As a Mum who chose to give up work to look after my three young children, I can proclaim with certainty that it has been a mixed bag of experiences. I can say that it has been wonderful to spend so much time with them, enjoy the perks of mornings with nowhere to rush off to until they began school, and being there for all their milestones. It has been a lucky privilege to savour these early days that pass too quickly. I particularly realise how fortunate I was to have been in the position to make the choice as to whether I would remain in work at all. Because we had the stability for me to do so, I decided that staying at home was what I wanted to do and what we felt was right for our family at that particular time. What I did not account for was that there would be a negative consequence for me doing so. Something that had not occurred to me at all. I would lose a tremendous amount of confidence. It was something that I would not notice for a long time.
I felt quite happy with my situation. Being at home with them was wonderful. Of course being at home all the time had its difficult points, and at times I felt that I would go crazy. But after my eldest two children had started school, and with my youngest approaching nursery age, I began to review my situation. I would attend school events and parent meetings, and something began to move inside me. Not only did I enjoy the new activities and schedules that school life brought to my day, but as a teacher myself, schools were familiar ground to me. I enjoyed the fact that my previous experience would be an aid to my family as they embarked on their journey in the world of education. Then I felt a fire stir within me. As I watched the teachers, I was almost surprised to remember that I used to be able to do what they were doing. After a while, I began to feel some ambition and I began to think about starting work again.
I started looking at options and felt that supply teaching would work really well for us. It was flexible and the money was good. I applied to a couple of agencies. I didn’t hear backfrom some of them. One contacted me after a couple of weeks. They told me (incorrectly) that because of the amount of time that I taken out, I would no longer be able to teach. I was shocked, and afraid that I had become an old and redundant specimen that would have to start from scratch. However, a week later I heard from an agency I had forgotten all about.
I was surprised to hear that after I attend an interview for processing purposes I would be ready to work. I felt excited and liberated, inevitably with a little apprehension. The meeting went well. They liked me (surprisingly) and made comments about my calming demeanour (I do have the ability to cover up nerves, which I feel keenly).
I began sporadic work. I was nervous but had a few good first experiences. I felt a little unsure of what I was doing, but on the whole I felt excited by my new prospects. However, after a few more work days, and a couple of moody and superior TA’s (generally they are wonderful), my confidence began to get weaker rather than stronger. The more I had to do, the more I felt I didn’t know what I was doing. So much had changed, and I am easily unnerved, and being self-deprecating is something that comes naturally to me. I felt like that animal in headlights. I over analysed the little mistakes I made and they were magnified in my mind, totally pushing out anything positive that may have happened (which of course I wouldn’t have noticed anyway). I became fearful to phone calls from my consultant and started to avoid her. I would sit crying on the bed before work, and holding back the tears during work. My performance, while not perfect, was probably not as bad as it was in my mind. Even when some lovely TA’s would complement me by saying they ‘couldn’t believe I had taken any time off because it didn’t show’, I couldn’t hear them; my negativity was drowning it all out. I was becoming phobic to teaching.
The fact is, I had underestimated the effect that my time at home had had on me. To a certain extent, I had been totally oblivious to it. The hard truth was, that for a person that has always been introverted and struggled with self- doubt and a lack of confidence, being at home had made this even worse. I felt in so many ways that I was more social and confident than ever before, which was true. But put me into a new and unfamiliar setting, where I feel judged and unsure, that was totally different. I wasn’t sure if teaching was right for me now, if it ever was, or maybe I just needed to do something more permanent to gain some ground.
Naturally, it caused me to reflect. I thought back to what made me choose to be a teacher. I had done my degree in Theology, travelled to America, worked as an office administrator back here, and decided I wanted a sturdy career. Teaching seemed like a good one and relatively quick with only a year’s extra training, plus my sister had done it, so exposure was in my favour. Inspiring isn’t it! But even further back than that, I reflected on other important decisions. I know I chose the wrong a-levels and degree. My passions were English, Drama, Photography and Media, but the biggest was Music. Thanks to a creepy and unpleasant teacher, I was put off doing Music A-level. I didn’t do drama despite great grades (I do not recall why). I did English Literature, but gave up due to laziness for which I could now kick myself. I did Media Studies which I loved, and R.E. I stupidly chose to do an R.E degree over Media. Again, my sister did it. Do you see a pattern?
I thought about these passions of mine and they were reborn. I felt alive and excited, remembering how much these things meant to me. Somehow, whilst having a wonderful yet challenging time at home with my children, I seemed to have lost myself. Perhaps rightly so, but I felt the need to restore who I once was, or even mould myself into something new; perhaps into what I should have made myself into all those years ago. I need something more for myself. Ultimately I feel a happy and fulfilled Mummy will by consequence lead to happy and fulfilled children.
So, here I am. Presented with many options and ideas, fears and uncertainties, passions and ambitions. I am aware that so many of you lovely Mums are in the same boat and encountering similar emotions. And so I will document my journey, along with other tid bits in the form of a blog for a couple of reasons.
-An opportunity to develop my love for writing
-For self-exploration and discovery (I already find it extremely therapeutic)
-To help and encourage those of you who are going through a similar stage- we are all in it together!
I of course battle with myself, an introvert, and fear overexposing myself. However, I take courage. Since all of my passions are relatively exposing in nature, possibly why it has taken me so long to get around to any of them. I do not pretend to think anyone would actually be interested in listening to little old me, but if you do, I thank you, and hope we can meet this big wide world head on together.