“Nothing worth having ever comes easy”: Louise Cooney discusses “tough” realities of parenting

Louise Cooney Pic: Evan Doherty

“This is very different to our last shoot together,” Louise smiles, as she adjusts baby Jude on the bed, where he’s perched with a little rattle toy. Last time we met this Limerick lady, she was twenty weeks pregnant, preparing to move into a new house and writing lists of things to get done before the tiny tot’s arrival.

“It’s safe to say most of the things on that list still haven’t been ticked off. We’ve been busy,” she laughs, reaching to grab her next look.  “I enjoy this so much,” she motions towards the clothes and glam station where hair and makeup are set up. “I didn’t look like this [points to her freshly made up face] a few hours ago and it’s nice to feel like the old Louise for a bit.”

The old Louise she’s referring to, is simply the one was able to sleep through the night. Babies always seem to know when you’ve a busy day ahead, and Jude, who Louise says is generally great at sleeping, decided he wanted to stay up and play the entire night before our shoot. “Who could be mad at that little face though?” she asks.

It’s true, he’s terribly cute! Her life has completely changed since we last spoke, strolling along Portmarnock beach a few months ago with the baby in her belly. But changed for the better, she muses. “I feel so genuinely lucky and I know that not everyone gets this opportunity,” she acknowledges. “Being a parent, God it’s tough – tougher than I ever imagined – but nothing worth having ever comes easy, does it? Myself and Mark, we’re adjusting, getting the hang of things, figuring it out as we go.” And isn’t that what we all do in this little life, wing it, roll with it and face each little hurdle and new chapter as it comes. Here, Louise tells us about exactly that!

Louise Cooney Pic: Evan Doherty

Louise, the last time we caught up you were pregnant with Jude, now he’s here and he’s adorable! Time flies…
It feels like a lifetime ago when we had that shoot on the beach in Portmarnock! My whole world has changed, it’s all about him now! I feel like I’ve changed so much too.

In what way?
I think the stuff that was important to me before, doesn’t feel quite as big anymore. Jude is my sole focus now. It’s all about making sure he’s ok and everything else has to take a back seat. There’s some self care aspects I’ve had to let go of. And I don’t want it to come across badly, it’s just I don’t have as much time for myself as I was used to having and I’m ok with that because I know it’s all for him and my time will come again. I’ve become really good with time managing, and managing different things at once.

You quickly become the queen of multitasking!
Oh yeah, one hundred per cent! He’s great at putting things into perspective and making my priorities very clear.

And how are you doing in general?
Ah I’m good, thank you! It’s the most amazing chapter and the most rewarding job. He’s so much fun. I feel like every day is a school day, I’ve learned so much, so quickly. It’s so exciting though, I feel like I’m part of a new club. If I’ve questions, I’ve other mums I can lean on, which is amazing. He’s doing great as well, thankfully. I’m glad he’s healthy. We’re very lucky and grateful for him and the joy he’s brought to our lives and our families lives, it’s incomparable to anything I’ve ever experienced before. It’s difficult at times, don’t get me wrong, it’s hard, but it’s amazing.

And it’s important to acknowledge that it’s hard because for any parent, whether it’s the first baby or fourth, the sleepless nights, the juggling, it can be overwhelming at times…
I can’t get over the amount of people who message me online whenever I say it’s hard, to thank me for being real about it. I never want to sound ungrateful or that I’m not enjoying every single second of it, but in saying that, when you’re sleep deprived or don’t have time to put food in the fridge or when he’s crying and you don’t know why, that’s hard. There’s no way you can say it’s not. There’s no baby who doesn’t cry sometimes. There’s no new parent who isn’t running off very little sleep, or who hasn’t had time for themselves, it’s all an adjustment. I’m five months in and I’ve nearly adjusted, so the things I found difficult at the start, I’m not finding as hard anymore. And we’ll face more challenges as we go on, like now we’re about to start weaning, but we’ll adjust again.

Louise Cooney Pic: Evan Doherty

Is there anything you’ve come across that you weren’t really expecting or prepared for?
Every single day there’s something! It’s hard to imagine someone being with you all the time and you being solely responsible for them. You can imagine it, but it’s hard to get the full understanding when you’ve never had it. I don’t think you can be fully prepared at all. I certainly wasn’t! Every time he learns something new, I’m buzzing. I feel like I’m constantly getting to know him we all have in our heads, but right now, all I need to truly focus on is him, making sure he’s ok, getting everything he needs because he’s growing and changing so much. He’s not going to be this age and this small forever so I want to cherish it all. It takes a lot but I’m getting better at reminding myself of it.

You’re self-employed Louise, so what does maternity leave look like for you? Do you even have it?
No, I don’t really. I took a few weeks off after he was born to recover and to sleep, ok well maybe not sleep, but to rest when I could. I got back into work a few weeks later at my own pace and only took on jobs I knew I’d be able to do. At that stage he was sleeping more. Now, it’s all about being realistic with my expectations, being organised and planning ahead. I don’t have childcare because he’s still so small but whenever we need a hand, our family comes over to pitch in and to keep an eye on him. We’re so beyond grateful for that. I try to get as much done as quickly and efficiently as possible, much more than I ever would have before. Everything is planned to a T. It’s a much better way of doing things.I wish I knew this a long time ago [laughs].

How is everything with your athleisure wear company Cloo, are you putting that on hold until things settle a bit more or still tipping away at that in the background?
I’m working on new designs and ideas but that’s a full time job and I just don’t have the capacity right now. Jude’s a full time job then I have the blogging and social media too, which is another full time position so I just need to be realistic with how much time is in the day. I just need to park it for now, but it will be back!

On the topic of social media, it’s almost part of the job of an influencer to share aspects your life online, but where do you draw the line? Do people ever assume they have a right to know more about your private/family life than you’re willing to share?
When it comes to sharing, I don’t post before I think about it. I’ll always take videos, save them and then share them later on. If I ever feel like it’s too much then I just won’t do it but he’s at a lovely part of life and I think it’s nice to share. It’s so natural and the most beautiful thing in life. I’ve also found that the community I’ve build since having him with other new mums has been amazing and to be able to share tips and have conversations about how I’m feeling and how other people are feeling too, it’s helpful. It feels completely different to what I had been doing previously. It’s a new lane in a sense.

baby Jude Pic: Evan Doherty

That’s so nice to have the community aspect because it can be quite a lonely time for some new parents.
Definitely! It’s been so helpful for me. Whenever I’m unsure about something I pop on and ask. Sometimes there could be thousands of answers and you have to wonder if that’s good or bad, but in general, it’s good. Even when it comes to figuring out how to do things, I’ll go on TikTok or Youtube and look it up there because you’ll get videos, pictures and real life experiences from a trusted voice. I find it really helpful for all things motherhood and baby related. For whatever stage you’re at, there’s something! For example when I was breastfeeding there was lactation consultants who I’d follow and save their tips, now with weaning, there’s another page for that. When it comes to sleep, there’s experts for that. It’s free and accessible to everyone so it’s great.

On the flip side, have you found you’ve been getting any unsolicited advice when you’re not looking for it?
Not really to be honest. In my experience, anyone who shares something, they’re genuinely only trying to help. I haven’t had any negative experiences so I’m lucky in that sense. But also, I’m very much a newbie to this so I’m like, well maybe that is right, but I don’t know [laughs]. Even with my own friends who’ve had kids, so many different things work for different people so it’s not super straight forward. It’s nice to hear different things that worked so you can mix and match so you can find what works for you and your baby.

You were on Ireland AM recently discussing the Irish Independent’s survey on the childcare crisis. You’ve already started looking up places for Jude to go and he’s only five months old!
I was doing that when I was four months pregnant! It was so hard because we were moving house so I didn’t even know the area I was going to be looking at. I was shooting into the dark trying to figure it out. It’s scary for new parents because you obviously want to do the best for your child. Luckily there’s websites out there which can provide great information like Tusla. As I’ve learned from other mums, creches are hard to get into at the moment but there are great child minders, there’s ways around it so I’m trying not to get too bogged down by it, but will continue to have conversations and get his name down as soon as possible. There’s just such demand.

You’re renting now, like thousands of others around the country. It’s so difficult because people don’t know if they’ll still even be in the same area three years down the line…
That’s more for school but yeah, absolutely. I’d like to think we’ll still be where we are now, fingers crossed anyway, but it is in the back of our mind.

Louise Cooney Pic: Evan Doherty

How are you all settling into the new house actually? On the last shoot, you were packing the boxes preparing to move in! Does it feel like home?
Yeah, it really does. It feels like a good space for Jude. Baby stuff takes up so much room, my God! [laughs] We’ve learned to make whatever we have, work. We use every single corner of every room. It’s our home now with Jude and it’s hard to imagine a time being in it without him. It’s our new chapter. This feels more of a family community than what we should have experienced before, too.

And Louise, how are you and Mark? Has this little guy changed your dynamic?
We’re trying to figure it out and we don’t have the same time as we would have before so date nights are a rarity but we have so many more amazing things happening that we don’t really need them. We want to make the most of our time and our plans. We’ve booked a few things in and we have a wedding coming up which will be our first night away from him. We’re both going through it together which helps. Watching him as a dad, it’s amazing, he was born for this role! He’s just the best with him. He’s so loving and fun and he’s going to be even more amazing as he grows up. We were only talking the other day about how busy he’s going to be in a few years when he’s got games after school or at the weekend.

Well it’s a great chapter with lots of excitement to look forward to!
Oh yeah, it’s so exciting. I can’t wait for summer especially, we’ll have lots of nice fun.

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