Our kids fit in with our lifestyle — not the other way around

Hannah Love doesn’t think children should change your lifestyle (Picture: Supplied)

Welcome back to How I Parent, where we get a glimpse into how the nation is raising their kids.

While most parents worry that when kids come along their lives have to change, that isn’t the case for Hannah Love, 45, and her husband Doug, 39, from Berkshire, who say they’ve raised all three of their children to fit in with their lifestyle, not the other way around.

Hannah, who’s a sleep consultant, began her career as a nanny, and it was while she was working for affluent jet-setting families that she realised becoming a parent didn’t have to mean giving up on travelling and partying.

‘I trained as a nurse, but during the Christmas holidays before I was due to start my first job in paediatric nursing, I was offered a temporary nanny role, looking after the children of professional golfer Paul McGinley,’ she says.

‘A week into starting, I was offered a permanent job with the family. The temptation of worldwide travel, flying to amazing destinations, a car with the job, and staying with this beautiful family was too tempting. I never did make my first nursing job.’

Although Hannah admits that the job was full on, she quickly learned to embrace a different lifestyle than what she was used to, and leaned in to the opportunities that came with it.

‘I flew with the children between Hawaiian islands in Ernie Els’ private jet, looked after the children when flying first class, spent two weeks in the Palace hotel in Sun City in South Africa and spent all day eating in the restaurants, swimming and staying in the suite with them. We ate out most of the time, flew through time zones, attended big functions and stayed in 5 and 6 star hotels. It was my job to ensure the children all ate, slept and behaved well.’

Oliver, Ella and little brother Henry (Picture: Supplied)

In her late 20s, Hannah began a nannying and nursing role for a London family who had nine children, including a very sick baby with a very rare congenital condition.

On the side, she was studying Nutritional and Craniosacral Therapy at university, and spent any spare time she had out partying with friends.

It was during this time that she started to realise that perhaps she didn’t have to choose between work and play, even when it came to raising children.

‘Although my childhood was fairly conventional, there were some aspects that weren’t, like the fact my dad was a Morris dancer and my mum a clog dancer and they ran an Irish folk band. My sister and I spent many a sunny evening in pub gardens watching them dance, play and sing.

‘Working for the golfing families, and then later the family who I privately nursed for, taught me how resilient and adaptable babies are. And, looking back at my upbringing I already knew this from how me and my sister adapted to, and loved, our childhood.’

In 2008 when she was 30, Hannah had her first child, Oliver. And, although she still struggled with some aspects of motherhood like the hormonal changes and sleep deprivation, she also quickly began to embed her baby into her lifestyle.

‘Through nannying I had practised being a ‘parent’ many times over before I became a mummy,’ Hannah says. ‘If I hadn’t had that experience I don’t think I would’ve had the confidence to introduce our children to the things that we love doing as early as I did. Because I had looked after many newborns before there were a lot of things as a ‘new parent’ that weren’t new to me.’

Hannah’s children all attended music festivals before their first birthday (Picture: Supplied)

When he was just a few weeks old, Oliver went to work with Hannah, and within his first year he’d been to a festival, raving, out for dinner and on holidays abroad…all things that many parents might not attempt with a newborn. But for Hannah, it was important to continue on as she’d always done.

‘I think often people feel that you need to change your life when you have a baby. Agreed, having a baby is life-changing, but I firmly believe you don’t need to change your life, your beliefs, the things you love just because you’ve had a baby.’ Hannah says.

‘These nanny positions all showed me that – life went on and the baby fitted into the lives of the families that I worked with. They adapted, they were happy, and most of all they grew up loving the things that parents did too.’

In 2012, Hannah gave birth to her second child, Ella. By now she’d stopped nannying and was running her sleep consultancy business Sleep Well with Hannah full time.

‘By the time I had Ella in 2012 I was busy enough helping parents with their baby sleep that I didn’t need to go back to nannying. But with Ella, and also Henry, who came along in 2015, I didn’t have any maternity leave. I remember my husband Daryl telling me off for answering calls on the way down to the theatre for my C-sections and I took on a sleep training family within a week of having both Ella and Henry.’

Hannah with children Oliver, Ella and Henry (Picture: Supplied)

However, she still made sure there was plenty of time for fun with the kids, and rather than venturing to soft play, as a family they went to festivals.

‘All of my children went to their first festivals before their first birthdays’ she says. ‘In fact, Henry was only six weeks old when he attended his first one. We’ve been on holidays abroad with them before their first birthdays, we eat out, we go to friends’ houses and every year I personally arrange a festival for over 70 friends in a local field.’

The idea might fill some parents with the fear, but Hannah says to trick to these things is getting kids used to different environments and experiences ‘early as possible.’

‘If you always have lots of visitors, they need to come to work with you, you travel lots, go on long journeys or whatever it is you want to do, then do it as soon as you can,’ she says. ‘If it is normal for your baby then it won’t be difficult.

‘Like anything, practice makes perfect and once normalised it’ll be so much easier to do the things you love with your baby. Anything from camping to being transferred to their cot from the car after dinner is all normal for our babies so they have adapted and don’t make a fuss. It’s only new things babies find hard.’

But surely there’s been times when the babies have cried and stressed her out? Or times she felt like staying home because the juggle was too much?

‘Not really,’ she admits. ‘Even if everything goes completely wrong, what’s the worst that can happen? You need to leave the restaurant and ask for a take away box, you need to go back to your tent and have some quiet time with the baby, or you need to go back to the hotel room.

‘I actually can’t ever remember having to do any of these things, but I always reminded myself ‘what’s the best that can happen? Fun.’

Festivals are normal for Ella (Picture: Supplied)

Hannah also doesn’t believe in stressing about sleep schedules and says thanks to her work as a sleep trainer, her children have been able to sleep independently from being newborns.

‘We have never been strict on bedtimes,’ she adds. ‘We often go out in the evening to friends’ houses, and when the kids were little we’d take them out for dinner and let them fall asleep in the pram.

‘When we’re on holiday they’ll be up until 10 o’clock at night and we’ve never prioritised bed times over fun, unless it’s school the next day. I see people missing out on parties, holidays, family meals and so many other things because it’s nap or bedtime – that’s never been us.’

As well as raving and travelling, Hannah’s family also lived in a caravan for seven months while they renovated their house, and this Christmas they’re off to Vietnam for three weeks. Her husband Daryl has recently given up a job working for XBox in order to join her sleep consultancy business, which will give him more time with the family, too.

‘As a family we are always busy, I am the chief organiser in a very large friendship group. I’ve had the same group of friends for over 30 years and I am constantly arranging new things and experiences,’ Hannah says.

‘Although Daryl isn’t as sociable as me, we do agree on the fundamental beliefs of how we parent including our values, how we discipline the children, where they sleep, nutrition and food choices, where we want them to go to school and what kind of lives we want for them. He does sometimes have to reign me in when I am contemplating booking the third holiday or festival of the summer, so that’s when we do have to compromise.

‘But, when it comes to our lifestyles, we haven’t had to compromise. We lead the same lifestyles as we did pre-kids and do the same things we love.

‘If you asked any of our children what their favourite memories are, it’ll always be festivals, camping, holidays, travelling, fancy dress and big sleepovers. Ask me and I’ll give exactly the same answer too. How special is that?’

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