I recently had the privilege of working with Kathryn Mewes, The Three Day Nanny. I have known Kathryn for a number of years both professionally and as a friend, so I was delighted when she announced earlier this year that she was expecting a baby and flattered when, early on in the pregnancy, she asked me to help her settle into her new role as a mum and guide her through those first bumpy weeks.
I have to say, it was a little daunting for me. Kathryn is well known for her Three Day Nanny Book and TV series on Channel 4, one series which has just finished its run and an earlier one aired some two years ago. I wondered whether working with someone who is a personal friend would be a wise thing on which to embark!
Whilst I am very confident in what I do and have vast experience of working with tinies in and around London, I wondered how it was going to pan out – telling the Three Day Nanny what to do and trying to get her to let go of the control for a few weeks , whilst helping her get to grips with the unpredictable and completely “out of control” feeling that a new baby hurls at many new parents.
Kathryn, very sensibly, had decided to have her own lovely mum move in with her immediately after the birth. I always feel that this is a very special time for mother and daughter to spend together; precious moments that never come around again. A time too short but definitely a period where many new mothers feel slightly shell shocked, often sore and exhausted and certainly not wanting their home frequented by well meaning friends, eager to meet the new arrival. It is a transitional stage where a new mum is catapulted into her role with no training, no experience and not knowing what to expect. At least having her own mum by her side, Kathryn was able to recover, rest and allow herself to be cared for during her recovery from, what turned out to be, a very difficult and prolonged birth experience.
I joined Kathryn at her home after a couple of weeks and met my new charge. Little Harriet – a twinkly eyed, petite and gorgeous little girl peeped out from her cot to greet me.
Kathryn was interviewed by The Sun, in the early weeks, for another published article and also twice on Breakfast TV – once just before Harriet was born and again with Harriet as the star of the show. On both occasions, Kathryn was very open and honest about her experiences. This is often not the case and many mums feel they must gloss over their birthing experience or their first few weeks as a parent. If their birthing experience was bad, if they did not bond immediately with their new baby, if they felt breast feeding should be as easy as falling off a log , they frequently feel huge waves of guilt, immense pressure to “succeed” in everything they do and this can lead to a loss of confidence, self doubt and feelings of failing their babies.
In my role, I am not there just to help mothers implement routines, teach good sleep habits or take over with a new babe, but to boost that confidence, get them back on the log and then coax, cajole, giggle, reassure and coach that mum through the maze of conflicting advice, the exhaustion, the sleep deprivation, the loss of control and, once she is able to “ride without stabilisers”, I give her a final push and watch her peddle like mad.
Little by little, Kathryn realised that the wonderful advice that she gives to her clients, her sensible and creative ways of teaching parents how to cope with unruly kids, how to implement routine, structure and control were hard to put in place with a two week old baby. She often talked, before the birth, of having “a vision” of how things were going to be. We did laugh about her visions – we had to! Visions of feeding Harriet at a certain time every morning, then her vision of a leisurely shower whilst her baby sleeps soundly in her cot, putting on her make-up, drying her hair, pulling on her wellies, popping Harriet in the buggy before striding out with her lovely dog, Bertie, for a breath of fresh air, returning via Waitrose with something healthy for lunch and in perfect time for Harriet’s next feed. Some days we nailed it, others were spent pacing around with a very unsettled and furious bundle who clearly was going be the Vision Destroyer that day!
I tried my best to persuade her to take thing easy, but for those who know Kathryn either in person or from the TV, I am sure you can believe that this was like trying to nail jelly to a tree. By her own admission, she wanted to “prove me wrong” – she wanted to do it all, and do it all perfectly. After one further week of aiming for her Superwoman status, she hit a wall. Overwhelmed at the endless hours spent rooted in her feeding chair, unable to answer emails, deal with enquiries on the phone, catch up with her admin, prepare dinner, or even walk the dog she realised that it was time to stop pulling at the proverbial leash and come to heel! Bertie was systematically disembowling every soft toy in his basket by way of protest at the lack of walkies and driving both Kathryn and I potty with his over-exuberance. He was harder work than Harriet in those few weeks!
Over time, she relaxed, as much as The Three Day Nanny ever can, into the predictable unpredictability of her days. She embraced the fact that not every day will be the same, nor will every day be a bad day. She accepted that babies, no matter how much Hattie Time they have, are often tricky, grumpy, moody and demanding and dealing with that is part of being a parent and by relinquishing that need for complete control was, for the time being, a much more realistic way of dealing with her days.
I am returning to Kathryn later this week to review Harriet’s routine, see how things are going in general and catch up with their progress.
Kathryn’s birth experience resulted in her finding it hard to bond with Harriet in the early stages, but bond she did and now, looking at them together, she cannot imagine her life without Harriet in it. Come to think of it, nor can I!
Kathryn was featured in a double page spread in last Saturday’s Telegraph.
You can read the full article here: