I’m a pregnant mum-of-two – wash your hair it’ll make you a better parent, says Binky Felstead
My days of sauntering around Chelsea’s bars and restaurants were over and my new reality was changing nappies and washing babygrows.
And while I felt love deeper than anything when I held my first child, India, in my arms, I know better than anyone that building a family can be messy and exhausting, especially when co-parenting and blended families are involved.
I’m now in my third trimester with my third child after having India, five, in 2017.
I co-parent her with my ex-partner Josh Patterson, and also have my second child, one-year-old Wolfie, with my husband, businessman Max Darnton.
I’ve learnt there is no easy route to being a perfect mother or raising a perfect child. In fact, there’s no such thing as perfect.
But you can try hard to make it work in a way that allows your family to be as happy and healthy as possible.
Here are some of the biggest lessons I have learnt as a mum, including when to say no to family and why sex is the key to being happy and fulfilled parents.
GIVE FRIENDS AND FAMILY TIME LIMITS: I didn’t go through an identity crisis or get the post-baby blues after giving birth, but the weeks after having your first child can be daunting.
As I grew as a first-time mum I learned it’s important to say no.
Say no to people popping over all the time, overstaying their welcome, demanding too much of you or expecting you to follow their advice.
Those first few weeks are about bonding with your baby.
Shut the door, switch off your phone, come off social media, yawn and ask people to leave.
Allow good friends and family to visit but set a time limit.
Warn them not to expect to be fed. It’s nice to have company sometimes, but you also have to protect your cocoon and your sleep quota.
DON’T OVERTHINK IT: The first month of motherhood is nerve-racking. But be confident in your own abilities.
If your baby is safe, try not to overly worry. I had friends worrying about the exact temperature of their baby’s milk then, because they were so particular, the baby would be programmed to scream if it didn’t arrive just as they expected.
So be careful what routines you start, because you’ll have to keep them going.
I didn’t have blackout blinds or a white noise sound machine because I didn’t want to get into the habit of me or her not being able to live without them when we travelled.
WASH YOUR HAIR: You have to be in the right headspace to parent so you must look after your health.
For me, especially with a tiny baby, that means having a shower, washing my hair, getting out into the fresh air, listening to music and finding joy in the little things.
I go for long walks with my husband, pushing Wolfie in his stroller, which keeps us healthy and doubles as a date, because we talk nonstop as we walk.
BEING A SINGLE MUM CAN BE A GIFT: I was scared of removing India from the stereotypical “both parents at home” life when I split with her dad, but I had to be strong and knew it would be best for all three of us in the long run.
She was barely one year old, still my baby, so being away from her when it was Josh’s day to have her was horrific.
Each time she’d go I’d cry, and cry and cry. The first time she knew she had to go off with him overnight, it felt like my heart was being torn out of my body.
Four years on, it doesn’t get any easier. She’s older so I’m able to explain to her that Mummy always comes back, and Mummy is never going anywhere.
I can’t lie, it’s hard raising a child without a partner around, but I still look at her and the time when it was just the two of us as the best gift ever.
FAMILIES ARE MADE FROM LOVE NOT BLOOD: When Wolfie came along it cemented our feelings of family — a family made from love and hard work, not blood necessarily.
One thing that crops up for blended siblings is the idea of favouritism.
I would be very, very hot on that. Everything between both my children, regardless of DNA, has to be equal and fair.
Max has known India since she was 18 months old and their bond is strong, different to his bond with Wolfie, but that is more down to their different genders than their genetics.
A partner worthy of you needs to love you and your child.
How a prospective stepparent treats your child in relation to his should be a test your partner needs to pass.
Around 42 per cent of UK marriages now end in divorce, with children from those failed relationships entering new marriages with their parents.
Blended families aren’t different, there should be no shame around having half-siblings or step-parents and no one should be made to feel lesser because of your new brand of family.
MAKE NEW FRIENDS: Make mum friends wherever possible.
Go online and sign up to message boards, classes and groups.
And get out in the world to meet other mums. Your baby can be a great prop in making friends.
Baby classes and even the school gates can be great places to bond with other parents.
BUT KEEP YOUR OLD ONES: Friends you valued before you had a baby are important to remind you who you are, outside of the child. Make an effort to stay in touch.
Sometimes I’m not in the mood to go out with friends but I know it will be good for me to dress up and do so and that I won’t regret it.
Even when you’re in the daily grind of motherhood, reaching out and staying in touch with people who mean a lot to you is important.
It’s not about grand gestures and gifts, it’s about being thoughtful.
Check in on them, even if just by a text or voice message, a birthday card or social post tag.
LISTEN TO EACH OTHER: My favourite thing to do on a night out is to dance, which makes me feel sexy. Max doesn’t dance but he likes to watch me.
We make sure the chat stays positive too. We’ve gone out for dinner with various friends and acquaintances where they’ve been so rude about each other in front of each other, and us, and it’s really weird and off-putting. We try hard not to be that couple.
And Max and I never go to sleep on an argument.
I’m stubborn but I hate lying in bed next to him and not speaking, it’s the worst feeling ever.
I think the main thing for Max and I isn’t the setting but being able to talk to each other.
So our favourite date is going for a long dog walk out in the fresh air, zero pressure, no one interrupting us.
The sexiest thing we can give each other is our ears: listening.
We listen out for what the other one is saying and not saying.
HAVE SEX EVEN WHEN YOU’RE TIRED: Sex really is important.
Even when you’re tired or stressed, you should try to make an effort to do it.
I don’t go in for all the erotic lingerie, role play and equipment, but kissing is incredibly important to me.
Quality is more important than quantity for most of us in the bedroom, which is just as well because being a parent does tame things down a bit.
India will want to creep into the bedroom occasionally and snuggle down in the middle of the bed; Wolfie will be up yelping in the small hours as he’s teething.
Your sex life is going to change. Just try to remember every now and again to connect as adults, not just parents.
And if you need help, get it. My friend down the road never wanted to sleep with her husband until she started watching erotic television shows with hot actors in.
Now they’re back better than ever, non-stop. So, if watching or reading erotica, or buying yourself sexy lingerie makes you feel saucier, do it.
And the biggest turn-on? Talking to each other nicely. Respect is the biggest aphrodisiac.
BE A CHEERLEADER: Women struggle enough with self-doubt, and it gets amplified when they become mothers.
Offer advice if it’s asked for, but don’t interfere. Share what you’ve learnt, the shortcuts and tips, but don’t be pushy.
What seems hard today will feel easier this time next week.
Dark times are hard, but with cheerleaders around, willing you on, you can get through them.
Be that positive person for yourself, your family and the mothers around you.