In this new series, we talk to our readers and contributors about the joys and surprises of life with young children.
Tell us a little about your family…
I am Eloise (29), and I live with my husband Sam (31), our daughter Frida (2), and our cat Albus. We live in South London, where Sam works as a social worker four days a week. I made the decision not to go back to my old career as a government press officer after Frida was born, so I am at home most of the time, although I do a little freelance media work and also teach Hypnobirthing. I blog at www.fridabemighty.com. We have tried to organise our family life so that Frida sees as much of us as possible, which can sometimes feel a bit counter-cultural as we live in a city where work is seen as the most important thing. I had to do some soul-seaching before I realised that actually, the unpaid work I do as a parent is just as important and valid as the paid work I did pre-parenthood. I think staying at home can be a very feminist choice! We are planning on homeschooling Frida.
What are the 3 words that define your parenting style?
Gentle. Respectful. Playful.
What is your child’s current favourite toy?
Oh gosh, it’s hard to pick just one! I would probably say her wooden animal figures, although her playsilks, little dolls, and open-ended Grimms toys get a lot of use too.
What is your - and your child’s - favourite toy of all time?
As a child I would play for hours with a few simple animal and person figures, and I see Frida doing the same thing now. My favourite toys are definitely the simplest ones; beautifully carved from wood, the child’s imagination does all of the rest.
What is your fondest childhood memory?
Being told stories by my parents. Reading books together too, of course, but there was something so magical about the stories that my father would seemingly spin out of thin air, no matter how tired he was. Frida is at the age where she is constantly asking us to tell her stories and it is wonderful to be able to give her the same experience – although I must admit, the stories I tell are nowhere near as good as the ones I was told as a child!
What have you found most surprising about your child / about being a parent?
Just how much fun it is! It is exhausting at times, and it is certainly not all plain sailing – parenting has without a doubt been the hardest thing I have ever done. But most of the time, I just find being Frida’s mother such good fun. People are so negative about toddlers and "terrible twos", but I have found parenting a two year old incredibly enjoyable. There is something so magical about watching Frida learn about the world and make new connections, and of course listening to the hilarious stories she tells from morning to night. She makes us belly laugh several times a day. I knew I would love my daughter, but I wasn’t prepared by just how much I would enjoy her company.
Do you have any tips for other parents? About toys, learning or anything else…
You can never read too much to your child, and you can never talk too much to your child. I think the best possible thing anyone can do for their little one is to surround them with good-quality books, and provide an environment which is rich in language from day one. Poetry, story books, fact books – make them accessible and appealing, model reading yourself, and you will be surprised by how much your child will absorb.
A tip I often share with new parents is: if you are having a really bad day, go somewhere green. It might be the local park, or common, or even just in the garden. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing the same grubby leggings and t-shirt you slept in, or if your child has jam in their hair, or if you’re not able to get out until 4pm. If it’s a bad day, just get out of the house. I promise it will make you all feel so much better.
And finally, anything else you wish to add?
Something I have found really valuable is looking at our home and really trying to imagine how it works for Frida. Are her toys and books accessible? Can she reach all the things she needs to reach, or does she need step stools next to sinks and shelves? Does she have child-size furniture she can use? Does our environment encourage her to be independent? What does she see when she looks around – does our space look calm and visually appealing, or hectic and confusing? I get down on hands and knees to her level and cast a critical eye around! We have quite a small house, which means we need to be clever about how we use our space; if something isn’t working, it needs to change.Eloise blogs at www.fridabemighty.com and shares her parenting journey on Instagram @mightymother_