As a bestselling author, TV presenter, founder of Make Motherhood Diverse, and mum of two, Candice Brathwaite is an inspiration to many mothers. We caught up with her to chat about the challenges of modern motherhood, fears over sending kids back to school and packed lunch dilemmas…
The challenges of parenting
When it comes to the challenges of parenting, personally my main challenge is not to throw my trauma onto my kids. To remember that I am raising them in a completely different environment to which I was raised, and the things that trigger me, they don’t even understand.
It was hard for me growing up, I would go to my friends’ fridge and not ask for certain foods because I just knew my family didn’t have it like that.
Esmé’s favourite food is seabass. When she asks for it a part of me always wants to go ‘do you know how lucky you are?’ and then I remember my therapist telling me ‘yeah that person has to be quiet’, because that is not Esmé’s childhood.
She’s like, ‘ah no you bought me seabass before’ so this is just the natural expectation. I can’t sit there and judge her for what she thinks of as normal.
I don’t ever want my kids to feel like they owe me, if that makes sense. That would make me feel really bad; you don’t owe me – I chose to have you and you chose me as your mum. So I’m just trying to work really hard so that I don’t push any things that I’ve had to work through onto them.
The modern world is a different world to the one I grew up in, as to whether it is a better and more positive world…from a personal perspective, yeah completely, in our home anyway.
I would say though in the world everything has changed, especially in terms of the internet and social media. This is just the way the world is now, so much so that I’m having to encourage them to use their devices because you want them to learn, but also help them understand that there are not so nice people out there and that because they are behind a screen they may talk a certain way to you.
Then there are some things that haven’t changed one bit. I’m doing a campaign with the vitamin company Haliborange at the moment on healthy eating and they’ve made these recipe cards for lunchboxes, and it’s really funny because when I think back, my grandad – he raised me – always used to sit me on this wooden stool and give me my vitamins in the morning. Now I find myself doing the same with my kids, and I’m not going to lie I do gobble two myself sometimes.
It’s really nostalgic to be repeating that behaviour with my children.
The older I get the more I realise you’re just on some kind of loop. I think the hope is that for every bad bit in that loop you learn something, so then when these things come round again you handle it in a different way.
Diversity in motherhood
I’m really grateful to be asked to work with brands in this way. It’s the root of my entire career. I started a platform called Make Motherhood Diverse, I asked for there to be more equal representation in the motherhood and parenting field, and to see brands now really take that on is amazing.
The great thing about Make Motherhood Diverse is that it’s now become a consultancy of sorts. So many big brands come to that space and they’re like, we’re doing a mother’s day campaign, we do not want to mess this up, please can you help us find the most diverse group of mothers and people for this campaign? And what that has meant is that then we’re able to support women and people being paid.
Whenever people talk about money, especially women or people who refer to themselves as women, there just seems to be that dip in octave because we’ve been taught not to speak about it, but I am very about women and people feeling like they are entitled to build great businesses and that they are worth the money people and brands are paying them. So to see Make Motherhood Diverse develop into that has just blown my mind.
The good and the bad side of social media
Social media comes with the good and the bad – I think the bad is that we do naturally compare ourselves. And you see the Hollywood bit of someone’s life, not the reality. I think we’ve been sold this consistent rhetoric, the idea about the striped t-shirts and expensive pram and the shiny bob and it’s like, hang on a minute – there is way more to motherhood and parenting than this.
There is a rawness to being a parent and I think we need to be honest about this side. Mothers should be allowed to be like, ‘yeah I’m just not great at making sure my kid is eating well’, or – Esmé used to do this a lot – ‘my child is coming home having only eaten one thing out of the lunch box’. I’d be doing calculations on her day like ‘right so you left here at 8am, you ate one thing at 12:30, of course now you’re tired and grumpy’.
This is where social media can be a negative space – we see the child learning fluent Spanish at three years old and we’re like, oh I’m just not doing this well, I can’t even get my kid to eat their lunch.
Actually, I don’t know about other people’s children but Esmé went back to school for the last three weeks of the last term and her school no longer serves school dinners, just as a safety precaution – you have to send them in with a packed lunch. And the first week I was that mum running up to the school an hour late like ‘oh my gosh I’m so sorry, I’d forgotten.’
I think the dope thing about this campaign is that the recipes are really easy, delicious and nutritious, and that’s one worry that doesn’t have to fill my brain space on a Sunday. I’m going to try really hard next term and get into the habit of pre-preparing lunches and making sure uniforms are set out.
Even in a campaign like this which is focusing on food and lunchboxes, it does free up space, for mums especially, to just go ‘oh thank god’, because I’m not going to be good at that. It’s the help that I know a lot of parents need right now.
I think being able to say, oh well I’m really bad at that and I’m glad that I’ve got these five recipes to help, or me – I’m very open and honest about the fact that I do not cook or wash up, I’m not very domesticated, and to have support around who I am as a mother and woman is really important.
Sometimes I go into that kitchen and I don’t know what comes over me but I think I’m like the black female Gordon Ramsey. And I’m like ‘oh I know the card says this but I’ll do a bit of that’ – it is terrible!
So yeah, with these recipe cards I just follow the recipes to a T – the cool thing about these recipes is that they’re all really easy, even I can make them. Especially the mini frittatas, they’re really simple recipes.
Even though I’m not a cook per se, having children has made me more invested in learning about and understanding what I’m eating because more often than not they’re going to be eating it.
Bless my dad’s soul, he’d send me to bed with a pack of six Bakewell tarts and be like ‘oh I hope you enjoy your dinner’. We’ve changed so much since then, we’re more informed, we’re more aware and more than ever at the moment I think the important thing is keeping our child’s immune systems boosted. And a lot of the ingredients in these five recipes do that.
Back to school
My main stress about the kids going back to school is definitely their lack of belief in social distancing. Esmé’s already like ‘when I see my friends I just want to jump on them and hug them’ and I’m like ‘uh girl we don’t do that anymore – you touch elbows and you go!’ So there’s that.
There is of course, and I’ll be brutally honest – if a parent doesn’t say this they’re lying – you fear them getting sick. You fear the worst, you fear your child getting Covid. That’s one reason every morning both Esmé and my son RJ have their vitamins – so in one way I’m like ok, this is the small thing I can do to support your immune system.
But sending them back into school with kids who don’t understand social distancing and teachers who don’t have eyes in the back of their heads and are already really stressed out at this time, they’re just naturally not going to be as careful or washing their hands as much as you would at home.
That does make my heart race a bit, because I think also there’s the data supporting the fact that most children can carry this virus and have no symptoms – but what does that mean for a 33 year old me, or their 80 year old grandpa? Those are some real worries.
The new normal
We came back into a lockdown, we were on holiday in Barbados and we got the last flight off of the island before Barbados went ‘no more flights for the next three months’. But that meant that Esmé came back to a world where no one was on the street, which was really scary.
Myself and her dad had a frank conversation with each other and we were like you know she’s really mature, we don’t know what’s happening here, maybe the best thing to do will be to let her know as much as we do, and from that day on she sat on in every briefing the government has done.
And it’s just like an open forum, because then she comes to us and saying ‘I don’t understand that word’ and we’d explain it to her.
So she’s very clued up on the pandemic and what a pandemic means and what Covid-19 is and what the symptoms are.
She does understand social distancing but of course going back to school I do worry that she’s just going to be so excited to go and so excited for interaction, of course she’s going to just want to run around with her friends. But we do work overtime to not treat her with kid gloves. RJ is a lot younger so that’s a very different story, but with Esmé we’re as honest as possible.
Candice Brathwaite is working with Haliborange, the UK’s No 1 kids vitamin brand, to help parents take the fuss out of lunchbox prep, making it simple and quick to put together a lunch that’s as tasty as it is nutritionally balanced – just like Haliborange. Recommended by 9 out of 10 parents, Haliborange is available from Boots, supermarkets and pharmacies. Click here for more information on products, for recipes visit our Instagram.