What the future holds…

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As I sit and write this post I am jobless. I resigned my teaching post during my maternity leave as my request for part time hours could not be accommodated.

On 6th June my maternity pay ends and I am yet to find a new job.

You see, the thing is after nearly 12 years of being in the teaching profession I don’t know if it’s for me anymore.

I haven’t become old and jaded but I’m not sure I have the same passion that I used to for it. I am passionate about young people, about them feeling empowered and safe and nurtured but not about targets and grades and performance management. I am passionate about investing in the lives of young people but not about making them jump through hoops.

I have worked in mainstream, PRU, Alternative Education, SEN and within each it is only a matter of time before it becomes about everything else but quality time with the students and to be honest, that’s never what I signed up for.

I am torn, don’t get me wrong, this has been my vocation, my calling for 12 years, I have eaten, breathed, slept teaching for the majority of my adult life.

Right now, I question if it is where I am best used. I question if my heart is still in it, if I can inflame my passion for it again. It’s frightening.

I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know how everything is going to work out.

I do know that the world looks at me differently now I am a mother. I do know that many will question why I would sacrifice a career.

My perspective has changed, my faith has changed. I have been given skills, abilities and passions and I am called to use them to make a difference.

The question is where?

I haven’t ruled out teaching, it is almost synonymous with who I am but I don’t want to just go through the motions anymore.

So yes, I resigned without a new job to go to. Yes, I stuck to my guns about wanting to work part time and yes, despite the uncertainty of it all, I feel it is one of the most sensible decisions I have ever made.

I don’t know what the future holds but one day I will, for now, it’s about holding fast.

Ever had a 'should I have got out of bed?' day

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So today didn’t start well. Had a row with my husband before church and made him late for serving on PA ( am sure no one ele has ever done this, I realise I am a complete minority in this)

At this point, the day could have been a write off. Mainly due to my mind continually letting me know what a screw up I am and how I had ruined everything (my mind is a drama queen – anyone else’s?)

I managed to stop sobbing and text a few friends, telling them exactly what had happened and how I was.

I then partook in a bit of blowing raspberries therapy, which if you haven’t heard of it involves blowing raspberries at your small child to make them giggle. 15 minutes of this and I was semi normal again – enough to make it out of the front door and head to church.

I arrived and was happily greeted by a friend who chatted to me and gave me a hug. Got a bit teary again but then felt ok.

The thing is, the last place I wanted to go was church. I was feeling a bit broken and vulnerable and yet my natural reaction was to hide.

This is not a comment on my church or my church family. It is recognising the fact that there is something a little inherent in me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, that makes me feel I have to be perfect and smiley and raring to go on a Sunday and quite frankly that’s the biggest lie we can hold on to.

Jesus himself said he did not come for the righteous – so why do I aspire to be like that on a Sunday.

Church should be a place of refuge and yet today I was afraid of judgement of appearing a failure and that has nothing to do with anyone or anything said. It has to do with my own battle with perfection and owning up to the fact I struggle.

Right now, I don’t feel I am a good enough mother, wife, friend or family member. That’s my own journey and it’s ok for me to be on it, there isn’t a quick fix in all this.

I cancelled going to my son’s swimming lesson today ( Mum guilts kicked in big time) but some vindication came in the fact he napped for over 2hrs in the time we would have been. Sometimes, I really should trust my instincts and stop using the selfish word when I make these decisions.

Friends invited us for lunch, and I was nurtured and refreshed and offered a place of safety where I could be just as I am.

So, even though it was tough today, it was also important as I learned how to share those parts of myself that I would rather hide, I realised it’s not so bad saying it how it is and feel a little more confident in my messiness but still have a way to go – work in progress right?

Tonight is the church prayer
meeting and I am sat instead at home in my pyjamas. Another chance for my mind to tell me I have my priorities all wrong… at one point someone told me ‘Sometimes the most holy thing you can do is rest.’ and I am very good at saying this to other people but right now, I think I need to say it to myself, believe it and remember that there is no condemnation.

Things are all a bit messy

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So I am currently in limbo. There are a few things I was expecting to be resolved by today and they aren’t.

There are a few loose ends that remain untied, a few extra things yet to be ticked off the to-do list, an a couple of big unknowns.

Funny isn’t it, how the unknowns seem ok to begin with but then they creep up on you at the last minute ( 3am if you’re like me)

The fact is, things are all a bit messy and yet, in the midst of it all I find myself straying into a place of stillness and peace. Maybe it’s the eye of the storm? Maybe it’s a mirage? A created oasis in this desert place. But, when I find myself there, even though I can’t make sense of it, I am calm, at rest, my soul quietens.

I found that place at the end of my Zumba class on Wednesday, as we warmed down and the last song began my eyes were drawn to the wooden cross at the side of the stage. My Zumba class is held in a Salvation Army building.

It felt poignant so soon after Easter to find myself staring at an empty wooden cross and to be reminded of the ultimate sacrifice and then this song began…

I felt tears form and realised that I was having a moment, that something was calling deep into my heart. That this was a message for me.

You could write it all off as coincidence, I was just reading too much into it all but there in that moment I experienced God more closely than I had in a very long time and had a renenwed understanding of it all… The Cross, the love, His sacrifice, my response and although I have no idea how, I knew it is all going to be ok but at a cost.

At life group last night we sang the following words:

‘And no matter what the cost I will follow you. Jesus everything I’ve lost I have found in you…’

There’s a cost, a cost to all these loose ends, the unknowns and there has been loss but there is hope and right now I will hold on to that and to ‘My Salvation, my my’

Baby Cups – an oxymoron?

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When my son was born, I made the decision to breast feed. At 8 weeks old we attempted to introduce to him a bottle with expressed milk This was unsuccessful.

I have had many ‘helpful’ comments explaining to me that if he was really hungry he would take a bottle no trouble.

This was not the case and I believe I am not the only mother who found themselves in this position, made to feel as though they had failed in some way, or that they had ‘spoilt’ their child by breast feeding.

I do not feel hard done by. I did not want to introduce a bottle as a substitute to feeding, I was always intending to continue but it was so that I could be away from my son for longer than two hours if I wanted to be.

We persevered, we didn’t just give up on the bottle but it became clear that it was not to be.

At that point, I discovered this was not an isolated case.

When my son was about five and a half months old, I stumbled across @babycuphello Twitter account.

Baby cups? Surely this was somewhat of an oxymoron? A small open cup for a baby to drink from themselves, this couldn’t work could it?

Babycup -Little cups for little people. Weaning and drinking 6mths-2.5yrs. Cup- feeding newborns including premature babies.

Find out more about babycup

I loved the concept, read the testimonials and decided we had to give them a go.

This is an honest, no holds barred, Mum trying a product review.

I write this in the hope that other mums who may have been made to feel that they have somehow ‘failed’ their child by being unsuccessful with a bottle will quash that idea and see there is an alternative.

When I first received the babycups, they reminded me somewhat of shot glasses.

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My son was intrigued by them, wanting to hold a babycup and explore it. I noticed, as I gave it to him just to look at for the first time that he almost insinstinctively put it to his mouth.

The first few times that we attempted it with a little water, I had to help him navigate holding it but he immediately made drinking motions and took liquid in.

This was a milestone moment for us. There was no turning of the head or flat refusal.

Within a week, my son was able to hold a babycup independently and drink from it.

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We had done little more than help him hold it initially and then slowly remove support. It took a week for him to become an independent drinker at 6 months old!

The cups come in a range of colours, are small enough to fit in your changing bag or even handbag and are endorsed as healthy choice for your baby.

This product has quite frankly been life changing for us as a family and have provided a solution and alternative to bottles.

Don’t just take my word for it, check out the @babycuphello Twitter account for plenty more pictures and testimonials of babycup being used by parents.

You can also check out my Twitter account @Loulou_Uberkirk to see my own tweets about the product prior to writing this review.

So, if you’re a parent feeling guilty or as if you have failed, if you are a parent looking for an alternative to sippy cups or bottles, or if you are weaning and want to try something new, try babycup.

Reasonably priced, in a range of colours, small and portable and promoting independence for your little one.

Further questions contact Sara hello@babycup.co.uk or on Twitter @babycuphello

Today I'm a mum and still in my pjs

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So, little man is 6 months and having a period of wakefulness at night.

The initial reaction is to Google and come up with 100 different explanations ranging from growth spurts to not following a sleep training method.

It can be a minefield and there are always plenty of smug ‘experts’ ready to tell you everything you are doing wrong and why you should buy into their particular methods.

Truth is, no-one knows the answer part from little man and he isn’t in a position to tell me.

I have developed my own coping mechanisms for these periods and they happen every so often.

At first, it was easy to beat myself up about it, to feel I had to put a brave face on it and just keep calm and carry on.

Before… I would have forced myself to get up, get dressed, face the world and even get a morning walk in to ensure little man napped. I was slightly crazed about just getting on.

Today… I posted in my secret mums group on Facebook about our shocker of an evening, whats app’d my post natal group and was hugely delighted to be presented with a cup of coffee by my husband before he left for work.

Instead of focussing on getting up and getting on, I sat on the bed with little man and played, enjoyed staying in my pyjamas and dressing gown. I can shower later – for now I just need to be.

I received plenty of words of encouragement from other mums who are experiencing similar and was spurred on by the knowledge that I am not alone!

I did the breakfast routine – weaning has begun. Mashed banana on toast – what a choice for a day when I’m living on coffee and prayer. It was fine, what are baby wipes for anyway?

Now, little man naps and I’m still in my pjs and you know what? I feel liberated. Liberated from the need to be up, showered, dressed out and facing the world.

I will be going out later but I’m not looking at the clock and fretting today.

Today, I am struggling to stay awake a little so I’m going to take my time. I’m not going to buy into questioning myself, or rushing to do everything.

I am leaving Google and forums alone.

Today, I’m a mum and I’m still in my pjs.

To all those suffering with 'mum guilts'

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To the mothers reading this, I want you to know that you don’t need to feel guilty.

We all do it to ourselves, we all allow those thoughts and feelings to build up and overwhelm us – usually at 2am and it leads to a restless night.

The ‘mum guilts’ I have named them. The I should have, shouldn’t have, could have etc…about any situation to do with our children.

Mine tend to focus around photos and momentos. I should have had casts made of his hands and feet. I should have started a memory scrapbook by now, I should have taken more photos.

I had a revelation this evening that all my ‘should haves’ have nothing to do with my son. None of those things are detrimental to him. They are about me and my needs.

What he needs from me is for me to focus on interacting and enjoying him. He doesn’t need a lens stuck in his face every five minutes. I have very few pictures of me as a child – it doesn’t make me feel deprived or affect my memories of my childhood. I don’t hold my parents accountable demanding why they didn’t take more photos!

I tie myself up in knots about it and I don’t know why I can’t be rational but I’m going to make more of an effort to try.

I get ‘mum guilts’ when he is awake too long and gets over tired, when he wakes in the night and I feel shattered in the morning and am grumpy, when I don’t live up to the expectations I have set myself as to what a mother should be.

I hesitate about going out to Zumba or for a meal if he is not settled before I go.

A week ago I went out to see a comedian and he cried for the first 45 minutes I was out but then slept until I was home. I battled and won against the ‘mum guilts’ then. He may have cried if I had been there anyway. He was fine when he woke up – he wasn’t holding grudges!

That’s the thing, that’s what I want you to remember. Ultimately your child wants to be loved. You are doing that every single day. You are loving them in the best way that you can and they don’t hold you even a fraction as accountable as you hold yourself.

So, whatever your ‘mum guilts’ are about. Whatever triggers them in you – let it go.

You are a mother but you are not guilty.

Guilt is such an ugly, all consuming thing and frankly you don’t have time for it. You are far too busy loving your child.

So tonight, get some sleep while you can, don’t re assess the whole day picking on your faults but instead remember the smiles and laughter that were just for you, remember the hugs, the holding of your hand and know your little one sleeps feeling cherished by you.

You are loved. You are not guilty.

Combating the inner critic – choose encouragement

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I came across this in my social media feeds today and although it’s nothing I haven’t heard before, today it resonated. Maybe because it is a Monday or maybe because it is important right now to me and many others.

It’s just 9am on a Monday morning. Many people will have completed the commute and be on their way to the office, those who work at home will be sat in front of their screens, maybe with an empty bowl of cereal nearby. Teachers will be well into teaching their first lesson of the day. Parents may have just finished the school run, some mothers will be building up the will to get through the day after a sleepless night, some, like me, will be sat in a slight daze as their little one has their morning nap wondering if they have time to do the list of jobs piling up on that ‘to-do’ list. All of us navigating the thoughts in our minds.

How have you begun your day? Have you already given in to that well of criticalness that seeks to take over? Have you been a ‘Monday moaner’?

The sunshine at the weekend changed people’s moods. There were smiles and a sense of being upbeat. However, there was still the tendency from some to start with the critical ‘It’s too hot.’

There is a sense that whatever circumstances we are in, the voice that tends to be the loudest is that of the critic.

I know that you have an inner critic who gets at you all day long, I know that often a way to deal with it is to become negative or sharp tongued with others.

The truth is, we all crave a bit of encouragement, a sense of being built up, of being offered an alternative but despite that we rarely offer it to others.

For Lent this year, I am following the #40 acts challenges and today we are asked to have ‘an attitude of gratitude’ you can check out further details here 40 acts

We have been asked to write a thank you note. I was quite convicted as I can’t remember the last time I did this. I have sent emails and texts but not a hand written note or card.

I know how much I like to receive cards and notes and yet I don’t offer that to others very often.

Sometimes we spend so much time and energy on combating our own inner critics that we don’t reach out and help others with theirs. Surely it would be easier to share the load?

So instead of listening to your inner critic, instead of letting that be your voice and shape your words, how about letting the encourager take over for today?

So many of us get caught in a shadow of discouragement – how about offering an alternative? A way out for those that you are in contact with today? You never know, you may even silence that critic for yourself.

I would love to know how you get on! Please feel free to leave a comment telling me how it goes.