Saturday 11 January 2014

Taking motherhood in your stride.

The revelation of Jessica Ennis Hill's pregnancy has prompted lots of questions about what having a baby can do to you: your body, your mental capacity and your career. The reaction has been quite interesting; from young supporters of Jess expressing their excitement of a mini Ennis-Hill on the scene to disillusioned, stressed out parents who have expressed her career is probably 'done'. To many people, perhaps mainly the childless amongst us, the news could seem quite idillic: recently married, young, wealthy and a perfect role model to step into motherhood. To the parents among us there is more sober judgement of how a child can impact your life, your aspirations, and your capacity to fit in several loads of washing a week. Will Jess be storming through the finishing line or will she be too head-deep in nappies to race?

When I announced my pregnancy nearly four years ago there was a lot of opinion banded around the place as to how I would survive with a child. If I expressed I would still to go out with my friends I was told to scrap my diary. If I expressed I wanted to work from home once the baby was born I was told that I could think again. If I said I wanted to keep fit I was told I'd be better off purchasing a life time supply of hug-in pants. Then there was the other extreme of mums-to-be setting up businesses; investing in a hands-free kit for dealing with business calls whilst changing nappies and, better still, investing in streamlined buggies they could push whilst doing their 10k runs (and taking more business calls). Who says women can't multitask?

They did. About 2 weeks in.

Being a mum is tough and there's no escaping the fact that having children makes life more complicated. You soon realise, however, that people are quick to put assumptions on your parenting prospects. For me, recovering physically was a high priority and I made sure I was physically fit when I had my baby: I walked 6 miles a day until I was 8 months pregnant. Once I'd recovered from the unexpected c-section I did thirty minutes of intense exercise every day whilst my baby napped. Whether or not my motives were healthy, I lost my 'baby' weight within six months and by a year I was fitter and more toned than I'd ever been in my life. My stomach honestly looked better than before. Now I'm not telling you this so that all you mothers who have not lost the weight start throwing eggs at me, but for me, at least, the hard work had paid off because it was a priority for me. Later down the line I decided to pick up my pencils again and develop my creative work, so whilst the keep fit dwindled and my jeans tightened, my creativity soared. It's all about what you make your priority. Having a child has, at least, made me prioritise. Before I had a baby I was neither focussed on my fitness nor my creativity.

Jess will of course have to work twice as hard to maintain her career but maybe, just maybe, she can have it all. If she's focussed enough to compete and achieve success in the olympics then she is more likely to be better suited to the marathon of motherhood than the rest of us. She is not only fit enough to recover physically but she is mentally focussed too, which for me was the hardest part. So although she may well have her work cut out for her, she will undoubtably take it in her stride (pun intended). I have no doubt she'll be racing through the finish line... she may just need a little more of that Olay eye cream she's so keen on.

All the best Jess.