The Truth About Motherhood: Sara Tateno, entrepreneur

I wish I’d been able to forget my old life and accept things will be different. Slow down. Go at your child’s pace and you’ll all be much happier.” Sara Tateno, ex-BBC employee – now mother and entrepreneur…

Sara Tateno, 33, lives in south east London. She has two children – aged five and 20 months. She is about to launch Happity – a website to help parents find local classes for babies and toddlers efficiently.

“I met my husband at university and we were both keen to start a family. It’s only now that I realise how much this influenced our career choices. We both self-edited in preparation for family life, with him pursuing a higher paid job and me opting out of the demanding management consulting role I’d started in as a graduate.

It happened much quicker than expected! We mistimed it so badly that we got a Christmas Eve baby – no one had ever mentioned the nine months starts counting before conception.

I’d over-prepared for the birth with hypnobirthing, antenatal classes and lots of books. But the first time was still traumatic in so many ways and I was so unprepared for reality of birth and the aftermath. My second was a therapeutic perfect home birth in direct contrast – taking two hours instead of 30.

The early days with my firstborn were pretty horrendous. There was a lot of crying, pain and feeling lost. I’d been so committed to breastfeeding that it was a shock when it turned out to be the hardest, most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life. My daughter was diagnosed with a posterior tongue-tie after I’d already spent a few weeks battling with breastfeeding.

If I had to describe motherhood in one sentence, I’d say: The most important job you will ever have.

We bumped into our ‘angel midwife’ on the street one day – she was the person who had led our antenatal classes at the hospital. She could see how distressed we were having just left a breastfeeding support clinic where they’d told us to take our baby to the hospital.

Instead she came back to our house to help, left me with a step-by-step feeding plan and called back in the evening to follow up. Without her help I have no doubt my plight to breastfeed would have failed and I’d have suffered from postnatal depression. I still often think of her to this day.

Once the tongue-tie was snipped and we established a feeding routine, things really settled down. My baby was calmer, more content and soon developed a good sleeping pattern. A predictable routine made everything so much easier. Babies basically just need to eat, sleep and poo – once you’ve got that cracked then you’re flying. Sounds so easy, right?

It was so different second time round. My second birth was a blissful speedy homebirth. I was up and about the same day feeling like an invincible superwoman, marvelling at the miracle of childbirth and the amazingness of the female body.

I wish I’d been told to… Forget your old life and accept things will be different. Slow down. Go at your child’s pace and you’ll all be much happier.

I’d also prepared for the birth by storing some colostrum in our fridge so we didn’t panic when the first feed didn’t go so well. I was anticipating having another tongue-tied baby.

Thankfully he was fine, so instead I got to experience a more ‘normal’ amount of struggle and pain with getting breastfeeding established. Those early days of babyhood were wonderful. Lots of peaceful snuggles and rest – the way I’d always hoped it would be.

After my first maternity leave, I went back working three days a week at the BBC, as the Development Manager at Radio 1. It’s a fantastically supportive workplace for families. However, my husband works long hours so I did all of the nursery runs – and they were exactly that. A run. I soon felt fed up with the dash to and from work followed by getting a tired child fed and washed on my own at the end of the day.

There was a big redundancy round when I was pregnant with my second child, and I was happy to take it. But I did feel a strong sense of losing my identity as it had been tied to my job for so long. Wherever you go in the world, people always know what the BBC is and what it stands for.

If I could go back in time, I’d go for a home birth the first time around and chill out about breastfeeding not working out.

Since then, I’ve been working flexibly around my children and retrained as a web developer. I’m building a new website to help parents find local classes for babies and toddlers efficiently. It’s called Happity and I’m so excited about the possibilities for it. Not least because I also plan to offer remote work opportunities for talented parents who want flexibility for their families.

It addresses two big problems I’ve experienced first hand as a mother. It will also support the parents who run baby and toddler groups – other mums who are creating work that works for their families, just the same as me.

What has surprised me most about motherhood is the passion and fire it’s given me to succeed. There is nothing quite like becoming a parent to make you really care about all the injustices in the world. To make you want to do whatever you can to make it even just a little bit better. Both of us are at least 10x more emotional than we were before becoming parents. Stuff I read on Facebook regularly makes me cry!

My advice to expectant parents? Never be too proud to ask for help. Friends, family, strangers – they are all your greatest asset.

The greatest challenge you face, as a mother is guilt. Always the guilt. I really want to work, but I also really want to be there for my children. I do the best I can by carving out separate time for work versus parenting, and working from home has made a huge difference since I save two hours of commuting time each day. It also means I can work in pockets of time when the children are asleep.

The smiles and giggles make it all worthwhile. Children are the funniest things. And as they grow older, getting to see the world through their eyes and feeling like you’re learning from them every day. They challenge you to be a better person than you actually are.”

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