“Being a parent is one of the most important roles to me,” says Asha Adutwim. “I’m working in banking, currently on maternity leave, but I’m just trying to expose my baby and my first born, who is seven, to as much of the world as I can.
“It’s a bit hard with reduced pay coming up – as I’m in the last bit of maternity leave – but I think it’s important for them to be well-rounded characters and know what’s out there in the world.”
Adutwim is one of a group of parents from Birmingham who came together at a special HuffPost UK Listening Circle event at Birmingham City Church. As part of HuffPost Listens, people from across the city shared and discussed what parenting means to them.
The conversation covered everything from struggles and tips, to what makes parenting worth it despite the tantrums and sleepless nights. Afterwards, some of the group shared what the most important thing about parenting is to them.
Even though her children are seven and four months old, Adutwim believes it’s never too early to show them the world of work.
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“When we were growing up it was this traditional route of going to primary school, secondary school, college, university and then you get your corporate job. But with the whole entrepreneur boom, there’s so much out there that they can do.”
“With Santeo, my youngest, I try to take him to different baby groups and activities that are going on. I’ve started a new business as well and that’s enabled me to bring the children with me so they can see what that’s about - it’s the beginning of a business mind for them!”
Carly Joseph has two young children and thinks the most important thing is “having fun with your children and having a laugh.”
“Because you’ve got one chance so make it good. Enjoy every minute, you never know what’s around the corner. Yeah, you might be tired, but just keep going. I even laugh at the tantrums. My daughter is completely obsessed with shoes. Whenever we go shopping, if she sees a pair of shoes she likes she have a tantrum until she gets them. So obviously Primark is my favourite place because I can actually get her a pair of shoes every time we go!”
Dan Rust, who homeschools his older child with his partner, says that it’s important parents give themselves a break sometimes: “I think the key thing for me is not putting too much pressure on yourself to do it in the perfect way.
“I care deeply about my children, I do everything I can for my children, but I feel like I’m doing them a disservice if I’m on them all the time. I want to let them express themselves, do what they want to do, and take a step back.”
The constant judgement of parents can be difficult, he said.
“Having people watching you when you’re out, and asking yourself ‘Why are they watching me? Am I doing this wrong and that wrong?’ I try not to judge any other parent, because every parent is trying to do their best and it’s a struggle.”
“What’s important to me in parenting is being able to provide opportunities for my child,” explains Muna Saleh, mother to five-month-old Khatra. “So being able to find out where things are and to take her there. Things like sensory play, for her age group.
“It’s also finding out the good schools, and finding good housing for her even though at the moment we are in a difficult position and only live in a one bedroom. Upsizing is harder than you would think.”
“I also want to go back to work and see if I can provide for her, but it’s very difficult with the nursery fees. Every nursery I have been to so far have quoted over £200 a week and that’s basically my wage. You get maybe £80 back if you’re lucky, so is it going to be viable for someone to go back then?”
All parents have bad days. But when Chanise Bell-Crawford is having a tough time, there’s something that keeps her going. “The thing I remember is this saying: ‘The most precious jewels you will ever have around your neck are the arms of your children’,” she says.
“When times are going not how I want them to, I always think about how happy she is when I do stuff for her. I try to keep happy and it will be reflected in her. She’s the most important person to me in this entire world.”
Hana Imaan, who has one child, works full time along with her partner. But while that means they earn more than some families, she says there are still struggles.
“Everyone’s perspectives are different. It’s been hard battling people’s perceptions because people think you both work full time, you’re well-to-do, you can afford this and that - but actually it still requires investment, it still requires planning, it still requires lots of different challenges.
“Because I live in the city centre, I’ve seen people who have got more of a support network than we have. It’s not just family - we haven’t had any of that at at all, it’s just been the two of us - but socially as well.
“I’ve tried parenting groups but I felt everybody had a single agenda like ‘oh, I’m going to try and sell you a work-from-home opportunity’. I’ve got an established career and I don’t really want that, so it’s more about trying to socially build some skills, and I don’t feel that we had access to that kind of stuff.
“I remember when by son was first born there was a health visitor who came round and she said there were a few places you can take a baby to, but that was it. It’s almost like there’s a perception of: ‘You look ok, so therefore you are ok’. But that’s not necessarily true.”
For Brett O’Reilly, a dad of two girls who is also a Labour councillor for Longbridge and West Heath, enjoying parenting is crucial.
“The most important thing for me is to make sure the the fear of being a parent, the fear of failure, doesn’t take over and you actually just take a step back and enjoy the opportunities that parenting brings,” he says.
“I think that ultimately, happy and well-rounded parents lead to children growing up and reading their potential.”
HuffPostListens – Birmingham
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