Families of Instagram: Eloise Rickman, @mightymother_

“Our house is quite small. I’m a firm believer in toy rotation so we never have everything out. We also keep the sitting room a toy-free zone which helps me feel like an adult at the end of the day!” Eloise Rickman (@mightymother_) talks motherhood and Montessori living…

Eloise Rickman (@mightymother_) is 29 and lives in Streatham, south London, with her husband Sam, their daughter Frida who is nearly three, and their cat Albus. Eloise writes Frida Be Mighty, a blog about Montessori-inspired homeschooling, parenting and motherhood, and runs workshops for mothers.

Our mornings are … probably my favourite time of the day. Because Frida doesn’t go to nursery and I work (very) part-time from home, we have the luxury of slow mornings. It’s one thing I never take for granted. Weekday mornings are usually just me and Frida, as my husband is gone by 6.30am – he works compressed hours over four days, so that he has a daddy/daughter day every Thursday. Frida wakes around seven, and we have a snuggle in bed before we get up. Depending on how hungry she is she might play for a while before breakfast, and then we make our way downstairs. The kettle goes on for me, porridge or toast for her, and we sit at the table with a pile of books and some lit candles. We read a lot of beautiful non-fiction books, and we also look at a painting each day and discuss it. After breakfast we get ready to go out, usually to a park, gallery, museum, or to our weekly Steiner playgroup.

I’d describe our house as … a work in (slow, slow) progress. We bought it and moved in a couple of weeks before Frida was born, and it was a wreck. We had to get it to a liveable standard really quickly, because I didn’t want to be renovating with a baby, which means a lot still needs to be done. It feels frustrating sometimes as I feel like everywhere I look there are five improvements that should or could be made, but I’m choosing to look at the positives instead. Our house is quite small, but it is bright and calm and often full of flowers. We’ve made an effort to make it as child-friendly as possible. Think chalk paint on the dining room wall, low shelves for Frida’s toys, step stools everywhere so that she can reach taps and light switches, and her own little shelf in the kitchen for her cutlery, crockery, and utensils.

My kid mainly wears … bright colours, warm cardigans, and soft pointelle. Gorgeous as children look in neutral palettes and cool monochrome, I want Frida to enjoy her clothes and have fun getting dressed – that usually means outfits like hot pink leggings with dogs on teamed with a bright yellow top. I tend to choose clothes for her that I know she will love and that are going to be comfy and weather appropriate. No slogans, because she is two and she can’t read! I buy a lot of Boden, John Lewis, and Frugi. If she wears something, it is probably going to get covered in mud or grass stains or food at some point, so super-expensive clothes are out. The only exception is shoes. We buy her one expensive pair at a time from a lovely independent shop in Dulwich.

I cope with clutter by … being ruthless. If it’s not loved or useful, I’m probably going to recycle or donate it (despite my husband’s best efforts to the contrary – don’t get me started on his extensive collection of “cables which may one day be of use”). Our house is quite small which means there just isn’t space for things we don’t really want. It could be easy to feel as though we are drowning in Frida’s toys and books, but I am a firm believer in toy rotation so we never have everything out. We also keep the sitting room a toy-free zone which helps me feel like an adult at the end of the day!

Our favourite family meal is … chicken noodle soup. We don’t eat much meat as a family, but once a week or so I roast an organic chicken and then make stock with the bones which goes into soup the following evening alongside some mushrooms, green veg, noodles, and leftover chicken. It’s probably the one thing Frida is always guaranteed to eat lots of, and it’s quick, healthy, and tastes good.

I never leave the house without … some reusable wipes. Perfect for the inevitable sticky faces and muddy hands which come with having a young child. After reading about the damage disposable wipes do the environment, switching to cloth wipes was a no-brainer. They’re also cheaper, much more effective at actually cleaning, and I just add them to the usual laundry load.

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When no one’s looking I … listen to music and dance very, very badly. What I lack in style and grace I make up for in enthusiasm though. It’s the best way to lift my mood. I used to eat a lot of chocolate whilst hiding in the kitchen, but I’m trying to kick my sugar habit at the moment so instead I drink buckets of tea.

Having a child has made me … feel all the feels. It’s made me feel like an absolute badass – I grew and birthed a new person, and fed them with my body! I am a life-giving goddess! – and has brought me joy like nothing else. It has made me bolder, more creative, and more certain of my convictions. It has made me feel connected to other mothers. It has absolutely made me happier. It has also brought me to my knees with exhaustion, left me feeling deeply lonely at times (we were the first out of all our friends to have a child), totally thrown my sense of identity, and made me crave time to myself in a way I never did before. It has been the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I encourage creativity … in many different ways, I hope. I believe creativity is not just about access to art materials (although that is important – Frida has open access to paint, crayons, pencils, chalk, modelling clay…) but can be found in all spheres. We read a LOT of books with rich language, and make up poems, songs and rhymes. We talk about art and we talk about science. We cook and bake together. I have built a lot of time for free play into our daily rhythm, and I think imaginative play is crucial for creativity, as are open-ended and simple toys such as building blocks, playsilks, dolls, animal figures, train sets… We aren’t totally screen-free, but we do limit screens a lot.

I’ll never be able to part with … my books. It’s why I will never be a minimalist, much as I might have the aspiration. To me, a home just isn’t a home without piles of books everywhere. My husband gets exasperated with me for buying more books than I can feasibly read, and I often have a number of half-read books on the go at the same time, all littered around the house, but I see it as a sign of optimism rather than a moral failing.

Bedtime tends to be … my time to relax, as it’s my husband’s job. He gets home at six so we can eat supper together as a family, and then he takes Frida upstairs to get her ready for bed and tell her a story. I clear up supper whilst listening to the radio or a podcast, and then I have a bath, or slump on the sofa to read, or write a blog post. My husband is definitely the parent you want doing bedtime; he tells the most amazing stories, all made up on the spot. If I do bedtime I’m rubbish at making up stories, so it’s a Beatrix Potter or Shirley Hughes audiobook.

When all else fails we … get in the bath. There’s nothing a good splash around in warm water can’t fix. If I’m feeling too tired to parent properly, or Frida seems grumpy, I pop her in the bath with some calming music on whilst I read next to the tub. That, or I have a bath whilst she rolls up her sleeves and plays with the bubbles. It’s a guarantee of a calm hour, and one I turn to very often.

Follow Eloise on Instagram: @mightmother_