Whatever stage of your parenting journey, there's always someone with a tiny nugget of information that could help you win half your battle - and Louise Pentland has the secret to maintaining your relationship after kids.
Whether a baby is on the way, you've just given birth, or have one or more children, there are many ways parenthood can affect relationships with your other half. There's the constant wondering of how to explain the mental load, and how that might help you figure out how to spice up a relationship, and some wonder why have I gone off sex?
Unresolved issued can lead to relationships breaking down, but the solution isn't always to split - as we've previously looked at divorce and why some women regret it.
Cat Sims, lifestyle blogger for women, mothers and parents, recently opened up to goodto.com about the one phrase that saved her marriage and following her useful tips, we've got even more help and advice from another influencer.
Louise Pentland is a YouTuber, broadcaster, Sunday Times Best Selling Author of the Wilde novels trilogy and non-fiction book MumLife. She's also an NSPCC Ambassador for Childhood, and has turned motherhood anecdotes into a career by sharing the ups and downs of her life with her fans.
We caught up with the mum-of-two, to daughters Darcy, 12, from her previous marriage, and Pearl, aged five, whom she has with her current partner Liam. And one thing that's clear from the off is how passionate she is about giving her girls the childhood she, heartbreakingly, didn't get a chance to have.
Having lost her mother Jane, to cancer in 1992 when she was just seven years old, Louise is determined to keep her memory alive through her daughters. And we caught up with her to talk about how to get a baby to sleep, feeding, fun, discipline, baby names and keeping the relationship alive after kids...
How did you get your kids to sleep?
"I was 25 when I had my first baby, Darcy, and felt really out of my depth and was struggling quite badly with my mental health postpartum. To be honest, those days all feel quite hazy and apart from trying to stick to a routine, I'm not sure how it happened - I think I just got lucky with a really chilled baby.
By the time I had Pearl six years later, I decided to hire the help of a Night Nanny. My own Mum died when I was little so I was lacking all that maternal guidance and I wanted some help to learn how to do things properly. I think I was also really frightened of feeling so unwell again.
We were taught all about the EASY routine (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You time) and having this structure really helped plan the 24 hours out and helped Pearl learn night from day. I was taught not to cuddle her to sleep but instead give her a lovely feed, wind, cuddle and then swaddle her to put down. I do believe you can't ever cuddle a baby too much but I will say, this method worked well for us and Pearl was sleeping through (to about 5am which felt great!) by about six to seven weeks."
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt about bedtimes?
What's one of your life saving products that helped with sleep?
"Stick. To. Routine. Even if you can't make everything happen at the same time every night (life throws all sorts at us and it's not always doable, especially with older siblings in the mix too), at least try and make your little routines the same. So for example, maybe you carry baby in, turn down the lighting, change them, have a little massage and then swaddle, keep that order the same so they get a sense of what the plan is.
We had a SnuzPod which Pearl seemed to really love. I liked that the sides were made of mesh so I could easily see through but also, she couldn't get anything caught or poke her arms through. We also LOVED the baby sleeping bags. They gave me a lot more peace of mind than just blankets."
Do your kids ever sleep in your bed?
And who did the night feeds?
"When Darcy was a toddler/young child and I was in my single mum era, she would come in and I'd let her sleep next to me until morning, but Pearlie actually hates to sleep anywhere except her own little space. As babies, neither of them did because I had heard so many scary co-sleeping stories that I didn't want to. (I know there are safe ways to do it but I wasn't familiar with them so didn't want to risk it).
Liam did most of the night feeds with Pearl because I gave birth. That was the deal haha."
Picky eaters...what’s your solution?
And how about feeding on the go - any hacks?
"As a picky eater myself, I'm quite sympathetic to it and don't massively push foods they don't like. One little thing I did find though was rather than chopping things like apples or carrots, grate them! The texture change seemed to make them eat so much more of it.
I used to LOVE those little pouches that they could just suck on or I could squeeze onto a little spoon, they were great for travelling. In restaurants I would just order them a little side of veggies or mash and give them some off our plates and they were so happy. We aren't super adventurous in our holidays so there's always something they'll like."
How do you reward them?
Pocket money for doing chores?
"I'm big on verbal praise when they've done well. They don't have set chores but we do have regular 'power hours' where we try and get on top of things (they rarely last an hour). It's Pearl's job to put the shoes in the cupboard and now Darcy's 12, she's an amazing little helper. I don't pay them for chores because I do think we should all do our bit. If they've done something well or gotten something great at school, I make a big fuss, tell the family, talk about it a lot and that's lovely for them to feel so seen and valued."
Tell us about the best kids party you've ever thrown...
What happened? What was the kids' reaction? Did you feel the pressure to go all out?
"Over the years there have been a LOT of parties! I do love a 'first' birthday (Pearl is ONEderful, ha!) because you're not just celebrating the birthday but also it's a big milestone- surviving parenthood for that first twelve months! Darcy has had a couple of Harry Potter parties and they're fun because you can add such a magical element. Once we made a sorting hat by taping a walkie talkie into it and then the other person looking down from an upstairs window doing the voice - all the kids were amazed they could hear the hat speaking to them. One year, for her 4th birthday, Pearl requested the theme be 'diamonds' so we made that happen by hiring a Frozen themed area at a play centre. Think icicles and Frozen palace but we said they were diamonds and on the invites we wrote, 'Diamonds are FOURever', which I was quite proud of, ha!"
How about taking your kids to birthday parties...
What's your rule on maximum gift spend?
"With two school age children, we go to a LOT of parties. For school friends we stick to £10-£15 - for family, a bit more. My top tip is this: at the start of the school year, go to a shop like B&M, Poundland etc and buy a whole bunch of birthday cards to last you. If you don't have time to get to the shops for a gift, cash in a card for older children is golden. They LOVE it!"
Do you party in front of your kids?
Or drink alcohol in front of them?
"We go to family parties, Christmas parties, weddings, christenings etc with our children so in that sense we do but we don't party-party in front of them. My parents never drank much in front of me and I'm glad. They'd have a glass with dinner or perhaps to toast but never enough to be tipsy. I don't actually like the feeling of being out of control so getting drunk around my children isn't for me."
What kind of parent are you?
And who is your celebrity parenting inspiration and why?
"I try to be really understanding and put myself in their shoes a lot. I value manners and nice behaviour but via education and redirection rather than force or punishment. I was abused after my Mum died when I was seven, so I'm very sensitive to giving my children the childhood I didn't have.
Although we don't see a lot behind closed doors, I do love The Wales's (Kate Middleton and Prince William). I think they seem like really loving, involved parents."
Who's the strictest out of you and your partner?
How do you deal with any sibling rivalry and how do your kids know that enough is enough - that no means NO?
"I'd say Liam and I are both pretty equal, but Pearl definitely knows how to get her way with her Daddy! There's six years between Darcy and Pearl and they're at really different maturity stages so rivalry is pretty minimal.
They're good listeners so when I say "I'm done", they know I'm done. I do have to say it a few times and sometimes the best method is just being honest and reasonable. 'Girls, I've had a really long day and I don't want to hear/have xyz anymore'. They understand and either stop OR carry on but far away enough that I don't care haha!"
What age is right for your daughters to date?
Where did you get your baby name inspiration?
What would they have been called if you/your other half didn't put their foot down?!
"I have always noted down names I love so when the time came, I was ready!! I love that Darcy and Pearl are slightly rare but not super out there and usually people can spell them.
Not really about the other half but names that almost made it were Florence for Darcy and Penelope for Pearl. I can't imagine having a Flossy and Penny now!"
How did your relationship change after having children?
And what's your secret to maintaining it?
"I'm probably not the best to offer secrets to maintaining things because shortly after I had Darcy my marriage fell apart and I got divorced so I'm not much help here, ha! Things have gone better post Pearlie thankfully! For us it's communication. We have a little 'debrief' each night which I love. Just a little catch up and gossip. Also, share your calendars with each other, trust me, so much easier!!"
How do you tell your daughters about your late mum and keep her memory alive?
And do you plan to talk to your kids about death?
"Both my girls know what happened to my Mum. Right from babies I've talked to them about 'Granny Jane in Heaven' and we keep her part of things by mentioning her lots. I'll tell them nice things I did with her or if we see a really special sunset, we all say that's Granny Jane showing us a glimpse of heaven.
Having been bereaved as a young child I'm quite comfortable talking about death. We don't really make a fuss of it but we also don't hide it. It's just a fact of life. Darcy does joke that when I die she's keeping all my handbags for herself, ha!"
And finally, what are your tips for dealing with the school WhatsApp groups?
"If you've got a good group, enjoy! These women might become your best friends for years. If you've got a bunch of moaners and whingers, MUTE! Ha!"
Credit: Follow Louise at @louisepentland to find out more.
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