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.
So you may have noticed it has been a bit quiet on the blog in recent weeks. I would love to say that is because I have been spending all my time studying but sadly not. Instead the call of the Christmas lights, wrapping paper, food shopping and all those tasks us mums do to ensure Christmas is magical have been the cause of my distraction. I am sure I am not the only one who has let things slide and not just in the virtual world. Here at Cooper Towers my washing pile is bigger than ever. The only pile in the house that is bigger is that of the clean washing (some folded, some not). We are now in the realms of wearing said clothes straight from the baskets. Or (as we have affectionately begun to call them) Basket on the Landing, Basket in the Spare Room and Basket over There. It comes to something when your solution to this problem is to buy more baskets….
Anyway, I digress. As I am picking the tinsel out of the rug and screw up the never ending bits of wrapping paper I realise that December has left me completely wrung out. And surely I can not be the only one who has felt completely overwhelmed by the amount of mum-min involved in the run-up to this Christmas. This year I have two small people at school. And not just at school, but at two different schools. Two different schools who do things very differently. At different places, times and in different ways. It was a blessing that none of the Christmas events clashed. However, that meant getting to two Christmas fairs, two Nativity performances and one carol service (the junior school didn’t hold one) plus ensuring the boys could partake of a Christmas jumper day, a Tag day, a Christmas party and a cinema night…each.
Looking at that now, perhaps busy is an understatement. I am also certain I am not the only mum who was sewing tinsel onto an old top until my fingers bled late into the night the evening before The Nativity dress rehearsal. I thought sewing tinsel along the outline of a black top and black joggers would have a nice star-ry effect and smugly considered it wouldn’t take too long or cost too much. So I over-bought on cheap tinsel and set to work, forgetting that with every stitch that sparkly, slippery, shiny-ness would get caught up in the fine thread. It would also be impossible to cut the tinsel free without producing a mountain of teeny tiny silver sparkle shards which look oh so appetizing to a floor-roaming and inquisitive one year old.
With my stitches getting larger and my eyelids getting heavier I reassured myself that it would all be to good effect on the day. Sadly, a wardrobe malfunction during the dress rehearsal led to my son’s teacher ‘fixing’ his costume with sticky tape. Had I known about the tinsel coming free from his inside right leg I would have had the costume home and pulled out the needle and thread. But children have a canny knack of only telling you something this useful once you have been home from school for 20 minutes and can do absolutely nothing about it. Said tape did not do its job leaving small child grumpy and unhappy and waving limp, loose tinsel about while on stage. But at least he looked happy for the photos beforehand.
Enter stage right every mother’s festive nightmare. The moment your four year old son comes home with the words ‘mummy, I’m the camel’. The Camel. Yup, let that sink in for a moment. Imagine my glee when upon asking the class teaching assistant about the costume for The Nativity I was told it was all in hand. Hoorah I thought, that saves me a job. But then I thought I should check with the class teacher the following day. In fact, just two days before the performance. Her response was quite the opposite. A sort of non-comital ‘well, we can find him something if you are struggling.’ Struggling… struggling?? Those words were like petrol to a flame. No, I’m not struggling. I just could have done with a bit more warning. Oh did I get the note in his bag? No, no I didn’t. Do I ever? His school bag is a black hole of gargantuan proportions when it comes to any message of any import placed on headed paper. No, I didn’t get the note.
So, I did what any mum would do in this situation. No, I did not place an Amazon Prime order (why? Why didn’t I do that?) Instead I trawled the local charity shops for anything I could find that looked camel-like. Three hours later and I had managed to spend £2 on a pack of four brown flannels (panic buy!), 80p on a square of brown felt, £2.50 on a reindeer Christmas hat and £2 on some really rather pretty trim. It was very pretty (bit pricey) but just right for a camel. I then came home, raided the dressing up box for last year’s reindeer outfit and somehow crafted a camel head from the bits I had bought with the obvious necessary addition of an empty plastic plum punnet pulled from the recycling bin. Struggling…. pah!.
Happy Christmas to all and to all a goodnight…
My tales of Christmas fun could go on. I could tell you how you should never take a baby to a candle-lit carol service, how much fun it is when you forget what you have wrapped and you spend half the night unwrapping and re-wrapping things just to remind and reassure yourself or how you should always check your shoes before you sneak into someone else’s home to put up their Christmas tree as a surprise for them when they return from a long trip away. But I will leave those for another time.
So you ask how the studying is going? Well, I have every intention of getting back to it. But for now I’m going to collapse in a heap and recover for a few days. Happy New Year to you all.
2018 is on the horizon and while I still haven’t completed my Learn Direct web design course I am about to embark on the next phase of study with Digital Mums. Read more about Why I can’t wait to get f******* working
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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?
It’s a love, hate relationship. I veer from the thought of studying filling me with dread, to actually doing the studying and loving every minute.
As I come to the end of each unit I have got into the habit of looking ahead. Initially this was to motivate me but now I am halfway through the course I feel a little bit like I am treading water. I am always excited by what’s coming up next, but my impatience means that by the time I have browsed through the study outcomes I am starting to feel the pressure of learning all these new skills looming over me.
I am now studying Unit 18 of Level 3 Web Design and Development. Just four more to go after this. It’s a long way to have come in a relatively short space of time. I only started the course in March. It’s a dry unit. I can’t say I am much inspired by learning about networking topologies or the benefits of shielded twisted pair cabling. Learn Direct emailed me the other day to say I had missed an assignment deadline. I had to reply and point out that my next deadline will in fact by October 31, 2018, not 2017. I get it. They probably don’t have students using frantic mummy energy to log in and learn during every spare (and sometimes not so spare) moment they have.
Waving not drowning
I feel like I am riding a wave much of the time. I start out just floating happily along, taking notes. The physicality of a folder full of writing reassures me I am learning something. The water rises as I reach the assignment and I realise I must now prove that I have actually taken something in between the cups of tea, nappy changes and late dinners.
As I wade through the various questions there are certainly points at which I feel like I am bobbing around in the water. Gasping for air. Trying to reassure myself that I am waving not drowning.
Owing to my need to see what’s coming next, I start to read through the next unit before the previous assignment is complete – and so the process begins again. Initially this fuelled my adrenaline. It gave me the energy I needed to keep going.
The need for sleeping
But recently the thought of taking on the next wave is starting to whip up a storm in my mind. I am getting more and more exhausted. Not helped by the 90 minute bursts of sleep I exist on between night feeds. I learnt this week that someone getting between 4 and 5 hours sleep a night, operates at the same level as someone with 0.1% blood alcohol. Where does that leave me? In a state not dissimilar to a daily piss up in a brewery it would seem.
The need for studying
And how do I deal with this state of virtual inebriation? I study. I once again dive in and start making the next set of notes. Somehow I find myself in calm waters once again.
I was never a very strong swimmer but I knew which stroke would see me finish the race first. Maybe that’s the skill. Finding the right stroke and riding each wave. Or perhaps I should just try and ride one wave at a time instead of tackling each one with a different stroke… now there’s a thought 😉
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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.
What does going to school have in common with Leysdown seafront? The idea that points win prizes it would seem. I say this as the mum of a child with 1130 house points accumulated in just five weeks. No, I am not proud. I am angry.
Let me take you back to the 80s when I attended primary school. There were four houses; York, Balmoral, Richmond and Gloucester. I was in York. I was proud to be in York. I might get one house point every couple of weeks. Maybe I had opened a door for a teacher without being asked or had really excelled in a piece of work. There were extra opportunities for earning house points on occasions such as sports day or by being a teacher’s helper at lunchtime. Getting a house point felt like owning a piece of gold and I would colour in the square on the sheet in the classroom with pride as I watched my house points accumulate alongside others.
At the end of the term the house with the most points throughout the school was awarded four points, the third, three, the second, two and those in last place, one house point. These were added to the main chart in the hall for all to see. At the end of the year the house with the most points won the house point trophy and the house captain went up to receive it in assembly on behalf of their house. I am hoping this sounds familiar to some of you.
21st Century house points
Scoot back to 2017 and now it’s all about how many house points you need in exchange for a building set, cinema ticket or afternoon tea with the head teacher. And we are talking big numbers. Hundreds and hundreds of house points needed. But that’s ok, because just doing your homework will earn you 20 points. Putting your hand up in class, five points.
It makes me wonder where the time is to teach the children if the teachers are dishing out house points every time a pupil breathes in or out successfully.
Beyond the points, there seem to be countless other motivational incentives. In a world where we can’t have winners or losers at sports day, it is beyond me why we can dish out pupil of the week, top table, stars in their eyes, spelling star and a prize for the kid at the top of maths mountain. Don’t even get me started on 100% attendance (No don’t, I tried to include that here…it has taken on a life of its own for another post!).
Then there’s carrots on sticks. And this is where the materialistic nature of these incentives has taken an astounding turn. Currently, my son informs me, if he gets all his spellings right this term, he will be put into a prize draw with other children from local schools to win…. a digital reading device akin to a Kindle. That’s right people. A couple of hundred pounds worth of tech that to be quite honest I would rather my son didn’t own. This is wrong for several reasons…
The odds of Mini Cooper 1 winning are slim considering how many kids will be in the ballot.
He doesn’t understand this.
He believes he will win.
When he doesn’t win – he still wants a tablet.
We aren’t going to buy him one.
If he has a tablet at the tender age of 7, the four year old is going to start on about when does he get one and slowly but surely the screen-free buffer zone becomes less. I may as well buy 10 month old Mini Cooper 3 her own iPhone now.
While I am on the subject of screens, these house points have to be banked. Not by picking up the nearest half decent yellow felt tipped pen as in my day, oh no. This is the era of online reward points. There is a website dedicated to storing the house points.
The kids log in, they tap in the 16 digit code on the house point voucher that has been screwed up in their pocket all day and it adds the points to their total. They are supposed to put in the reason why they were given the points. Mini Cooper 1 can never remember (so clearly there’s an incentive working right there yeah?!) They can check how many they have against their classmates. There are class leaderboards, year leaderboards, school leaderboards (no gold medals at sports day remember). It’s a joke.
My son sits for 20 minutes trying to remember his password, then I sit for 20 minutes reading out digits on slips of paper for points he doesn’t even remember why he was given. Meanwhile Mini Cooper 2 could do with some help with his reading book (an actual book) and Mini Cooper 3 has given up learning to clap and gone to sleep
I will admit I have been of the parenting camp against reward charts. I did not want the children to do something just because they would get a reward. I will also admit that when it came to trying to get a decent night’s sleep, we relented and created our own sleep charts complete with stickers chosen by the boys. I will also say, they worked… for a while. I say that, because after a few nights of getting stickers for staying in bed Mini Cooper 1 decided he would fill the chart with stickers for just about any reason he could think of. Suffice to say, the reward/response link didn’t really work for him there.
So, who are all these incentives really for? Let’s face it the schools are going to a lot of effort to put these systems in place, build them up and sustain them. When we boil it down it’s all about educational targets. Getting the children to achieve so the school isn’t seen to be failing by the all-seeing eye of Ofsted. The children don’t care about Ofsted. The children care about which little toy they might get if their name is called for top table on Friday. The children care about why they weren’t Star of the Week when they tried so hard with their reading. The children care about what they will be given in return for doing something. Our target-driven educational system is promoting the 21st Century materialistic lifestyle. It isn’t promoting the idea that you might want to learn something purely for the love of learning.
And while these incentive schemes are building up schools and Ofsted, are they actually building up our little ones? If this is all being done to please The Powers That Be, where are our children learning to please themselves? How do they work out their own threshold for having done well? We live in a world of people who don’t feel ‘good enough’. It’s something to do with expectations and the bar we set for ourselves. Should the system really be motivating children to reach blanket-all targets or would realistic individualised goals be more beneficial? Rewarding achievements that mean something to that one child. Shouldn’t we be focussing on the rewards of self awareness, self motivation, self confidence and self esteem? The effect of any one of which on a young person is certain to last far beyond the plastic stationery set my son can get in exchange for 600 points.
Badge of honour
So, while I am giving these rewards a hard time, I realise there is a place for them in learning. As a student myself I am guilty of chasing the reward (Read more here: “Getting the Bit of Paper“). When I first logged on to the dashboard of the web design course I am currently studying with LearnDirect, I was met with an achievement pie chart and a league table. Further investigation revealed various digital award badges for different achievements; number of days you consecutively log in, number of hours you have studied, number of assignments in on time. Logging in three times in a row before 7am gets you the cutest little early bird icon on your profile, while logging in after 11pm three days on a row wins you the night owl (squeeee!).
Who needs those?
After scoffing to DH ‘who do they think they’re kidding, we are adults, I don’t need these silly little games,’ I of course got totally and utterly sucked in and had to earn as many of these digital badges as I possibly could. I currently sit top of the leaderboard (although there’s no explanation as to what I am the leader of; students in the region, country, on my course, the last five people to log in….who knows). That’s not the point, the point is the motivational rewards here have helped me to scoot through the course at the pace I have wanted and, I will admit, have given me little confidence boosts along the way.
So what am I moaning about then? Well, the difference is, I am an adult. I know I am being persuaded and manipulated to get my work done. I understand what incentives are and I already had the self-motivation and the self-confidence needed to learn. My fear is that a child knows none of this and they are being lulled into a short-lived land of bribery and materialism that merely promotes a ‘what are going to give me for that then?’ attitude. It’s education not a seaside sideshow.
Right, I am off to check Mini Cooper 1’s pockets before popping his uniform in the wash. It is no longer the paper hankie that I fear. It is the house point. Those tatty slips of paper turn to reward confetti in the twinkle of an eye. I wonder how many I would need to get a new washing machine or tumble drier?
*Thanks to the mums I have quoted along the way here. Read more about what mums think about primary school reward schemes here.
Believe me there’s a heap of stuff out there. Here is just a selection of the stuff I have read this week while preparing this blog post…
Since I have been back at the books I have tried to create pockets of time for study. While Mini Cooper 3 was in the teeny newborn stage, there seemed to be several opportunities for this. Studying while feeding, studying while she naps, studying as she sits in the bouncy chair. Now she is 9 months old and that’s a game changer…
While she hasn’t quite cracked crawling, she is shuffling her way around in that lightning quick way that they do. I put her in one place and a second later she is somehow across the room. This has changed my study spots somewhat for no sooner have I popped her down with her toys and grabbed the laptop, she is pulling at the fireguard or pulling herself up to stand by the sofa, needing me to come and ‘Reset’ her.
Time for change
So study times have changed. As I knew they would. It means a change in expectations from me as I struggle to complete the next course unit. It seems that along with less time to study, motivation is also on a dip (read more here: This is the Wall). Not a great combination when I was trying to stick to such a tight schedule and complete this course by January.
I am now trying to create some extra time (wouldn’t we all like to do that!). By that I mean I am using Mummy Multi-Tasking to give me those precious extra moments. Suddenly by creating them, it seems only right I use them as they were intended, so they have a double use as they are helping to focus me on the task in hand.
Bye bye bland
Enter, my secret weapon, my slow-cooker. I have had the slow-cooker for about five years. Every Autumn I blow the dust off it and pop it on the side. I might make two or three lack-lustre dinners in it and then back in the cupboard it goes. Not this year. This year it needs to earn its place on the kitchen side.
Over the last few weeks I have tried to inject some flavour into the meals and last week I cracked it. Now this is going on the menu once a week giving me an extra hour of study time between the school run landing and dinner time. Now that is gold. The recipe is below.
Slowly does it
While I am at it I have put together this quick cheat sheet. Every time I bung ingredients in the slow cooker I find myself scouring the internet (and ultimately texting my slow cooker guru sister) to ask how long to cook it for. This time when I found the info I decided I would not lose it again . So here that is too (and it’s Pin-able! Follow me on Pinterest and I’m on Instagram too)
Is the slow cooker your friend? If you want to share any slow-cooker secrets or recipes then please do so in the comments.
Slow Cooker Beef and Onion Stew
500g diced beef
3 small onions (red or white or a mix)
1 medium carrot
1 medium parsnip
1tbsp of tomato puree
A handful of fresh flat leaf parsley and fresh coriander
Brown the meat (optional)
Chop all vegetables (potatoes may need cutting in half to ensure they cook through – use as many as will fit!)
Add tomato puree
Add vegetable stock and bouquet garnis
Stir to mix
Pop on low for 8 hours
Serve with fresh herbs to taste
Enjoy with fresh crusty bread
*Made using a 3.5L slow cooker like this one…
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Why all this studying? There is a very important reason why and we are hoping it will be the key to changing our lifestyle completely.
Here’s the vision; both me and DH working equally to support our family in jobs where we are still able to be there for the school run and whatever else parenting throws at us.
Some days I think about that statement and I think it is unrealistic. Isn’t that just asking for it all? We don’t live in a culture where work works around life. Instead life must fit around work and work must be done to finance life. It seems an ever-decreasing circle.
Making a change
It’s a year since DH decided he needed a change from Never Ending Work. The relentlessness of working a crazy number of hours, crawling into bed at 2am and living off junk food seemed like a one-way road stretching into the future. And while he was the one travelling to town every day and living on six hours broken sleep, it wasn’t exactly a bed of roses juggling school and nursery runs, dinner, bath and bedtime alone here either.
When it came to fears that DH may fall asleep at the wheel or actually drive himself mad working in an environment that drained him on a daily basis, we knew we needed to make a drastic change. While the salary he was on may have meant he could retire early in 10 years time, it seemed like a hard price to pay. After all, our children are 7, 4 and 8 months old. They want us here now. We aren’t sure they will want us hanging about quite so much when they are 17, 14 and 10.
Learning about yourself
So he handed his notice in and we decided we would both train in web design and see where it took us. It might not take us anywhere. It might lead to things we haven’t yet thought of. What we do know is that this is change. It may not be easy, but it will be different and certainly every stage will present opportunities and experiences we would not otherwise have had.
At the end of my LearnDirect course in web design, I will start studying with Digital Mums to become a social media manager. I am hoping this will be my key to flexible working. Where my work will fit around our family and not the other way round. This is something Digital Mums is striving to make more commonplace. Flexible working. After all, us mums still have working brains you know!
The Digital Mums campaign around flexible working is making waves. It’s made the national papers and it’s causing a stir on social media. The Clean Up The F-Word campaign hopes to highlight the benefits of flexible working, both for employee and employer, to those that can make a difference; the government. To get a response from the government their petition needs 10,000 signatures. To get a debate in Parliament, it needs 100,000. This is a subject that should be brought to the fore.
Flexible working taboo
“Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, eg having flexible start and finish times, or working from home…. All employees have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers.”
We have the right to, but how many of us would? I know I didn’t. There didn’t seem much point as I couldn’t see any way I could return to my job on a flexible basis; as a newsreader, you sorta have to be behind the microphone at the time the news is needed, and I knew that when I started thinking about having a family.
But flexible working shouldn’t be a taboo. As mums returning to work we should not be afraid to put forward a flexible option. So why does it feel like we are asking for something that is wrong, a cop-out, an easy option? It’s not like we want to be paid for doing nothing. Rather that we get paid for being productive during the hours that we able to put in 100%.
A different world
For us Coopers, flexible working will mean we can support our family by working in a way that provides for the Mini Coopers in more than just monetary terms. We can be the ones that see them through the school gates and pick them up at the end of the day, but we’ll also be able to pay for the day trips to London and ice cream in the holidays.
Click here to read the Digital Mums blog post about the #CleanUpTheFWord campaign
To sign the Digital Mums petition at Change.org and show your support for more flexible working options, click here.
(Which is a shame as it is trying to be a nice friendly wall, look, it’s even saying hello)
I don’t want to study. I don’t want to do it (cue child-like tantrum). I want it completed and gone. I have to do it. But I don’t want to do it. I am in that love it but hate it space.
Every time I sit at the computer I find 200 other things to do rather than log in to my course. I think I am on study burn out. Half of me wants to log in, plough through and get it done. The other half says it’s sunny outside, the house is a mess, leave it all behind and go and walk through the trees.
This is it. This is the wall.
I have been here before, several times. GCSEs, A-Levels, degree 1 (I actually have no idea how I got through that) and definitely degree 2 (I thought I never wanted to see a book, pen or laptop ever again).
The trouble is I have studied every day since I signed up for this web design course. I have logged on Every.Single.Day. and done something. Reading, assignment question, watch a video. I reaped the benefits in the early days and sped through the course. Now it feels like if don’t log in every day I won’t get it done. I want to keep uptake momentum but I am running out of steam.
Getting ahead of myself
Learndirect called me the other day. Voicemail: “We can see you are on unit 16. That is due in one the err… on the… 1st of September (pause) 2018…. we would like you to email us to confirm you will make this deadline.”
Well, yes, I am pretty sure that with 345 days to go I am going to make it – thanks.
Or am I. This is the wall.
One of the motivational tools used on the Learndirect dashboard is badge system. For every so many hours of study, you get a badge on your profile. For every early morning study, a badge on your profile. For consecutive day of study… a badge on your profile.
I have the badge for 150 days straight. Here it is…
A (digital) Bit of Paper I had to have. And now I have it. I don’t think there is one for total, loony, crazy lady who is continuing to log on every day and work even though she needs a break. (If there is though – can I have it?)
This is the wall. I better start climbing it before it crushes me.
This photo was taken two years ago today. In it I am about to get the Bit of Paper. I am graduating from The Open University with a 2:1 in Humanities with Art History. A learning journey that spanned nine years.
I spent much of that day in tears. Not so much because of the enormity of the occasion, but more because of how life had changed in the time it had taken me to get my degree.
A degree of emotion
I already had a degree when I started studying with the OU. I came straight out of school and into uni to study Media and Cultural Studies with English Literature. I studied as hard as I could. I wasn’t a distracted student for many reasons (that’s another post); I lived at home and travelled in each day and hardly ever stayed beyond lectures and seminars.
But I didn’t achieve the result I wanted. The degree (and a whole lot of work experience) got me my first job as a trainee journalist on the local paper. It was all I had ever wanted. But I still didn’t feel I had achieved my full potential (nod to Ninjago :D).
My mum always said if there was a piece of paper for it, then I had to have it. And she was right. A few years later, with several news stories under my belt, I decided I wanted to write an essay. I wanted to write for a reason other than work. So, inspired by my mother in law’s love of the OU I signed up.
Studying with the OU
At first I only wanted to study an art course. I have always had a love of art and have always wanted to know more about paintings and artists. It was an interest and this studying was going to be a pass time, so the two seemed well matched. To get any form of diploma in art history I needed to study the foundation humanities course first. So I spent a year studying a range of cultural subjects and passed the foundation (one piece of paper!).
The OU then informed me that if I took another course I could get a certificate in humanities (a second piece of paper!). So I went on, and I did that. I remember opening the certificate and thinking: “There, I have done that now. What shall I do next?”
The problem with that question was that the lure of the OU called. Back on their site once more browsing courses, I found I could turn by certificate into a degree with just a few more years work (she says casually).
And so the degree began and I started studying knowing I had at least three or four years of reading, researching and essays ahead of me. I studied through snowboarding holidays. I studied through weekend’s away with friends. I studied through family trips, planning our wedding and the honeymoon.
I was promoted at work. Suddenly the hours were longer and I seemed to be constantly busy and as I finished my course I found I just couldn’t find my study time. So, as the option was there with the OU, I took a break for a year. It makes me laugh now. I thought I was tired and had no time then. I look at life now with three children and realise I had all the time in the world.
The following October I was ready to study again. But then life was about to change unimaginably. My mum fell ill suddenly and died within four weeks. My mum. My champion. My art loving partner. The one I made proud. Was gone.
Six months later I got married. At the end of that academic year I needed a break, so I took another year out. What had been a three, maybe four, year plan was turning into a monster. But still, I needed to get to the end. Always finish what you have started – another few words of wisdom from mum.
And so it was that started the Level three courses which focussed heavily on specific periods of art history and I took on the self-titled dissertation. I even spent a week studying with the OU on their art history study week (sadly, no longer offered). The OU had changed its fees system by now and the fact was, if I was ever going to be able to afford to finish my degree I had to complete back-to-back courses year after year until it was finished. There were no more gap years for me.
The Bit of Paper
After the wedding came, well, babies (eventually). Now here’s a time when you don’t need to be thinking about essays and art gallery trips, but for me the determination to finish this degree over-shadowed it all. I read at 2 in the morning on my Kindle. I made notes while I fed at midnight.The children grew. The essays got longer. The dissertation nearly killed me. The love and support from DH held me up and carried me through.
I cried when I found out I had achieved my longed-for 2:1. But nothing like I cried the day I wore that gown. From the moment I arrived at The Barbican until the moment I arrived home, I cried. That was my day. My day that could never have been realised without the love and support of my family. Those that couldn’t be there and those that were, and those that spent their first full day at nursery so I could be there. To you all – thank you.
As I said at the time: “I started a girlfriend and finished a wife. I started a daughter and finished a mum.”
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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