Sybilla Hart: Raising children can be hard

PUBLISHED: 09:28 03 May 2016 | UPDATED: 09:30 03 May 2016

Sybilla Hart reflects on raising children

Sybilla Hart reflects on raising children


Sybilla Hart reflects on her new life in Essex after leaving London

I had to stifle a giggle in the playground last week when I overhead a conversation between two mothers. One mum was pushing a pram with a week-old baby crying that high pitched mewl that sounds a cross between a baby fox and a cat. All the other mothers, myself included, had been cooing at the baby apart from one lady who struck a chord with the new mum.

‘It’s awful isn’t it, the sleep deprivation?’ At that point the mum of the baby burst into tears. At last there was someone who was being honest about the situation!

To my mind, there is nothing more magical than a newborn, but what irks me is how stressful it is. And I don’t think it needs to be.

If it’s your first baby you fret, and if it’s your second, third or fourth it is doubly, trebly, quadruply hard as you have other children to look after. It is all very well sending round midwives to check that you aren’t about to have a mental collapse, but what about putting in place something a little more solid, like some practical help before the wheels fall off?

Childbirth is in many cases a major operation, and even if you haven’t had a caesarean, it’s still a major ordeal. Ordinarily, anyone recovering from such a procedure is left alone in peace to rest. Apart from a new mother. She is expected to come home, empty the dishwasher, do the laundry and churn out meals as if nothing has happened. Something has happened – she has just had a baby!

A local friend of mine benefited enormously from a charity called Home Start, which aims to support mothers of babies under the age of five. Home Start helps families in social situations where family breakdown is likely. I am in awe of them and think they do an extraordinary job, but I think we need a Home Start package for everyone. My friend wasn’t on the verge of a family breakdown; she was just knackered like any other mother with a newborn and toddler in tow. Frankly, family breakdown can happen to anyone, especially to a couple which has just had a baby.

When I casually mentioned how sad it was that a couple were separating to my friend, she shrugged her shoulders and said: ‘That’s having young kids for you,’ by way of explanation.

Us parents need to start being more honest about how hard it is to raise children and, above all, welcome a new addition to the family. My message to new mothers is the following: it is not just you. If you are a new parent and are looking at families who seem to be having a marvelous time together at the local garden centre or park, don’t believe it for a second.

If they have children, they will have been in exactly the same state as you, a thousand times over! w

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For more information about the Home Start charity, visit

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