The Mom talks with: Manou van der Schaft

Manou van der Schaft is mommy of two-year-old Olivia. She lives in Amsterdam together with her family. Next to motherhood, Manou is busy with teaching mathematics. This loving mom is always in for some playtime, but find it also very important to learn her daughter the values of life. We asked her how she experiences motherhood and which things were more easy or difficult than expected during the first two years. 

Describe yourself as a (new) mommy?
Before having Olivia, I was fortunate to become a so-called ‘cadeau-mama’ first. My boyfriend has two amazing children, Ruby and Justin. Although they were 11 and 15 at the time, not quite babies anymore, they did teach me a lot and helped me to be the mommy I am today. As a mommy I am fun, loving and a little crazy. Playtime does not mean Olivia is the only one in a Cinderella dress. But I can be strict as well. I am someone who likes structure and rules, a real mathematician, so I believe that is part of her upbringing too and part of the love I give. Besides being a mommy I am still the woman who loves to go out with friends and have a good time.

What do you like the most about being a mother?
The unconditional love and the way your child depends on you is the most beautiful feeling in the world. When Olivia wakes up in the morning and calls my name nothing else matters but her sparkling eyes and perfect smile. I also love that Olivia makes me experience everything all over again. She makes me feel happy about the smallest and most normal daily things I have never even thought about before.


What makes someone a good mother in your opinion?
Obviously someone who puts her child first no matter what and who makes time to do (fun) things together, even though there isn’t any. A good mother is someone who’s capable of putting her foot down when necessary as well as giving in.

How have you survived the first six months as a mother? What was more easy than expected and what was more difficult?
Besides my own uncertainty and doubts sometimes, it actually has not been difficult. I know that sounds crazy but after all the horror stories I have heard, it all seemed easy to me. Olivia was a sweet and happy baby and having a partner who has done it before calmed me down too. The more difficult stuff happens after the first six months. It’s her word against mine now, my parenting skills are being tested every day since she turned two. If I have to choose something I still struggle with every day, it’s the early mornings as I’m not a morning person. Can somebody tell me when children start sleeping in?


Who is your inspiration when it comes to parenting?

Even though I had a hard time with my own upbringing, my parents did a pretty good job. You take more after your parents than you think, so they are my inspiration now – being a mother myself. Alongside I have read ‘The Contented Little Baby Book’ by Gina Ford. A friend gave me the book and it has been a life saviour. I know that not everybody is a fan but it helped me to establish routines for Olivia and understand her natural sleeping rhythms. It really did make her a contented little baby.

Which celebrity mother do you admire the most? And for which reason(s)?
No one in particular. I admire all hard working mothers, famous or not.


What did you wanted to know from other mothers before you got pregnant?

Everything, literally everything. More specifically, I wanted to know everything about being pregnant and giving birth. 

How does your perfect day look like?
Sleep in late. And start the day with all five of us there. We have a nice family day outdoors. We get on our bikes and just ride around the city. We either go to the playground, the Vondelpark, Artis or maybe drive to the Amsterdamse Bos to feed the little goats. We brunch, we lunch and after that we eat some more. At night we have a nice dinner together and watch a movie after I put Olivia to bed with the biggest smile on her face.


How do you make sure that you stay rested?
I make sure that I rest or sleep whenever Olivia does. She still sleeps two hours during the day and that’s my me-time. But it’s not always easy to spend this time ‘Netflixing’ if you have a household to run too. Fortunately, Olivia’s big sister Ruby loves to spent as much time with her as possible and helps me a lot.

What is the ultimate me with my mini-me time?
I love the activities we do together during the week. We go swimming and have gym classes at The Little Gym every week. Afterwards we always go for coffee and croissants. These moments are so special to me because she is growing up way too fast.


How would your ultimate me-time look like?
I start the day with a training session at the gym. Then I have a pamper day at the hairdresser, the nail salon and do some serious shopping. In the afternoon I meet a friend for coffee and I finish my day with some more friends and a big glass of wine… or two!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I will still be teaching mathematics, because it’s something I love to do. But maybe I will cut down some hours to expend my tutoring business. Family-wise I do not see a lot of change. I would like to move before Olivia starts school but other than that I am happy with the way things are.


What is your number one tip for other mothers?
Be consistent in the way you want to raise your child. Do not let all the different opinions get to you. Your child needs to know your rules and boundaries, not those of everyone else. But most of all, have fun and trust yourself!

Do you have any wishes for the future?
It’s a cliché, but a happy and healthy family is all that matters. I hope Olivia grows up being the best version of herself and we all live happily ever after with our beautiful combined family.


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Joelle Leons

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