10 Parenting Lessons With Mimi Labesa

As a working mother of two young girls – five-year-old Kadima and two-year-old Zanang – influencer Mimi Labesa has already learnt a few things about parenting. Here, she tells us how becoming a parent has changed her life, the wisdom she hopes to pass onto her children and her advice for other mothers.
01

Take Your Time At The Start

Getting pregnant was an easy journey for me. I wouldn’t even say it was planned. We weren’t trying, but we weren’t trying not to get pregnant… if you get what I mean! I’m convinced I fell pregnant with my first daughter Kadima on my wedding night. Looking back, part of me thinks it might have been nice to take a bit more time, just me and my husband, and be able to have a real discussion about having children. But it just didn’t happen that way! Even falling pregnant with our second daughter three years later – that wasn’t planned, either. I was lucky enough not to encounter major issues in either pregnancy, but if we decide to have another child, I’ve told my husband I want to really think it through first!

02

Find The Right Support

Because my husband and I were living in different countries during both of my pregnancies, I realised how important it was to surround myself with the right people. It’s a vulnerable time, and a period of such change, and I was fortunate to be living with my mum and sister. Just having a bit of company helped so much. During my first pregnancy, I was full of energy – I was walking right up until the week before she was born. The only side effect I had was serious food aversion – I mean zero appetite – so I lost quite a lot of weight. I think I survived on ramen noodles! With Zanang, I was much more lethargic. I was constantly tired and took every opportunity I could to sleep. I even took my pregnancy pillow to work with me.

03

Listen To Your Gut

I’m the kind of person that wings everything – labour included. I’m not that anal about planning. Interestingly, my mother is a pharmacist and herbalist, and she really didn’t want me to do anything extreme, including an epidural. But my labour with Kadima was quite long – about 13 hours – and all I had was gas and air. I felt every little thing – nothing prepares you for the pain. Also, I felt like the midwives and I were a little disconnected. I would tell them what I was feeling, but it didn’t feel like they were listening to me. I ended up with a second-degree tear which took quite a long time to heal afterwards. With my second delivery, at only 7cm dilated, I told the nurses I thought I should start pushing. This time, the midwife was on my side and in less than five minutes, I’d given birth. I ended up with a first-degree tear, but it was a better experience because I really felt listened to. It would be the one piece of advice I’d give first-time mums: trust your gut and if something doesn’t feel right, speak up.

04

Follow Your Instincts

Having a newborn is a very surreal time – life as you know it is over – and I was lucky to have my sister there to help me navigate the first few days. When she left, the reality set in a bit more, but I just tried to follow my instincts and my baby’s lead. It won’t be something that everyone feels is right for them, but I co-slept with both my children, and it worked for us. Actually, it’s probably what stopped me going crazy – I was alone for a lot of it, so I was handling the night shifts myself and it was the easier choice. The sleep deprivation is so real. As a new mother you’re primed to listen out for every move, every cry, so it’s hard to feel calm and rested.

05

Let Certain Things Go

Motherhood often involves sacrifice. Back in 2020, I realised I had to let go of my job and stop being held hostage by the traditional 9-5. Now that I’m a full-time content creator, I find I can be more present with my children. While they’re at school, I can also do a lot of work between 10am and 2pm. Otherwise, work only happens after they go to bed. Speaking of which, bedtime is non-negotiable – that’s my time. Both of their routines are quite strict; it’s the only way I can get everything done.

06

Relish The Rewards

Motherhood isn’t easy, but the rewards far outweigh the struggle. The time also flies by – my oldest is going to be six next month and I have no idea how that’s happened. Zanang is two already; they really grow up so fast. Also, when they’re young, the ages two to ten are so critical – I know that right now is when they’re going to need me the most. There will come a time when I can step back a bit more. Right now is when their personalities are really developing, so I’m very sensitive to any changes in their mood. I also want to be emotionally open and honest so they feel they can talk to me as freely as they like.

07

Focus On Early Life Lessons

I’ve never shied away from teaching my girls important lessons when the time was right. Now, for instance, I’m trying to teach Kadima the importance of kindness – especially as she has a younger sister who copies everything she does. It’s important they treat each other with love and respect. Yes, they have different personalities, but I believe both of them can share some common manners. I also think it’s a good idea to teach children to be resilient. Sometimes, Kadima can take things a bit personally, and they both have to understand that emotions are fleeting and ever-changing. Just because they feel one way today doesn’t mean they will tomorrow, and that’s okay.

08

Educate Yourself

In today’s world, there’s a lot of heaviness – war, race, gender, the climate… the list goes on. I know that one day, I’m going to be having some quite difficult conversations with my children. In fact, Kadima came to me the other day upset that her hair didn’t look like that of another girl in her class. I tried to explain that everyone is different and beautiful in their own way – but I know this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to explaining the ways of the world. For now, they’re both still young and don’t understand a lot of what’s going on, but I’m taking it upon myself to learn as much as possible, so I’m prepared to talk to them about all these issues

09

Embrace Your New Identity

When Kadima was three months old, I enrolled to do a master’s degree, and it was a struggle to balance motherhood and higher education. It was quite a painful journey – emotionally and practically – and in January 2019, when I fell pregnant with Zanang, I was handing in my dissertation. Because it was such a busy time, I didn’t take the time to fully embrace my new life as a mother. Suddenly, I was about to be a mother of two, and I hadn’t really got my head round being a mother of one. I really wasn’t sure who I was. Thank God for lockdown. I know it’s been horrible for so many, but it gave me the time and space to reflect on the last two years and face up to my own self-discovery. It made me realise how unhappy I was in certain areas of my life and what had to change too. 

10

Appreciate Everything You Are

Now, having had that time, it’s made me realise how beautiful life and motherhood can be. I appreciate my work and my freedom more than I ever did before, and I see what a privilege it is to be able to do what I’m doing now. All my passions – being a mother, photography, fashion – they’ve all come together, finally. So many mothers feel like they fall into one of two camps: full-time mum or working woman. But the truth is, you can be both well. It just takes time, patience and planning. There’s no reason to suppress any part of your personality. That’s what motherhood is – a journey of self-love. For me, there’s no more self-loathing – I’m embracing it all and it’s made it feel all the more worthwhile.

Follow @MimiLabesa on Instagram, and check out her recent collaborations with Amazon here and LEGO here. All imagery courtesy of Mimi Labesa.

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