It brings me to tears 

What is it that has me regularly fill up with tears? That has me carrying a feeling of dread around inside? That gets me so unbelievably full of rage, that then I’m crying?

The state of our public services.

I’ll be more specific and acknowledge that I’m talking about social care and education. I know there’s more, but quite frankly I’m struggling just with the ones I work in. I’m not sure my heart could take the NHS right now (no pun intended).

I did a mini video clip in the lead up to the election in which I stated my fears for children and young people. I wondered if I sounded a little mad at the time; suggesting that I am just waiting for a tragedy to strike, a child to die,  and feeling angry and helpless. 

I’m not mad, not in the crazy sense. I stand by what I said. I am watching these services be pulled apart from the inside out and from the bottom up and I can’t keep ranting away to my husband, or having a moment in my car. This needs to be spoken about, shouted about. 

I support children and families from a primary school in a disadvantaged area. This,  once upon a time, would have meant spending time making connections with parents, creating welcoming opportunities to get them involved in school life and meet one another. I would have put on some groups or classes to boost esteem or aid  skills. I’d spend hours with kids giving them the extra attention and care they needed to get on in school. I’d happily share my work and the information gleaned with services who needed to know. There would be some challenging families; ‘hard to reach’ or unsafe situations and they would be held by social care. We, at school,  would support their work.

Now? Our schools are becoming social services. Only we have no social workers and in fact very few staff who aren’t teaching all day in the classrooms. Staff in schools don’t generally come with expert knowledge of heavy drug use or serious mental health conditions or even what poverty can do to a home. As the family support worker my case load is not a significantly and frustratingly high number; it’s all of the pupils on roll (currently 288). I can not sit in my office and arrange meetings; our school building is (rightly) public and families and parents will appear at any point needing crisis help or demanding action or being abusive. Where once our role in safeguarding children from harm, was to support social care, it’s now an every day occurrence that I make what can feel like life/death decisions. I cannot go home, especially on a Friday, feeling comfortable. I will be thinking about the child who has been late to school by at least an hour every day for months, who is looking more and more dishevelled and is always hungry,  who’s only parent is a drug user. I know they are not ok, that they will face a weekend with their needs not being met,  but I can’t get help. It’s not a big enough problem or a complex enough problem or a desperate enough problem.

The reason for this? Cuts, cuts, cuts. We can not keep children safe, can not provide vulnerable parents with support, cannot teach children without: fully trained and supported humans. It’s fact. Computer systems can not do it. Students alone can not do it. Trained professionals but with a tripled work load and no hands on management can not do it. Having a few very well paid people at the top of a service but few, poorly paid on the ground won’t work. It isn’t working.

The worst of it? We’re beginning to fight each other. We’re all so stressed, so over worked with no resources, that we are turning on those who could help us the most. Social work managers are told to get through more cases with less workers and so social workers are closing cases almost as soon as they are open. Cases must be so severe to warrant social care involvement that social workers caseloads must feel like dealing with world war daily. This means theres a huge number of children in dire scenarios who don’t reach the threshold, but the only help open to them is voluntary and often, given the space the parents have reached already, they are not open to this. Equally most voluntary services, both council run and charity sector, are disappearing before my eyes. The result is overwhelmingly that schools are told to hold these issues, be the lead worker supporting these families. If a school is lucky enough to have a family or parent worker it will be a start , but my reality is that I’m holding more families with social care than ever before, for whom I must be ‘the eyes and ears’. And then, more worryingly, I have so many children that I am anxious about but, as one person I can’t possibly do the ground work needed to find the cause, to offer the help, to protect. I used to be able to rely on a network of support. As schools we could get children out of class  and offer a nurture group or some mentor time. These sessions may lead to disclosures of harm that would then get the help needed and most certainly these sessions would give the children confidence and security. But now schools must save, they must prioritise the money for the learning in the classrooms and all the additional holistic work is gone. 

And where does this leave the children? At best they will have adults who may be struggling but even without help from school they will access something. They will visit their GP, or attend a children’s centre, and someone will eventually help but it will probably be a long journey. 

At worst? Nothing will get better. These children will remain hungry or dirty or scared. They will hopefully come to  school some of the time and be cared for but will suffer in most part, in silence. They may open up with a supportive adult in a safe 1:1 space but no adult at school has the time anymore. And so they will present as ‘worrying but ok’ as they do not want to draw attention to the problem. But the message they are getting is ‘I’m not important enough to be helped’. And then, there we have, another generation growing up to be adults with no self confidence or worth. Or these children they will shout out kick out with their behaviours and the stressed school staff will feel frustrated and overstretched and rather than support these children will be excluded. Cut off from the community they so desperately need. And the message they receive is ‘I have to fight to survive and be noticed’ and worse still ‘the system doesn’t care about me’.

This is a bleak picture but I’m not exaggerating. And so we must shout about it, we must politicise ourselves and not assume someone else is fixing it. And we must fight from the inside. I myself have made complaints recently. This means challenging and reporting my fellow professionals. I don’t do this lightly; I know that they are feeling just as I am but, without shouting and shining a light on this mess, what will change?

I can not stop all harm happening to children. But I can not bear that harm may continue to happen,  because of a system failure. A system failure based on the basics of not funding enough professionals and their resources, to do the job that’s needed and the job they want to succeed at. That will be a crime that will bring me to tears and I’ve shed too many of them already.

The sinking feeling of loosing our home 

I share this picture of beautiful flowers because a friend gave them to me today. She felt I needed a reason to smile and I did. 

She had been with me having a cuppa and I don’t think I was really present. I’m not at the moment; easily distracted, vague in my commitments and definitely less giving. 
What else I see in this picture is family photos that sit on the mantelpiece in what has been my home. But now we have to leave. And I’m struggling with it. This has been an ongoing saga over the last month with our long term landlords surprising us with notice to leave. We are over the huge initial shock of it. I no longer burst into tears without warning. I am able to use the beloved garden again. We are for all intense and purposes getting on as normal. Except we’re not. This home has been tarnished and the remaining 5 weeks we have left feels rather like living in a strangers bedsit; a murkyness has fallen over it all. We just got back from holiday times at my parents and coming home felt like such a wrench because we knew we were coming home to house we must give up.

We’re on the last few days of holidays now and we have planned a street sale for Saturday. This means our dining room is piled high with stuff we want to get rid of. The rest of the house is a shithole. It’s like I just can’t be arsed to keep on top of things and yet the mess just adds to my feelings of sadness in this place.

I’m also feeling a sense of impending dread. It’s one thing to sort through some stuff to clear out but packing and moving?!!! What the actual…… how do I do that? Where do I begin? Come home from work every day and spend the evenings packing, use the weekends to start sorting and putting away bedding or working out what furniture will fit and what needs to go. I was proactively cleaning  (I AM a mum on a mission; it’s keeping me busy) a toy kitchen I hope to sell when the kids aren’t looking and I thought ‘oh god, where are we gonna keep the kids art stuff?!”. I realised so much of our stuff is going to be in boxes whilst we figure out it’s place in a new home. It made me feel tired just thinking about it. 

I think perhaps, this all sounds ludicrous; I mean we’re only moving house and we seem to have found a new house close by which makes us lucky ones. But I tell you, it’s been like having the rug ripped out from under you. We didn’t get warning or time and we haven’t chosen this. We are attempting to make the whole process exciting for the children when we’ve seen the new place once for 20 minutes and them not at all. They ask us how big their room will be or whether the garden will have space for toys and I don’t knwk. In fact all I can worry about is the total lack of storage compared to our current home and where the hell wvweuthing will go (hence the sale). 

And so today, my friend bought me flowers to cheer me up. She’s also my neighbour. It’s another sign for me of what we are saying goodbye to. Our wonderful street.

We are a  working family with 3 young kids. We don’t have parents on hand to help us. We have survived some of our hard times in parenthood with the love of a community we joined when we moved in on this street. And so it’s a wrench to be leaving them. We may well be moving round the corner but I think my husband and I know that this truly is an end to an era, one we didn’t intend on giving up. 

Still we have our street sale Saturday. We hope we will get rid of some of what we’ve gained over the last 7 years and that will ease the packing. The kids are excited and think they’ll earn whatever they sell. Hmmmmmmmmm. What I think we’ll get, is a day enjoying our lovely community and perhaps a chance, despite the purpose, to forget this whole dam moving bollocks. 

Precariously balanced

I have realised that I was already on the edge. I was balancing, and not comfortably, holding too much in my life, never quite feeling that I was on top of things. And it was too much. It means that now a challenge has come along I just can’t cope. 
I don’t recognise the person I am the last few days. I have cried so bloody much and even now the smallest thing will set me off. I find myself feeling rage at inappropriate moments and my mind cannot concentrate on anything. 

Today has accompanied me with a sick feeling in my stomach and a thumping in my chest. I haven’t eaten. I didn’t sleep last night. 

It’s a bit like someone has died.

If someone told me that the house they rented was being sold I would be sympathetic and would show sadness but I wouldn’t have thought this was how they felt. When women I have supported at work have had this very experience and I’ve provided them with the practical advice of notice and section 21’s it hasn’t occurred to me that they’d be so upset that they wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my help. 

Because it’s about loosing a home. And having no control. And being forced to make massive descisions that affect your families life. As a friend said last night ” shelter is one of our basic rights and it’s been swiped away from you”.

Now, I may be able to get over loosing my home that I have lovingly created for my family over 7 years, because, as a renter it’s always at the back of your mind (though that’s not strictly true. I currently can’t bring myself to look at the garden as it comes into bloom; the thought of all the care I’ve put in to it and now won’t see).

But, finding a new home, when the option is to stay close to where we have made a life for ourselves but not be able to afford it or move away from what we know: it feels like an impossible task.

Don’t even get me started on the issue with our society where by a family with 2 working parents cannot afford to rent, let alone buy.

I can’t even bring myself to think about the practicalities; actually moving house! I mean wow! Most people do this stressful life event because they’ve chosen too, because the place they are going to is even better. We have to do it out of the blue and begrudgingly and without a real plan.

Heartbreak has come from the children. The elder two know. In the first 24 hours we couldn’t hide our shock and upset. I am cross with myself for my uncontrollable tears infront of them because that’s not my style and it’s panicked them. One of them has cried a few times; she doesn’t want to loose her friends (who are neighbours) that she’s grown up with. She said “I just don’t think I can be happy now”.

The other has cried but quietly and to himself. He said “how is it fair that someone can just take our home away from us?” And then commented that “I don’t like it when you talk about because I just don’t want it to happen”.

The youngest doesn’t understand and is happily pointing at every door we pass and saying “I think we should live in that one”. In fact he requested that when we move we get house with a telly upstairs. He’s got his priorities sorted.

Tomorrow I go to view a house. Just 4 days ago we lived in our home and that was that. Now I have to go and decide whether another house that we cannot afford to pay for will make a good family home. It doesn’t seem real. I will be panicking about whether this house will throw up the same problem in a year or so. I will be worrying that I may make a snap decision based on the panic to house my children.

I feel like my life before was a seesaw and I was balanced precariously in the middle, often slipping one way or another, sometimes catching a glimpse of the view but now I’ve dropped down to the ground with noone at the other end and I haven’t got the strength to push myself up again.

I know at some point this will be over. I know that I’m still in shock. I hope that when it’s over I will take stock to try and ensure that life won’t get the better of of us like this again. I will strive for better balance.

Can we talk about money?

If we were to talk about money I might say; We don’t have enough.

 I believe that if I were to say this, some people may agree but I don’t think really understand what I meant by it. And I believe that others just wouldn’t believe me. But generally most people would seem quite uncomfortable at the subject and the comment. 
We don’t do talking about money do we? Well not in a personal sense anyway. We will protest the lack of funds to public services, we will admonish that families needing to use food banks is at an all time high but talking about how much money we do or don’t have personally is generally not done.
If I were to continue talking about money I would state; We are not as poor as many. Let’s be clear. 

Our children eat 3 meals a day and not from a food bank. We are paying our rent and bills each month and so do not have bailiffs knocking at the door. We have a car that (until it’s recent numerous problems) we could manage.

In many ways we are ok.

But in other ways?

Well, it’s a daily struggle. We work out how and when to do food shops to ensure we’ll fit enough in before each pay day. We have to shop at Aldi because it saves us so much. We recently tried to use some delivery shops to break the monotonous cycle of fitting the food shop in to the week but the cost was eye wateringly high.

We cannot do school lunches, however much pain packed lunches may cause in the mornings. With 2 of our kids at school we’d have to pay out £22 a week?! 

Whilst we manage to pay the bills and rent it is always a panic as to whether the money will be in the right place at the right time. This kind of panic is pretty hard to live through so often. 

We are in constant dread that our rent will increase or the car will need yet more work because we cannot see how we will cover it.

Our children do not struggle,I don’t think. They take part in many after school activities just like their peers because luckily their school has a great range of free clubs. We pay for swimming because its a life skill. Drama was a recent foray into something new. The kids were really eager and so we’ve given it a go but it’s a paying club and finding a spare £60 for a term was hard. I worry that’s as the kids get older they will want and need more that needs to be finanaced and I’m not sure how we can budget for that. So far we do not have to pay out pocket money but we’re probably not far off.

Our lack of money is the kind that despite me wanting to be generous, in reality it sees me calculating how much food is needed for the weeks meals/ packed lunches before trying subtly not to offer it out to friends and neighbours.

Our lack of money means that there is nothing spare, at all. Saving is an amusing joke. Our tv has been broken for the last 2 months. It can work, it’s just that it chooses when it will switch on. Sometimes it’s the first time but usually it’s 30 minutes of pressing the button and wiating. The kids have come up with a chant “we do believe In tv, we do, we do” in the hope it will make it work. It’s funny. But not always. 

Our lack of money means both of us working is not a choice, but a must.

We do spend. The kids and I love the charity shops. It’s a great way to shop, better for the environment and giving to good causes. 
We have to do a food shop each week and so we’ll make the most of it; we’ll pay a little extra to have ingredients so that the kids can bake. It provides a free activity and gives us sweet treats throughout the week that we don’t have to pay for.

Work can be hard. If you have a workplace then you will recognise the constant call to contribute to someone’s gift, to sponsor a good deed, to be part of an expensive night out. You find ways of avoiding these moments or risk looking like the ungiving individual. 

As a family we have always had 2 working parents. One of us part time to be around for the children. So I don’t believe we should be struggling quite so much. We have fallen into the growing bracket of families not being entitled to much help, despite the growing cost of living . And that cost of living is scarily high. I can recall 7 years ago living on very little and it being possible. I can still remember the cost of food and utility bills going up literally over night. 

Rent is now so high that we are priced out of our community. If our landlord were to sell or to choose to charge the new rent for the area we would not be able to live here. 
But, my biggest issue with having a lack of money is the lack we feel able to talk about it. I feel it’s rather like mental health. If we talked about it more, and with honesty, then we may break the stigma around poverty and it’s effects. The not talking is hard. It creates a real wall between people; friends and family included. When you can’t admit money restrictions it can lead to a defensive or anxious demeanour because you are preoccupied. It leads to feelings of anger or resentment against your loved ones. Hearing about random significant purchases can hurt. You carry around a personal sense of failure and as a parent, a sense of guilt.

Life can feel very unfair.

Because it shouldn’t be like this, should it? We should be able to live more comfortably than this.

We are incredibly lucky in many ways. We get holidays every year because we have family in both Sussex and Yorkshire who we can go and stay with and this doesn’t cost us anything more than petrol. 
We live in a long term rental with friends of friends as landlords, who just want to keep the house and don’t rent it as a money maker. This is the best any renter can hope for.

Our kids live in an incredible community that isn’t, as yet, a materialistic one. They don’t demand the latest gadgets or clothes and aren’t really aware of this side of the world. 

Another perk of our community is babysitting swaps so a night out can be considered. 

But again I return to the question; can we talk about money? I feel that if we could live in a time where being able to state “I can’t afford that plan for so and so’s birthday” or “yes, my kids get their clothes from charity shops” without apology or embarrassment then the world could begin to be a more equal place. More people would have a better understanding of the financial pressures on some, and we  would not feel so emotionally effected by financial struggles because it wouldn’t be a secret.
So here I am talking and I’m saying this:

We have less money than others (but more than some). We cannot afford to be spontaneous. But we’re ok. 

We work hard within our limitations. The state of the country and the rising cost of living is not our fault. Our way of life means our kids have a great idea about the value of money. 

What about you? 

Lets talk about periods.

So this is a post that has been floating round my mind for some time. Every time I hear women mentioning feeling pre-menstrual, commenting on medicating the side effects, or speaking out about their mental health I have added more thoughts. Then, the other night my eldest who’s ten asked to have one of our chats at bedtime and this one was all about periods. She’d been thinking about puberty and wanted to know more.

So far, when discussing periods with my daughter I have stuck to the facts of the physical; her womb will release eggs each month and when they are not fertilised the lining will shed itself and this is the blood that every women has every month for a bloody (ha ha, see what I did there?) long time. We’ve touched on the fact that sometimes there might be more blood than other times or  that her tummy might ache but nothing more. This alone bought the reaction: “So I’m gonna have these period thingy’s every month from like maybe 12 till I’m like old?, that’s rubbish!”. And it can be.

 But oh my god, there’s more to it than that right?! PMT and all its tear producing, rage inducing, despair. Where do I begin explaining that?

So I need to do this; get down my thoughts about Periods and perhaps more importantly; how they can effect us women more than the physical. What is the emotional  impact? and can this become,  or is it actually, a psychological effect; a mental health issue?

I think of myself as someone who has heavy periods. Ever since they started just when I turned 12 they were full on. The ‘oh great, how can I still be bleeding, its day 6’ kind of periods. I would dread the days of trying not to leak blood, dread any expectation to do activity in these days, and it would hurt. Horrid stomach cramping that needed pain relief.

But, I don’t think of myself as someone who struggled with PMT. Sure, I was a moody cow in my teens but actually I was from 10 and it never seemed to relate to my cycle.

It wasn’t until having babies that I encountered PMT. But it has definitely got worse with every baby I’ve had (that’s 3). I had grown used to this pattern that a week before my period I would encounter awful feelings of real rage. We joke about it, but really I felt at times I could have hurt people close to me (my husband). I couldn’t see that whatever they did to annoy me wasn’t the end of the world and any reasoning to calm myself just went. Or it would be a wave of utter despair and I would hate how I looked, feel incapable of doing everyday things, and had no self-confidence at all. Life would feel impossible. These feelings may only last 3 or 4 days but it was the closest I’ve ever come to feeling some of what my family with bipolar must experience. And even when its a few days and even if you’ve worked out its linked to your cycle, its scary.

I looked up Pre-Menstrual Tension. Side Effects include:

  • Irritability
  • Mood Swings
  • Crying
  • Poor Concentration
  • Aggression
  • Tiredness
  • Lack of confidence

Whilst I can absolutely recognise these emotional symptoms; it gets me wondering. When does an emotional impact become a psychological one? Because it seems to me that if we put the time frame aside for a minute, and if we remove the ‘having a period’ factor (so were a man, for instance) then crying uncontrollably , wanting to hurt someone and feeling a total lack of belief in oneself would be seen as more than tension.  Wouldn’t there be a question of mental wellbeing? Maybe a diagnosis of depression?

side effects of depression include:

  • Feeling tearful
  • Irritability
  • Low mood
  • low self esteem
  • Difficult to make decisions
  • Anxiety

Now I’m not I any way attempting to belittle depression or any mental health disorder. Far from it.  But I guess I’m asking if PMT and its more psychological emotional side effects need emphasising.

When reading round this over the last few days I learnt that PMS (what I’ve been calling PMT, purely because that’s what I grew up knowing it as) Pre-Menstrual Syndrome can in the extreme be labelled as Pre-Menstrual Dysphonic Disorder (PMDD). It affects 3-8% of women and is recognised as a mental health condition. The hormonal changes lead to the decrease of serotonin and therefore is recognisable as depression (rather than emotional side effects). I can only imagine the challenge of life if the natural monthly process of periods causes this mental torture. I also worry that if I, an educated and interested women, who has struggled ( a little) with PMS has never heard of this then what other women are in the dark?

So we do understand on  the bigger scale that hormonal events can trigger emotional instability and that this can lead to recognised mental health illnesses.We are getting better at recognising post natal depression.The 2 women before me, my mother and grandmother, have lived with Bipolar and these seemed in both to be triggered by child birth (post partum psychosis and the onset of deep depressions) and then menopause (a bipolar diagnosis after years of depressions). It could of course be argued that in some women there is a predisposition for mental illness and that a hormonal change would make the body that bit more unstable and therefore bring it to the foreground . But what about this smaller monthly event that causes our hormones to change. What are we prepared to acknowledge about that? I know that having babies ( a huge shift in hormones ) saw my PMT begin. But now, 10 years down the parenting road I’m done with having babies. I had my third and final baby 4 years ago. I’m 35 and not menopausal so why should I struggle with such monthly disturbances to my emotional well being and deem it ‘normal’, not give myself a break about it and allow society to belittle it.

Think abut the treatment offered to some women for their emotional effects of periods. How many of you have been offered the Pill?  When I was young it would be prescribed freely to reduce the physical effects of heavy periods, painful periods and even weight gain! But it seems now that if you are also talking about emotional challenges each month the Pill is offered then. Am I crazy or does treating the side effects of raging hormones with  more hormones seem, well, crazy? I’ve also read more than a few times that there is no good evidence that the Pill works for PMS. So why are we being prescribed it? I know women, who following taking the Pill to stabilise PMT see serious deterioration in their mental health. It feels that in order to chase away or mask these side effects of a natural process, we are inadvertently creating more issues.

I wonder if the answer to some of this leads us to think about PMT and recognise it for what it is. A exaggerated version of ourselves? Excusing the extreme situations and PMDD, when are bodies are getting ready for a period we know that our hormones are shifting and that this will effect our brain chemicals. But we are still us. What I mean to say is that, whilst some of our reactions may be more pronounced could we not say that our thoughts are still true to us. Yes, I may actually feel frustrated at my husband or down about myself. Maybe I should be thinking about acknowledging this rather than hiding it because its ‘just PMT’. My mother may take her low self esteem to an extreme when she’s in a depression but the depression doesn’t make her low self esteem un-true.

So much about our culture tells us to hide our periods. We should mask the impact of them by pretending, by taking medication, by stopping our periods all together. But I’m not sure that’s effective. We know that with depression (post natal or otherwise) that talking therapies are helpful. Just because PMT may only be for a few days doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the time to acknowledge both the period and the emotions that come with it. Perhaps a less bottled up approach to our thoughts and feelings more regularly would see a less emotional response each month?

I say all this as a women and mother of a daughter. Much of what I’m thinking leads me to more questions, more supposing. There are many women who will have a difference of opinion or far more knowledge. Lets get this conversation going. With women, girls and men.

What do I want my daughter to understand? I already talk to my children a lot about emotional health (with our family genetics, its just sensible). For example, I have explained that when they look at a screen too long their brain will begin to flood with cortisol which is a destructive brain chemical and that’s why they feel cross inside after 30 minutes on the ipad. So I could explain the changes the hormones have on the brain during periods, I could explain that she isn’t in fact going crazy, even if she feels like it. But I think I might then remind her that what she is thinking when going through PMT is just as important as any other time and rather than allowing  “its just your time of the month” comments, I will encourage her to let it out.

 

Finally. For some joy and laughter about Periods (which there should be more of) check this out:

Skit Box are an Australian comedy group. Check them out on YouTube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Its been a while (and how things have changed)

I haven’t written an entry for 3 years!

I cant remember if I decided to stop or if life simply got in the way. When I said its been 3 years, my husband pointed out that we were then, in the midst of sleep deprivation hell with a 3rd (and final) child. That might have affected my ability to form a coherent sentence.

I write today because this morning  a film aired on the BBC.’In the Family:Inheriting Mental Illness?’ is a short film looking at the genetics behind mental illness. My twin and I were part of it.

When getting involved in the film I re-visited this blog; I had thought about some questions the journalist asked and had wanted to give him an insight into me and my experiences. Once I started reading, I was shocked at how things have changed.

Whilst I can remember thinking a lot (possibly obsessively) about my mum, her bipolar, and how it affected me, I can’t quite believe how much I had to say on the matter. Or how important it was to me. Now, well, it’s just how it is and I feel like that’s OK.

Maybe I’m simply a mother who’s had 3 young children,  who’s gone back to work full time and so has had little time to think about anything more than the chaos of achieving each day.

I’m not sure what’s changed. Mum obviously still lives with Bipolar. I think that after 10 years of drug regimes failing she is finally seeing improvements in the levels of her moods. Whilst it’s far from what she deserves, her highs and lows are lessening and her mood meets more in the middle. She still cycles between highs & lows every few weeks but as her mood is more stable some semblance of continuity can happen. This has allowed us,as a family, to relax a little? Perhaps we got so exhausted by looking for triggers and then realising that nothing we did made any difference, we stopped preventing and started living?

Either way I live my life, I accept and doff my hat to the bipolar in my family but it no longer consumes me on a daily basis. Its quite refreshing to have this blog as proof of that.

Equally I feel ready to start writing again. This time perhaps with a wider view; about mental illness, about families, about keeping children emotionally happy.

(Or maybe my chaotic life has led me here; blogging for sanity?)

 

I am a working mum, working hard to be mum.

I am a working mum.

Over this lovely festive period I was sat on the sofa in my parents house and my middle child was sat next to me. Something amusing happened, I can’t recall but I must have laughed out loud. My son said “Mummy, I never hear you laugh”. It was a proper stab to my heart moment and I welled up. It still hurts thinking about it. I recall, in my shock, I started to explain myself to him and my reason  was along the lines of “well, I work, and its tiring and now I’m on holiday so I’m feeling relaxed and so I’m happy”.

WTF?! Is this really true? that working means I am so tired, distracted, busy that I have lost any sense of fun, silliness and laughter. That’s really sad. And not ok.

I am a working mum. Let me elaborate because there’s many variations.I am paid to work 33 hours a week, term time only.

I do get the benefits of the school holidays, blissful time with children every 7 weeks and no concerns with childcare when they are off school.

But I leave the house every day at 7am and do not get to prepare my kids for their day, I do not take them to school or Nursery, go to assemblies, dress them up for special occasions, decide if they are well enough when poorly, for school.

I do, by working only 33 hours get some flexibility in my week and have two days where I finish early so that I can collect my youngest from nursery, be his mummy and then see the big 2 when their day ends.

But this is only 2 days a week that I get to be mummy and collect from school or clubs, chat about what they’ve been up to before they sink into a tv coma (the state they are often in when I get home), feed them snacks and see other parents (my friends).

I do get the weekends with my children, pure family time without fail.

But working every day can leave me mentally tired  and I often crave some time to recuperate but feel insanely guilty for even having that thought and then take this stressful overthinking out on the children. Cue more mum guilt for being shitty. Or I bring work home  for the weekend.

I do get to be part of the adult world at work; chatting and making friends, having ideas, using my intellect, and being ‘Me’.

But this brings with it levels of responsibility and stress that is hard to carry and that doesn’t automatically go away when I return home to be mum. Working alongside child free adults or whose kids are older can leave me feeling misunderstood and like the odd one out at work. All of which adds to the overwhelming feeling that I don’t know who the real ‘Me’ is anymore.

I go to work in a permanent job and get paid a wage that I can rely on. So many don’t have this.

But it is not enough for us to live on (the holidays are great but I’m not paid for them). So we live with the daily worry that money won’t stretch to the costs of our family of 5.

I think that many who meet me believe that I have chosen my full time work set up.

When our family set up changed; my husband I and swapping roles (for many reasons) I genuinely believed that I would be ok. I was passionate that a child needs a parent at home when little but that it didn’t matter who, and this is true. Our youngest has flourished with his dad as his main carer and I think its wonderful that he’s had so much male influence from the start. But my god, its been soooooooooo bloody hard!

For the first year I found it physically painful to her about my children’s days, activities, milestones. It hurt my heart.

Whilst I thought that I’d more or less got over this pain (3 years in) I’m beginning to realise I’ve simply made my life all about trying to make up for it. My son’s comment made me evaluate me and how I am these days. I know that we are all more relaxed when on a break but I can see that during term time I really am not a happy mummy. I’m tired and distracted because I’m obsessively finding ways in my week to be mummy, to make myself feel better. This invariably means rushing around and overdoing in order to have it all. I will speed across town from work in my car (never sensible) in order to get to swimming lessons to watch, though I don’t need to,  because there dad is with them. Bringing work home in order to complete it so that I will get out of work on time the next day to do my precious pick up from nursery even though that means my family time at weekends see’s me working and not playing? (writing this makes me see the craziness of these decisions).

Kids Sunday football; snacks for them, caffeine for me and my work reading to catch up on

 

So what do I do? I do not want to be the mummy who doesn’t laugh or the wife who doesn’t smile or the friend who is never available. I do not want to feel that to succeed at work I must fail as mum. That’s not fair, on me or my children.

As part of this working mum life I question who ‘Me’is now. I also need to create a work/life balance. I can’t work less so  I’m trying to fit in more non-work stuff .

I joined an R n B choir. I  love it. I meet other adults; people I’m not linked to through parenting or work. We collaborate, we perform occasionally and singing is just good for the soul.

I took up running and plan to return after this holiday. Running offers me time away from everything, music on, and no one to talk to, its mentally freeing.The endorphins of course help my mental health and its feel so good to reclaim my body post 10 years of rearing children.

For the whole duration of my full time working life I have spent my Tuesday evenings stitching and bitching. I have 3 wonderful mum friends (the kind of mum friends who are my friends because we love each other and not because our kids get on) and we get together every week to ‘sew’ which sometimes see’s us creating, sometimes mending and sometimes drinking wine. For me, this time with these women has been life saving. Thank you Beauties.

And writing. Its an outlet for me and something that pre-children I did without thought and that got put on the back burner. Letting myself put my thoughts down somewhere, making them become something helps me to figure out ‘Me’.

By doing all this I think that I’m learning to let some stuff go, to be a little more open about not coping, to say to my husband ‘Help!’ and allowing him to be the supportive husband he can be. I think I’m doing my best to have it all even if having it all wasn’t my ideal.

I am a working mum who’s working hard to be (a good) mum. A mum who need’s to laugh more, with my children. And not just in the holidays. I’m gonna work on that this year.