Spinning Plates.

At the end of last year, my path crossed with one of my old teachers from secondary school. When I told him about my latest adventure into nursing, he was unsurprised and said that I had always been “determined” as a young lady. Until that moment, I had always viewed my determination as something I had acquired since becoming a mother but apparently it was there all along. Since then, I have owned this characteristic of mine and generally, it is a wonderful trait to possess. It drives you forward & keeps you focused. However, sometimes, determination pushes you to take on the world, to push you to be the best in every aspect of your life and sometimes it becomes too much.

Little Man is currently on his Easter Holidays from Nursery and my parents have run off to Spain to soak up some sun (who can blame them?!), meaning that the first few days of the holidays were all down to me. And Solo Parenting, whilst not ideal, is something I have learned to accept. Usually, survival is the aim of the game each day but unfortunately, I also have an assignment due in May so I made a plan to try and get a little bit of Uni work done each day too. For the first couple of days, despite him not being in on my plan, Little Man did play on his own, quietly for short bursts. As a result, I actually managed to get a little bit of reading done. But because of my determination to achieve high grades, whatever work I had managed never felt enough. After Little Man had gone to bed, I sat on the sofa, looked at my diary and all I could see were the long days ahead where I knew I wouldn’t get much Uni work done. By the third day of minimal reading, I cracked. The stress I had tried to ignore, the stress that I had felt bubbling away in my tummy over the previous two days came to the surface, and it turned me into “Shouty Mummy”. No-one likes Shouty Mummy. Shouty Mummy says No, a lot. Shouty Mummy gets irritated by the 100 questions from Little Man that non-Shouty Mummy embraces as “inquisitive”. Shouty Mummy causes a Shouty Little Man. And all that shouting leads to exhaustion, one very sad Mummy and one very sad Little Man.

The next day, Little Man and I had a fun day out planned together, just the two of us. Something I had booked weeks before and had been really looking forward to. That night, the night of the Shouty Mummy, I really considered not bothering. The next morning, after a bad night’s sleep and a ridiculously early start, I was still not convinced the day out was a good idea. But then I turned over a new “Yes Mum” Card and it told me “Everything is going to be okay” and I thought, okay, let’s give this motto a go. So I did and we went. It wasn’t the best day out we’ve ever had, but we got through it and Shouty Mummy didn’t turn up, so that was great. After surviving our day out I then had to hand over Little Man to my in-laws who (along with The Husband) were looking after him for the weekend whilst I went away on a Hen Do. And that dear readers, that is the point when the Mum Guilt hit. Like a flipping lorry. I drove to Morrison’s, sat in their car park and sobbed. Sobbed because I was tired and sobbed because I truly felt like the worst Mummy in the world.

The same determination that is so productive, that keeps me glued to a library chair for hours at a time had stopped me from seeing that getting Uni work done when I was solo parenting Little Man was unrealistic. The determination that so far has rewarded me with good grades also stopped me from relaxing and enjoying my time with Little Man.

My present situation, this journey, often feels like spinning plates. My attention and time is needed in so many places and it is a real balancing act to make sure that nothing is neglected. Balance sounds great but is often hard to achieve. This fight for balance is likely to continue for the next 18 months. I am going to continue to feel pulled in lots of directions. My determination is going to make me strive to be the best Mummy, the best Wife and the best Student Nurse I can be. So many people to keep happy, so many plates to spin. But one thing that this recent experience has taught me, is that above all, my happiness is the most important plate to keep spinning.

The Hen Do I went on could not have been better timed, I switched off my social media, enjoyed quality time with some truly wonderful old friends and when Little Man and I were reunited my heart felt full to bursting. And this second week of the holidays could not have been further from the first. The Husband has used Annual Leave, commuted and worked from home all week. We have enjoyed 7 days of being a ‘normal’ family and I cannot put into words how brilliant that is. And you know what? I have hardly made a dent in my assignment this week but my goodness, I am happy.

The Fear.

Like most people, I don’t remember very much of the first few days of Little Man’s life. It was a blur of feeding, nappy changing and very little sleep. But one thing I do remember is lying in bed, overtaken by a feeling of terror that made my heart ache and my head swim. Filled with anxiety, my mind would run away with itself, envisaging scenarios where he would become ill or hurt and would be taken away from me. It was exhausting. I realise now that severe sleep deprivation and the general overwhelming nature of becoming a first time Mum had a lot to do with those early feelings of anxiety. As Little Man got bigger, less fragile and I got more sleep, the scenarios ebbed away. Occasionally a change in circumstances may see them rear their ugly head, like the first time we had a night away from him and I scared myself at the thought of not being able to protect him or when he was poorly and his temperature rocketed and in my head, this wasn’t just a cold.

At the grand age of 3, the fear that grasped me in those early days has virtually gone and we bounce through our days with a general feeling of safety. Today though, during our usual post-nursery chats, Little Man said something that made my eyes pricked with tears. He is a very happy and (sometimes overly) loving little chap and whenever I pick him up from nursery, he is playing with his little friends. But tonight, when we talked about his day at nursery, he said that he hadn’t been playing with one of these little friends because they don’t like him. My heart broke as he sighed.

Am I being unrealistic to think that at 3, he shouldn’t have to worry about being liked? At 3, I want him to be able to just play, to be unashamedly himself. I don’t want him to carry around the burden of wanting to be liked. And then I got thinking about the fact that when I’m not with him, I cannot protect him. I cannot protect him from the hurtful words of other children or anything else for that matter. And then my head started swimming again and I thought of all the things that I cannot protect him from, with me or not. And the anxiety crept into the pit of my stomach and I wonder if I’ll ever lose this fear that I have for him. Will I ever not be scared or consider the what if’s? I look to my parents and how invested they still are in me. At 30, they still worry for me and about me, still feel it when I’m struggling. And it’s obvious that this is what parenting is. When we become parents that anxiety and fear just becomes a part of who we are. So for now, I’ll just be grateful that alongside that anxiety and fear comes a sense of wonderment and joy, that so far, Little Man hasn’t given me too much to worry about.

A few thoughts for a Friday…

So I’ve not really been feeling the love about this journey of late. And if I’m honest, it’s how I’ve been feeling since before the new term started. There were lots of things that were on my mind about what the next year would entail, new lecturer, more assignments, more time away from Little Man and the Husband, higher expectations, the list could go on. And throw into the mix that at the moment, Politicians are very publicly making my chosen career feel so unbelievably undervalued. It has really made me wonder, is this all worth it?! Is it worth it when you’re putting your son to bed and jumping straight into some studying? Is it worth it when you’re driving away from your husband, and your son is crying because he misses his Daddy already? Is it worth it when you’re 30, living with your parents and getting cross that your Mum can’t stack the dishwasher properly?! (Sorry Mum!) And I really questioned if it was worth it when I sat doing some calculations and worked out that despite putting our lives on hold for 3 years in the hope of something better, The Husband and I will still be lucky if we can afford to buy ourselves a cardboard box to live in when I qualify!

With my parents away this week, the only company I’ve had, has been Little Man when he gets home from Nursery. And don’t get me wrong, we have some good chat in the evening, tonight’s topics of choice, how platelets work and what everyone in our house’s favourite colour is. So instead, I have these really annoying thoughts, going round and round in my head, irritating me more and more.

And then, my ‘little’ brother came over. My little brother, who is definitely not little, owns his own house and has a very responsible job. And we chatted. Okay, he chatted, I moaned. And then, when he got home he sent me a message that made most of those ‘what if’s’ evaporate into thin air. He reminded me that, whilst I am right to feel cross about the Government’s lack of value on Nurses and the subsequent poor pay, that is not why I chose this.

I chose to be a nurse because I want to make a difference. And yes, I may not necessarily feel like a superhero every day, but it only takes making the difference to one person for it all to be worth it. Because every person counts.

So, Politicians, you may not value me or what I am doing, but I do not care. I do care for all of those people who’s lives I can have a positive impact upon in my career. I do care that when my son is asked what his Mummy’s job is, he can say with pride “My Mummy is a Nurse”. I care about what is truly important in life and that is why I have chosen to train to be a nurse.

Goodbye Year 1…Goodbye my Friend…

Well folks, that’s it….Year 1, (very almost) DONE! I can hardly believe it.

It will be unsurprising to you all that I have been feeling very reflective this week, thinking of everything that has happened since this crazy journey began in September.

I have re-read a couple of my early blogs in a bid to remind myself how I felt and what my expectations were. I can vividly remember the nerves in the pit of my stomach on that first day, walking over the bridge towards Uni and the millions of questions I had going over and over in my head. And expectations, well I think it’s safe to say, whatever I expected, this year was not it. It has been harder and yet more brilliant than I could ever have imagined!

TheUniMummy

Look how fresh faced I was before I started?!

So what have I learnt in the past 10 months?

I Am Capable

My learning has not been limited to the world of Nursing, I have learnt SO much about myself during my first year. One of the biggest things is (and yes I am going to look like a big head here) I am smarter and stronger than I ever realised. I have spoken quite openly about my previous experience of Uni and ever since the day I got THAT classification, I have always felt I could have done better. Well the grades I have received throughout the year have gone some way to prove that to me and hope I can keep that up throughout the course. And this year I also got over one of my biggest fears, talking in front of a group of people. In week 1 of the course I shied away from the opportunity to stand up and talk in front of our class and by the end I was able to get an A for a group presentation which had me doing the very thing I have always feared. Amazing!

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Dunno if you know, but since I took up running…Dame Kelly Holmes has become my best friend!

I love Running

Speaking of doing things I never thought I would be able to do, I now run. Which trust me is a real shock! Some of my lovely ex-colleagues from Cirencester will recall the Race for Life I completed a few years back. It was pre-Little Man and I had all the time in the world to train but unfortunately, I just couldn’t find the energy (or desire) to train and as a result, I practically crawled across the finish line. And now, I can run 5k, non-stop and even enjoy the experience! And I really couldn’t have picked a better time to find this love of running because, it turns out, it is a really great way of dealing with stress. Which leads me on to my next lesson…

Stress happens

I have lost count of the amount of times I have cried during this year, cried and wondered what the hell I am doing on this course! But with the right support (thanks family), stress can be dealt with and you can always fight another day…and hear I am, heading into Year 2, with no regrets.

Friends are important

So okay, this isn’t a major lesson because I kind of knew this already but really, friends are the ones who have kept me going. It is very much like when I became a Mummy and decided, I already had amazing friends (which I do) and therefore I didn’t need to make “Mummy Friends” because who needs those?! What an idiot! And the same happened when I started Uni, I decided that my plan was to get through the course and as I didn’t NEED any more friends, who cares if I made any?! Again, idiot! The group of friends who I made at Uni have made this year both bearable and enjoyable. Thank-you ladies, you are brilliant. And those amazing friends I had pre-Uni, thank-you! Thank-you for standing by me and putting up with my lack of ability to actually arrange anything or reply to texts!! I love you!

Coffee is almost just as important

In one of my early blogs I mentioned coffee. Oh coffee, this is a friendship that has only become stronger throughout the year. Coffee, I love you. Thank-you for being so dependable and for picking me up when I’m down/keeping me awake when it matters!

My marriage is made of strong stuff

Absence may make the heart grow fonder but it also means you have to work 10x harder to keep a relationship going. During the week I basically move between the role of Student to Mother and back again, both roles are exhausting and leave very little energy for anything else. Thankfully I have a very understanding husband who doesn’t get cross when I have no energy to talk on the phone in the evening or when I arrive home on a Friday night and just want to sit quietly (with a glass of wine, of course). But all joking aside, it is very hard to cram your marriage into 2 days every week and date nights have never been so valuable. Thank-you The Husband for your unwavering support and for putting up with me, I’m lucky to have you.

I’m finally using my degree

One thing that hasn’t changed as the year has gone on is how often I think of my Grandma. I still wish she could see what I have achieved this year but take comfort in the fact that I am certain she would be proud. Wherever you are Grandma, please keep being my driving force, you’re more powerful than coffee.

And on that note, thank-you for reading and for everyone who has given me advice/support this year, I say it a lot but it really does mean the world.

One final shift, an evening of celebrating with my family and then the relaxation can begin!

 

The Uni Mummy, over&out

Here come’s the sun…

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This week I’ve been:
Reading…Vogue. This was a real treat, courtesy of Little Man for Mother’s Day, complete with with delicious snacks and peace & quiet.
Listening to…Chain Reaction on BBC Radio 4. Tim Vine interviewing Sir Ken Dodd, hilarious silliness!
Eating…Macaroni Cheese & Roasted Squash. Perfect when you have a slight Adult Headache.
Doing…Visiting Croome Court with The Husband & Little Man.

It’s been a pretty great week here at The Uni Mummy HQ. I have survived a second week of Solo-Parenting and have had a fun-filled weekend with The Husband and Little Man!

This week saw the final taught lecture of my 1st year of the course, which if you ask me is NUTS! It’s only just April for goodness sakes! But before you groan and make a comment about the fact that I am a ‘Part-time Student’…the year itself is not over yet. Do not fear Tax Payers, I still have an exam, ‘Skills Week’ and an 8 week Placement before I can hang up my nurse’s uniform and have a break!

The end of the week saw my final assignment for my Mental Health module in the first year, the dreaded ‘Group Presentation’. When we were put into groups a few weeks ago, I was detached from my usual Uni ladies and put with 3 other fellow students who I had barely spoken to since the start of the year. I’ll be honest, I had a little strop. I was sad that I wouldn’t get to have a legitimate, study-filled excuse to lark about with my friends some more. But you know what, change is actually good! The girls I was put with were genuinely lovely, hard-working and as up for a giggle as the ladies I’ve hung out with since Day 1 of the course. And, although we haven’t had our result back yet, I feel really proud of what we achieved together. A particular achievement for me as during my first degree I lied about completing my presentation just to avoid doing it because I was THAT scared. I write often about the confidence this course is giving me and Friday was a perfect example of that!

Of course, a great achievement, requires a great celebration. So my gang of girlies let me rejoin the pack and on Friday, we hit the town, heels and all! I felt a little nervous, would our, frankly hilarious, banter work outside of the safety of the Uni Canteen? Would everyone get on, 3 hours in? Would everyone else mind that if there is music, I will dance…and dance…and dance?! Needless to say, my nerves were unfounded and we had a fantastic night. There were giggles aplenty and I really feel like it helped us become even closer as a group. And the best part of it all? I only had a mild Adult Headache the next day…that’s not to say that the cheesy, carby Mac n Cheese that the Husband cooked didn’t go down a storm. Delicious.

I’m sure it’ll be no surprise that we have been making the most of the gorgeous weather that seems to have blessed our isles this weekend. We have managed to squeeze in two picnics and more sweet treats than I’d care to admit to. Yesterday we visited Croome Court, somewhere that has been recommended to me on more than one occasion. So we packed up a picnic, a blanket and some bubbles and headed out. Over 3.5 hours later, Little Man was very resistant to leave, despite being on his feet nearly the whole time and even after he went flying and got his first matching set of grazed knees! Poor Little Man. Despite the injuries, we really did have a fantastic time and I really recommend it as a day out for families, especially if you can duplicate the beautiful weather we enjoyed! We didn’t visit the house itself but there were lots of bridges to scramble over, a beautiful lake to walk around and a small play park for those who aren’t exhausted enough by the big hill!

Next week is the first full week I have spent with Little Man since Christmas and I’m really looking forward to it. So check back next week and I shall fill you in on all of our Easter Holiday fun!

The Uni Mummy, over&out x

 

 

Silence is golden, unless you write a blog! Sorry!

Sorry for the quiet everyone. I had a couple of tough weeks. It felt like everything was spinning out of control, away from me. It all ended in a big, messy meltdown where I sobbed to an unsuspecting employee of the University who could not have been more calm, caring and compassionate.

I hadn’t realised, but I had been trying to keep a lid on the stress I was experiencing. It’s a bit of an overused analogy but I really was like a swan on the water, going about my daily life ‘coping’ but underneath it all I was crumbling and desperately trying to hold it together. And then I snapped.

Little Man decided he definitely didn’t want to wear his socks or in fact, any of his uniform and ran off like a greyhound around a race track as soon I got within a metre of him with aforementioned uniform. And so I lost it. I shouted, I cried and I begged him to just behave. But when I look back, I realise Little Man wasn’t REALLY the reason for my stress and it wasn’t him I was REALLY cross with.

I had an essay due in the following week, whose conclusion I had been battling with for days and things with the Husband had been tough. This whole living apart thing is a struggle sometimes. We have to fit in to a weekend, everything that your average couple skips over during the week. The things I took for granted, like sharing little daily stories about his work and my lectures and all the boring stuff we have to sort as grown ups like Car Services and when we’re going to squeeze in visits to the extended family. And of course, some nights I would just like to cuddle up on the sofa and not say anything at all. I know that we’re strong enough as a couple to get through this adventure but that doesn’t make it easy!

SO, as there’s not a fat lot The Husband and I can do about living under the same roof, unless someone wants to buys us a house, I decided to try and fix what I can, me! So thanks to my wonderful Uni I have joined a meditation class for free and although I’m only one class in, I feel SO much better. I’m sure part of that is just having my meltdown and recognising I need to spend more time on myself but the meditation definitely helped too.

So I am a week and a half into my month of solo-parenting whilst my lovely parents swan about in sunny Spain and although it’s not been easy, I am trying my very best to at least acknowledge the things stressing me out and if I can, try and fix them. And the emergency chocolates I bought have remained untouched which I think speaks volumes!!

I have some plans for the blog which I hope to sort out in the next couple of weeks and will try and keep you posted more often.

Hope everyone has been keeping well in my absence and you’ve all been enjoying this gorgeous weather we’ve been having. Today was my final taught lecture of the first year, how did that happen?!? And on that note, I have some studying to do…

The Uni Mummy, over&out x

What’s the worst that could happen?!

Firstly, a MASSIVE apology for the radio silence.

I had all the best intentions that I would write a long blog summing up Placement as soon as I finished. Then the end of Placement arrived followed by a whirlwind weekend and before I knew it I was back at Uni, solo-parenting and life hasn’t stopped since. But here I am, with a brief moment of quiet to bring you up to speed.

Unsurprisingly, Placement turned out to be a HUGE learning curve for me and not just in relation to my future role as a Mental Health Nurse but that’s a pretty good place to start so here is what I learnt:

  1. Mental Illness is totally indiscriminate. It does not care how many qualifications or how much money you have. It doesn’t care if you’re married, single, divorced. If you have children or none. If you are at the start of your adult life or nearing the end. Mental Illness does not care. And it may sound very naive and a little silly when I say it but I learnt that mental illness effects ‘normal’ people. No matter how many statistics I’ve learnt of how common it is to be effected by some sort of Mental ill-health, caring for such a wide range of people really brought this home to me.
  2. Mental Health Nurses are ‘real’ nurses. Again, obvious and silly to state but it’s true. A common view of Mental Health Nurses is that they just spend their day talking with patients. And yes, talking is a BIG part of the job. But I can assure you, alongside this there was a whole host of typical ‘Nurse’ duties. I saw WAY more bodily fluids than I thought I would and learnt about a whole host of physical illnesses too. Because, guess what? Just because someone is ill with depression, their diabetes doesn’t decide to take a holiday.
  3. Who you work with really makes a difference. I was so lucky to be working alongside such a great team, without whom, I don’t think my Placement would have been half as good. It won’t surprise you that sometimes, the job got pretty tough. It is such a busy environment, there is always something going on and sometimes I saw and experienced things that were pretty upsetting. Without the brilliant support of the other staff on the ward, these trying times had the potential to have a really negative impact on me and my confidence. But they were brilliant and it didn’t.
  4. Working full-time and raising a toddler is EXHAUSTING! On Placement, we have no choice but to work full-time but I can tell you, if right now I was qualified and looking for a job, I would be not be looking for a full-time one. I bow down to you full-time working mother, you are my heroes!
  5. The greatest rewards come as a result stepping out of your comfort zone. Anyone that’s been following me for a while may have read my pre-Placement post where I basically had a freak out about where I had been placed. To say I was nervous would be like saying that Justin Fletcher is only a little bit annoying (sorry Justin). I convinced myself that I would be useless, that I had nothing to bring to the role and I was almost certain I’d spend every minute of my shift hiding in the toilets, scared and crying. This is basically the absolute opposite to the reality and the feedback I received from my mentor throughout Placement was just amazing and so I left with soaring confidence. And guess what?! Confidence is an amazing thing! It doesn’t just stop in one part of your life. The confidence I gained from Placement has spread like a cough at Little Man’s nursery and I am SO much more relaxed as a parent and as a student and just generally feel pretty brilliant. As a result of my new found confidence, I have even begun knitting my first jumper. Which may sound a bit like a bit of a leap but I have always knitted flat things, scarves, blankets etc. and on completing my latest scarf, I thought why not just give a jumper a go?! What is the worst that could happen?!I started this whole journey as a Mental Health Nurse with the phrase ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ and I really feel that now I am fully embracing it. So Little Man, by next Winter you may be the lucky recipient of a hand-made jumper and if not, we have lots of grey wool to do arts and crafts with!

And on that note, I shall love and leave you all. Sorry it took a while to get around to writing this but I hope it gives you a bit of an insight into what I have been up to for the past 12 weeks! Now i’m settling back into Uni life once again, I plan to get my arse into gear more regularly and keep you posted with the life of The Uni Mummy once more!

Until next time, Happy Monday

and Over & Out x