I am standing in the middle. I am 12 weeks into the Digital Mums course with 12 weeks left. I have as far to go as I have come already. As with all journeys it has had its twists and turns. After waiting just under a year to start the course I was more than ready to get going in January. I was instantly swept into the rhythm of lessons, assignments and challenges. The initial burst of learning made me grateful for my previous online study experiences as I grappled with videos, note taking and online chats.
Looking back from the middle…
I was under no illusions when I took on the course. Digital Mums say it will take around 20 hours a week to cover it all – that’s equivalent to a part time job – and I have one of those and a family of three so I knew this would be a challenge. And it has been. So as I stand at the halfway point, here’s what I have learnt so far…
It is possible to have so much in your brain that it stops you in your tracks.
You can lose minutes (sometimes hours) of a day staring at a screen and scrolling.
I have read more books in the last three months than the last seven years. Staring at a screen has reminded me how satisfying it is to turn a physical page.
You can to create a community on Twitter of like-minded, inspiring, awesome people, from all over the world. It takes work, but it is really worthwhile.
It is possible to take part in a Twitter chat and cook dinner for three children at the same time. (It is not possible to do this and then get them all into bed on time.)
Creativity breeds creativity
I am still as impatient as ever
There are so many useful apps out there. The internet appears infinite in its resources.
I couldn’t do this without DH and he is loving being here to be daddy. While the bills still need paying I wouldn’t change this for the world. We just need to be brave enough to keep going.
Things don’t always go as expected.
I don’t have to listen to the same old tired ‘I told you so’ stories my inner critic is so fond of telling. Instead of letting the ‘why does this always happen to me?’ story get me down, I have got curious about why I hear that when things don’t turn out as planned. While I wouldn’t say it’s effortless to turn things around in my mind, I can now see there is a different way of approaching a situation when it doesn’t play out as expected. This is how I am moving forward.
So Snapchat is still a mystery, LinkedIn is a grower and my real friends haven’t seen me for an age on Facebook. Google+ is like the kid playing hide and seek and watching while everyone tries to find him, while Instagram and Pinterest play nicely in the corner creating amazing things and YouTube jumps up and down in the corner for fear of missing something.
Looking forward from the middle…
I stand on the brink of week 12 knowing the most intense period of the course is on the horizon. The Campaign. I can almost hear the movie trailer now: “The main event – coming soon.” For one reason and another, one being the end of the two week Easter break, week 12 feels like starting all over again. Except this time I have my Digital Mums cohort cheering me on (Go Katie Couric – Highs 5s all round) and I know I only have to go as far as I have already come to end up in a very different place.
A less proud mummy moment occurred this week. I am afraid to say I let my daughter eat a leaflet.
Yes, you read that sentence correctly. Usually when I am studying and completely engrossed in what I am doing and the baby goes quiet, those mummy alarm bells start to ring. The thought that she may be climbing the stairs or the bookcase, pulling pages from much-loved novels or running sticky snot-filled hands through the rug/cushions/curtains, is usually enough to draw me from my preoccupied state and bring me back to reality.
Precious study time
But on this particular Wednesday morning she seemed to be happily playing with a box of wooden bricks at the other end of the room. So I snatched those precious moments to sneak into office corner and log in to the course I am currently studying. The Digital Mums course is great but it tends to do one of two things…
Draw me into whatever the topic is I am meant to be learning about (GREAT)
Send me off on a tangent which leads me to procrastinating and finding 3,781 “Really Interesting Things I Absolutely Have To Read Right Now” (not so great)
On this rather chilly mid-week morn it was, I am ashamed to say, the latter that had grabbed my attention and rather than working on the first draft of my campaign, I opted to check my emails which lead me down a Twitter-led-social-media-scheduling-rabbit-hole. The rhythmic background sound of wooden bricks hitting the floor, the cupboard doors and the walls subsided (at some point) and I was aware that Mini Cooper 3 had shuffled her way up the room.
A few moments later the silence was palpable and I turned to see what the banana-fuelled scamp was up to. She had a leaflet in her hand. It was made of firm paper and she was enjoying rolling it up into a tube and unrolling it again. Satisfied that was an acceptable pass time for the 14-month-old I turned back to the laptop with the intention of filling whatever few minutes I may have left before she demanded my attention. The vortex of social media sucked me straight back in and I was lost.
When I turned again a few minutes later I was aware the leaflet had gone from hand to mouth and that there was a certain amount of testing out the feel of the smooth printed card against her face and lips. Once again, I was too excited by the thought I may be allowed a few more seconds to indulge myself and did not make eye contact/any noise to suggest there was anything wrong with her actions or (and this is the guilt moment) any moves to remove the leaflet.
Still I continued with my task. Still I allowed myself to think this was a good situation. Baby happily occupied on the floor. Me ensconced in office corner, researching what I should be studying (but not actually studying what I should be studying). Everyone’s a winner right? It was only when the sucking noise became just too irritating that I looked again. That’s when I saw it. The remnants of the leaflet. The chunks of chewed card and gummed paper. The toothy, wide-eyed smile of a child who believes she has earned herself an extra snack and has made a mess at the same time and who is excited by all of that at once.
Baby Number 3
Now in times gone by my reaction to this would have been very different. My thought processes would probably have gone something like this…
Mini Cooper 1 – Is he breathing? How much has he swallowed? What was in that ink? Is it stuck in his mouth? Do I need to take him to the doctor, no, the hospital?
Mini Cooper 2 – Is he breathing? How much has he swallowed?
My reaction on seeing Mini Cooper 3’s light lunch was merely; is she breathing? Oh that’ll be a nice nappy.
So yes, I let her eat a leaflet. It’s not something I am proud of. Now, you would be well within your rights at this point to ask why I am writing about this on the internet for everyone to see if it is something I am not too proud about. The point is, this is reality. This is real. Studying (or doing anything) and juggling children (I don’t recommend actually throwing them in the air) is rewarding but boy, is it hard.
Is it big enough to overcome a dent in your Good Enough?
This week, my Good Enough has taken a battering. I don’t say that because I want pity or lots of ‘woohoo you’re great, don’t be down’ comments. I say that because that is what I have learnt this week. This mum studies and this recent bout of studying has opened my eyes to a subject I have left untouched for a while. Me.
Learning about life
I am learning more about myself every day and I am finding you have to be pretty brave to go on a journey of self discovery. I have really been trying to notice my own thoughts and explore my reactions. Some of the time it brings things to the fore I would rather not think about or acknowledge, but hey, it’s all learning.
This week has reinforced to me that I do need recognition and it does matter to me what other people think.
This isn’t new to me. It is something I have known my entire life and something I have already written about (Blog post: Getting the bit of paper (or studying with the OU). I have always been eager to please. Why does that feel like such a bad thing to admit? Anyway, this year I have been exploring why I have this need and whether I am able to find a way to improve my self belief and be satisfied with my own approval. I’m not sure I’m there yet.
I get knocked down…
As if to prove the point a situation this week tested me. Without warning my self-belief crumbled and my Good Enough smashed into pieces on the floor and I stood there with my mouth open and tears streaming down my face.
I thought I had the situation. I thought I knew where it was going. I thought my self-belief was about to be rewarded. Instead it was shaken and my whole being defaulted to the ‘not good enough’ state. I am glad I was able to recognise it.
…and I get up again
But more than that, I was able to think about what I needed to do to get myself back in a good place before the real low hit. I needed to take control and I did. I took action. I stepped out of my comfort zone and made a bold move. And then, with the help of some bright yellow tights, a new green scarf bought from a favourite charity shop, a touch-up of my pink hair, some red lippy (and my sister), I stepped out and faced the world with more strength than I knew I had. The tear-stained echoes of the night before lost in the noise of my rainbow splashed nails.
And I reminded myself…
So, what am I studying at the moment? I am studying computer networks. I am studying Google Analytics. Most importantly I am studying me.
I am a woman who seeks others approval.
I am a woman who is working on her self-belief.
I am a woman who works fiercely towards a goal.
I am a woman who needs others to recognise my work.
I am a woman who is reliable, loyal and honest.
I am a woman who feels deeply.
I am a woman who takes criticism badly.
I am a woman who reflects what I am feeling to others; both good and bad.
I am a woman who is finding her creativity at a depth she didn’t realise was possible and loving it.
I am a woman who likes to be in control.
I am a woman who is determined.
I am a woman with more resilience than I know or understand.
I am a woman who will keep trying.
I am a woman who perfectly imperfect.
We are all different. This is me. I am no longer a woman who will apologise for that.
Show me how big your Brave is…
This has been one of my favourite songs for years. I can only listen to it really, REALLY loud. Often I end up shouting it and more than once it has moved me to tears. I have needed my Brave for a long time and I have really been testing it this last year or so. Changing long-held beliefs is hard and takes courage. How big is your Brave?
The further I delve into the world of web design and development, the more I realise that coding really has a lot in common with parenting.
For starters, the tantrum the console throws up if you miss off a semi-colon is tantamount to the four-year-old’s melt-down over the wrong juice in the wrong-coloured cup.
Who would have thought a simple capital letter could throw hours of work into disarray. It is cannily similar to the mess made by the children in their bedroom in the two minutes you have your back to them as you sort the wardrobe.
And while we are on the subject of tidying and order, the mere-ist hint of code popped in the wrong place renders your project useless. Not unlike the loss of a favourite toy, that was definitely put on the kitchen table and nowhere else, with an added refusal for the day to remain on hold until it is found.
Then there’s the database that refuses to log the data. You have been through that code with a fine-toothed comb. Even your tutor can’t find a error. But it refuses to listen to you and will not do as it is told. Strikingly similar to the small child who refuses to hear, that’s if he listens at all.
Little Mr Matching
Meanwhile, trying to choose the correct shade of blue for a header and match it with the right font, for just the right look, is reminiscent of Mini Cooper 2’s inability to leave the house without his hat matching his shoes.
Art is in the detail
I love coding for its detail. I love how powerful a simple line of code can be. But in the same breath the frustration and relentless refreshing gets repetitive and tiresome pretty quickly. I love every bit of every child. I love the way they each see the world in a different way. But in the same thought I could sometimes do with 10 minutes where I am not answering a question, listening to a whiny complaint and, dare I say, a couple of hours uninterrupted sleep.
Learning as you go along
No one said learning would be easy. No one said parenting would be easy. Joining the two together seems like craziness. Welcome to my mad, Mad world.
I’m Suze and this is my blog charting the highs and lows of studying with children. There are three mini Coopers in our house and two students; me and my husband. This blog will follow our journey as we work towards changing careers and changing our lifestyle.
I am currently studying Level 3 (QCF) Web design and Development with LearnDirect. I am also studying a Google Analytics course online and will be working on the #DigitalMums Associate Programme in 2018 to learn how to become a social media manager.
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