The Teaching Mum

A light-hearted look at parenting through the eyes of a very busy English Teacher.


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Teaching Mum’s Guide to Wellness

So, a fellow blogger and I were contacted last week by The Times magazine and were asked to write an article about wellness.

Hers started like this:

7.45am – I wake up having had, on average, seven hours and forty one minutes’ sleep – I have analysed my sleep over the past few years and I know this is the perfect amount for me.  I turn on the near-infrared light at the end of my bed and sit there for seven minutes meditating, to focus my mind for the day ahead. 

I take shots of probiotics and Quinton Isotonic, a supplement that comes from plankton and contains enzymes that help me stay hydrated, and a glass of water.

Mine, on the other hand…

5.37am – I start the morning filled to the brim with anxiety about the day ahead. I’ve had approximately five hours sleep. I blame this partially on the fact that I was playing on my children’s Nintendo Switch until midnight. The down side is that my eyelids feel like they have 20kg weights attached to them but the upside is that I have over 50 Pokemons in my bag and my Pikachu is at level 34 and almost undefeatable. I could go back to sleep as my alarm isn’t set to buzz until 6.15am but my head is already organising and reorganising my day: have I planned my lessons? Yes. Have I marked my books? Yes. Have I ironed the school uniforms? Yes. Did I pack my daughter’s PE bag before coming to bed last night? No. Sh*t, but I did bag myself a rare Pokemon instead so swings and roundabouts and all that. I pull my arm out from underneath my son; it is numb because he has laid on it all night, so my somewhat stealthy operation has failed before it has even begun as my arm is flopping around like Magikarp out of water. My son will wake and demand his morning kale Fruitshoot and wake the house. I sit in the darkness on the edge of the bed praying that I will one day win the lottery (that I don’t play) before early mornings get ups are the death of me.

I quietly nip downstairs where I take my daily dose of thyroxine, a tablet that is supposed to help my thyroid work properly because having children f*cked it up.  Silently creeping back upstairs, I step on a plastic Plankton from SpongeBob, cry out and wake the house.

8am – Take a shower using natural products, as the chemicals found in shampoo and shower gel can be toxic.  Weigh myself and use a litmus test to measure my urine pH levels.

6:23am – Take a shower in the company of 6547 Mashums and Smashers. Wash myself using a half empty Mr Matey and a unicorn sponge from B&M.  I worry that the chemicals in my hair are now toxic due to the fact that it hasn’t been washed since a week last Tuesday.  Residing myself to the fact that it won’t be washed again today, and feeling confident that perhaps in my hair lies the cure for an underactive thyroid, I climb out, get dried and weigh myself. This is usually followed by crying, swearing or hopping back on the loo in the hope for a poo in order to lose a couple of pounds.

8.20 – I turn on my HumanCharger, a device that looks like an iPod with an ear piece that shines a light into my ear to give me energy, and make my bullet-proof coffee, using a table-spoon of coconut oil, some chaga mushroom powder – a little bit of potassium, colostrum and collagen.  I use a low-mycotoxins, toxic chemicals produced by moulds.

While I am having my coffee, I fill out a spreadsheet on my computer inputting my weight, my urine pH, my hydration and how well I’ve slept.  I then sync my Oura tracking ring, a sleeping and activity tracking device that I wear all day., with my phone and look at the data on how well I’ve slept and how much deep and REM sleep I’ve had.  I get dressed and stand on the balcony in my flat, which clears my mind.  I then feed my mind by reading for 20 minutes.

6:30 – I turn on every charger in the house because I have forgotten to charge tablets and phones the previous evening. In order to look more human than zombie for work, my children need some form of entertainment whilst I apply three layers of foundation and concealer. Unfortunately, and I’m ashamed to say, that the entertainment comes in the form of You Tube where my little ones watch other families acting out scenes from various retro films you used to love. I watch in awe at mums and dads acting out scenes from Ghostbusters – all with special effects and costumes – and all I can think is ‘Where do they find the time?’, ‘What the hell am I doing so wrong?’ and ‘I wonder if I can buy that Slimer on Amazon.’  My husband brings toast up stairs for the children to eat in bed; they attend Breakfast Club at school each morning so technically I’m paying for them to sit in a chair and watch other kids eat their breakfast.  My morning rant falls on deaf ears so I grab discarded crusts where I can and know that if there is a little Lurpak left on the crusts then it’s going to be a good day.  I haven’t had a drink of water in three days and my first cup of tea of the day will be at 11:05 during breaktime at school.  I wonder briefly if my insides look like a prune.

When it’s time to get dressed, I ask my children politely to grab their outfits for the day. Often I am ignored so this is followed by begging, pleading, shouting and the confiscation of all technology. I am then labelled the Worst Mum in the World but at least the cherubs are dressed. Me, however, I’m still in my dressing gown. I meander into my room and contemplate a life where I could stay in my dressing gown all day and yet still have a respectable career. Could I teach ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to my Year 10s via Skype, for example? Yes, I think so.  I feed my mind for 20 minutes with unachievable goals and unattainable wishes.  Then I realise I am running late. Sh*t.

9.15am – I leave the flat and fist bump the concierge.  I’ve fist bumped him every morning for the four years I’ve lived in that flat.  I like to make people smile and feel valued… I stopped reading the article here as I no longer believed the person writing it was a real human being. 

7.30am – I drop my children at Breakfast Club and on my way out through the school gates, I spot another mother – a kindred spirit.  We fist-bump each other and as we pass, I notice she is wearing pyjamas under her coat and Ugg style boots.  Perhaps she has mastered how to have a respectable career whilst staying in her dressing gown all day.  Perchance the dream really is attainable and I find myself both envious and in awe of her.

The definition of ‘well-being’ is ‘the state of being comfortable, happy and healthy’ and despite all of the above, I am.  Who wants to drink coffee made out of some weird mushroom anyway?

Always good for my well-being

**Please note that I wasn’t asked to write an article for The Time magazine, but my guess is that you have figured that out by now.**

Deny yourself nothing.

 

 


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The Fortunate Four

You’re twisting my hair as I type this. Twisting hair brings you comfort as it is something you have done since you were a baby. The hair twisting needs to stop because when I brush my hair, I pull out knot after knot after knot and it’s excruciating! However, right this second, as you twist while drinking your bedtime milk, it feels so relaxing. I’m sitting up in my bed wearing my pyjamas and you’re next to me. You’ve just got out of the bath and you’re in your pyjamas too (so is your sister, who is also in my bed.) It’s my favourite time of the day – together we lay reading, chatting, playing with tablets, watching Netflix or You Tube and you snuggle in next to me and lull me into a false state of relaxation with the hair twisting. In the back of my mind I know that in about twelve hours, when I am straightening my hair for work, I’ll be cursing the fifth knot yanked from my scalp. But, we’ll deal with that tomorrow.

Right now, let’s focus on you.

You LOVE opening presents and during the Christmas holidays you have ripped your way through your Dad’s birthday presents, your Christmas presents and my birthday presents. After every present opening session was complete you asked: “Is it MY birthday yet?” And we would reply with “Not yet, but soon.”

When you were born, you completed our little team of four; you’ll always be the baby of the family but tomorrow you turn four.

You’ve been a great three year old and these are the things you have enjoyed at three:

  • Fruitshoots
  • Hitting your sister
  • Running (‘From that day on, if I was goin’ somewhere, I was runnin’!’ – Your Daddy often quotes Forrest at you.)
  • Shouting ‘poo’, ‘wee’ or ‘butt butt’ at any given opportunity
  • Mooning and saying ‘look at my bum’ (that went down well in a beer garden this past summer…)
  • Transformers (although how they transform into a car has beaten us all.)
  • Gizzy and the Lemmings (you make us read out the title of each episode and if we don’t do it, you go beserk.)
  • Teen Titans Go (the Pee Pee Dance episode was repeated at least 3562 times back in August.)
  • Fruitshoots
  • Playing with your two best friends
  • Climbing on your Dad’s head
  • Cuddles
  • Hitting your sister
  • Ghostbusters 1, 2 and even the universally panned 2016 remake.
  • Smashers (we have at least 73 perched around the bath – you may have had 75 but then Mummy got in the bath and they were never seen again…)
  • Smelling my hair (you grab it and breathe the scent in – perhaps you learnt that from me because smelling your hair and breathing you in is my morning ritual.)
  • Cuddles
  • Fruitshoots

There was a cow at the birth of Jesus

You are, without a doubt, a Mummy’s Boy. and give me the best cuddles. Sometimes they are rough cuddles when you clamber all over me; sometimes they are sad cuddles when you’re hurt and sometimes they are mischievous cuddles when you know you have been naughty but you know you can soften the ‘blow’ by insisting on having a cuddle.

Your sister – from day one – was a Daddy’s girl so when you were born, you became my boy. Feeding you as a baby came so easily. I struggled with your sister and gave up breastfeeding after five months. But you? Well, you wouldn’t unclamp for fifteen months! But that’s enough on boobing as you might read this as a 21 year old and think Christ, Mum stop writing about your boobs on a public forum that your friends and colleagues read…😉 The subject, however, brings me perfectly to my next topic: co-sleeping. Oh, it’s a taboo subject and I have been told on a number of occasions: “Ooh *looks at me in a judging manner* you’ve made a rod for your own back there.” I can categorically say, hand on heart, that I do not have a rod in my back (I mean, I may one day because sleeping on the edge of a bed for the best part of seven years will probably have caused some critical damage) but metaphorically there is no rod because waking up next to you nestled in close brings me nothing but comfort. Waking in the dark winter mornings at 6am knowing I have a five lesson day, followed by boosters or a meeting, followed by a swimming lesson or Brownies, followed by umpiring or playing netball, followed by washing or ironing followed by…(oh, the list goes on and on), well that can make a person feel somewhat f*cked off overwhelmed but waking and feeling your body tucked into mine, smelling your hair and taking that moment to appreciate that you sleeping next to your Mummy makes both of us feel safe and loved and protected, well that just makes me happy. And for as long as I am happy and you’re happy, then I guess we’ll co-sleep. You’re little for such a short period of time so as long as you need me, I’m yours.

There is something that your Dad and I worry about.  You’re obsessed – some might say even an addict.  You cannot make it through the day without a Fruitshoot (or three).  Each morning your first words to me aren’t ‘I love you, Mummy’ or ‘Mummy, you look at least five years younger than your real age of 38’ No, your first words are ‘Fruitshoot’ and heaven help us all if your Dad has forgotten to put a Fruitshoot next to my side of the bed.  You have been known to punch bottles of Evian because we – God forbid – denied you that devil in a little orange bottle and told you that you needed drink more water.  Did you know that Evian spells naïve backwards?  Your Dad and I were certainly that when we thought we could end your addiction to Robinsons with a bottle of clear liquid that tastes like nothing, smells like nothing and yet costs twice as much.

Are you looking at him or shaking your head at all the Fruitshoots in the background?

Sometimes I have days when I feel that no one is pleased to see me; perhaps I have had a challenging class, maybe I have had an argument with your Dad or possibly your sister has told me that I am the worst mum in the world.  Whatever the reason, there are days when I don’t feel my self-worth but then I pick you up from after school club or Grandma drops you off at my school after a long day and I see your eyes light up when you see me – you ignite my light that occasionally doesn’t shine as bright as it should. No one loves me like you love me and no one will ever reciprocate that love one hundred times over quite like your Mummy does.

Happy Birthday, son.

I didn’t choose the kit…


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An Ode to the Parent & Child Parking Space

An ode to the Parent Child Parking Space. 🚗

I’ll admit, once it wasn’t important to me,

Not when driving round Gran, who aged 93, 👵

Insisted on going to Morrisons to do her big shop,

Into the car she would climb and I would hop,

Off we would go to her favourite place,

And I would park in a parent/child space.

I know, I know, it’s totally shocking,

I’m one of those trolls you should be blocking,

But allow me to try to explain my madness,

You might feel empathy or even sadness,

Gran was frail, weak and rickety,

Stubborn, forthright and a little pernickety,

Walking far was not her forte,

Because at 4ft 10 she was a little shorty,

We searched high and low for a parking spot up close,

A blue badge holder? We were not one of those,

So without looking anyone straight in the face,

I pulled up into a parent child space. 😱

Now I’m am a Mum, I have to apologise for this huge error, 🙋‍♀️

Because plucking children neatly from my car fills me with anxiety and terror, 👩‍👧‍👦

What if they slam into another car door?

Scratch some new paintwork and I’m hauled in by the law? 👮‍♀️

So imagine my anger, imagine my surprise,

When a huge Mercedes parked up by my side,

I glanced over to greet a kindred spirit – another stressed mum, 💆‍♀️

What glanced back was a guy struggling to see over his rather rotund tum,

The back seat was empty – in fact it was pristine,

That leather upholstery, a child’s hand it had never seen, 🍫 🍭

Despicable, disgusting a down right disgrace,

This man had pulled into a parent/child space,

Out he climbed and the Merc gave a sigh of relief,

So we decided to the chase the space-stealing thief,

Confidenly, he strode straight into the shop,

While we followed shouting: “Hey! How many kids have you got?”

Our shrieks and demands he chose to ignore,

While he perused the shelves of the grocery store, 🍅 🥓🍞

“Right that’s it,” I said. “We’ll give it all we’ve got”,

Later on he would find his Merc covered in my son’s snot,

So next time you’re out in your car kid free,

Take some advice and listen to me,

Most people prefer their vehicles polished and clean,

Park in a parent/child space and you might find that your car mysteriously ‘turns’ green!


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Girl Code

G I R L C O D E

(Basically, you’re a dick if you don’t follow it! 😳)

There used to be this thing, you see,

This disgusting trait called jealousy;

In younger years – I admit – I’d experience it some,

But less I feel (I hope) now I’m a Mum,

Beauty was something I longed for and saw it in everyone but me,

Spiteful words, twisted comments only made me more ugly,

Then I grew up and matured in every way,

And now I admire and praise the beauty I see each day,

I tell my pupils that in this life there will always be someone who is better at something than you,

And how they choose to accept this will reflect in all they do,

Coveting, we are taught, is a most evil sin,

If you want what others have, then the problem is deep within,

Take my girl – she’s beautiful, talented and smart,

She’s MY picture, perfect work of art,

But a day will come where she won’t feel good enough,

When perhaps school work just gets too tough,

But I don’t want her to desire the life of her peers,

She will be taught to face her fears,

You see, there’s this moral I have now learnt,

If you live by it, you won’t get burnt,

Motherhood: for seven years how I have glowed,

Because I fully live by the rules of the GIRL CODE,

Simple acts of kindness; compliments here and there,

‘Amazing outfit today and even better hair’,

Praise your sisters when they’re winning at life,

Doesn’t it feel better than twisting the knife?

Feeling fantastic and wearing that smile,

We’ll return that compliment and go an extra mile,

Stand by your girls; offer them support,

Make sure they don’t fall; ensure they’re caught,

Real girls won’t tear you apart or watch you break,

And the ones who do – it can’t be nice living in such hate,

Girl code means we love your family as much as we love you,

Follow our code and feel empowered in all you do,

Choosing not to listen and following the darker path,

And you’ll feel our collective wrath,

Stealing a kiss will turn you into a toad,

A perfect punishment for breaking our GIRL CODE!


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Life’s a Mountain

Life is a mountain we have been tasked to climb,

The battle though is where do we find the time?

You see, today I have washed three loads of washing,

ironed our clothes, marked 32 books,

wiped and wiped and wiped my son’s runny nose,

I’ve vacuumed twice, I’ve cleaned the loo,

Washed the dishes and dried them too,

But failure is written all over my face,

The mountain – I didn’t even reach the base,

Today I didn’t sit down and enjoy time with my children,

Their eyes were glued to screens too small,

Me at my laptop, I am even there at all?

I planned five lessons, wrote 60 reports

And then there was the other 32 books…

I teach a love of reading; ‘it’s my passion’, I claim,

But when my daughter wants to read with me,

My answer is always the same,

‘Soon, my dear’, ‘tomorrow perhaps’ and

‘I just don’t have the time, my love’

And the mountain’s top grows and shifts from above,

I feel so small because my children

haven’t seen their mother at all,

And so I start to wash and dry the dishes,

Feed the cat and clean the fishes,

It’s my job, my role to keep things ticking over,

Ensure to keep my house, my home, us alive,

Then the thoughts creep in,

Would anyone notice, notice if I…

This rhyme isn’t one I wish to finish,

My light, I won’t let it diminish,

And on I fight to make it through another day,

I text my mum and ‘sorry’ I say,

‘Sorry I came over feeling so stressed,

I don’t think I’m at my best’,

There’s no money left in the pot,

My housework has taken a back seat,

There’s just too many deadlines I have to meet,

I’m middle class, white, with a degree,

Our government takes no pity upon the likes of me,

With no pay rise in sight, my money fears grow,

Will I be able to provide for my family, I’ll never know,

It’s okay to talk and it’s okay to admit defeat,

It’s fine that you might not ever reach the mountain’s peak

Don’t stress about the unreachable summit,

Ask for help and please don’t plummet.

 


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I Am Woman

I am woman, hear me roar,

You call it nagging, but it’s so much more,

We can change the world with our coalesce voices,

We’ve fought, protested and died to get our own choices,

I am woman, hear me roar,

The louder we are, the harder to ignore,

Be vigilant, they warn, for an incoming attack,

But a woman will always have another woman’s back,

I am woman, hear me roar,

Can you see us up here, up here as we soar?

Mothers, wives, friends, sisters, aunts and teachers,

We’re not not impenetrable though, fear and grief – it can reach us,

We are women, hear us roar,

I’m not here to preach, just to implore,

You call us subversive, renegades, rebels and try to drag us down,

But you can watch from the sidelines as I wear my crown 👑

Some inspiration found in Parliament Square


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I Left My Tears in the Ocean

Cala Mondrego Beach wasn’t the beach I had been picturing in my mind on the journey in the taxi. It was considerably smaller than I imagined and wanted, but the view out into the sea was rather breath-taking. Situated in a cove, the small beach invited both holiday makers and exotic yachts to anchor down and appreciate their rather beautiful surroundings.

Only I didn’t do that – not straightaway anyway.

It took a simple act of unadulterated love to pull me out of whatever self absorbed hole I was in danger of being sucked into to make me look up and see the world as it should be seen: right here, right now and most certainly unfiltered.

When we arrived the beach, it was already filling up with couples and families both local and from father a field and an array of languages could be heard floating along in the warm breeze. We made a beeline for a couple of sun-beds only for us to be told that they were already taken. Eventually, we found two that were residing in the shade. We paid our 15 Euros and they were ours for the day. And when I say ‘ours’ I specifically mean my daughter and son because they immediately chose a bed each leaving both my husband and me laying out our towels in the sand. Within minutes, no, actually it was seconds, my daughter wanted her tablet and she cried (actual tears) when I informed her that she would only be able to watch the programmes we had pre-planned and downloaded for her. Yes! We preconceived that something like this would occur and downloaded a number of her favourite programmes. How awful of us!

“There’s no WiFi at the beach,” I informed her.

“No WiFi! But that’s impossible,” she wailed.

Wrapping herself up in a towel, she plugged her headphones in, laid back on the bed and ignored my plea for her to allow me to lather her in Nivea factor 50. My son, on the other hand, had already grown tired of the bed and was now lying in the sand and scooping it up onto the bed. He, bless him, had unknowingly placed himself a little too close to the childless couple on the beds next to us. Seasoned sunbathers, the couple had already moved their beds towards the burning ball of fire in the sky and had the factor two oil lathered on. The Earth must have tilted slightly in its orbit as the lady jumped up from where she lay and moved her bed onto my boy innocently playing in the sand. With her territory clearly marked out, she resumed her place back on her bed without even acknowledging the fact that she had placed her bed millimetres away from being directly on top of a three year old boy.

“Arseholes!” my husband shouted as he picked up his sand laden towel and shook it vigorously in their direction.

Our next task was one we had come to dread: applying sun-cream to children who don’t understand the importance of rigorous sun-cream application. By this time we were quite seasoned at this job and while one of us caused a simple diversion (usually using sweets), the other approached the first child from behind, jumped, grabbed any flailing limbs and lathered and lathered until they resembled a melting white Magnum ice-cream. We would then simply repeat this action with the second child and there you have it – two children ready to stay safe in the sun.

It was finally time to lay down and have a rest, but not before I hounded the husband to take a picture of me in my bikini as I was feeling surprisingly confident having spent the best part of two weeks running before the holiday in a last minute attempt to tone the ‘mumbod’.

“You’re so vain!” he laughed at me before grabbing his mini Magnum ice-creams by the hand and running off towards the ocean thus leaving me to try to take a selfie in the sun which proved impossible with the glare of the sun on my screen and factor 50 dripping from my fingers. How would all the people on my social media accounts know that I was having a wonderful time on holiday if I didn’t post regularly?

Having given up on the selfie, I had just finished applying my sun cream – factor 30 on my burnt bits and 15 on my legs – when I heard the familiar war cry of my children. They were salty and sandy as they launched their little bodies into my arms where they demanded snacks and pop. One visit to the beach shop later and they were munching on the famous Spanish dish we know as Salt and Vinegar Pringles and supping down orange Fanta. My job as this was all happening was batting away the wasps that were intent on getting their fill of the Fanta. As the wasps descended, I may or may not have been screaming and running around the beds much to the annoyance of the childless couple who were wasp-free and sunbathing on sand that was definitely on our territory. (Perhaps I should have scooched on down and had a wee around our beds.)

Since arriving at the beach, I had not spent one minute of my time at the beach laid down so I decided to go in the sea. I’m not a huge fan of the ocean if I am being honest. I like to admire it from afar; preferably from a sun-bed with my Kindle in one hand and a lager in the other but those delicacies were now ancient relics from other holidays past when we were the childless couple lapping up the sun’s rays and staring down the couples who had had the audacity to procreate. The sea at Calamondrego Beach however, was really nothing short of wonderful. The cold didn’t bite at your toes as you entered and the waves didn’t threaten to knock you down. Amiable water lapped up over my toes and the waves were lulling me. They forced me to stop and take a minute. I breathed in and out and in and out as I felt the warmth of the sun hitting my back. I noticed with clarity that my children had left the confinement of their towels and beds and had rushed to be in the ocean with me; their father followed close behind.

Then something in my periphery vision makes me turn around slightly and that’s the moment when I begin to appreciate where I am.

A mother is carrying her child across the beach and they are heading towards the sea. He is laid across her and she is carrying him like he’s a baby, holding him under his legs and supporting his body. Only this child is not a baby – far from it. I guess his age at about eleven or twelve and yet she carries him without burden as though he is as light as a feather. There is a vacant look in his eyes and yet a smile is etched across his face because he knows where he is going. I become acutely aware of the fact that I am staring but I can not tear my eyes away from this woman carrying her disabled child into the ocean. Everything I have complained about in the last few hours hangs around me like the albatross on the ancient mariner and I am a little ashamed of myself for not being there in the present unlike the mother who’s now passing me and entering the ocean. She isn’t deterred by the initial coldness of the sea splashing up against her legs and she continues without hesitation as the water rises up against the boy in her arms. Delicately and with one arm she scoops up water to gently wet his hair and as she does this, his smile grows. I sit in the sand and allow the sea to wrap its arms around me just as this mother is wrapping her arms around her boy and I continue to watch. I can hear my own children shrieking and laughing as their father swims with them in the sea. My admiration for her is great and I see a strength in her that I just don’t see in myself at that moment. Here I am sulking over the fact that I haven’t been able to lie down and top up my tan and filter the hell out of ‘a perfect family moment’ to share online and yet here is this woman whose sole intention is to give her son the best day at the beach. I realise that my eyes are filling with salty tears and they fall down my cheeks and into the water; they join the ocean where they will stay forever. Unintentionally, this mother has given me a small wisdom that I hope to live my life by.

This mother is in the now; she’s living in the moment, as his her son and they are loving every second of it.

I turn my attention back to my own children laughing, playing and splashing in the sea and I stride towards them scooping my son up in my arms as I reach him. My phone is discarded somewhere, the iPad is turned off and my Kindle is sitting unread on the sun-bed.

I’m in the now and it’s right where I should be.