry. Or put him in a crib in his own room.

What gem of knowledge would you pass on to a new parent?

Just cherish those first moments, cup his head in your hand, smell his hair, stroke his soft skin, look at his little starfish hands and cuddle him skin to skin. Do that, and hold those memories forever.

What is your one piece of must-have parenting kit?

Nothing material, but the ability to see the world through the eyes of my child in order to help him understand it

If you could change one thing about the world today to make it better for your children, what would it be?

For people to accept and celebrate differences and love unconditionally... that's world peace right there!

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