SUDDENLY MUM BY KATE EFOMI
After graduating from the University of Nottingham with a degree in English Studies, Kate went on to work as a trainee researcher at BBC Birmingham. In 2002 she moved to Glasgow to work with BAFTA and Emmy award-winning director, Norman Stone (Shadowlands, The Black Velvet Gown) at his company, 1A Productions. During her time there she learnt about every stage of TV and film production, working on many dramas and documentaries before producing her own documentary, Old MacDonald’s Farm, for BBC Scotland.
Meanwhile, Kate has always had a passion for writing. From the age of fifteen she secured a regular column in her local newspaper, The Northern Echo, and has been writing professionally ever since. She started writing her blog, Suddenly Mum, when she became a full-time step-mum soon after marrying her wonderful Congolese husband, Consol. In November 2013, whilst on maternity leave, Kate started her own copywriting, proofreading and web content business: kateefomi.com – The Wonderful World of Words. She is also working on various writing projects and is contemplating a children’s book based on her most popular blog post to date: Daddy Had a Pet Baboon.
She also opened notebooklove.com – an online store selling beautiful notebooks for those who prefer old-school paper – in early 2015 as a passion project.
1) Tell us what your blog is about and what inspired its conception?
My blog centres on my relatively new role as step-mum to two gorgeous girls who have hearts of gold and a very messy bedroom. Two months after marrying their dad, they unexpectedly came to join us, full-time and permanently. For the first few months, I was having fun and panic attacks all at the same time. I was Suddenly Mum, forever! No maternity leave or health visitor support, just straight into packed lunches, homework help and school gate shyness (me, not them). I love writing and my new life provides me with plenty of material. My blog laughs at my own fumbling maternal attempts, offers me a little therapy and solace and helps me order my thoughts about being a step-mum – a job that doesn’t come with the best of stigmas attached. Thanks, Cinderella.
2) Who is your ideal reader and what do you hope they can gain from your blog?
My main reason for starting my blog was to create a bit of space for me. An online journal, if you like. But in those early days what I didn’t realise was that there was such a fantastic support-network of fellow step-mums and mums out there, both on blogs and Twitter. A blog isn’t just a book you scribble in before sticking it under your bed at night. It’s a living, breathing creation for all to see… and comment on. I don’t aim my blog at a particular audience, but new step-mums seem to find it mildly amusing and sometimes helpful.
3) Where do you see your blog in 5 years’ time and will the topic continue to be as prevalent?
Just as I told myself over and over again during that first week, as I clenched the duvet around me: This is for life. I’ll never stop being their mum now. We’re family through-and-through and with that will always come stories. In 2013, our little girl was born and she has brought our new family even closer together. She’s a laugh-a-minute and brings her own unique stories and experiences.
Right now we have a teen, a tween and a toddler. In five years’ time our eldest will be 19 and emerging from the fog of her teens, my youngest step-daughter will be celebrating her 16th birthday and the toddler will be starting school. All manner of fun to be had there! Thankfully, 5 years is a little too soon for step-grandchildren. I hope!
4) How do you continually find content for your blog?
Life constantly provides colour, stories and anecdotes. Whether it’s the youngest asking if there was electricity when I was young or the oldest being scared about the impending birds and bees school talk… there’s always something to write about – tastefully and always with the girls’ hearts and dignity held in the highest regard. Mine, not so much.
5) Describe your parenting style and how did it forge the relationship you have with your two step daughters?
I had a very happy childhood with strict but loving and fun parents who showed an active and supportive interest in me as I grew up. Thanks to Billy Graham turning up in Leeds in the early 80s, my childhood home soon became a Christian one where I was introduced to a loving and kind God. If you’ve had a happy childhood I think you want to replicate it for your own children. I certainly want to do that for our girls.
I’ve been surprised and truly blessed by the way we’ve all clicked together. We’ve been in a privileged position in that everyone in the new family wants to make it work. The kids accepted me very quickly, I didn’t feel like I needed to win their love at all, in fact they were desperate for hugs and kisses, time to chat and have a laugh together. It’s been so rewarding to see two young lives blossom and hear almost every week, “This is the best day EVER!” in response to just the simple things in life, like a hotdog in Ikea,
I can be pretty shouty though and I’ve been working on that. I’m a bit of a clean-freak and I grew up with a clean-freak mother. Before I was born, Mum was an officer in the Royal Air Force and one of her jobs was to inspect levels of cleanliness by running her hand, in a white glove, along skirting boards and tops of cupboards. She carried that standard into our family home when I was growing up and still insisted on the skirting board inspection after I’d cleaned my bedroom. Thankfully the gloves were long gone by then, though. As a result, I feel more at peace in a clean and orderly house, but I’ve had to let my standards drop a little for the sake of sanity these days. The girls have got better and summer holidays with my parents (whom they love dearly) have been a bit of an air force bootcamp for them. No complaints from me and I think they now appreciate the fact that they can see their bedroom carpet.
6) What advice would you impart onto first time step mothers so they are well equipped to start this journey?
Don’t try too hard, pray hard and just as you’ve committed to your husband in marriage for better or for worse, resolve to do that for the kids too. Roll with the challenges and be honest with the kids when you need a bit of space. I tried to be Super Step Mum for the first few months, but ended up blowing a gasket and turned into Step Monster instead. Major back-fire! Work together as a new family, after all you’re not the only one who’s new to this. Encourage the kids to talk openly about how they’re feeling, what they’re finding tough about being in the new family and listen, listen, listen, love, love, love. Oh and no matter how tempting it might be, never speak ill of their mother, even if it means just being silent – it’s really not worth it and can be so damaging to the kids and the family life you’re trying to build. Every now and again we go out for a family meal and review the highlights of the last few months together. We also each go round the table and pick out positive things to say about each person in the new family. It builds everyone up and creates a great atmosphere in every-day life, which could otherwise be tough. This life is so rewarding and I wouldn’t now swap it for the world.
7) Apart from a blended family, you also have a multiracial family. Does that add colour to your family life and how did the Scottish in you and the African in him embrace that?
Although I’ve been living in Scotland for the past thirteen years I actually grew up in beautiful North Yorkshire, south of the border. Meanwhile, my husband, Consol, is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo but his dad’s job took his family around the world. Before he was a teen, Consol had already lived in China, Germany, Sweden, Burundi and Zambia. He also went to boarding school in Belgium so Consol has quite a western outlook on life.
Having said that, there are definitely differences and when we first started dating we had very little in common. From how to carve a chicken (carve it? What about the bones? Give me the bones!) to the pets we had as kids (hamster and cockatiel vs baboon and monkeys), things definitely differed. But the most important thing in my life and the most important thing in his is exactly the same: our faith. That holds us together. Any other cultural heritage or tradition takes a back seat really.
Our wedding was great, though. Lots of African men in kilts and a tongue-in-cheek dowry of a live chicken for my mum!
The girls are very Scottish as the oldest came here when she was three while the second step-daughter was born here. They say they don’t fancy going to Africa as they, ‘don’t want to encounter any snakes or creepy crawlies’. Consol rolls his eyes and knows we need a family trip there some time soon to give them a taste of their roots.
Occasionally we have Congolese food, which I know Consol misses. Yorkshire puddings don’t quite cut it for him so he sometimes buys banana plantain and chikwanga at the local African shop. I must get his mum to teach me to cook Congolese dishes next time she visits. Last time she was here she cooked so hard she split our wooden spoon clean down the middle, length-ways! The food was awesome though and well worth the minor damage.
8) Do you have any advice for aspiring bloggers?
Give it a go. Set up your blog and don’t think too hard about what you’re going to write. Build it bit-by-bit. It doesn’t have to be perfect all at once. Just use it as a diary and you’ll find that the stories start to flow. I am forever tweaking and changing my blog. The important thing is just to start, then the fun begins and you’ll be hooked. Join Twitter as well – there’s a massive community of mums and step-mums out there and Twitter helps you find their blogs. They’re all so lovely, come and join us!
THANK YOU FOR LETTING US GETTING TO KNOW YOU!
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Blog: Suddenly Mum
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