The Teaching Mum

A light-hearted look at parenting through the eyes of a very busy English Teacher.


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Motherhood: Destination Unknown

In my early years of teaching, I was very lucky to find myself working with a lovely young lady by the name of Stef.  Stef and I both eventually gained new jobs at different schools.  In the last five years, she has excelled in her profession, whereas I got knocked up – twice.  However, in June Stef is expecting her first baby.  We don’t see each other very often anymore because as you well know, life gets in the way.  But what I do know about Stef is that she is well known for her random acts of kindness.  Earlier this week, we had a little Whats App conversation about her impending motherhood and, as everyone does, she has a few worries about birth, feeding and what it’s like to be the mother of a new born. Therefore, this, my dear, is my random act of kindness to you.

No one else but yourself can prepare you for the birth of your child.  People can guide you and coach you, but no one knows your body, your physical and emotional state as well as you do.

Don’t think you’re not prepared.  Believe me, your body is prepared – don’t underestimate it.

Your birth will be unique to you and you simply have to listen to what your body is telling you.  This is what mine told me on the morning of the 29th October 2011 when I was 37 weeks and a day pregnant with my daughter:

My body, at 7am, told me I needed a wee.

“I think I have had ‘the show’,” I told Teaching Dad as I climbed back into bed for more sleep.

“What’s that?” he said.

“Erm, it’s a bit minging, but it’s also a sign to say that the baby might come soon,”

That’s when I felt it.  Something was about to explode and I needed a wee again.  I waddled to the loo and my waters broke just as I made it to the toilet.

“I think my waters have broken,” I called from the bathroom.

“Are you sure you haven’t just p*ssed yourself?” was the response.

I didn’t answer because I was really giddy.  I wasn’t frightened – I was excited.  I had packed my hospital bag a few days before and was good to go.  I thought I was prepared, but then again I had in my bag a pack of Bodyform sanitary towels.  So yes, my body was ready, but my common sense wasn’t!

Off to the hospital we went and once we arrived we were asked to wait.  My waters kept breaking over and over again, but I wasn’t in any pain and I decided to display this fact by standing and swinging my legs backwards and forwards one after the other. By the time the midwife arrived, my trousers were soaked through to my skin and I was slightly out of breath from trying to prove to my partner that being in labour was a piece of cake.

The midwife had clearly been moved by my performance as she sent us home.

She made a mistake.

She shouldn’t have sent me home and perhaps I should have been more assertive.  As soon as we stepped through the door, I started to feel a bit of pain and within half an hour, I was bent double.

We hotfooted it back to the hospital and was placed back on a bed where I was told not to push because I was still fully clothed.  I pushed anyway because when your body needs to push, you obey.

Forty-five minutes later, my daughter was born.

My Baby Girl


Hours passed and we remained in the birthing room as a new little family; it was lovely.  However, the time soon came for Teaching Dad to return home alone as my daughter and I were required to stay overnight.  Being left on your own in a hospital bed with your new born child can be quite daunting.  I was in a ward with three other women, all of whom had their curtains drawn tightly around their beds.  I felt incredibly alone and yet incredibly happy and in this oxymoronic state, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself.  I tried to sleep, but when it didn’t come, I simply waited for my girl to wake.  She didn’t feed after she was born, so she would be hungry.

Finally, she began to cry and the midwives came and tried to help me breastfeed, but I just couldn’t do it.  It wasn’t a complete failure; she managed to latch on for a few minutes on one side.  The anti-natal classes had lied to me.  This didn’t feel natural.  It felt uncomfortable and overwhelming, especially as I had two midwives grabbing me and contorting my boobs into ridiculous shapes in order for them to fit into the tiny mouth of a newborn.  Throughout this comedy of errors, I remained mostly silent when really I should have spoken up and told them that right there, in that moment, it wasn’t working for us and was there anything else we could try?  However, I just nodded and agreed with everything that I was told to do because I didn’t know any better.

Don’t be afraid to admit that you feel over-whelmed.  It doesn’t matter that you don’t know what to do right away.  You’ll get it.  We did, eventually.

I found breast-feeding my daughter very difficult in the first few weeks; it was also very lonely at times.  Pumping ‘liquid gold’ at 3am in the morning on an electric breast pump with nothing but the whirring sound of the machine can do that to you.  This situation I found myself in was my own doing.  I had told the midwives I wanted to breastfeed and they took this to mean that I wasn’t willing to try anything else.  Not true.  I would have tried anything, but how were they to know this if I didn’t speak up?  On my daughter’s first night on earth, she barely ate and the second night was pretty much the same as she slept for six hours without waking.  Piece of cake this mummying lark, I thought as I grabbed a few hours of sleep myself .  However, by the morning, I was soon told that this was because she was weak.  Throughout the night, I had heard other women struggling to feed and heard them being offered formula, but I was never asked.  I was too damn polite because I knew midwives were always so busy.

Eventually, formula was ‘forced’ upon us and I took it with open arms. Lo and behold, my daughter started drinking and once she found a bit of strength, she could latch on – but only to one boob.

In the weeks that followed, I had visits from some ladies who went by the name of ‘Little Angels’.  ‘Little Pains in the Ass’ would have been my name for them, but they were only trying to do their job, which was asking me to strip in my living room where they could grip my boobs and wrestle them into my daughter’s mouth.  I know they were meaning well, but I found it all achingly uncomfortable and by the end of the third week, I found myself ignoring their calls.

It all worked out, but for about four weeks it felt like torture – both physically and emotionally.  Teaching Dad didn’t really offer much support.  He had seen me shoot a baby out in less than an hour and he didn’t understand how breast-feeding could hurt more – but it did.  After a few fraught late night arguments about him thinking I was being over dramatic about the pain and me waking him to make formula (only for me to not use it and use my one raw breast because the guilt I felt at the thought of using formula was crippling), we found that we were balancing our relationship on a fine line and it was about to break.  Before this could happen though, we agreed to combination feed with both breast and formula and for six months that’s what we did and it worked.  It just took a turbulent few weeks for us to get there.

You want your baby to be happy and healthy and your baby needs you to be happy and healthy.  Fed is best – whether it be from a boob or bottle.

Things were a little different with my son.  I was a little older, a little wiser perhaps?

We had chosen the local mid-wife led unit for my birth and on the morning of the birth (one day before his due date) I had downed two cups of raspberry leaf tea and eaten a full pineapple because no way was this little blighter go over due, not when my last baby was only 6lb 10oz.  I wasn’t mentally prepared for anything much bigger emerging from down there.

I had started with a small back ache so decided to go for a walk.  And by walk, I mean drive in the car.  I called in at my local Natwest Bank and as I was standing in the queue wearing my ‘bang on trend’ black maternity leggings, I could feel water slowly creeping down my leg.  My waters were breaking right there in the bank.  Honestly, my first thoughts were not those of panic.  I was, once again, excited as, if everything went according to plan, by the end of the day our family would be complete.  Without any fuss, I paid in my money and left a trail of water behind me as I returned to the car, called Teaching Dad and drove home.

When we arrived at the mid-wife led unit, contractions were pulsing through me every few minutes.

“We might send you home for an hour,” my midwife said.

“You won’t,” I said. “Not again.  I’ll wait.  Can I get a cup of tea, please?”

There was no time for tea.  There was almost no time for her to get her surgical gloves on.

“Hang on a minute,” she cried as I began to push.

Twenty minutes later, my boy was born.

My Little Dude!


I was a bit more assertive that time around.  I never got my cuppa though, but I got a son, so I guess that will suffice.

With regards to feeding, this time I had come prepared.  I had bought a new born starter pack that came with tiny bottles of formula.  If my baby wouldn’t feed, then one of those bottles was going straight in his mouth.  I told the midwife this and she understood.

There must be something about boys and boobs though because no sooner was he placed on my chest on the evening of the 7th January 2015, he latched on and didn’t stop feeding until March 2016!  That was not in the plan!

I spent many a stressful night thinking about that.  Would people think I was weird for feeding him for so long?  How on earth would I ever get him to stop?  Would my boobs ever look like they did back in 2011?  But, there has to come a time when you stop stressing over small worries such as this and that time usually comes at 2.53am when you have woken for the millionth time to feed your baby.  By this time, you feel emotionally and physically drained and the only thing to do is to put the baby in your bed, lay down and snuggle alongside them.  Nuzzle in next to their head and take a deep breath inwards because their warm scent is addictive.

I suppose what I am trying to tell you is to trust your own body and listen to its needs and the rest will work out for itself.  Everyone around you on the day and in the weeks and months that follow will always have your best interests at heart, but no one knows what your heart wants more than you and that little life inside of you that has been listening to it beat with excitement for the last eight months.

You’re going to be a great Momma Bear! x

 


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Modern Life is Rubbish.

Born in January 1981, I was the epitome of the ‘eighties child’: white knee socks, a floral dress and a bowl cut or dirty knees, scraped hands and messy hair – there was no in-between.  My childhood was an extremely happy one, even more so when I met my best friends, Jenny and Linsey. United by the fact that we were, all three of us, only children and lived on a busy road away from the other children in our class, meant that we were each other’s siblings and became inseparable for those indispensable primary school years. My memories are filled with long summer evenings having water balloon fights, chasing each other ‘around the block’ on our bikes (Linsey always won because she had a mountain bike, which destroyed my racer bike and Jenny, well Jenny, she’d already climbed off her BMX half way around the circuit), or we would be zooming up and down my steep driveway on our skateboards, or selling broken bric-a-brac crap at the end of Jenny’s drive and genuinely being down right annoying to the loved up teenage couple who would meet on a wooden bench opposite my house and kiss like their lives depended on it.  Well, that’s how we remember it anyway.  We would play outside for hours and hours long into the twilight, venturing inside only for bathroom breaks and ice-pops.

Together we devised a brilliant – albeit lethal – game of ‘The Crystal Maze’ in my parent’s garage with my dad’s plumbing tools. The ‘crystal’ was often a large nail placed precariously on top of some ladders or in and amongst his levellers, screw-drivers and wrenches. Two of us would ‘create’ a task to complete (it often required one of us jumping in and out of ladder rungs or climbing on a decorating table) and if we didn’t acquire the ‘crystal’ in time then we would be ‘locked’ in the garage for twenty minutes whilst the other two buggered off to get another ice pop.

There were no ‘selfies’, no filters that made everything brighter and more pleasant to gaze at, no social media to boast on, no hash tags and certainly no #squadgoals.

Yep. I had a perm at nine.

It was a great time to be a child.

Netball in the early 90s. Linsey is the GD at the back. She was and still is notoriously camera shy. Me? Well, just look for the big fringe!

What made it so great was the contribution my parents made to, not only my happiness, but to my friends’ happiness, and also to the collective safety of us all.  They kept us at ‘arm’s length’ as it were.  However, I don’t mean this in the negative sense of the phrase.   We thought we were being let loose and running wild, but they could always see us either in a back garden, on a drive way or across the road over on the grass.  I was given strict curfews and I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere alone.  I can recall feeling embarrassed in my ‘tween’ years when I was given permission to go and ‘hang’ out in my local park, but only if I was home for 7pm – hours before it grew dark.  However, curfews and rules were respected and as I grew older and developed a penchant for rock music, I was given a little more freedom – freedom with invisible boundary lines, that is.

Gotta love a bowl cut.

My parents ‘parented’ me. They offered me compromises which gave me the independence to be my own person. They allowed me to go to rock concerts at the Town and Country Club in Leeds if they could drop me off and pick me up. They didn’t allow me go to night clubs in Wakefield.  They let me go shopping in Leeds on the bus with friends if I got myself a part-time job.  My mum even agreed to me ‘getting inked’ when I turned seventeen (those who know me, know I both love and hate my Green Day tattoo in equal measures) if I promised not to get it on my arm, ever get another one or dye my hair blue.  So I didn’t.

Yes, they ‘parented’ me. They didn’t over parent me.

Despite working full-time in a job that ensures I also spend at least one day of the weekend marking and planning lessons, I fear I over parent my children.  And by over-parenting, I do not mean that I spend too much time with them.  I don’t.  During the week, I don’t spend enough time with them at all and when I am reunited with them after work, I worry I am never truly in the moment as there are always breakfast dishes to wash, dirty clothes to wash, clean clothes to hang out and just general tidying up to be done after my two little whirlwinds have stormed the house. I very much doubt I am alone in feeling this way and it’s these worries – among others – why I think I am ‘over parenting’.  I don’t want the modern world to tarnish them and yet I want them have the same experiences I did when I was growing up; I want them to believe that they can achieve anything they want in life, but my desire to keep them safe and close can be quite overwhelming to them, myself and others.

Four years ago, we took the bigger mortgage on the nicer house on the private road and crippled ourselves financially in order that our children would live on a very quiet street because we want to keep them safe from speeding vehicles and passing strangers. We soon found that most of the people living on our street bought their houses off plan back in 1967, meaning that my son and daughter have no one to throw water balloons at and no one to race around the block with.

Nowadays, I have found that play dates are arranged with parents days in advance. In 1987, if I wanted to go play with Jenny, I would bound out of the house and run up the street to her house (with my mum patiently waiting for me at the bottom of our drive), I wouldn’t even knock on her door, I would just go right in and ask if she was ‘playing out’. These days, my house doors are always locked and if a youngster happened to knock on my door to ask if my daughter was ‘playing out’. I would ask them if their parents knew if they were out at this time alone, whether this little rendezvous had been pre-arranged and had I missed a note in her school bag?  I would probably also try to find the parents on Facebook just to, you know, check.

Erm, was this pre-arranged?

Prearranged playdates lead me nicely onto soft-play.  A place where I over parent that much, I take the joy out of going.  I visited one at Christmas and panic mode set in at least four times when I couldn’t see my two year old.  Other parents were sitting and enjoying a cup of coffee and a piece of cake while I was hanging from monkey bars and scaling cargo nets only to find that my son was seated happily in a ball pool eating someone else’s sock.  Only last week Jenny had to turn my chair away from the soft play area just to keep me from running in after my son, who could manoeuvre himself around the place like a professional after two minutes. But, there is always that niggling feeling of what if he fell off and landed funny on his neck or back?  What if another adult sneaked in and realised that they wanted a snotty nosed little boy for their own?  What if my son saw an open door and just made a run for it?

The thought of it all makes my stomach turn.

Sleeping has always been a bone of contention in our house.  From the moment we had our daughter over five years ago, it was decided for me that we wouldn’t allow her to ‘cry it out’.  So we co-slept.  We found that in order to save our own relationship (because 3am arguments over allowing your child to cry or not are heart-wrenching) and for our own sanity, our daughter would sleep in-between us.  Then our son came along three years later.

My son and I have co-slept for two years.  It has been a labour of love, but it has been a strain on the relationship I have with my partner.  The screaming arguments didn’t occur this time around as the silent pact was made that he would not ‘cry it out’.  However, now we’re like ships that pass in the night.  This, I feel, is over parenting at its best or at its worse, if you like. My children can’t put themselves to bed; it’s ridiculous and I am ashamed of myself.  My parents didn’t lay with me at five years old until I fell asleep and if I tried to sneak in between them in the night, I was swiftly deposited back into my own room.  However, there is something so wonderful and pleasing in knowing that I can pacify and soothe my children with only a kiss and a cuddle and watching your two year old slip peacefully back into the Land of Nod is something else, it really is.

My over parenting will mean that my children quickly learn that they are loved and cherished and that their parents will do everything in their powers to keep them protected.

But, what about their independence and their spirit?  They won’t find them laying next to their old mum lulling them back to sleep.

Daily, I tell my daughter that she can be whoever and whatever she wants to be, but what if I hold her back?  What if I just can’t bear to let her go?  We discuss the world and she knows that there are children out there, both near and a far, who would give anything to live in a nice, stable family like her own.

Right now, her world is perfect and yet she knows THE world is far from perfect.

I am going to have to try to learn to keep my children at an ‘arm’s length’ and ensure that those invisible boundaries are safely in place.  Because, there is nothing like experiencing childhood looking down from the tops of trees with dirty knees.

Life is better experienced when it’s in full colour and unfiltered, don’t you agree?

Hashtag No Filter…


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Next Time, Say NO to the Bike Ride.

Sunday began at 6am as I was woken simultaneously to church bells ringing and my two year old son sticking his fingers in my eyes whilst singing ‘Head Shoulders Knees and Toes’. ‘And so it begins’ I thought to myself as I was silently cursing the fact that I had told Teaching Dad that, yes, he was allowed to go out on his bike with his mates at 7.30am.

Ah, 7.30am. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that he goes out early, so he is home early to spend the rest of the day with his family. Well, you’d be wrong because as I write this now, at 6.05pm, the bugger still isn’t home.

But, at 6.30am Teaching Dad awoke and took the kids downstairs so I could go back to sleep for an hour. A whole hour! Thank you very much. I am wondering, did your halo slip a little while on your 11 hour bike ride?

At 8.30am I attempted to wash up the breakfast cutlery, but was unfortunately accosted by a five year old asking for ‘chicken crispies’. “It’s 8.30 in the morning”, I told her, but to no avail. Two bowls of ‘crispies’ later (because heaven forbid one child has something the other doesn’t) and it was time for me to wash my hair – the once weekly wash that tames my mane.

I began to run the bath around the same time that I started putting last night’s ironing away. I then decided to sort out the washing in the dryer and pair the socks.

We are clearly harbouring a sock munching monster in our house because what felt like an hour later, I was still pairing them and the bath, still running, had been long since forgotten. By the time I lowered myself into the water, it may have well have been the inner circle of hell because my skin pinked and steam filled the room. Adding to the painful bath was the fact that my two own little devils were standing over me watching and pointing out my numerous flaws as I washed and shampooed my hair. There is something so very disconcerting about your children standing over your bath even when Mr Matey bumbles are strategically placed over body parts and that Green Day tattoo on your stomach you stupidly got aged 17.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love my ridiculous tattoo, I just don’t want my daughter to get one in twelve years time.

At 10am the clouds parted and the heavens must have heard my whines as Granddad knocked on the door and took his beloved grandchildren for two hours whilst leaving me to clean the house and mark my Y9 assessments.

The house was silent. I breathed in and out, in and out. It was time to crack on with some work…

I put the TV on.

And made myself a cuppa.

And ate two chocolate biscuits.

Only then did the guilt kick in and I just couldn’t concentrate on the dodgy horror I had downloaded.

The niggling feeling wouldn’t leave me alone.  How dare I want some time to myself!  Therefore, the bathroom got cleaned, a few books were marked and bread was taken out of the freezer in preparation for lunch.  Despite being alone for over two hours, my one true companion – the TV – was only watched for twenty minutes.

Mum guilt + Teacher guilt = it’s a b*tch!

By 12.45, my children were returned to me and it was lunch time.

“I want a carrot sandwich!” my daughter demanded.
“Carrot?” I asked as I eyed up last night’s open bottle of Prosecco in the fridge. Would it be frowned upon to have a tipple at 1pm on a Sunday? I reached in for the bottle. “I don’t think people tend to eat carrot sandwiches. Is ham okay?”

She told me that it was. The sandwich was made along with tomatoes, crisps and, of course, carrots on the side. She ate absolutely everything but the sandwich. My son? Oh, he guzzled his sandwich like there was no tomorrow. In fact, he ran around the living room aiming chewed up pieces of ham and Warburton’s Toastie at the wall, at Chase and Ryder on the TV, at his sister and in my hand.

Damn it. I could have eaten that. I stupidly opted for scrambled egg because I had noticed we had two full egg cartons that expired in two days and as you can see by the way I parent my children, we don’t like to waste food. Once cooked however, the scrambled egg looked like it was floating in its own pool of urine, so I didn’t eat it.

Mmmm, lunch looks nice…


The food, almost in its entirety, was returned to the kitchen. Plates were set down next to the bottle of Prosecco that was warming nicely by the fish tank. I dared to give it a second glance before my daughter shouted to tell me that her brother had spilt Fanta all over the Sky box.  Oh dear God, not the Sky box. Without that, I am nothing.

The Fanta was wiped up, the Sky box was safe.  What next?  Entertain my ankle biters?  Unfortunately, no.  The laptop was opened, placed on the table in the room and I began creating some poetry resources for the department.

“Chocolate egg?”

“No.”

*type, type, type*

“Sweeties?”

“Nope.” *type, ignore tantrum, type, type*

“Come up?”

Goddamnit! Why is he so gosh darn cute? I lifted my boy up for a cuddle and he licked my cheek. He then stuck out his tongue and stuck it in my mouth that was wide open in sheer disgust at the fact that he had licked my cheek.

Gagging, I stood up and ran to the kitchen.

The 1pm bottle of Prosecco was still blocking the fish’s view of the microwave and Mr Potatohead’s missing arm, so I placed it back in the fridge making a mental note to treat myself to a glass after finishing my work.

I dashed back into the living room with a packet of chocolate eggs.

“Here! Take them all!” I said raining mini Kinder eggs onto my boy.”

*Type, type, type.*

Anything for a quiet life whilst I work. Admit that you love the Ugg slippers!


Suddenly, a crash sounded over by the TV and there was my daughter on the floor crying and holding her mouth. As if the sky was falling, she sprinted to me, jumped over her brother, who was knee deep in chocolate, landed on my knee and shoved her gums in my face.

“Is it geeebing?” she asked pulling down on her lip.

“Yes, there’s a little blood, but it’s fine.”

“Will it heel? Will it heel?” she asked through floods of tears.

“Yes, of course it will,” I assured her.

She jumped off me then, waded her way through Kinder chocolate and a river of five year old’s tears before clambering up on the sofa to look in the mirror.

“It’s heeled!” she rejoiced.

Bang!

She fell off the sofa.

“I’m okay!” she proclaimed.

Thank the Lord.

*Type, type, type.*

Finally, at 4.50pm I finished my work and my phone, that had been blasting out ‘Dave and Ava’ tunes to nobody in particular for the last hour, dinged and it was Teaching Dad telling me that he’d be home in an hour.

Bastard.

I would have to make dinner.

Out came the bottle of chilled Prosecco again and I felt much better about drinking it at 5pm as opposed to 1pm. Nine chicken nuggets, McCain oven chips and a Thai Green Curry (a microwave one from Tesco) later and I was just about to pour the Prosecco when…

“Daddy’s home!!” they shouted in unison.

Jumping up from their seats (well, the boy jumped up from his booster seat, clambered onto the table, jumped onto me and used me like a fire pole) and running towards the window, my children were chanting ‘Daddy!, Daddy!, Daddy!’  I opened the outside door and dazzling sunlight came spilling inside; it was glorious. It was also the only time I had stepped outside all day. A regular habit of mine, unfortunately, on a Sunday. No wonder I am on prescribed vitamin D tablets. All work and no play makes Teaching Mum a pale, washed out, knackered and useless individual.

Who is Mummy again?


Daddy had left the house over ten hours ago. In that time I had cooked, cleaned, worked, had my face licked, changed nappies, wiped bums, washed up, stared longingly at Prosecco and the children were circling around Daddy like he was some God sent down from heaven on a muddy mountain bike.

“Go run the bath!” he shouted as his children smothered his face with kisses and a few random licks from the boy.

Did he just give me a job to do?

I told him no.  No way on earth was I doing anything else.  However, then he agreed to put both children to bed (but only if I bathed them) and I wasn’t going to turn that offer down. After all, I had a dodgy horror film to finish.

Before running the bath, I grabbed my full glass of luke warm Prosecco and headed upstairs.

Ten minutes later and I was happily enjoying the little tipple whilst watching the kids playing in the bath.

“You’re drinking wine while the kids are in the bath? That doesn’t set a good example, does it.”

Oh, on your bike, son. Get on your bleedin’ bike!”

We all went a bit mad without Daddy. Well, I just went mad at him…