You can’t have a rainbow without a little rain

I used to be a people pleaser, scared to upset anyone and afraid of confrontation. I was a yes person, always spreading myself so thinly that I was virtually see through.

Then I had children but still I continued in the same way.

There is one of those sayings that gets frequently shared around social media “we expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work”. Never has there been a more relevant saying for the way I was living my life. But frequent followers of the blog or Instagram will know that it massively backfired on me and I ended up having a breakdown and suffering huge panic attacks.

So, 15 months ago I left my career and took a family friendly job at the council which allowed me to take my kids to school and leave at 2.30 to pick them up again. The aim was to allow me to still work but also have the time and energy to be the parent I wanted to be. Perfect it seemed, but there was one teeny tiny problem. It turned out that taking my career away from me was equivalent to removing my left arm. I was still a functioning person but I had lost an important part of myself.

I had found myself in an altogether different but equallydifficult situation. I wanted to work because it was important to my self-esteem.But the career I had, and ultimately wanted back, didn’t work around my family.My husband’s job allows me to work part time and term time but doesn’t allowfor any support with regular child care throughout the week. He can’t commit totaking the children to school regularly or being available for any kind of pickup. Child care wise we have two options – me or after school club. The kind ofjob I wanted didn’t allow for school pick-ups in the middle of the day. The sector(charity and third) that I wanted to work in didn’t pay enough to justify wraparound care costs for 2 children. So, the only option seemed to be stayingwhere I was at the council and sacrificing my job satisfaction and my happinessfor now.

I kept telling myself that it wouldn’t be forever as I lookedat and discarded hundreds of job adverts that simply didn’t work for my familysituation. The children would get older and more independent and then I wouldhave more flexibility and freedom I told myself whilst I mentally worked outhow many more years it would be until my now 4-year-old would be able to takehimself to and from school. It won’t be too long and they won’t need me as muchI would say which in itself was both a devastating thought and also the onlything that was keeping me sane. But I didn’t want to wish my children’s livesaway because I was so miserable at work so I continued manically trawling the jobsites trying every combination of words in the search engine that might producethe perfect solution to my battle between career and family.

And then, lo and behold, I happened across not one but twojobs that seemed to offer the solution. I hastily sent in my applications andkept everything crossed. I was asked to interview for both jobs. I was asked tointerview for both jobs on the same day!! And what a day it was, both interviewswere very taxing and exhausting but both interviews energised me and started togive me hope and a sense of purpose.

Without wanting to blow my own trumpet too much, I was eventuallyoffered both jobs as well. It wasn’t going to be possible to take both and bothhad compromises that I hadn’t bargained for. Neither role could offer me whatmy current job did in terms of family flexibility but both allowed me back into the realms of my previous career and gave me hope that I didn’t have to giveit all up for the next 10 years.

Old me would have accepted either of the jobs as they were offered and tried to shoe horn my life and family around that job. The likely outcome being resentment and compromise reminiscent of my pre-breakdown life and we all know how that ended. But I am not old me anymore, I am a new me. A previously broken, still slightly damaged but ultimately stronger new me. I have insight, I have perspective and I have a better grasp on my priorities. New me has also discovered #flex appeal and the epic work done by @motherpukka and @papapukka. I have followed for a while as they have talked about flexible and family friendly working. I have seen people share their experiences of making requests for better working hours and although I didn’t realise it at the time, I had been subliminally absorbing it all and storing it in my brain for future use.

So, I asked the first job to allow me to start work later soI wouldn’t need to put my children in breakfast club three times a week as wellas after school club until 6. They declined because it didn’t work for the restof the team. So I had to decide was that a compromise worth making just so I couldleave my current job which was making me miserable? Turns out it was, along witha couple of other negative points so I said NO. Me!! The people pleaser, theone who never says no to anyone (apart from my kids) for fear of upsettingthem, me who hates compromise (and talking on the telephone) actually phonedthem up and said no thank you. I possibly felt more empowered than I ever hadbefore just because I had been strong enough to decline a job.

Then there was the second job. This was a difficult one, the job I had applied for was not term time (which was my main priority) but was 50% day time hours and 50% evening hours so the childcare in the holidays would have been a lot easier to manage. But this one threw me a gigantic curveball. This had been the most exciting and energising of the two interviews. I came out of there walking on air believing that I was on the cusp of exactly what I was looking for but also knowing that it had possibly the biggest of all compromises – not term time. They offered me a job, in fact they offered me far more job than I had applied for and indeed an opportunity of a life time. They were asking me how much I could do for them, they would give me whatever hours I wanted and complete flexibility about how those hours were worked. But the term time!! The lack of term time!! I knew I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t take on a huge role and have to deal with the school holiday spreadsheets and the stress again. So I made it very clear, I told them I couldn’t take any more than I had applied for because I didn’t want the school holiday juggle. I was completely honest and transparent about how much I wanted the job but that I couldn’t compromise on that area, I wouldn’t compromise on that area for the sake of my family.

You may not realise it at the time but the difficult path you are on may be leading you to somewhere much better.

That could have backfired on me terribly, but I was prepared for that. I have dealt with far more difficult things than walking away from another job and I was empowered from already doing it once that week even though I also knew that meant staying where I was. But they did what every organisation worth anything should do, they saw that what I was able to offer them was too valuable to lose so they offered me the hours I wanted on a term time only basis. Boom, there it was – the answer to everything. I have now been offered a job that allows me to take my children to school, pick them up, work from home, work flexibly and have the school holidays at home with my kids whilst doing a role that excites me and that will give me the sense of purpose, I have been lacking for the last 15 months. In return they will get the very best of me – my enthusiasm, my experience and my dedication.

Its been a rocky old road that I have been travelling but it turns out that it was exactly what I needed. Sometimes when you are in the depths of despair it can feel impossible and it can feel unfair but maybe it was what you needed to get you to somewhere better and brighter. After all you can’t have the rainbow without having the rain!

Is three really the magic number or just a crowd?

courtesy of bounty.com
beautiful baby feet make my heart skip a beat

This is a question I have been pondering for a while, and if you haven’t guessed what I am referring to – it’s the almighty decision about whether to have a third child or not?

For a long time I was adamantly sticking to two children because, as is so often pointed out to me (in case I hadn’t noticed), I have one of each and now I can stop! Which is true, but having children for me was never about having a daughter or a son in particular so I was never fussed anyway.

To context this, I have a 7-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy. They are two wonderful children who are my purpose in life, my inspiration and the greatest thing I have ever done (that and marrying their father). So why wouldn’t I want to do that again? Well..

By the time my youngest child finishes uni I will be about to turn 50, presupposing he a) goes to Uni, b) takes a conventional three-year course and c) doesn’t take a gap year!! But the point being that by the time I am turning 50 my children will not be children anymore and I will have the opportunity to fulfil the dreams and ambitions that are being stunted at the moment because my children are young and need me so much more. All whilst I’m still young enough to enjoy it.

Have another child now and I am adding at least another 5.5 years to that which still makes me young, but suddenly the sacrifices/benefits of having children relatively young are lost because I then had another baby in my thirties.

Thing is, I can see having another baby fitting in to my life. I want another baby – I want to be pregnant again, have scans, feel the baby kick – hell I even want to go through labour again. I want to meet my child for the first time ever, I want to give my son the chance to become a big brother. All those wonderful magical amazing experiences that come from having a baby.

But I am not sure if I want the third child?!? Madness really, because to have another baby means to have another child. But I don’t see a third child fitting in and the dynamics would change significantly. My son idolises my daughter, she in turn protects him and teaches him. They fight like cats and dogs as well but ultimately, they love each other and their bond is wonderful. Put a third child in there and someone is getting left out surely!! The age range would span nearly 9 years and I just don’t know how well that would work.

Also, I can tell you the times I definitely DON’T want a third child – Christmas, holidays and school shoe shopping time!! There is a definite financial implication to having another baby not least because I sold all my baby stuff to stop this very thing from happening.

Image courtesy of someecards.com
There are some days when I am adamant this is a bad idea.

I think this urge is also driven a bit from social media. I follow a number of people on Instagram who have recently had their third child and they have inspired me with advice around hypnobirthing, the fourth trimester and pulling up the drawbridge. I think part of my longing is to do with having a more idealistic birth and taking all the things I have learnt since my last baby and putting them in to practice with a new baby. With both of my children, I have regrets about either their birth or first year, all related to circumstances and nothing to do with them. But I do feel a bit like I want to do it again and do it so much better to repair the damage and to end on a high.

But actually, I am possibly mistaking wanting another baby for actually wanting to go back in time and do it all again but knowing what I know now. I would give anything to go back to being a first-time mum and there would be so so so much I would tell that me about what to do, what not to do and how to make the most of everything.

But another child won’t heal those wounds and wipe away those regrets, instead I need to make my peace with them somehow.

What is very true is that I am not the person I was back then in many ways, some positive and some negative. I now live with an anxiety disorder that I didn’t have nearly 8 years ago when I was first pregnant. I struggle with the stress in our lives now with just two children, chuck in a demanding baby and sleepless nights and I may lose the plot altogether. Besides, is it fair to the children to increase the stress in the house and stretch my resources even more thinly. They have been so amazing whilst I have been ill and I’m sure that at times it has impacted negatively on them despite my best intentions. So really do I not owe it to them to just continue to work on being in a place of calm and stability?

So many reasons not to do it, my head says it’s a definite no but my heart can’t quite decide. So perhaps ill just sit here looking at cute baby pictures and ponder some more until I’m too old anyway!! Besides my husband definitely doesn’t want a third so that does cause somewhat of a problem!?!?

It’s About Time I got some perspective

One of the positive effects of having a dog is the time gifted to you when out walking on your own. I personally use this time quite often to catch up on podcasts. The newest addition to my podcast library being @dollyalderton Love Stories and most recently I have listened to her fabulous discussion with Emma Freud about the greatest love stories of her life. In case you didn’t know, Emma Freud has been part of many film masterpieces including Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and the perhaps lesser known film About Time alongside Richard Curtis.

About Time (2013)

After listening to this particular episode, and being a lifelong devotee of the Richard Curtis film empire, I was eager to watch a film I had never so much as heard about before. This probably speaks more about me than them, but About Time is not one of the more famous of their films I would argue.

Anyway, that aside I settled down on Friday evening after convincing my reluctant husband that he really did want to watch a romantic movie and not something with more action and gore. He wasn’t so sure but I am a very convincing individual and I got my own way.

Well thank goodness I did, because this film is truly wonderful, inspiring and potentially life changing. If you haven’t watched it, and I strongly suggest that you do, I will provide a brief synopsis. The film centres around Tim (played by Domhnall Gleeson) and the relationships within his life and the impact that his ability to travel back in time plays on those relationships. I am sure there are more eloquent synopses out there but that gives you the gist.

Where this film excels itself over Curtis’ other offerings, and as I have already said I am a huge Richard Curtis fan so that is not a criticism, is that it’s main focus is not just the romantic relationships. But instead it focusses on the everyday relationships, the mundane and ordinary but truly amazing life changing relationships that we hopefully all will encounter at some point.

One of the most touching and inspiring relationships is that between Tim and his father (played by Bill Nighy). It is not big and showy filled with proclamations of love but instead it is deep, subtle and profound. A shared love and respect hinged on simply the time they spent together doing normal stuff.

The relationship between father and son is awe inspiring.

The family itself is aspirational and it is one of the main lessons that we have both said we will take from the film. The importance of having a strong family unit and quality time spent together. Family members who would do anything for each other and who’s bond is infinite and immense without being showy.

The time travel part is not something I would usually warm to, I am not renowned for being a fan of the sci-fi genre. But luckily this doesn’t follow the traditional suit and is actually a beautiful and necessary addition.

Not only is it the crux of the relationship between Tim and his father but it is the area that offers the most insight and the greatest lesson I have taken from the film. Tim and his father are able to travel back to times within their own lives and make changes to the way they do things and correct any mistakes. Although extremely useful for both, Tim actually offers some enlightening words towards the end that make you consider whether the ability to right wrongs is actually as appealing as you might think. He shares the insight after making the decision not to travel back anymore, about the importance of living life everyday as if you had travelled back to change it. The reality is that we can’t travel back in time so instead we must endeavour to not make the mistakes in life before we even could.

In real life this isn’t always going to be possible and actually some of the greatest life lessons can come from the mistakes we make along the way. But currently the ideas of mindfulness and living in the moment are the hot topics and this film added an alternative dimension to those theories. Live in the moment and try to make sure that moment is the one you would live if you had the ability to keep travelling back and change it.

So, we pledged to try and live with that mantra in mind. Yesterday we bundled in to the car and headed off for a fun afternoon of ice skating. We revelled in the quality family time spent together doing something new and fun. The children said it was the best day of their lives (don’t get too excited, this gets bandied around on a fairly regular basis), we laughed and laughed. It could have been a scene from a Christmas movie, definitely a comedy when I fell on my backside. It didn’t however come without the usual side helping of challenge, the kids most amazing day did not continue when mummy wanted to look around the garden centre afterwards. There was a liberal helping of miserable faces and mutterings of “its not fair” for good helping.

Living their best lives on the ice for the first time.

But let’s face it, we can’t realistically live like in the movies, no matter how mundane and real they are trying to be. But I am still going to take the lessons I can from this and adapt it to fit around my reality.

Families are difficult, they are tricky, filled with politics and complications no matter how strong the love. But it is my intention to make my family unit the strongest it can possibly be, to forge lasting relationships with my children that will form the backbone of their future relationships and that will be the beacon in their lives. The place of strength and stability that they can return to whilst they weather the inevitable storms that come from growing up. I will provide them with the opportunity to make lasting memories and I will overwhelm them with love. I will be there for them at all times with unwavering support and I will do everything within my power to give them a movie worthy family experience.

Life is difficult, it is tiring, challenging and filled with potential pot holes. Raising children is  both the most amazing experience and equally the hardest of challenges. Balancing that with work and real life is tough and the reality is that we won’t be able to live the movie life. For me, this is all combined with the challenges I face as I learn to live with and battle through anxiety and poor mental health.

But sometimes you need something that will pull you out of the rut that you have inevitably found yourself in. Make you realise that you might be talking the talk but are you actually walking the walk? It’s easy to harp on about self-care, mindfulness, seizing the moment etc but sometimes they are just words and actually if you looked closely you aren’t following those ideals to the extent that you think you are.

Meet my new best friend Mr Penguin.

This film was a bit of a wake up call for both me and my husband. We have both taken valuable lessons from it and I hope that we will be able to cling on to those things as time goes by and we get swept back in to the whirlwind of life. There is every possibility that you might watch the same thing and feel none of the things that we have, in fact if you read some of the reviews online there are some interesting and contradictory responses to the same film. But hopefully there is something out there that will capture your heart to the same extent.

I pledge here, in black and white, to make more effort to live my life as if I had travelled back in time to change it. But maybe with less ice skating, fun as it was you needed a small mortgage to fund just one hour.

Feel free to share any profound and life changing, films, books or podcasts that have had an impact on you to the same extent. I would love to hear them xx

There’s just no pleasing some people!!

Over the past few years I have noticed that I am becoming progressively less tolerant of noise. I am becoming the annoying old battleaxe always telling people (namely my kids and dog) to be quiet and calm down.

 
Its important at this point to note that at the time of writing this blog I was sat in a kids dance class listening to the baby shark song!! Never have I wanted silence so badly and I cant think what inspired this particular blog!!

 
I think the need for silence, or just quiet, is a direct result of the anxiety and mental health problems that I have been experiencing for the last few years. My reasoning behind this is that my head feels so full all the time. Full of all the things I have to do, full of all the things that are


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Photo courtesy of whisper.sh

worrying me, full of demands and full of anxiety. Consequently, there isn’t space for anything else so I can’t handle the additional noise and the demands. Continue reading There’s just no pleasing some people!!

Scream if you wanna go faster!! Parenting with anxiety

My current assessment of my mental health would see me taking on the role of tightrope walker!! Getting more proficient I must say but very conscious that one false move and I’ll be falling on my face in seconds.
Last week saw me wobble massively, the rope was swaying and the arms were waving trying to regain my balance before a fall. It was a struggle and I did definitely expect the fall to happen but I am pleased to report that my mental health core was strong enough to keep me upright.
Now the rope has stopped swaying, I am reflecting back on the week and trying to get an understanding of where I am at and how I managed to recover so quickly from what was the equivalent of being kicked aggressively in the stomach.
To quickly overview the situation, I unexpectedly came across an individual who played a significant role in my spiral in to the anxiety pit and that really knocked me. I found myself back where I was a year ago and I wasn’t prepared for that. All of a sudden, I was faced with emotions and feelings I hadn’t experienced for a while and I plummeted back to a dark place of overwhelming panic.
Compounding all of that was an overwhelming anger, one that I had clearly been suppressing for some time even though I thought it had moved on. I was angry for a very long time after my anxiety started – angry at myself, angry at the person who had triggered the whole thing, angry at the way it had been handled at work and generally angry at life!! Through counselling I battled that anger and although I didn’t mange to destroy it, I definitely maimed it so it was no longer a threat.
Turns out the anger wasn’t that badly injured, and all I needed was to be faced with the original anxiety trigger and it came flooding back.
BUT, and this is critical, I didn’t have weeks and months of extremely painful counselling to fall back in to that pit of anxiety again. That particular person has had more than enough of me, they have taken all they are going to get from me. Regrettably I let that person affect me far more than they had the right to do, and as a result they robbed my children of the mother I should have been to them last year. AND there in lies the reason that I didn’t fall as hard as I expected. One simple answer – my children.
Parenting with anxiety is beyond difficult at times. In my instance, I didn’t want to go out of the house and function. I didn’t want to speak to people yet I simultaneously didn’t want to be alone. I couldn’t cope with noise, pressure and demands on me – all things you have to deal with daily when you are a parent. I was snappy and irritable, it took everything I had to maintain a basic standard of living and that was utterly exhausting. Their physical needs were always always met but sometimes I fell short on meeting their emotional needs.

There is no mum guilt that I have experienced that is worse than the guilt I have felt over that time. See if you know my children, you will know that they are truly amazing, wonderful, loving, caring individuals who deserve the absolute best from life. I did the best I could given the situation, but it was not the best that they deserved. I have vowed to put my everything in to making up for that time, which is in itself immensely difficult when I still have very present anxiety issues.
So, last week I had to make a choice. By the time I was alone and able to process my response to the situation, I had approximately 33 minutes until the school run. So, I allowed myself 33 minutes to cry, freak out and then pull myself back together. Then I left for the school run and put my everything in to being normal (whatever the hell that is!!), I suppressed the panic, the tears and the urge to collapse in a heap on the floor. I functioned as a mother, inside I was still breaking and once they were in bed and asleep I did allow the release of that but I promised myself it would last for one day only. It didn’t, but my recovery was much quicker than I anticipated and I was able to function normally albeit more subdued than usual.
So, what have I learned in my year of parenting with anxiety? Well it’s a rollercoaster and a half that’s for sure. It’s not the kind of rollercoaster you want to go on either. It’s the kind where you spend the whole time with your eyes closed, slowly climbing up only to plummet down at speed fairly certain you are about to crash but then at the last minute it loses speed and you are on the flat again.
Being a parent whilst I have been suffering with anxiety has been both a blessing and a curse. My two wonderful children are what has kept me going all this time, I couldn’t get signed off sick from being their mother so I had to continue to function. I had to get up every day and leave the house, I had to socialise with people and participate in daily life when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball. There were days when I had zero motivation and energy to move but I had to find some from somewhere. Not was just not an option. But in having to continue as normal with the kids, it actually kept me mobile and upright. I could have easily succumbed to the clutches of anxiety, never leaving the house and shutting down all lines of communication and there is a chance my recovery would have been much slower and more painful. But that being said, there is a definite value in being able to curl up in a ball and recuperate. After all, if I had broken my leg, I wouldn’t have kept walking on it to get the kids to school, I would have asked for help. It really is a very fine line that we have to walk between allowing yourself time to heal and keeping mobile so you don’t seize up!
The hardest part of parenting with anxiety for me has been the intense feelings of guilt. I haven’t been the mother I wanted to be, the chances are that mother image I had was unachievable anyway but I feel I have fallen far short. They don’t always get the best version of me, and do they definitely get the brunt of my stresses  sometimes. Occasionally it is actually completely justified when they are in fact the cause of my stress, but often they have just been caught up in my anxiety whirlwind. I hope that the version of me I am now is better for them, I hope they don’t look back at me as the mean, shouty, crying mummy that I have been and instead see a better, calmer, more fun-loving mummy. That is the mummy I will aspire to be going forward. That may not always be achievable but I will remind myself of the wise words of my counsellor, just do the best you can in the situation and as I only ever ask my children to do their best, I shouldn’t ask more of myself than that.

A letter to my daughter…

As we lie here on your bed with your back turned to me because I have upset you, please know that I am here and I will always be here for you. Even when you do things that I don’t like and you behave in ways I wish you didn’t, I love you with every inch of my being and I will love you until I am no more.
You and your brother are all I have ever wanted for my life. My dream has always been to be a mother and nothing made me happier than when I had my first (and then subsequent second) positive pregnancy test. I couldn’t have wanted you both more. But my goodness, nobody can ever really prepare you for the job of motherhood. It is by far the most challenging thing I have ever done. The most rewarding also but by far the most difficult.
Like so many, I had expectations for what parenting would be like and what my children would grow to become. But like so many other areas of my life, the expectations were far too high and my critical side has always been quick to attack my parenting style. I feel I am not and never will be good enough. I often feel you deserve better but please know that I do my best each and every day.
Please also know that I am working very hard at addressing my insecurities and learning to love myself more. We both deserve that, we both deserve better. You (and your brother) have been my driving force to heal and become a better version of myself. My wish for you is that you become a strong, confident, kind, honourable, loving, young lady with bags of self esteem and a large heart. I must show you how to be all of those things therefore I must be all of those things. That is my obligation and my promise to you. As many will attest, I do not give up on a challenge and I see things through to the end. I have now made that promise in writing so there is no going back.
We haven’t always had the easiest of times, you have been by my side throughout numerous battles with mental health issues, both my own and those of our loved ones. I have tried to shield you from as much as possible but it is inevitable that you have been exposed to some of the stresses and strains that have come with dealing with mental illness. In a perfect world, this wouldn’t have been the case and you would have been beautifully protected in a bubble but alas life is not like that. Instead we must take our experiences and turn them in to something positive. Given that I am an adult and you are still a child, I will burden that responsibility until you are old enough for me to share my learning.
But in return I hope that you can take all that I am able to give you and all that you are and combine the two to become one truly awesome amazing and empowering woman. You don’t realise it yet but you have so much potential – you could literally be anything you want (except maybe queen but that’s not a definite no no). It is my hope that we can guide you in whatever direction you want to take and support you to become the best you can be. I hope that you will not struggle in the same way that I have, with feelings of inferiority, crushing self doubt, very little confidence and next to no self-esteem. I will do all that I can to stop that from happening.
But don’t ever underestimate the power you have. Take it and turn it in to something powerful and strong. Don’t ever use it to belittle or undermine someone else. It may not feel like it, but you could have the power to knock someone down to a place from which they will not rise. To use a quote which has been circulating social media of late – if you can be anything in this world just be kind.
I do not know what our future will hold, I do not know what the path looks like but I know that I will be with you every step of the way. I will guide you down the path and try to share my knowledge with you. We will battle the lows and rejoice in the highs. I will be the beacon of light that you need to keep you moving forward. That is quite the job role so I had best start working on my necessary skill set! But before I do I just want to say that as long as we are true to ourselves and have love by our side we can overcome anything together. That is my promise to you xx