Elly Chapple, Founder of Can Do Ella

#MoreThanAMutha is all about celebrating the things that women are, as well as being amazing mothers.  In a world where many women feel like they lose their identity when they become a mum, it is important to celebrate and shout that we might be mums, but we are not only that and we are still a force to be reckoned with.

What makes you more than a mother? 

My children, in particular my eldest daughter who is Deafblind. I am also a ‘sister and a daughter’ so sang Maggie Lindemann. I take my ‘Mother’ title seriously, and it’s made me someone who wants to change the world and see change in the world. My eldest daughter had an incredibly tough start in life, like many children I know, but she rose to every challenge presented with grit, tenacity and a phenomenal zest for life – quite like you’ve never seen. Before she was born I thought I would be her guiding light in life and do as mother’s do – help shape my unique being to be all that she could be. I hope I’ve done that part justice, but what I didn’t quite expect is how she would guide and change me.

My daughter went blind in 2013, which was a horrific ordeal for her to go through – and quite avoidable. It literally turned her life and ours upside down. We made the decision for me to sell my business and I came home to support her through significant trauma and readjustment to life at the young age of seven. There just wasn’t any option and it’s a choice many others would make no doubt – in a heartbeat. Your children hold your heart in their hands and when they squeeze it, you respond – into action.

With hindsight, that perhaps was a huge turning point in me becoming much more than a mother. I became a fighter, a warrior for justice – hardened by tragedy, yet softened by the determination of my daughter in the face of such overwhelming adversity. I fought constantly and perhaps the grief powered it, shaped it and consumed me at times.

That life changing event has taken us on an unbelievable journey with every twist and turn you can imagine – though parents of children like my daughter will tell you, there isn’t very much we don’t encounter along our paths.

We are four years down the line now, nearly five and I look back at how I’ve developed as a mother. I’m stronger, braver (by 150%) and I’ve found my voice through my daughter to share the experience and the way forward. Moving away from the negative to the positive. I think I’m quite like my own Mum now; whose wisdom has just constantly evolved with age and experience. Though perhaps I’ve got more battle scars in one way and that’s a continuum of the generational evolvement.

Are people surprised when they realise you are more than a mum? Does that bother you?

I have one issue with the word ‘Mum’ or ‘Mother’ in my world. I don’t like to be called Mum unless it is by my children. No one else has the right to refer to me as such – that title is reserved for my brood alone. People I have to work with for my daughter’s needs seem to label me as ‘Mum’ in an attempt to reduce the knowledge I’ve gained, the expertise by experience and the stoic resolve never to have my child placed in such a situation again. Or perhaps I’m just a cynical old Mum now, though it’s not how I feel.

It does bother me that they can’t move past the need to label me as Mum – that they want to park me in a corner and let them get on with their jobs. Yes it does bother me. It’s a narrative I don’t and won’t buy into.

What challenges do you face when you’re juggling motherhood and being more than a mum?

I don’t have enough time in the day! There are 24 hours’ worth of emails, letters, phonecalls and appointments to check, attend and read. I could work on it 24/7 and often do if there is a deadline pressing or another battle to win.

I juggle being able to share myself between three children who need me every day and feeling guilty that one of them needs me so much more – not because of her needs alone, because others cannot view her with equality and high expectations and therefore I have to constantly drive the narrative away from the ‘can’t’ to the ‘can do’.

I don’t buy into judgements by others, I’ve learned through experience that those who judge tend to have unresolved issues of their own. So I steer clear and try to focus down on the positive. I’m lucky in that I have a great network of amazing mothers who are going through very similar times and we work together to help each other. Alongside that I have a solid base of friends and a hugely supportive family.

How long did it take you to remember you were more than a mother after you had your child(ren)?

I think hitting 40 had something to do with the realisation that I could be more than a mother (!) and that I could do something and wanted to help make positive change. Maybe I had a midlife crisis of sorts (!!)  Or maybe I just finally realised that the fear I had when I was younger was ebbing away and in its place came a sense of calm and lived in experience. I think acceptance of my eldest daughter’s situation and the decision to flip the narrative around that situation gave me a sense of me again. That if I took control and grew in confidence around my knowledge and experience I could really do something positive with that. Seeing my eldest daughter develop and astound after such a horrific situation gave me strength and determination to be as brave as she is.

Who, or what, helps you to make time for yourself? What do you do to escape the stresses of motherhood?

Ha ha! I’m lucky in that my husband and I have a shared approach to being with our children, and a natural rhythm of when to take over from one another. It’s kind of an unspoken thing, that’s developed mainly due to our eldest who has 24 hour needs and how we manage the balance of that with our other children.

I also adore yoga, when I get chance to do it – restorative yoga with a very intuitive teacher. If I can I take time out to walk, I do a lot of thinking and processing when I am alone walking and that really helps balance things out.

What advice would you offer a mum who might not be feeling like they are more than someones mum right now?

You are good enough and you are a brilliant unique being – see the positive wins as an addition to your growing self – you learn every day and more so every time you fall. Don’t let the negatives drown out what you know you’re capable of. Find your inner voice and what it’s telling you, listen to it, hold onto that and surround yourself with people who believe in you and what you can do. Don’t waste time listening to those who bring you down, life is too short. Live in the present and you will create your own future. Don’t give yourself any pressure to be anything other than you.

Any advice for someone who is going through the same things as you are right now in their quest to be #MoreThanAMutha?

Talk to people – lots of people in whatever area you’re interested in. Ask the questions, think about how you see it and then develop your own thoughts further. Practice what you preach and remember we’re all human and perfect doesn’t exist – and it’s boring, so keep the learning at the front always. Becoming an expert in anything means you always have room to learn more and you can never know enough or everything.

Don’t be afraid to face down any fears you have. They are often simply smoke and mirrors – once you own the whole picture you can take control and be free of fear. Hope is an incredibly powerful thing. And we need to believe in it more and ourselves.

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Are you #MoreThanAMutha?  Get in touch to share your story.

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