Hollie is the author of Your Baby, Your Birth and Motherhood Your Way. Hollie is a mum, stepmum, a business owner, Author and Speaker.
This month we are celebrating motherhood in all its beautiful and varied forms. Hollie de Cruz shares her challenges during the pandemic.
How would you describe your family set up?
So I’m Hollie and I live at home in South London with my partner Simon, my son Oscar who’s 10, Simon’s son Manolo who’s almost 11, and our delicious toddler Cosmo, who’s 2. We also have two rescue dogs – Peppin and Cora, who think they’re our children too. Living as a blended family, it means that who’s under our roof at any one time is always changing. My son Oscar shares his time equally between me and his dad, and my stepson is with us every other weekend and then one night in the week, too. It’s not straightforward but it’s our normal, and Cosmo definitely benefits from having rotating big brothers who adore him.
Bringing two families together has definitely had its trials though. It’s taken a lot of patience and persistence to create our own safe, consistent and boundaried home where everyone feels loved, heard and part of the team. I think it’s easy to romanticise a new relationship and growing family, but there’s been a lot – for the big boys especially – to get used to, and it’s taken time for us all to feel settled with each other.
That said, I really wouldn’t have it any other way. A year ago we bought our family home and have spent the last 9 months renovating it. After a lot of moving around, it finally feels like we have a happy, calm and nurturing base in which to raise our boys, and it’s a lovely feeling.
How has being a mum in a pandemic been for you?
You know what, I’ve found pandemic life full of challenges, but being a mum in a pandemic has actually been good for me. It has slowed me down enormously and I realise that the amount of stuff I tried to cram in before lockdown took a lot of that away. It’s taken away a real element of obligation for me and that’s been liberating. I’ve always been very boundaried about what I say yes to when I have Oscar at home. For example, when he’s at our house I never go out in the evening and will always read him a story and put him to bed. I only get to do that half the time since his dad and I separated, so it’s been very important to prioritise. If I got invited to events etc on the nights I had Oscar, I often felt a pang of guilt about saying no, and the feeling would sit with me for a while after. Because all of that’s been taken away during the pandemic, I feel like I’ve been able to give myself more readily and unapologetically to my children, without the nagging audience of conflicting emotions and expectations on my shoulder. In essence, it’s made me much more aware of the pressure and noise we feel subconsciously to present, perform and produce, and actually, it’s been hugely empowering and transformative not only to be given a breather from that, but to be forever more aware of its impact.
It’s also been really enjoyable to spend more time going slowly with Cosmo at such a transformative age. I think toddlers tend to get a bad rep, but actually, when you start to see things through their eyes, it’s more that everything is just a massive adventure and learning experience. It’s made me realise how little Cosmo actually needs – I spent so much time and money taking Oscar to classes and the like – constantly feeling the need for organised stimulation – and actually, Cosmo feels way more content and responsive when he’s just pottering around with me. It’s been very interesting and a real learning curve, and I definitely feel like that’s informed the way I parent in a positive way.
Equally, it’s brought up a lot of big questions for me about the systems and processes we just accept as normal, and that has been a challenge and to be honest, uncomfortable. I’m suddenly aware of how much I’ve missed through rushing or over-planning or jumping from one role to the next. What we had accepted as normal life – to me – now seems so structured and fast-paced, and I’m disappointed by how much it sucks us and our children into compliance and away from critical thinking. I feel unsure of how to approach that as we come back out of pandemic-life, and I think these kind of question marks can leave us feeling uneasy and overwhelmed. There’s a lot to be learned for sure, but I’m trying to see the shake-up as necessary and an opportunity for some long-term change. Can you ask me the question again in a year?!
What has been your favourite moment of being a mother during lockdown?
I think my favourite moment of being a mother during lockdown has been my birthday back in October. I know lots of people LOVE their birthdays and a big opportunity for celebration, and I always think I’m one of those people but actually, I’m not. I always hype birthdays up in my head and then have this underlying anxiety about how the day is going to materialise. Is it going to be fun, easy, happy, exciting, etc? And actually, when you worry about things feeling that way, they are basically never going to feel that way! Having a pandemic birthday meant I had absolutely no expectations on what things should look like, and just enjoyed the small moments of joy along the way. Oscar got up early and put decorations up in the kitchen, I had a cup of tea in bed with my boys, a nice dog walk and then basically just had a chilled day at home and a takeaway. It was probably the most relaxing, stress-free birthday I’ve ever had, and celebrating it as a mother, rather than a friend/sister/daughter/colleague or anything else, brought it’s own space for ease and simplicity that felt lovely.
I’ve really missed seeing my mum and my grandma though. It feels like a lifetime and I think that’s been compounded by losing my grandpa last year. Not being together during the time it would benefit each other most has been really difficult to accept, and I can’t wait to have that time again soon to just heal in each other’s company. I think grandchildren (or great grandchildren!) can be a great tonic in times of grief too, and I can’t wait to see those relationships in real life again.
I’d say overall, the biggest underlying shift that the pandemic has had on me as a mother and a daughter has been recognising the impact of expectation vs. choice, and I’m kind of ready to see how that carries on unfolding as normality resumes. It’s equal parts exciting and daunting, but I try to see any opportunities for growth and change as a good thing. Fingers crossed!
Hollie’s book ‘Your Baby, Your Birth’ is available in DBHF packages, and she’s over on Instagram with information about her podcast – Making the womb, exploring the impact of our before birth experiences. You can also find Hollie’s book ‘Motherhood Your Way’ here.