Self-care Series: Clover Stroud, author and journalist
At &Breathe, we're extremely passionate about our parental self-care mission. It's so important to make time for yourself in your parenting journey - self-care isn't selfish! After all if you're not at your best, how can you be at your best for those around you?
Clover Stroud is a horsewoman, journalist and author who has five children, ranging from late teens to toddler. She writes about love, loss, family and parenting without a mother's presence in her life, in her memoir The Wild Other, which is out now. Follow Clover on Instagram or Twitter.
&B: How do you manage to balance work and life? Is it possible?!
CS: It’s not easy and I think that that idea of “having it all” is a myth. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be available for my kids - who are 1, 4, 5, 14 and 17 - as much as I possibly can. But I am often still working when they come home from school, and I also find that I really need mental space to process my writing. I can’t just sit down and do it. Like most mothers who work, I feel perennially guilty when I am not there for them, and inevitably that’s quite often. I have help with the younger kids as well, and I think it’s really important for women to admit that they do employ other people to help them with their children, rather than pretending they are doing some sort of miraculous juggling act! What does help me is the fact that my son, who is now 17, was born when I started my career as a journalist. My baby and my career grew along side one another, organically. As a result, I’m very fast at working, and good at fitting in work whenever I can grab the time. I used to work in the evening when the elder children were younger, but with all five of them I find this really exhausting. If I’m on a deadline, I sometimes get up before school and work at 6am for about 70 minutes, as it’s highly motivating knowing that shortly after that I have to make lunch boxes for all of them and get them to school!
Career vs Kids
&B: How have you found that your professional life has changed since having kids? And/or between your older kids and your younger ones?
CS: My professional life grew with my kids, as my son and daughter who are now teenagers were young when I started working. Inevitably, with five kids it’s got more complicated, and crucially, I have a lot less head space, as well as actual time, than I did ten years ago. I’ve moved from doing a lot of short form journalism into writing books, for the moment, and that’s working well.
&B: What have you found the hardest thing in terms of keeping yourself happy and sane since having kids?
CS: Just finding time to be alone and think is the biggest challenge. I often feel pulled in many many different directions at the same time, and that can make you feel very scrambled mentally. I also found the jump from 4 to 5 kids pretty big.
&B: If you could pass on one thing to your kids about loving yourself, what would it be?
CS: Be confident about what you can do with your life, but also kind to other people. I tell them they are loved very deeply by me several times a day, and i also tell them that wherever they are, I always carry them in my heart. Knowing you are loved is really the best feeling as a human being, and I want them to have that to take forward
on keeping fit
&B: How do you like to keep fit and active?
CS: I try to run when I can, and I ride occassionally. I don’t have a gym habit as I don’t have the time or inclination, and as we live in the country, driving to the gym is too much of a time killer. Instead, I am very active with the kids. I take them outside every day and I am moving around for a lot of the day.
on eating healthily
&B: What's your best foodhack secret to eating healthily?
CS: I don’t make a massive fuss of cooking, but I do cook everything for the kids from scratch every day. I have tried batch cooking but with seven of us at every meal including myself and my husband, our normal supper is like a bath cooked meal! I try and involve the kids in the cooking, and not just in making biscuits or cupcakes. They love slicing vegetables and being allowed to stir a soup or some onions frying. I trust them and will allow the younger ones to stand beside me at the cooker, even if it’s pretty hot as I think kids are smarter than we think, and totally capable of helping out and being involved with real cooking.
&B: What's your favourite thing to do to relax?
CS: We live near the Ridgeway and the Downs in Oxfordshire, and I really love getting up on the hills for a walk. If I’m feeling strung out or low, it completely clears the head and is an incredible natural anti depressant. If possible I also like to get on a horse and gallop for a real adrenaline fix!
#1 Selfcare Tip
&B: What's your number one self-care tip for mums or dads?
CS: Be a bit easier on yourself; look back at what you have achieved as you might find that the life you are living now is the one you only dreamed of ten years ago. It’s easy to go on wanting and wanting, and not appreciate what you have...I know I’ve been guilty of this in the past, but I’m trying to appreciate the little stuff, every day.