Today I got something right. I made a little person very happy. Sadly, he had better not get used to it because it’s unlikely to happen very often. As a full time teacher, a mother of 4, football mum, amateur event rider, wife, blogger, wannabe farmer (more small holder) and ever-so more occasional runner; I am starting to realise that I am spreading myself too thinly. I want to be good at all of these things but sadly, given to extreme range, I am failing. Failing miserably in fact. I will probably tell you that it is because my time is spread too thinly, but somewhere deep down I think that it is my motivation and drive that has taken a hit.
Today I made Finn happy. Finn is 4, he is my 3rd eldest son. Finn started school in September. I didn’t take him to school on his first day because I had to work. Work at my school, and I had a Y11 form, whose needs I put in front of my own child. Finns dad went, but ever since I have been suffering from ‘mummy guilt’. Today, thanks to my school giving us a disaggregated Inset day, I went to the church at 9.30 and watched Finns harvest festival. He wasn’t expecting this. When he saw me in the audience I could see him telling everyone on his row that I was there and pointing me out. I nearly cried.
This afternoon I am back in his school doing reading with his class. A day off from my school and I am spending most of it in another school! The point of this is that I am making the most of being able to do this, and hopefully it will make up for the nativity I will miss at Christmas, and his sports day in the summer which inevitably won’t fall on a time of day that I’m off. My parenting win on this occasion has been nothing more than luck. So I could request time off for these things??? With family friendly working practices in education, I know that in some schools people can, when convenient, have time to do these things – but I have 4 children. All of them have these important occasions and so how can I expect my school to allow me time for all of the things I would like to attend? So I don’t ask. I have had to have time off when they have been sick in hospital and I think this is enough. My eldest sons orthodontist, dentist, doctor appointments are now booked only in holidays and so I try to not allow any of my family stuff impact on my working day. This is not easy though. It certainly wasn’t easy going through IVF trying to do this – but I kind of achieved it with minimal disruption by waiting to have it when I could have egg collection and implantation in school holidays (with Finn) and a frozen embryo transfer (with Oisín) on a weekend.
I once had a miscarriage and didn’t miss a day of school. Another time I had a general anaesthetic for an operation on a Thursday in a half term (because I had been able to go privately) and was back at school on the Monday in spite of the 2 week sick note my consultant wanted to give me. After each child, I have gone back to work at 4 months. Most of the time I don’t feel mummy guilt, but at the moment it’s really bad and the sacrifice feels greater than any reward or benefit of this approach to my combined career and parenting.
A year ago, I added to my already busy schedule by my return to Eventing after more than a decade out of the sport. For my mental health this has been amazing. This is who I am. This is ‘possibly’ the path I should have followed (working with horses). But now I have something else to feel like I’m failing at – to add to my parenting and work. A year ago I came 20th at Monmouth Horse Trials. I then gave myself the chance to do whatever was necessary to return to the sport. A year of training, (100’s of hours of training) hours of fitness work, equipment upgrades, competing, 2.5 stone weight loss and this year I went to Monmouth Horse Trials and came………… 20th. Only I came 20th with £15k on my credit card!!! The cost of doing one of the most expensive sports on the planet!! Perspective tells me that I’m not really failing here though because the joy I have had from having gone through this makes me more determined to make it worth it and the reality is that progress isn’t always measurable in numbers (something that education perhaps should take note of).
This blog doesn’t really end with a happy up lifting moment of clarity because I don’t really have it right now. For all of the aspects of my life, the rewards are so few and far between, that sometimes (like now) I feel totally lost. I guess that every so often we all need a sign that we are moving in the right direction and I guess that this is possibly what is missing for me. My confidence is a bit low and self doubt have crept in (I also have a bad case of ‘post Eventing season’ blues). For the last 12 months I have been a case study for a lovely lady doing a PhD on the subject of women leaders in education who are mothers. My last interview with her was Wednesday night. For the last year I have outlined my journey, ambitions and goals. The final question on Wednesday was about where I imagined I would be in 5 years. I suspect she expected me to say that I would hope to be on a Senior leadership team, that I might be doing an NPQH…… but I told her I wasn’t sure any more about what I hoped or what I wanted out of my career. Maybe the personal sacrifices of working while having a one year old, in addition to the 3 older children, are catching up with me?? I cannot and wouldn’t want to be out of work. I have made huge progress in tackling my work / life balance. Maybe I need to be less goal/target oriented?? I have moved towards this with my riding. My 8 faults SJ at Monmouth which dropped us out of the placings was actually the best round we had jumped ….. ever. I have jumped horrible feeling, sketchy clear and 4ft rounds (admittedly not too many ACTUAL clears) but at Monmouth he felt sooo good. It just wasn’t reflected in the score. I know enough and am confident enough to appreciate this. Perhaps in all of those other areas of my life, I’m not as rubbish as I feel (she says, secretly hoping this to be the case)??? I just don’t know. What I do know is that I am going to leave the house in a minute to go to my sons primary school to hear him read and am going to have a happy little person for the rest of the day. My children make me proud every day. They make me proud that even though I’m doing such a rubbish job at being a parent, that they are growing into such lovely people. And on that note I am going.