Friday, 21 November 2014
Jennifer Ellison: My precious moments
Actress and dancer Jennifer Ellison reveals how being mum to Bobby, aged four and Harry, one, has made her realise exactly what's important in life
Did you always plan to be a mum?
Yes, always – it was never an option for me not to try and I hoped when I met the right person that babies would follow. Luckily, Rob wanted exactly the same things as me. My only worry was if my body would let me. I had ovarian cysts and was told after my first baby that the chances of conceiving again were very low. It's a bit of a miracle that I'm about to be a mum of three.
What was your experience of birth?
Totally different with each child. With our first, Bobby, I was in labour for five long days, ending with a traumatic emergency C-section because he was distressed. I was so depleted emotionally and physically by the end that if they'd said they were going to cut my leg off with a spoon I'd have gladly let them. I had a planned caesarean with Harry, my second, and everything was a lot calmer. I was much more prepared and could focus on the job in hand.
What has been your experience of pregnancy with baby number three?
As awful as it sounds, I keep forgetting we're having another baby! I'm so busy running around after Bobby and Harry that I've just got on with it. There's been no time to lie around with my feet up.
What will you do differently this time?
We'll be even more relaxed. I know how to do it all now so we can just enjoy every moment. I'm outnumbered by boys but I'm so used to my little men that I'd love another one. I know exactly what to do with them!
Favourite thing about being a mum?
Every single day is rewarding. When my boys give me a cuddle or a kiss I know that having babies is the best thing I've done with my life.
Who's your biggest parenting influence?
My mum for sure. We've got a really close relationship. Both my mum and my husband's mum are fantastic, and they're always around to step in and help us out – which is a godsend with two lively boys.
What's the best advice you've been given?
A friend told me not to try to be the perfect mum because there's no such thing – and it's so true, although it takes a while to get your head around it all, especially when you're functioning on no sleep. The truth is that no one knows what they're doing at first. You just learn as you go along.
Perfect family day?
We just like doing simple things as a family. My favourite day will start with us having a lazy breakfast all together and then getting bundled up and going for a walk in the park. Life can be so hectic that it's nice just to do normal things when we have family time. We're good at staying in, piling on the sofa together and having a TV night. Oh, how times have changed!
What have you had to give up?
A social life for sure. I never go out! I've done my share of partying, though, so I don't miss that lifestyle at all.
What values would you like to pass on to your children?
We're tight-knit and have very strong family values. Rob and I like teaching our boys that family is everything.
What has having children taught you?
Becoming a mum has completely changed me. I know this is a cliché, but it's made me realise what's really important in life. It's not fame and money, it's the health and happiness of your family. That's what matters to me now.
What's your parenting style?
It's really laid-back in our house and we try to just go with the flow. Anyone with two small boys knows it can get a bit crazy at times! When we first had Bobby we tried to be in control of every tiny thing, but you soon realise that there's no time to obsess about everything. These days I don't care if my house isn't perfectly tidy and organised, it's not important any more.
What makes you panic?
Like any mum, I worry when my little ones are poorly. Both our boys have a cow's milk allergy (CMA) which I discovered the hard way – when Bobby switched to formula milk at six months, he went from being a contented baby to crying all the time, with diarrhoea, reflux and a rash around his mouth. Initially I blamed myself for stopping breastfeeding, but we found out it was CMA. When we tried a hypoallergenic formula without whole cow's milk proteins the change was instant – he went from being quite unwell to happy and healthy again. It taught me to trust my gut instinct – there's not much awareness of CMA but if you feel something isn't right, you should talk to your doctor about getting tested.
What are your boys' favourite snacks?
Bobby and Harry can't get enough of grapes and blueberries. I've always given them fruit to snack on, so that's what they yell for when they're hungry.
What does their dad do better than you?
He's brilliant at the day-to-day stuff, so he's probably better at everything! He's very hands on and notices all the little bits and pieces that need doing to make life run smoothly. I'm lucky – I picked a good one!
What product would you like to invent to help new mums?
A pause button! So when you're running around after your children like a headless chicken you can freeze time for an hour and get a bit of peace and quiet.
What's your top tip for new mums?
Don't blame yourself when things feel tough. Everyone finds being a parent difficult even if they don't admit it. See each day as a new one – babies go through so many phases that a hard one really doesn't last for long.
Jennifer is ambassador for Allergy UK's Is It Cow's Milk Allergy? campaign. She was chatting to Ali Horsfall
Watch Jennifer's video talking about cow's milk allergy here