Uncompromising Woman #3 - Lauren Mishcon
In issue #3 of Uncompromising Women I interview Lauren Mishcon, Doula extraordinaire, Broadcaster and Writer. Find Lauren at www.fromtummytomummy.com.
S: Tell us about yourself – what you do professionally and your family set up?
L: My name is Lauren Mishcon, I am a birth doula and broadcaster and I live in North London with my husband, three sons, and Barker the Springer Spaniel. I am the only woman in a busy household of male energy.
I started my working life in a West End actor's agency before becoming a mother. Giving birth for the first time had a profound effect on me and I felt a strong desire to help other women achieve their own empowering, positive birth experiences, so in 2007 I became a Recognised Birth Doula. Since then I have supported over 150 families in welcoming their babies into the world.
Alongside my doula work, I host a weekly radio show on Women's Radio Station focusing on all aspects of reproductive health, pregnancy and birth. I was the editor of The Doula magazine and Doula Expert for Pregnancy & Birth Magazine. I am currently the resident expert doula for The Nest Club and I write freelance around the subject of birth.
S: What compromises did you expect to face when you became a mother for the first time, and how did they match up to the reality?
L: When I was expecting my first baby, an older woman I knew who ran her own business warned me that it was a very difficult thing to be a working mum. ‘When you’re at work half of you is at home thinking about your baby, and when you’re at home half your brain is at work. The baby and the job both will both be fine’ she said. ‘The only person who suffers is you.’ I took six months of maternity leave, but when I returned to work her words rang true. It was hard to be at work knowing the baby was unwell or doing something special that day that I couldn’t be around for. But when I was in the office I always found it hard to feel part of the team again and fully involved in the routine of office life as I was only in for two days a week. I always felt I was missing out by being in one place or the other.
I was the first of all of my friends to become a mum by many years and my life changed beyond recognition whilst theirs was still full of travelling and adventure. I was extremely lucky that being a mum came very naturally to me. I had a very easy time with the birth, with feeding and sleeping and all the common hurdles that can really make early motherhood a struggle. I expected that I would no longer only be able to think about myself, my own desires and needs but the reality of that can be overwhelming when the exhaustion of broken nights becomes cumulative and you realise that being a mum never stops. There is no weekend off or duvet day just for you. It’s forever. Few people talk about just how long a day can feel when you are alone at home with a baby. As much as I absolutely adored being a mum, I had moments pushing a swing in the park where I felt quite lonely. Nobody talks about the isolation and I think that many women don’t want to admit to themselves or to others that looking after a young baby all day can be boring as it sounds so ungrateful.
S: When you look back on that time with a new baby, are there any compromises you’d approach differently? Any tips you’d give new mothers?
L: I think it is impossible to be prepared for the reality of first time motherhood. It is a seismic shift in your identity. You cannot know how the birth will be, how you will feel, how challenging you may find it or if your baby will be demanding or easygoing. It’s a transition in yourself and within your relationship as well. Before having children my husband and I had discussed at length the fact I wanted to be around and to raise them myself. He was fully supportive of this and so when our second baby was born two years later I resigned from my job in order to be home full time. There is nothing I would have changed. As my children get older, I feel extremely privileged to have been in a position where I was able to be there for them, knowing I will never have that time back again. My tips for new mothers would be to keep an open mind. Don’t have too many expectations of yourself and to have good support around you. If you don’t have family or friends nearby who you can rely on in those early weeks then look for a postnatal doula. Later on, make friends with people who have babies of the same age. Explore different baby activities - they make the day more stimulating for you both and you meet people. Be prepared to feel differently about your career, your life and yourself!
S: All amazing tips. As we know, motherhood is wonderful but a challenge, what is one compromise you wish women didn’t need to make just because they’d had a baby?
L: Carrying the mental load! It doesn’t end when your babies are no longer babies and I think it is the hardest thing about being a woman. As much as the world is changing; the brunt of babycare and childcare and all things relating to it – (eg: checking shoe size, buying a PE kit, replying to party invites, organising a babysitter, making GP appointments) still usually falls to the mother. As long as we are the ones giving birth and breastfeeding this is how it will be – even with the most evolved of partners the mental load often falls to women. There is a saying - ‘Once you are a mother you are no longer the picture, you become the frame.’ Nothing is about you or your needs anymore. It is almost impossible to be mindful and stay in the present. As a mother I feel I am always mentally working two days in the future. Things need to be planned for and organised ahead. It’s a subject that comes up a lot when I talk with friends and I am yet to find a mother who doesn’t at times struggle with feeling the weight of the mental load which always seems to reach its peak as Christmas time approaches! Even delegating tasks to others – be that to people you are employing to help you or to your partner, still means you bearing the mental load in order to ensure all these things are requested and fulfilled. It’s a tough one. My best friend is a doctor and mum of three who always tells me ‘Every day, my husband walks out the front door and becomes a single, childless man for the day’. She may spend the next 18 hours saving lives, but she is still thinking about and dealing with the online shopping to be ordered, the outfit her son needs for the school play and getting a gift for the party her daughter has on the weekend!