A Mother's Journey to herself - Caz Udall
How did becoming a Mother change you?
I’d say Motherhood has largely defined who I am today and made me a more purposeful person.
Coming from a large family where there were always children around (My own Mum was a foster carer) I always wanted to be a Mum. I initially saw myself with 2 children but life has thrown us a curveball and we had a 3rd child late who has made family life even more joyful (read chaotic, noisy and fun!).
After my daughter was born in 2003 I felt I had to leave a part of me behind, I had to shift my sense of purpose. My husband’s growing business involved lots of travel and my previous work pattern would not fit around our baby’s needs and so I made a conscious choice to be at home with her, and find purpose in my new role.
After making that decision, I was able to focus on her and learn about my new role and what that meant for me. I enjoyed being at home with my baby and I enjoyed the responsibility of managing the home and supporting my husband as he travelled internationally for work. I always saw this role as a choice, a privilege and a responsibility and I have made creating a secure home life a priority for my family.
Before children I had several different roles working in higher education; as a lecturer in Education and Human development, and various roles researching the process of teaching and learning. I have continued to do projects involving teaching, research and writing since children, but instead of these different projects leading the way, the projects have to fit around family life.
What choices did you make to enable you to become the Mother you are today?
My Mum was a foster carer to over 300 children and that has hugely influenced me in my choices around Motherhood. I have seen the positive effects of parenting with complete focus and love on the most damaged of children. I have seen the enormous sense of purpose gained from being a very deliberate Mother. I learned many practical childcare skills early on. I learned through osmosis some of what it takes to be a Mum. And I know that my Mum’s legacy lives on through me and the choices I have made, even though my path to motherhood has been different.
I completed my PhD a year or so before having my first baby and, with a background in human/child development, making the choice to stay at home with my child was informed by my research and teaching. I felt it was particularly important with my husband being away so much that I needed to be at home to provide continuity of care.
Our second child was born in 2005 and I found the transition from one to two children quite challenging. He was a more fractious baby than my first and I think I felt quite low for a time.
This was eased by surrounding myself with a supportive network of Mum-friends, many of whom I still see today. I also sought purpose outside of the family, and in so doing found a sense of balance for me within Motherhood. By that I mean I realised that I had lost part of myself in those early baby days and so I started to re-engage with the old me by improving my fitness through running, and reconnecting with myself through creative writing and journalling.
During this time I explored Life Coaching and ran workshops for Mums which were really successful. I also wrote a manuscript for a trilogy of Young Adult novels, which I hope one day to publish.
While the children were very small (3 years, and 6 months) we moved to a bigger ‘project’ house which needed a lot of work doing to it. But this was a great project to do together with my husband, and with the confidence gained from that experience, we bought a dilapidated bungalow on a large plot in 2009 which we lived in for 3 years whilst building our dream home which we have now lived in for 5 years.
Since then, just after I turned 40, we had another baby, giving us the full remit of Teen, Tween and Toddler right now!
I believe that the choices I have made around Motherhood have enabled me to make space for all these things to happen. I have found purpose both within Motherhood and beyond it. I have created space for opportunities to arise, and between my Husband and I we have always held a bigger picture of what success looks like for us, pushing those projects towards success, and learning lots about ourselves along the way.
And that is where I feel my role has stepped beyond the traditional model of being a Mum. The traditional role of ‘service’, or the modern narrative around ‘Winging it’ or being overwhelmed by the small stuff (the never ending laundry pile/childcare issues/tantrums and other child related stuff). Sure, this stuff happens to me too, and I sometimes get overwhelmed. But I am not defined by it. I choose to see the bigger picture - that I support my Husband as he travels for his work, I am creating an environment for my children to thrive within, where they can see me and their Dad living purposefully, and where we all have a clear sense of where we are going.
I feel that I have taken the Lead. I have made the conscious choices to be around for my children and prioritise Motherhood, but instead of this choice diminishing me, it has enabled me to Lead my family.
I don’t see Motherhood as separate from my other roles or projects. I have always been an Action Researcher (interested in reflecting on and researching the process of whatever I am doing in order to learn and improve my practice), and I see my mentoring role as a relational, iterative process - that of learning my craft as I continue to grow in my role. I have spoken with many Mothers over the years around issues of child development, parenting, household management, ageing parents, separation and divorce, keeping love alive, and more.
Which 3 words describe you as Mum? Can you describe your approach to Mothering?
Firm - I’m a big believer in boundaries - in all relationships. I think they are actually kinder than no boundaries as we all know where we stand. Firm but Fair, I like to think that my boundaries are flexible and that we as a family are able to grow within them.
Flexible - I have learnt to be ever flexible. I think it has been my greatest learning since becoming a Mother, that not every plan works out, and that there is always a plan B worth exploring.
Fun - I love to be with my family. I love to create opportunities for us to do things together. I hope that I show a good example to my kids by always being prepared to join in and have a go with activities - zip wire anyone?
I hope I am the kind of Mum who is prepared to go the extra mile for her family. I will always be their greatest cheerleader, and always have their back, with a firm but fair standpoint so that’s not to say that I’m blind to mistakes or shortcomings, but that I’m prepared to help my children explore these as well.
At the same time I hope that I am a role model, someone they can learn from. Someone appreciative of what we have, and the hard work it has taken to get us here. Someone able to celebrate success and also able to face into it and keep going when things go wrong.
I actually think this is one of the many strengths that my husband and I share - that we have a shared approach to parenting our children that is based in keeping them grounded whilst aiming for the stars.
What self care do you practice?
I am much better these days at taking care of myself. I neglected myself in the early days and that took its toll on everyone. These days I have regular Shiatsu treatments when I have a health issue, and I like a facial or a massage occasionally. I also like to do yoga as I hope to stay flexible and strong as I get older. But my greatest self care is when I take time to get outside and walk or run. I love to clear my head and give creative thoughts space to surface.
I also make sure that my Husband and I have regular time together. Our favourite thing is to take off to a hotel where we get to have child free time and talk and reconnect and invest in our relationship.
It might be that this isn’t possible due to work and life, so date night is important, as is getting together to discuss our diaries regularly. This tends to also include conversations and decisions around house admin, money, holidays, children and school, social commitments, big events (Christmas, etc.) as necessary. We are a Leadership Team after all!
This has a long lasting effect on both of us and how I am able to Lead our family and so definitely counts as self care.
I also prioritise time with each of my children. I remember as a child how I loved to have time alone with my Mum particularly, to chat about everything and nothing. The opportunity to talk and just be is something I try to give to each of my children regularly. It may not be everyday, although I find being in the car together or bed time are good times for conversations to develop, but I do try to make time at least weekly to be together.
Every Mother needs help in Motherhood. What does your support team look like?
I have learnt not to turn down grandparents or friends who offer to step in. Their well meaning care is always welcome and helps our children to see that we are separate from them with lives and needs of our own. We have an extended network of wonderfully kind, caring friends and family, and our children are very comfortable speaking with adults and being away from us as a result of this.
Another really important part of this has been the many, many au pairs we have had. Some who have lived with us, and others we have ‘borrowed’ from friends and neighbours. The quality of care and reassurance of mind that you get when your childcare is in your own home has definitely been right for us. We have used day nurseries and pre schools when it has felt appropriate, but I have always felt that carefully chosen bespoke child care with my children’s physical and emotional needs in mind has been preferable.
We also have help at home with a cleaner, a gardener, and given our passion for building there are always builders around! Again, these people are an important part of our family and we never take their presence for granted. We treat all these wonderful people as family and they are always welcome at our table!
Another element of our familial world is that we have so many projects on the go. If it is not building work with builders, architects and surveyors around, it is another work project or new business idea that either my Husband or I are developing together or with others. So our children have always seen us to be busy and purposeful at home with work and other interesting projects. And we are lucky to be surrounded by so many others who are excited and engaged in their work. We have lots of interesting conversations around the table that blend work and play into normal conversation, so much so that I don’t think our children have any idea of what a 9-5 job is!
What are you working on next?
I’m always working on myself! I am, by nature, very reflective and always trying to understand what I can do better next time.
As a fallible human being I fail all the time! So there is always a lot to work on, and I’m ok with that. But I’m also an expert of my own situation - no one knows me better than me! I hope that with this attitude I’m helping my children to build their resilience and confidence, and to understand that we don’t have to be perfect, we just have to be ourselves and be open to learning, always.
Additionally, I am always developing my practice. As a Mentor to Other Mothers I would never assume to be the ‘expert’. This the beauty of my approach, that I assume from the start that the client is herself the expert of her own situation, and what I do is listen, reflect and guide her through her own thinking to help her find answers from within her own situation. This enables me to work as a Family Systems expert also, as it is often easier to work from the outside of a given system. It can be so helpful to talk and get an outside view on your issues, however big or small, and I consider it a privilege to work with wonderful women everyday.
It is my hope that by offering online resources to Mums I am able to reach a wider community of women who can access different levels of product, depending on their needs or issues, from anywhere in the world.