“Motherhood has taught me to ditch worry, guilt and stress, because they are incredibly time-wasting and don’t achieve anything. And to put yourself first, because days are so relentless that if you don’t, the whole pack of cards crumbles... And how your heart just grows with each child that comes along.”
A former fashion editor for The Times, London-based Carolyn Asome is now a freelance contributor to The Times, The Telegraph and British Vogue. She is also the author of two books for Vogue–Essentials: Handbags and Vogue on Jean Paul Gaultier.“I love the variety of this new freelance chapter,” says Carolyn. “And that I spend most of my time interviewing people who are hugely passionate about what they do, and how that energy rubs off.”
Here, she shares her letter to her children, published in our beautiful coffee table book GRACE MOTHERS Letters To Our Children.
Purchase GRACE MOTHERS here
Images: Alice Whitby
I never did get round to starting your baby journals. You know that as a full-time working mother, I was never one to feel ‘mum guilt’, but not filling them in sometimes niggled...
So here I am making amends. Perhaps more useful than recording a six-month-old’s milestones – well, we all learn to walk and talk, eventually – is for me to pass on the life maxims I try to live by and the lessons I’ve learnt the hard way.
Having a strong sense of self has helped me immeasurably – that is, knowing one’s mind, values and ideals, and sticking to them. Respect and love yourself, too, because in the end, you are all you really have. No one is in charge of your happiness except you, whatever curveballs life hurls your way.
I’ve always thought there should be compulsory school exams in emotional intelligence. It’s possibly the single most useful skill to help you thrive in life and the workplace. Learning to be self-aware and reading how you fit into a situation are far more important than any career service at university will ever impress on you. And don’ t underestimate how far being charming will take you in life.
I’ve learnt not to put limits on myself or over-think things. You don’t truly know what you are capable of until you’ve tried it.
Equally motivating on a sluggish day:
“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
“What if I fall?”
“Oh, but darling, what if you fly?”
This will ultimately mean stepping out of your comfort zone, which is an entirely good thing. So, too, is learning to go with the flow. This is otherwise known as accepting and acknowledging that life is Shakespearean and that shit happens. Things sometimes don’t pan out as you wish, no matter how organised you are, so learn to let go.
Learn to be ‘light’, too, because when there’s a light hand on the tiller (controlled, calm and confident), everything runs more smoothly; everything just is better.
Remember, too, that failing is essential for growing and learning. Mistakes are your greatest lessons, so embrace them. This will also encourage you to be emotionally resilient. Don’t care too much about what others think and remember to see beyond the end of your nose. There is nearly always a rational explanation for why someone hasn’t got back to you. Are they having a bad time? Has their dog just died? Everyone has their own agenda.
When it comes to work, there’s an old Chinese proverb: ‘Find a job you like and you will never work a day in your life.’ I was lucky to find that job. Also, it’s ok if school isn’t great. I enjoy ‘life’ much more than I enjoyed school.
Choose the right life partner – especially if you want children. It is one of the most important decisions you will ever make, so choose wisely. Find someone who is sure enough of themselves to allow you to be the person you want to be.
Now, I love you all very much, but looking after small babies can be incredibly isolating, not to mention really bloody boring. Make choices that work for you, and to hell with what everyone else is doing. For me, that meant working full-time, rarely doing pick-ups and not ‘seeing’ the mess at home. Having that career allowed me to live in the present, both at home and at work.
I very much hope that your parenting landscape will have changed by the time you get there, because in2019, it sucks. It never ceases to amaze me how many working-mother friends – bright, educated, go-getting, non-doormat women, married to smart, accomplished, understanding, reasonable men – still end up doing it all.
I sometimes feel women lose perspective when they roll their eyes, moan and tell me it’s just easier when they do it themselves. Really? Better for whom, exactly? Is there really a ‘bad’ way of loading the dishwasher? No one way is better. Remember, most men won’t lift a finger if women continue to be so controlling. Often it’s women, hard-wired to be perfectionists (so dull!),who are as much to blame. Men-bashing is an impediment to your sanity, so stop it this instant.
It’s being bogged down in the never-ending daily minutiae and juggling a career that often prevents women from having the head space to go and achieve great things. It is anathema for most women, but I hope they learn how important it is to put themselves first. So many have bought into the crap idea that they have to sacrifice everything they are and put themselves last in order to be a good mother, wife, daughter or friend. Far from being selfish, when you put yourself first, you are taking responsibility for yourself, which has always struck me as quite a sensible thing to do. When you put yourself first, everything in your life benefits.
Learning to ditch worry, guilt and stress unless something really bad happens has been an immense time-saver. It is also guaranteed to leave you with a deep sense of calm. A trip to Accident & Emergency is my benchmark here; not that I forgot to pack the waterproofs for the Year 4 canoeing trip.
Three things I would tell my 17-year-old self: buy less, buy better, even when you’re a teenager with no budget. The things you worry about are rarely the things that happen. Be kind, because I believe in karma 200 per cent.
Finally, life is about people, not stuff. No one lay on their death bed wishing their house had been tidier. So I’ll finish with the following from Esther Perel: The quality of your life ultimately depends on the quality of your relationships. Not on your achievements, not on how smart you are, not on how rich you are, but on the quality of your relationships, which are basically a reflection of your sense of decency, your ability to think of others, your generosity… It will be about how you treated the people around you and how you made them feel.
Love from Mummy