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How to (Really)
be a Mother

Published in 2016

About the book

M        is for Maternal, Meticulous, and Making the best of it

O        is for On the Other hand, scrap that, I thought this would be more fun

T        is for This is not what I expected, Tearing hair out and Think again

H        is for Help, I must be doing this wrong, because…

E        is for Everyone else seems to be better at it than me

R        is for a Resounding Really? Read on…

Motherhood has never been so dissected, de-constructed and discussed. Now on baby number 3, Emily Hourican has started to wise up to the prettily-packaged ideals of perfection that mothers are drip-fed on a daily basis -- a rose-tinted concoction of Cath Kidston aprons, glowing Agas and fresh baked buns -- that none of us really has the ability to live up to. Among other things, Emily wonders:

When were we supposed to bake everything from scratch?When did Irish women stop being mammies and start becoming mummies? And most importantly,When did Motherhood become Mothershould?

Part memoir, part rant, part laugh-out-loud, How to (Really) be a Mother is ready to reclaim motherhood for modern mothers everywhere. Buy this book and say goodbye to guilt. Read it. Relax. Pour yourself another glass of wine. Then hand it to your sister.


"I have read innumerable other books trying to do the same job but this is really excellent: well done! A splendid book. If I get a chance to recommend it I shall take that chance..."
- Oliver James, psychologist and author of They F*** You Up and Affluenza.
"How To Really Be A Mother is hilarious. I identified with a lot. Wish you'd written it 14 years ago!"
- Rachel Allen, chef, author, mother of three
"A refreshingly honest book which gives an insight into the truth about real motherhood. This book is a must-read for those who want to have a better understanding of the obstacles that mothers face today."
- The Irish Independent, Reader's Corner

"An honest account of being a mother, and a rejection of the kinds of endless pressures that mother's find themselves subject to these days. A funny, witty and relatable must-read."
- Mums and Tots magazine

“Motherhood is a lifetime contract; this book will start you on the road.”
The Sunday Independent (Read the full review here)

“Emily Hourican is frighteningly honest about motherhood in her hilarious new book How to (Really) Be a Mother. Hourican approaches the very touchy subject of parenting with a humorous angle and mums will be able to relate to a lot of what is written.”
- ★★★★★
5/5 review at Mummy Pages! (Read the full review here)



There is no greater reality check than a baby. No matter how fabulous or dynamic you think you are, how expert in diplomacy, beguilement or client pitches, a baby will crash through all of it.

So much of what you will have been told about Having A Baby will turn out to be wrong. Unless you’re the kind of person who buys into Ponzi schemes or orders Miracle Cure-Alls from the internet, I doubt you will ever before have been intimately involved in such a process of disillusionment as the first year Post-Birth.

Its standard issue to equate giving birth with running a marathon. Except that marathon-runners are minded, cosseted, congratulated and told to take a good rest. Some of them even get a medal. Delivering a baby is simply the overture to the real hard work.

Parenting is a blood-sport, and yes it is the most important thing any of us will do, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also hilarious and absurd – something to be laughed at, mocked, pointed at, turned into funny anecdotes and passed around.


Your partner’s aspect, in the light of their relationship to Baby, becomes more heroic and magnificent. But also more infuriating. Their fumbling inability with tiny sleeves provokes the kind of furious response previously reserved for deep personal betrayals.


Motherhood is not all it’s racked up to be. This is not the fault of motherhood, it’s a question of false advertising. Motherhood has been wrested from the grasp of mothers, tinkered with, then sold back to us in new, prettified versions.

The lie the images all tell is that a new baby can be accommodated into your life as easily as popping a car seat into a 4x4. In fact, it’s more like getting another person into a single bed. Your old life has to budge up, make room, compromise hugely.

We have been sold a rubbish notion of what motherhood should look and feel like, transmitted via endless pretty pictures of an idealised domestic life. It’s not Motherhood anymore, its mothershould.


Breast-feeding is by far the best option for babies and small children. No one doubts or dispute this. But, it cannot make your child a genius or give them super-health. It cannot put men on the moon or solve the financial crisis. It does not prove that you are a better parent. It is only breast milk, not a magic potion or a magic bullet.


Guilt is like a parasite that lives on joy, burrowing into and contaminating it, and could well be the most consistent, if not the dominant, emotion of motherhood.

Our job as parents would be much easier if we followed our instincts. But we are way beyond our instincts on nearly everything now; we don’t even eat when we’re hungry. So instead of mothering out of a natural understanding of our children, we read books, watch programmes, draw up star charts, trying to crack the mysterious code that is childhood.

We all have the admirable, impossible, desire to see our children uncorrupted into adulthood – to encourage the best in them without infecting them with the worst of ourselves. Tragically, this is nearly impossible. They will pick up our insecurities and foibles just as surely as they will pick up colds and stomach bugs. But we need to trust that they will get a diluted form of these hang-ups, mediated by all the good things we give them as well.

Yummy Mummies

What is a Yummy Mummy? Simply put, it’s a woman who looks as if she has borrowed someone else’s child for a while and will soon be giving him or her back.

Post-baby, anything nice in your wardrobe doesn’t fit, anything that fits isn’t nice. I call it the Kaftan Conundrum.


Just do it. Think of a number, double it, do it. Don’t wait to be ‘in the mood’ because you may never be.

Parenting Styles

French or Asian? Really, it’s not a take-away. There are now as many ways to parent as there are variations of the flu virus, or styles of kitchen. The thing is though, we’re not a girl band. Why should we be forced into a system and given a bright little label?

Most of us have no ‘parenting system’; we are Random Mums – patient one day, ratty the next, sometimes calm, sometimes irritable; a collection of our good luck and bad mistakes.

The one simple, fundamental truth is that we all love our children and want to do our best by them.

In Praise of Other Mothers

The arrogance of young women is very appealing, but does not compare for quality with the matured kindness of a gown-up woman who has weathered her share of storms and heartache.

The bond with other mothers is forged in the experience we all share, of having our deepest wish – to be a good and happy mother – daily challenged by the very people we wish to be good and happy mothers to.

The daily failures (of temper, humour, calm, good sense) and daily resolves (to be better), are what unite us.

Once we have kids, we are all just one step away from shame and catastrophe. This is what stops us staring at the woman in the supermarket who’s child is having a spectacular tantrum. Her today, us tomorrow.


Life generally has better plans for us than we have for ourselves. It gives us unexpected paths that are far more interesting than what we hoped for.

Want to read more?
Buy how to really be a mother here