Having recently had a bit of a blogging low (my stats are worse this month than they were in the first month I ever blogged…oops!) I was thinking about how I could do a post to look back at this year, and then this morning the lovely @kateonthinice tagged me to join in with this one. She’d answered these questions very honestly on her own blog and invited others to do the same on their’s…perfect I thought!
And so here are my answers…
1. What was your happiest event?
Oh where to start…publishing my book, attending wonderful blogging conferences and meeting fantastic new friends, recovering from post natal depression for the third time, my youngest starting to walk (and finally sleep through the night!) So many wonderful and happy events have happened this year, many of which if you’d asked me if they were possible at the start of 2013 I would have rolled my head back and laughed out loud in sheer wonder. But for me…the happiest event of 2013 was undoubtedly our family holiday to France. It was for two blissful weeks, the weather was stunning and the holiday magical. It will stay with me forever and has given me hope that it will be the first of many family holidays and opportunities to make some lifelong memories.
2. What was the saddest thing to happen?
Thankfully I have been very blessed this year and our family hasn’t been touched by sadness. I have often been saddened by what has happened to others however – I really do wish that good things happened to good people. It all seems so unfair at times.
3. What was the most unlikely thing to happen that actually went ahead and did?
Do you know I can’t think of anything in particular! Maybe I’m one of those people who has had so much thrown at them over the years that I’ve learnt to always expect the unexpected?! I guess I would have to say the fact that I self published my book has to be included in here – when I wrote the poem at the beginning of the year I never dreamt it would be what it is now and I am so excited for what it holds in the future. If you’d told me last January that by the end of the year I’d be a self-published author I’d have desperately wished for that to be true. Determination can get you so very far at times.
4. Who let you down?
If I’m honest I feel like my work have let me down. I’ve been at my current school for ten years and am about to return to work in January after extended maternity leave. I’ve been off for nearly two years and am incredibly apprehensive (and reluctant) to return to work next year, and sadly no-one at work has really helped with this. I’m entitled to ten keeping in touch days yet – despite many efforts to have them – I’ve been given none. No-one can fully tell me what my role will be (I do know I’m not class based) and I’ve been told there isn’t actually anywhere for me to work. I’ve also been told, several times, that once I’m back it’ll be like I’ve never left and not to worry, but the reality is that I’m not back yet and I am worried. Colleagues haven’t been in touch as much as I thought and although I know everyone is busy (me included) I feel a bit let down and uneasy about it all. Unsurprisingly I’ve blogged about it, will be live on Friday 😉
5. Who supported you?
So many wonderful people, some of whom I’ve never even met. This year, especially at the beginning, I needed a lot of support. My best friend, who is still adopting the fake name of Cynthia on my blog, has been utterly amazing. She is a tremendous support and I genuinely do not know what on earth I would do without her, she is pure gold. My husband has also been brilliant, he bears the brunt of my irritations, frustrations and generally unreasonableness and yet he is still here and still understanding, empathetic and fantastically tolerant. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not perfect, but he’s pretty damn close!
I am so very lucky to have so many wonderful friends in real life, and some totally amazing friends in the virtual world too. So so so so many brilliant people have supported me and my book, ‘A Monster Ate My Mum.’ I cannot mention them all by name for fear of missing someone out, but you ALL know who you are. For all of the retweets, reviews, help with self publishing, commenting on my blog posts, buying my book, spreading the word and so much more – you are all AMAZING and I thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. And thank you forever to Helen Braid for the beautiful illustrations that brought the book to life.
6. Tell us what you learned.
I learned not to take everything so seriously.
I learned that accidents really can happen in the most unexpected simple of places, and to allow my children to be more adventurous instead of holding them back because of my own fears.
I’ve learnt that I am far more competitive and determined than I ever thought possible.
I’ve learnt to appreciate every little thing.
I’ve learnt not to put so much pressure on myself.
I’ve learnt that I am never going to be a size 10 again as life is too short and food is too good.
7. Tell us what made you laugh.
The beautiful and funny things my children have said.
Hilarious conversations during nights out with wonderful friends.
@Ladyemsy who never fails to make me smile.
Spending time with my mum, there is always at least one moment when we are both rolling around in laughter together.
8. Tell us the things that made you cry.
Reading about the tragic deaths of three women who were suffering from post natal depression.
Hitting the publish button and seeing my book became reality.
Watching my friends heart break and seeing her totally broken.
Reading many moving blog posts.
Watching The Time Traveller’s Wife. (seriously, I cried for like hours!)
9. Tell us three things your child or children did to make you feel proud.
1.) My middle child started school and embraced every second of it. A slightly nervous child, he was so tremendously brave and just went for it. During his first ever performance at the Harvest Festival I was proud he even made it onto the stage, even though he didn’t sing a single word. And then at the Christmas show when he sung at the top of his voice…smiling throughout the entire performance! Magic!
2.) Receiving wonderful feedback for my daughter’s teachers about her attitude and determination at school has made me incredibly proud. She may be challenging at home, but at school it seems she is thriving and the positive, fantastic reports keep coming.
3.) And the there is my youngest who is just awesome. Am proud of him settling into nursery and loving it. Am proud of him becoming a wonderfully social and amusing boy. Proud for all of the things he’s yet to experience and achieve for I know he will be cheeky and loveable all the way.
10. Tell us the things that made you proud of yourself.
Um have I mentioned that I self published a book this year? Or that I beat PND for the third time? It’s not often I’m proud of myself but I really am because of those two things. It’s restored a lot of faith in myself that I never knew I had!
11. Tell the challenges you overcame.
Being a mum to three children, and with a tween as one of them, is in itself a challenge….but it’s the kind of challenge I really love!
12. Tell us the things you would like to change about your life in 2014.
Um well I’d like to write many more books, maybe one on post natal depression for those suffering, or from the viewpoint of a father who has suffered, or about supporting those with PND. I’d also love to write more children’s books too, and my InstinctiveMum book…oh and so many more. In fairness I think it’s quite obvious that I’d really like to leave teaching and write…but I know I have a VERY long way to go before this can become a reality. That doesn’t mean it can’t though….
I’ve probably forgotten to include a million and one things that happened to me this year and am slightly worried that I can only think of four reasons as to why I laughed when I know there are many more…but there has been so much that has happened and who knows, I may remember some more and keep adding to this post over the next few days!
So…it’s over to you. Any blogger can have a go at this one if they fancy reflecting back on the year that was 2013.
Thank you to @kateonthinice for tagging me in! And for all of her tremendous support xx
Reluctance: unwillingness or disinclination to do something. “she sensed his reluctance to continue” synonyms: unwillingness, disinclination, lack of enthusiasm.
Urgh. Meh. Pah. Bleurch. On Monday, for the first time in nearly two years, I will return to work as a primary school teacher after my third (and final) maternity leave. A couple of weeks ago – feeling extremely nervous and apprehensive – I went into school to join in their Christmas lunch. And when I came home I wrote this…
Today I went into work for the first time in a very long time. And in January I return to work after nearly two years of extended maternity leave. How was it you ask? Strange, horrible, exciting, different.
For those of you who don’t know I’m a primary school teacher and have been for the last 14 years since I qualified. I’ve worked both as a supply (supply teacher of the month May 2003 I’ll have you know!) and then as a permanent member of staff in my current school since September 2003. During that time teaching, my school and myself have changed unrecognisably. It’s fair to say the current education system neither excites or motivates me – if I had Michael Gove’s job things would be done very differently, but sadly I don’t, and somehow have to fit back into a school and a system I’m not particularly enamoured with.
Now I’m not going to go into detail about my actual school, because let’s face it as a teacher I’m not entirely sure I should blog about work at all, but what I do want to write about is how I’m feeling about returning. This will be the third time I’ve returned from work after having a baby. The first time I was a single parent and my daughter was 18months old. Having had to defer my last year at university after my father had died I hadn’t had a full time job before I got pregnant, so being a supply teacher seemed like the perfect way to get back into teaching. And it was the right time. My daughter has always been very busy, inquisitive and sociable and (as my mum lived over two hours away so couldn’t help out) nursery seemed like the best choice. She settled in instantly which helped and I was excited to return to work. Supply teaching meant if I needed a day off I could easily have one, but it did mean no holidays as I worked in nursery school during the school holiday time, or there was I didn’t get paid. It worked well. Working three days a week gave me the best of both worlds and I loved being ‘me’ at work, something that was mine and defined me and I was good at. Then, when she was three, I had an opportunity to work permanently and full time. A choice I didn’t take lightly, but a regular income was too good to turn down.
Skip down the line a couple of years and I met my husband and became pregnant again. This time I was on maternity leave for just ten months, and at the end of it I was raring to get back to work. I thrived on the buzz, applied for and got a promotion whilst on maternity leave and loved it. Working three days again was brilliant and I still got to spend some wonderful time with my children when I wasn’t at work. I became an expert at compartmentalising things and when at home work did not cross my mind once.
And this time, well this time is different. This time is so very different. And I’m not sure why. Is it me? Is it work? Is it because of pnd? Or because I know I’m not having anymore children and going back to work is now forever until I retire…which will probably be when I’m one hundred and fifty if the government have anything to do with it. Although this maternity leave has been one of my most challenging – pnd really is a complete bitch – it has also been the most amazing time of my life. I knew I would want to take extended maternity leave when I first found out I was pregnant and applied for it straight away; and I’m so grateful we’ve (just about) been able to afford it. With my middle child starting school last September I knew that the long settling in period would be difficult to manage if I was working. My husband works away often and there is no family close by to help out and I didn’t want to rely on wrap around care immediately like I had to with my daughter. And now I’ve taken that extra magical, and wonderful time away from work it’s making it so much harder to go back. My life is pretty amazing at the moment. Yes I have a challenging pre-teen saying she hates me often, yes I have two wonderfully lively boys who never stop, and yes some days I am overwhelmed with the groundhogness of it all – but it really is simply perfect. I love being with my children, I love being able to blog, I love spending time with my friends who are mums themselves. And of course none of those things actually have to stop, but they will be impacted upon by work.
And work itself. I felt lonely today, which is ridiculous considering the staff are over 60 in number. It’s changed so much. I likened it earlier to some colleagues to the boiling frog analogy – and that those still there haven’t noticed the many changes because they have been subtle and over a period of time, like the frog not realising he’s getting too hot – and then there’s me, the frog thrown into the boiling water and screaming because it’s painful and shockingly different and not a pleasant place for me to be at all.
And then I stopped writing. So, Monday is the day and as you can probably guess I’m pretty reluctant. Hopefully once I’m back all of the people who have said, ‘It’ll be like you never left!’ will prove to have been right. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.
Do you work? How did you feel about going back…any magical words of advice for me?!
This Christmas and New Year, I am fortunate enough to be well. I am lucky that I can see the joy in Christmas and celebrate it with gusto. But for many, I know this may not be the case at all; just like it wasn’t for me last year when I was recovering from post natal depression. Christmas and New Year can be extremely difficult for people suffering with depression. It is not always a merry and happy time of year. It is often a very lonely and difficult period for everyone who is affected by the illness, and supporting someone through it can be – in its own way – as challenging as it is being the person who is ill.
Today I have the pleasure of hosting a moving post about just this…supporting others with PND. And in particular supporting others when you are suffering or have suffered yourself – for many of us who are recovering or have recovered are determined that no one should suffer like we have, because that thought is simply unbearable; you wouldn’t wish post natal depression on your worst enemy.
The post is from the lovely Pumping Mama who blogs, amongst other things, about her experiences of PND with raw honesty at thepumpingmama.wordpress.com. She’s recently blogged about Christmas, and describes it as a ‘two sided coin,’ one side where you are able to enjoy it, and another where you are suffocated by other’s Christmas cheer and possibly feel at your lowest point ever. The Pumping Mama is passionate about mothers not feeling alone, about us all supporting each other through talking, texting, and tweeting, giving hope and encouragement to each other. This post has verbalised many thoughts I’ve had when talking to others suffering from PND, for even though I’ve suffered my experiences may be very different to those of others. For me in particular, the last line says it all.
Supporting Others With PND
Do I make my reality theirs? The feelings they have, the things they’re suffering, may not be anything like my personal experience.
Do I tell them the gritty truth? Do I tell them that I don’t remember a lot of the first year of Moos life? Do I divulge to them that I still have bad days, even now, more than two years on?
Do I just listen? This isn’t about me now. Do I tell them that I can empathise, that I’ve been there, that it gets better?
No one tells you how to support others in life. Is this why we live in such a fractured society, often lacking in compassion for mental health issues? How do we learn how to love other human beings, to hold each other up, to comfort and nurture one another?
I don’t know the answers. I just know my experience, my reality, my journey, and what works for me. All I can do is hold a hand, make a cup of tea, and listen. I’m no expert on mental health, no degree backs up my support. But in the midst of a vastly lonely head space, someone simply walking alongside you is enough.
You can follow The Pumping Mama on Twitter @ThePumpingMama, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ThePumpingMama and her blog is http://www.thepumpingmama.wordpress.com
Disjointed: lacking a coherent sequence or connection.
You may or may not have noticed my lack of blog posting recently. It’s been a funny few weeks. Not necessarily in a bad way, but not entirely good either. I’ve had ups and downs, good days and bad – and have desperately been trying to promote my book by writing several guest blog posts which will hopefully be live soon. There’s been vomit and nativity plays and nights out with wonderful friends. There’s been a visit to Father Christmas and endless shopping and wrapping of presents. But what there hasn’t been for me, is festive cheer.
I’ve desperately been trying to get into the Christmas spirit – normally by now I’m totally Christmas crazy – yet this year it’s just not happening. And the reason, the painful truthful reason as to why I’m not in the festive spirit, is simply because this year, for the first time in twelve years, for the first time ever in her beautiful life, I will not be spending Christmas Day with my daughter. For she will be with her father, at her wish.
As many of you regular readers will know her father wasn’t exactly enamoured with the idea of becoming one at such a young age and he did pretty much everything in his power to make it not be true. And so for the first few years, when he was rather inconsistent in his presence, she was blissfully all mine at Christmas.
As a single parent, who’s father had passed away just two years previously, Christmas was always spent at my Mum’s house, where we carried on all of the wonderful Christmas traditions that had started during my childhood. It was wonderful, something I always looked forward to with immense excitement, and soon there came new traditions as we grew as a family and welcomed more people in. The phrase ‘all good things must come to an end,’ now springs to mind for after a long time of me trying to get her father regularly involved in her life – because even though I had formed a firm opinion of the type of man he was, I strongly believed she had the right to know him and make that decision for herself – we started alternating Christmases. He would have her from shortly after her school broke up until Christmas Eve, and then the next year he would have her until Christmas afternoon, when she was picked up on the way to my Mum’s.
This year, without either of us talking about it (our communication has been a bit crap of late) I assumed the same would be true. However my daughter’s father had other ideas which promptly placed her rather uncomfortably in the middle. Now I know at times she can be – along with every other twelve year old – quite a challenging human being, deep down behind all of the pre-teen hormonal rage she has a truly beautiful nature and hates upsetting people. She was torn and teary and it was horrible to see. So, in spite of everything I was thinking and feeling at the time (namely rage as her dad hadn’t been particularly friendly in the discussion) I handed the decision over to her and told her that I would support her 100% in whatever she chose. I reassured her that her Nanna and Uncle wouldn’t hate her, and neither for that matter would I. And – frighteningly quickly – she chose to go to her Dad’s.
I didn’t show her my hurt or upset, I didn’t voice my dismay all at her decision. I hugged her and told her I hoped she’d have a wonderful Christmas, and reassured her that yes, we’d do Christmas Day all over again for her on Boxing Day when she was to be collected. My husband and I then worked out our Christmas with the boys and my family (his mum and dad always come to us on Christmas Eve and prefer to spend Christmas Day at home just the two of them, so that was sorted!) and how and when we could pick her up on Boxing Day. All worked out. Daughter happy. Dad happy. Me…well you can imagine.
I hope you don’t think me trivial or indulgent for writing a blog post about my upset, because yes, it is just one day and I am incredibly fortunate in so many ways…yet for me without my daughter there, even for one day, Christmas simply will not be the same. There will be something missing. Part of me missing. Christmas undoubtedly becomes magical all over again once you have children, and that magic doesn’t stop when they become a pre-teen (she still wanted to see Father Christmas the other day) and it’s hard to know that for the first time I’m not going to be there to see it. And this will be the first of many, a new tradition now formed whereby every other year she is not here to celebrate with me, with us, with her brothers.
Since making the decision I can tell she’s still been torn. Whenever Christmas has been talked about I’ve also been incredibly torn – for if I say how excited I am she gets hurt and thinks I’m not going to miss her…and yet when I say it won’t be the same without her she gets equally upset and demands that I will be ok and have fun! Safe to say I’ve not been able to do right for doing wrong so to speak! No change from the norm there though really either – living with a pre-teen really can be a mine field!
So for now my job before she goes on Christmas Eve, is to embrace what time we will spend together over Christmas, and make it as magical and special as I can. I’m lucky I have my awesome husband and gorgeous boys to celebrate the day with and my heart goes out to others who are not so fortunate. For families come in all shapes and sizes and each have their own challenges to face.
And for us, I’m determined that Christmas this year will still be a magical one…just a little disjointed.
Another short but poignant #wednesdaywords today. I am loving all of the wonderful things that have been happening since I self-published, but promoting yourself is hard work! This quote, seen on Facebook earlier in the week, just summed it all up!