What do you do? For a long time I have happily and confidently answered this question: I am a teacher. I took great pride in my title. As soon as I earned it, it became part of my identity. Much like when I became a mother, that title became synonymous with who I am. My career was more than just a job, it was a vocation.
Returning to work after becoming a mum was a transition. I enjoyed the freedom work gave me – I felt like my old self again and loved being able to use both hands to complete a task! Of course, I missed my daughter but I felt working 2 days a week was a good balance for us. I strongly believe that each family needs to find what works for them. There is no right answer when it comes to how much or how little you choose to work after you become a parent. It is a decision for each family to make. In fact, at first, I decided that I would take a career break and take time just raising Boo. But I missed work. I missed my career. However, whilst I enjoyed it, I also found the return to work a challenge. I wasn’t able to put in all the extra hours. I wasn’t able to attend long meetings and drop everything to spend an evening planning. Suddenly, I had to find ways to work smarter. But no matter how smart you work, or how efficient you are, it is a juggle. If my daughter was sick, my heart split in 2 as I struggled with whether to leave her in someone else’s care. If I had next to no sleep, I would have to force my brain to function. When I was pumping at work, if the bell went to signal the end of break and I had just had another let down, I would have to choose leaving my class alone to run riot, or walk in with 2 dark circles on my top and run the risk of mastitis. Being a working mum is a challenge! But I wanted to do it and I enjoyed it. My brain enjoyed firing up again. It creaked a bit at first, but it didn’t take too long to feel like I could do my job again. It wasn’t the same as before. But I wasn’t the same.
Then we had a year we could never have predicted. Funny, because from the moment I fell pregnant with Boo life had thrown us (well, me) curve balls. I lurched from HG, to early onset severe ICP. It was a tricky pregnancy that led to a lot of anxiety. Perhaps it should have been no surprise that I then developed PND and anxiety. But on top of that, the ICP I developed in pregnancy didn’t magically resolve itself. The early months of Boo’s life were spent with many trips to hospital, a lot of morphine and endless tests to find out why my liver hadn’t recovered and why I was in so much pain. If you have suffered from ICP you will know that on top of itching, you have a bone aching fatigue and some of the especially unlucky ones suffer pain around their liver. I got all three. Oh and I threw up. All the time. Endless tests still haven’t found the answer. At one point I was told I had PBC – a life limiting condition (it was at this point I decided on the career break – being told you may not live as long as you hoped certainly makes you reassess). Honestly, the first couple of years after falling pregnant with Boo were tough. So I should have known that life wasn’t about to let up on us. I should have known.
Somehow, despite juggling a career, a toddler that breastfed constantly and never slept and a creaking liver that liked to knock me off my feet unexpectedly, we decided that we wanted to expand our family. I was desperate to have another baby. Desperate to enjoy pregnancy despite knowing it would probably be just as tough. Little did we know what this decision would mean for our family. The year that followed that decision has been hellish. It is the reason this blog exists. I managed to cope through everything else life had thrown at me. But 5 losses later and I am waving the white flag. I cannot function at the level I did before. I need to reassess.
Following 5 miscarriages and a mental break down, I have decided that I need to take a break from my career. So what do I do now? Well, I don’t know. I have considered working in the supermarket to keep finances ticking over but even that seems a little scary – being around people for extended amounts of time is tough on me right now. I have had to think creatively and I really don’t have it all worked out. As of tomorrow, I will be unemployed. I need to work in order to support our family. I need to work for my own well being. But I know that while my mental health is so vulnerable, I need to look for alternatives when it comes to employment.
So, for a start, one of the things I can now say I do is blog. What do you do? I’m a blogger. This is now my job. Alternative employment. I spend countless hours writing for my blog, linking to useful and interesting sites, building a community that supports and celebrates each other. I do work hard at it. For the longest time, this has just been for my own mental health benefit. I haven’t made any money from it or sought to make money. So far this has just been my therapy. I didn’t set out to make money from blogging. I didn’t even know it was possible to make money from blogging. In fact, I only know it is possible in theory! But in the desperate search to find a job that would allow me to rebuild my mental health, I realised that a) we can live on a lot less b) I would rather be skint and happy and c) it may be possible to make a little money from this that would give me the space and freedom to recover whilst not bankrupting our family. Of course, I have been looking into lots of little ways that I can make money. Lots of little streams of income. What do I do? I don’t know but I don’t think it matters. My mantra right now: be brave. Really feeling afraid but so proud of myself for having the courage to make a scary decision that I know will be good for me and my family.
So am I about to have another identity crisis as my world shifts again and I lose such a big part of me? Well, no. I don’t think so. Teaching is part of the fabric of my being. I am sure I will find a way to teach that works for me. In the meantime, wish me luck in this next stage of undoing the muddle in my mind. I am absolutely terrified but sometimes you have to feel the fear, and do it anyway.
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