Clover is the Sunday Times BEST Selling author of the brilliant book My Wild and Sleepless Nights and mother to 5 kids.
This month we are celebrating motherhood in all its beautiful and varied forms. Clover Stroud shares her challenges during the pandemic and lockdown.
How would you describe your family set up?
I have five children – Lester, 4, Dash, 6, Evangeline, 8, Dolly, 17 and Jimmy, 20 – so my family life is extremely noisy, extremely chaotic, completely exhausting and absolutely full of love. I am myself the youngest of five children, and I always wanted a big family. I was pregnant by the time I was 24, quite soon after leaving university but after a stint in Texas working as a rodeo cowgirl, but by the time I was 27, I was a single mother to Jimmy and Dolly. I actually loved that time as a single parent as I felt incredibly close to the kids. I felt like we were a gang of three. Then I met Pete when I was 34, and I knew pretty much instantly that we would have children together. There are 16 years between Lester and Jimmy, so my experience of mothering really does feel like a marathon. It drives me mad sometimes, quite literally, but I also love it. I feel incredibly privileged to have these funny, sweet, loving kids in my life. Sometimes I feel quite speechless with the fact I got lucky enough that they chose me as their mum.
How has being a mum in a pandemic been for you?
Although it’s tested the outer edges of me, I have found lockdown very interesting. I like strange, exceptional, extraordinary times and being a mum during the pandemic has certainly tested me in ways I didn’t think possible. I actually quite enjoyed home schooling in the first lockdown, as I just busked my way through teaching the younger kids about things I was interested in. We’re lucky enough to live in the countryside, so this meant spending quite a lot of time sitting in fields while they ate packets of biscuits and ignored me while I read poetry aloud to them. It was completely novel and quite fun. Lockdown over winter has been less amusing. I really, really hated trying to oversee the kids while they learned from screens. I am rubbish at passwords, and uploading work, or getting our printer to work (it never does) so I found it really frustrating and unsatisfying. I don’t think the kids learnt much, apart from a few new swearwords, but I hope they will grow up from this experience with a memory that they were deeply loved, and that we were very close together as a family.
What has been your favourite moment of being a mother during lockdown?
Although I often felt claustrophobic, I also liked the feeling of closeness as a family that lockdown gave me. My eldest son, Jimmy, decided to defer his place at university last autumn, and instead got a job working as a gardener locally. As his mum, I feel a huge, huge sense of privilege that lockdown gave me one more year with all my kids living at home. Watching him with the younger kids gives me a deep sense of joy. He’ll almost certainly be off to university this autumn, and I know that family life, in it’s current set up with all of us living at home, will never be quite like this again. Lockdown has been hard, but I also want to see the gold it’s given me, and that’s more time with all my kids, from little Lester right up to Jimmy, who is now a man. Sure they run me ragged, but really, what a gift.