It’s all about balance…being a parent and a teacher.

I have just read an article by @thosethatcan that advocates You can be a great teacher and a great parent. A year ago I would have argued wholeheartedly that she was wrong. Off work with stress and depression from my role of part time head of department in a secondary school, the combination of parent and teacher seemed to have sent me to breaking point.

After going back to work when my youngest child was 8 months old and also having a 3 year old; it wasn’t long before I was off work with stress. Juggling the work load and the extreme student expectations that leadership had, brought me to breaking point.

Depression returned. Self-harm hit me again with ferocity. Suicidal thoughts became reality. 6 months off work. Teaching truly seemed incompatible with parenthood.

Eventually I returned to work. Still very poorly but feeling like I needed to earn money to keep my family afloat. I didn’t think teaching and parenting was a long term option. It had made me seriously ill.

One year on and my thoughts have changed. I have returned to the same job. I haven’t had a day off with stress or depression in a year. I have managed to find a balance between my two loves being a parent and a teacher.

How have I done it?

  1. I have hold tight to the promise I made myself. My first priority are my own children. I want to enjoy them whilst they are young. Be with them. Treasure them. I don’t allow work to get in the way of that.
  2. My expectations of myself are lower. I’m not a perfectionist. I will try my hardest whilst at work. I plan good lessons, I interact with the students and I try to inspire them. However I have learnt to accept some things can’t get done. I have to say no more. I still believe I’m a great teacher without all the extra stuff.
  3. I care less about what others think. One of the things that made me so ill was the expectations of leadership for mine and student performance. Now my attitude has changed. I am content with the belief that I am doing the best I can for the students. My lesson observations are always outstanding. The students enjoy my lessons and want to learn. If I don’t pass these arbitrary targets set for my performance management then what’s the worst that’s going to happen? I know I’m a good teacher and I can’t do anymore or I will be ill again.
  4. At one time progression in my career was so important. Now nearly aged 35 I have been head of department of a core subject for ten years. I have come to terms with new goals. Right now career progression is not on the cards as I don’t have the time or the inclination. My children are my priority. This doesn’t mean you can’t be a parent and progress your career. It is just for me I have found out balance and wellness comes with being content in what you have.
  5. Rest! What you say parent and teacher when does that happen? I now make it happen. An occasional nap when my 2year old naps on my days off. Watching tv in the evenings instead of working all night. Tiredness makes me stressed and pushes the depression I suffer with out of control.

Now I am at the point where I am most of the time being a great teacher and a great parent. I have the balance right for me. I’m lucky my husband is a teacher too and he gets the stresses and the strains. We also have amazing holiday times when we are all together as a family.

I’m so glad I have found a way to manage. I love teaching and being a parent is my greatest achievement and brings the most joy. You can do both if you work out a way that works for you.

Sun, sand, sea and my mental health.

The last few days we have been away with friends. It has been a treasured time. It has helped myself and my husband relax. It felt like the change of scene was a magic wand.

Firstly the holiday was shared with friends who have boys a similar age to ours. That was so special. Seeing them play their games. Seeing them interact. Watching without always having to come up with the entertainment. Sharing in the pure joy of being away with your best friends.

Secondly being with fellow parents who share your ways with their children. Follow the same type of routines and patterns. New friends that are such good company. I feel relaxed in their presence. Lots of laughter and fun.

Thirdly the bank holiday weather was glorious for us. We spent three days at the beach. The four boys sparkled with complete joy. Playing in the sand. Making up their own games. In the sea pure excitement. The complete bursting fun of a two year old discovering the great time that can be had jumping in the waves. All four of the boys running in and out of the water with such energy.

My mental health really does go up and down like a yo-yo. But right now it’s up on a lovely level page. I feel content. The sun, sea, sand holiday has really settled my brain. It feels like the wind and sea has blown away my worries. It feels like seeing my children’s joy has planted the seed of happiness deep within my being. For now the holiday has lightened my spirits.

Turning arghhh into a positive

I have learnt a sign of my mental health taking a dip is a lack of patience for everything and everyone. It always starts with me snapping at my kids and my husband. They always get the brunt of it which I feel so guilty about.

This evening the snapping went to extremes. I felt like I had the shortest fuse ever. The tiniest things wound me up. I just wanted to shout and scream at everyone.

I have learnt that it is important to acknowledge that this happened. Being in denial just seems to make it spiral. Being honest with myself often seems to help catch it before it becomes more of a problem.

So here I am acknowledging it. I’m doing more than that. I’m sharing it here. It’s helping to articulate what happened. Rather than bottling it up inside.

Tonight I’m trying a new tact. For a long time now I have wanted to do more to share my story. Although I have extreme anxiety I like talking to groups of people. I know I’m odd. Ive decided to start planning a talk about mental health and my own experiences to share with teenagers and staff in schools.

I would like to turn my negatives into a positive for somebody. I am going to give this a shot. Try and get my creativity working on this. Distract my poorly brain for a little while.

If you have any ideas about what I should include please comment below.

What happened there…

Anxiety and depression are so fickle

They can come and go like the wind

A good day can turn into a bad

The norm can be turned upon it’s head.

Recently I’ve been in quite a good place,

Most of the time I’ve been quite level headed

Today in the main was no different

Positive lessons made me feel of value.

One tiny incident today changed it all

So weird it wasn’t even anything that would bother anyone else

I wasn’t even a major role player

A bystander that was affected by the events.

My past always seems to come back to haunt me,

Anything that reminds me of certain times

Bully me, torment me, churn me up,

Left to feel sick with anxiety.

I felt I could tumble into a panic attack

I felt like it was going to spiral into the depths again

Fear overtook me for a little while

Completely out of control with my emotions.

For once I was quick to open up,

Instead of burying it and letting it fester like normal

I was honest and shared how I felt

My husband was so kind in his response.

Cuddles, love, understanding

They really can make a difference

He reassured me I wasn’t silly

He settled my anxiety with love and empathy.

Good things.

Yesterday I woke up feeling pretty rubbish. My throat was so sore and it had bothered me all night so my sleep had been disturbed. I had to go to work, which is always hard on Friday after my midweek weekend (I don’t work Wednesday and Thursdays). But actually the day went really well.

1. My line manager showed understanding and compassion. She listened to what I was saying and responded with care.

2. When a job that I planned to do disappeared. I marked year 10 exam papers for two of my colleagues. It’s the way I like to be a head of department, leading by supporting whenever I can. It made me feel useful and valuable.

3. After school was the inaugural staff rounders game. We managed to get 12 members of staff together! To say I was nervous is an understatement. Throughout the day I thought about not doing it so many times. Anxiety of being with people I don’t usually mix socially with…sky high!

But I’m so glad I went. I enjoyed it all. I remembered why I always loved sport. Despite being over weight and lacking practice my sports woman of the year award that I gained when I was year 10 (at the same school where I now work) started to come back into play. Some of the skills were still there!

It was a buzz to play. Great people to be with and I can’t wait for next week.

4. I came home to three boys (one being my husband) very excited to see me. Cuddles and kisses galore-what a welcome. I then sat on the sofa and watched pj masks with each of my two youngest boys nestled into me either side and my big boy at the end of the sofa…Bliss.

5. Finally I went to counselling. I haven’t been for 3 weeks for various reasons and I had started to feel like I don’t need this. How wrong I was! The self harm has been awful in the last 3 weeks. It’s scaled up on so many levels and after talking to my counsellor I felt a great sense of relief when I realised this is probably due to the lack of counselling and talking through how I am feeling.

Ultimately my counsellor is the kindest, warmest person. She always makes me feel valuable, special and not at all ridiculous for how I am feeling. Last night again the trust I have built up here helped so much. I once again talked about things I have never shared with anyone. I started to break down doors that I hadn’t dared to open.

The day left me happy. I managed not to self harm at all last night. Good things really do need to be treasured.

Positive things…

I’ve had a good couple of weeks. From the depths of depression I have once again managed to find a way out. The ladder was there. The last week has been a positive one which is nice to share.

It started with my brother in law’s wedding last Saturday. A wedding not normally an event I look forward to because of the anxiety that lots of people causes me. But I had a lovely day. I was in a positive mood going into the day which helped but it was truly relaxing and enjoyable as well.

My boys made a huge difference, they were amazing. They made me smile and laugh. Both were kings of the dance floor! Also my husband’s family are so lovely. I am truly lucky. Thankfully they get me and there is never any pressure and people just make me feel at ease.

The working week then passed without much drama. Friday turned into a bonus day off where I managed to get loads of work done, the joys of motherhood. I was mid teaching period 1 when I received a phone call from my son’s nursery requesting someone pick him up immediately because he had been ill. Hence the day of tv and me managing to mark all my year 10 mock exam papers. I felt productive. I was pleased to have got that job out of the way.

Saturday and the normal events of swimming lessons and time in the garden on a gloriously hot day were great. Just the chilling out I needed. Saturday night a date night with some friends. A lovely curry. Great company and even a newly planned holiday for 3 weeks time!

Sunday involved an hours drive to Hemel Hempstead to pick up my 97 year old nan. She has had a bug. My grandad, who is also 97, has been in hospital with it as he has to manage dialysis 3 times a week as well. Bringing her back to Bedford for a few days break staying with my mum and dad. After that job was done my husband and I enjoyed some cinema time watching the new avengers whilst my mother in law babysat. Then an hour planting in the garden with the boys=Bliss.

Bank holiday Monday and once again we have been blessed with a beautifully hot sunny day. A bbq for my mum, dad and Nan. Time in the garden with my husband and the boys. Relaxed and fun.

I wanted to share how life with depression can be positive too. It takes it toll on me a lot of the time. There is no guarantee whether tomorrow will be a low or high day. But this last week has been a good one and sometimes it is about taking the positives when you can. Even trying to hold onto them when the depression curse strikes from no where.