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Returning to Work after having a Child

When Thea was 1 years old I have to admit , I was in not a great place. Due to a hell a lot of things but I have to say my work life was hell.

I had fallen out of love of the education system and needed out. Harriet had just started to work for herself so we decided for myself to take a time out and stay at home with Thea . I mean I was trained in early years so why not . I stayed at home for almost a year and loved it. I built an amazing bond with Thea and it let Harriet’s business grow and flourish .

While at home I did some chaperoning which is looking after children on set I really enjoyed it and when in June I got the opportunity to work on a new BBC kids drama (The Demon Headmaster check it out on CBBC on Monday’s at 5pm )full time it was to good to turn down. I thought going back  to work would change our home life  but it really changed and I guess that’s the same for all parents returning to work .

There is good points and bad points to this so here’s what have found out since returning to work .
Let’s start with the positives :

Money Money Money – Having another income is great we can save ,book a holiday and have treats with Thea at the weekend.

Adult interaction – It’s great to spend time with other adults saying that we behave like children most of the time .

Self worth – working for me builds my self esteem bringing a wage into the family home . Also the self satisfaction of working on a project from start to finish feels great .

Reflection- working long hrs makes you realise what is important in life. It also focuses myself .

Mental Health- I feel mentally much stronger . My confidence is growing meaning my self worth has gone up. On top of that putting myself into new and stressful situations has helped control my anxiety .

Right next up the negatives :

Being away from Thea at 1st it wasn’t bad, but now she knows. When I’m getting ready to leave I get “No No” and sometimes a slap and that’s if she is awake . Sometimes I only see her in the middle of the night to change her nappy that’s hard .

Physically knackered : Being out the house for 14-15 hrs a day brutal . It takes a while for your body and mind to get use to that. Walking 20,000-25,000 steps a day your diet has to change 

Quality time : I say I don’t see Thea it’s the same with Harriet . I’m knackered when I’m back home at the moment so it can be quiet in the house. Meals out and days out haven’t been happening as much. I need to change that and get in a better routine. 

Guilt- what do feel guilty about literally everything at first, but I feel this passes and once you talk about it that helps .

Stress/mental health I’m putting this in as I know in the past my work I hated and it brought on this. Thankfully on returning to work I haven’t suffered this. Why most likely it’s down to being  in a better place. I mean that’s why I went back to work . I’m also on medication so I’m guessing that should get some credit too. If your mental health is taking a battering at work please talk about it to someone straight away don’t let it affect your home life .

Right so overall :

I can sit on the fence and say just do what you feel is right , but deciding to be a stay at home parent or a parent returning to work has a major impact on not just you but your partner and your children .

A prime example is this I had a dad in the an old nursery doing a visit his child was going to start nursery full time at one years old. He couldn’t answer any of the questions I had but told me they had another on the way and the child had to go to nursery .

I’m not saying don’t work , don’t send your child to nursery , but you need a balance and you need to think what you really want. We all have different goals and priorities it’s your choice but remember they are not kids forever .

I like being self employed it’s flexible , I’m my own boss and it works for me and Thea . Could I earn more money yeah but the more you earn the more you spend in my experience . But I do think Day release sorry work is good for the soul and mind which will is good for you and also your family

How to Survive a Wedding with a Toddler

Life with a toddler in our experience can be hectic . The transition of Baby to toddler is shall we say emotional. Taking a baby out you can keep them entertained and happy with a pram and bottle when out socialising. A toddler goes somewhere new and becomes an emotional wrecking ball. A pram will not contain them and will not silence them .

Life does not stop though so when we knew our friends Kirsty and Emmett were getting married we thought we better get organised. Thea would be 20 months by the wedding and in full toddler mood.

So for a smooth weekend this is what we planned.

:Keep it simple stay in the hotel of the wedding The Piersland Hotel.

:We didn’t want to rush so we booked the night before and after. This meant Thea could get use to place and not be like a Taz Manian Devil when seeing a wedding for the 1st in a new place.

: We all deserve a break and weddings are always a fantastic occasion . With this in mind we got our friend Nikki to come down to babysit. We had booked a cottage so plenty of room and Thea loved Nikki.

:Do a food shop the day before, pick picnic foods and your child’s favourites it’s a break for them too. You never know how they will react to sleeping in a new bed. That can be bad enough you don’t want them hungry too.

At this point I have to say I was feeling quite chuffed with myself. We were going to smash this wedding .

The day before the wedding I left Harriet and Thea at home and thought I would get a gym workout,sauna and shave . As I was in the changing room about to go to the gym my phone rang … I very nearly didn’t pick it up I saw it was Harriet and thought it would be reminding as always pick up milk for Thea .

Thank God I did answer it was Harriet hyperventilating while trying to shout the wedding is today. It was now about 11.30 the wedding was 14.00 the next day . I don’t know why but I chuckled down the phone. You can guess how that went down, so off up the road I went knowing I was in for a world of pain.

When entering the flat I can only describe it as a chaotic war zone and I had walked straight into the middle of it with a big silly smile. Harriet was in full panic mode, red face,eyes filling,banging everything down and speaking very high pitched.

I think because I knew Harriet was panicked it relaxed me about it. When it’s your wedding your so caught up in the moment you didn’t even really know who is there,but I was quietly confident we would make it. Harriet packed and kept Thea happy and then packed the car and to cut along story short we made it to the hotel with 15minutes to spare but our story does not end here.

Thea had missed her nap. Never ever a good thing to miss for anyone. I don’t remember a parent ever saying I’m so glad our child missed their daily nap right before their 1st wedding.

The hotel is stunning and old with lots of rooms and stairs which would be fine if we arrived 24hrs earlier and Thea had explored them all. So getting to the bar was a battle as she fought to explore the men’s toilet .

But there should of been a babysitter and we should of been at the bar having drinks.

Thea was now at her 1st wedding. Inthe bar she ran about like a headless chicken but was not causing to much fuss. The ceremony though was a different ball game. How the hell do you get a toddler to sit still on a chair in a room with about 60 people let alone stop them shouting Daddy and Duck.

I took one for the team and escorted Thea out the room like a teen getting escorted by the police for drinking several bottles of Mad Dog 20/20. I didn’t want a scene the teen wanted everyone to know I was ruining there fun an they did not deserve this treatment. I left to the slap of my nose and raspberry.

So I missed the ceremony but caught glimpses as Thea heckled through an open window at the back. But it was worth it Kirsty was one of Harriet’s bridesmaids and loved watching her get married myself and Thea so her crying cue Thea banging the window.

Afterwards there was photos,drinks and then dinner.

This time was spent necking beer as fast as possible and running after a toddler trying to escape us . It was knackering work but Thea was in her element playing outside,talking to lots of new people eating sugar what else does a toddler want a dog… oh yeah Bruce Kirsty’s and Emmett’s dog made a guest appearance Thea loved that.

But she was getting tired and cranky about 8pm so we took her back to the room. Harriet was putting her down and I was in the other room making coffee. After a while of silence I went through and both were fast asleep it was 8.30pm and it was the end of the night for all of us. What a day.

So to survive a wedding with a toddler 1st things 1st make sure you have the right date in your diary.

Staying at Home with a Toddler

At the turn of the year it was decided that I would be staying at home with Thea.

Why? Several reasons my work was quiet, my wife was getting lots of work and I have worked with toddlers for almost 10 years piece of cake . How wrong could I be ?.

I don’t need an alarm anymore my day starts when Thea wakes she doesn’t do late starts anytime between 5am and 6am she will wake me by screaming at me or shouting “Hey Duggee”.

So out of bed I stumble get some fruit and toast on with Thea and the kettle on for me .

My Journey with Anxiety

Mental Health awareness week maybe over for 2018, but im determined to keep talking about my mental health. Why?  I found the week very inspiring I heard stories from people from all over about their mental health. It gave me the confidence to talk about my own problems with anxiety for the first time since being a child 25 years of bloody anxiety. No wonder my nails are shredded. It gave me the confidence to open up to my parents about how I feel on a daily basis, it has brought us closer together and I have learned more about my childhood and family which helps me understand my anxiety.

Since it has been a few weeks of opening up my mood and anxiety has changed. At first I spoke about it went to the doctor and felt a massive weight off my chest , but as time has gone on I have felt my anxiety come back slightly each day.

Maybe I havent been honest enough with people since that week or maybe not even pro activte enough. I have good days and bad days but deep down my anxiety is still there and my self worth is low. I find writing it down a relaxing process giving me time to reflect and work through my thoughts (having dyslexia and a delay in processing information I write notes and plans all the time).

So here we go…  I am currently signed off work with generalised anxiety after a discussion with my family I resigned from my new job it was completley out my comfort zone and when working with children they need a routine and felt this was the best decision . I go and see the doctor every couple of weeks but they are saying at the moment my confidence and self worth is very low meaning. Im having panic attacks over even small events outside my routine. I am not on any medication at the moment in the past I have been on propanlol and diazepam with different levels of success. I want to discuss my options with the doctor see if there is something that can assist in keeping me with a more consistant and leveled mood. My doctor wants me to work on my confidence and self worth and has suggested CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therpy). What is CBT  ” a type of talking treatment which focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour, and teaches you coping skills for dealing with different problems”.

I have been to CBT on the NHS before in Glasgow and it was not for me I was rushed in and out and it felt like a tick exercise so I paid for two separate private therapists again I just didn’t make a connection. I had about 20 sessions in total so did try and was honest but felt that I was told to focus on being more assertive and confident whilst remaining calm which even after 20 sessions felt overwhlemimg and still outwith my grasp. So what I am I anxious about my life, health, family, change of routine, noise, to name a few sounds crackers right or maybe it doesn’t and it’s just my mind playing tricks on me.

Having anxiety for so long I have several defence techniques or things I do to calm and centre myself I get up and go out for a walk put my headphones keep my head down and walk for miles pushing the pram and let my mind wander I find sitting still can make my mind feel like its going crazy. The gym I like to keep fit it makes me feel good about myself I like to run longer and lift heavier weights it helps me feel good and builds my confidence for the day. Mediation not in a centre just on my phone do a full body check, get my breathing together, centre myself and battle through. I don’t do this enough life with a young baby there are not enough hours the day.

Writing this blog is a new experince, one I stopped writing as soon as I left school I hated it as I felt I was crap at it. I did’nt get diagnosed with dsylexia and processing delay until I was 29 years old. Throughout school I was called lazy and told I didnt study enough I still get upset looking at my reports I need to stop doing that. Writing this blog however somthing I am interested I enjoy the whole process.

Spending time with my family, I love spending time with Thea and my wife Harriet going out on trips outdoors getting away from the city we often go down south to see family and Thea’s Godparents I feel like a different person being in the countryside without the hustle and bustle of the city. Even though I grew up in the city I don’t know if I belong here and I think about that often maybe too much. I also had ME (Chroinc Fatigue) for a number of years leading to a hopsital stay two weeks after my wedding, my healh plays on my mind most days but I will save that journey for another blog post im going off course now.

Im due to go back to the doctors soon and feel Im ready to tackle my anxiety full on Im fed up of it being at the forefront of my life. I want to find myself and not let my anxiety control me. How will I do that I dont really know yet apart from what I have said above keep talking, do what makes me happy , take care of myself and listen to the advice of the ones I love and my doctor. It’s not all doom and gloom even by writing this I feel in a more positive frame of mind and ready for the day tomorrow. Dont suffer in silence millions of people are going through the same issues if you dont talk it will eat you up and you can go to some very dark places which I dont want anyone to go too.

Living with Anxiety

Anxiety-A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome

Or Psychiatry A nervous disorder marked by excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behaviour or panic attacks

These are the definitions of anxiety according to the Oxford Dictionary.

So this is what I am living with but this barely scratches the surface.

Anxiety can creep up on you or hit like a bolt out of the blue. Your not safe anywhere even your own bed. My sleeping for several months was a very unpleasant experience I just could not drift off. My mind would be full of thoughts bouncing around like lighting bolts. What was i thinking about anything and everything from when was I going to get the shopping done to what if the traffic was bad in the morning. This may not sound important but my this resulted in my body tensing up so much my back would ache,my teeth would start to grind and I would sweat uncontrollably. I don’t know how I got to sleep but I did only to wake up with my clothes soaked in blind panic that I may have slept in. Now I have baby Thea I know that will never happen. So you could say i was worried and stressed about life in general which can bring on anxiety but just because you have rough idea what is causing it doesn’t mean you can control it.

Another major symptom of anxiety was dread as bad as doomsday. For myself this was social events if I had a social event to go to I was a nightmare I got cranky like really cranky I was not nice to be round. I hated myself for feeling this way that I could not go out enjoy myself with my wife. I would then hate myself as I would become snappy to the ones closest to me it was a horrible cycle. I then became embarrassed and my self esteem would drop as I couldn’t bring myself to tell people how I really felt I would beat myself up and all that does is make the situation worse and your mental health worse.

You cant get out of all social events so here is how an evening with Tony would go. I would start to get ready several hrs before the event. Then pace around the house like a man off to court not a party. I may change my outfit several times as I would worry I might have same outfit on as somebody else. I could only wear white or black as I was so uptight I could not stop sweating. The tension in my body would be unbearable like rigid and my hands cleansed. Mentally I was scared I was scared I would have nothing to say and just think of the worst scenarios possible to man. Once at these events in the earlier days I would drink to relax me that was not the answer it just fucks you up and then you feel depressed not good. Instead I would stand in the corner keeping my jacket on hoping that my wife would not leave I did not want to be alone and try to  make small talk. If it was a successful night I would persuade Harriet to leave early we wouldn’t talk and I would go off to bed in a right state being in that state of mind knackers you unlike any gym workout.

If was a bad night cue “Panic Attack” these are bad your chest feels like it is about to exploded like someone is pounding on it. These occurred when nothing bad was happening physically but mentally my head had gone. I would feel faint and dizzy and I had to get out you feel like the room is closing in on you. Tremors my hands would shake constantly as I would always be anxious and so tense they would be sore. I could see people looking at my hands and feel ashamed which just intensified the anxiety. This often lead to me being sick and generally feeling ashamed that I couldn’t enjoy myself or let go. While this is happening though all you can think about is letting everyone down. You feel overwhelmed and out of control like Alice falling through ….Anxiety gets you all over it is horrible.

So if your feeling like this you most likely have some anxiety.

What brings it on can be a number of things including:

Stress

Past or childhood experiences

Physical and Mental Health problems

Current life problems

But knowing why you have it is not going to end it.

There is several ways to get help and its easy for me to tell you about them. But when you suffer from anxiety none of these are easy. As you are having to deal with your own fears or anxieties. In my case I contacted my doctor first, well that was an experience first thing he wanted me to do was to go anti depress ends which i was not happy with as i was not depressed just scared and the side affects were terrible but they may work for you. This put me off the doctors and made my mental health go into a spiral I actually got quite angry for a while. Then a friend recommended boxing which at first was stressful I found it great for releasing tension.

Thankfully I have strong network around me and an especially strong wife who took me back to the doctors to see a different GP. Who said no way are you depressed. I opened up to her and my family and started Group Cognitive behavioural therapy on the NHS. Having anxiety and sharing to one person is hard enough to a group I thought was crazy. It was an experience you had the angry man who said he would not talk as he could not be responsible for his actions and left and 4 women taking selfies and making a Whats App group oh yeah and me having another panic attack just wanting to escape out the window. After this experience I paid for a private 1-1 therapy  this was where i started to understand my anxiety and start to cope with it. Talking about it with somebody who is not too close to you,you can break it down and realise that it is your mind playing tricks on you and your anxiety voice in your head is not real and not Mystic Meg it can not predict the future. Its not easy to open up I felt ashamed and embarrassed at first as if wasn’t good enough but as i went for more we worked through my problems and started to relax. By talking in therapy i could then have the confidence to tell my family to which they felt relieve. I still get anxious I am anxious typing this just now  what will my friends and colleagues think will it affect my job prospects.

Anxiety can hit me anywhere and everywhere walking down the street or in busy places like bars. But I can’t let it control me.

So talking helps. I have also found mindfulness/meditation to be very helpful it centres me when I panic.I still get dark thoughts but l have worked on my breathing slow it down and take control of the situation. For example I touch a table or a wall I know sounds crazy and say to myself I am fine the thoughts are in my head I am standing in a room touching a wall controlling my breathing. I use the Head space app for this in and around Glasgow there are also lots of meditation centres you can pop into after work to clear your mind and reset your body. This may not be for you as every bodies anxiety is different. But world has a major problem with mental health as the below figures show and I felt as a dad and and someone who works with children I had to speak up. Anxiety can affect anyone and are we doing enough I’m not sure but the very least we can do is talk about it and work together to help each other through it.

My anxiety is still here and will it ever totally go away I do not know, I just know by talking about, opening up and admitting I needed help it is improving.

One in 10 people in the UK are likely to have a disabling anxiety disorder during their life.

13% of adults will develop a specific form of anxiety known as a phobia during their life.

At present 40% of disability worldwide is due to depression and anxiety.(AnxietyUK)

A dads experience of labour.I kid you not!.

Baby Thea was due to arrive on the 19 August 2017. We had picked the name prior as I work with children so had a massive list of names I didn’t want. Working in early years eduction I thought I was pretty prepared for becoming a dad even a little smug yeah I work in a nursery with 50 children and had no disasters how wrong could I possibly be!

As I said Thea was due the 19 August so on Sunday the 30th I thought I would be safe to hit the pub my mate he had just been dumped and wanted to drown his sorrows. I thought this could be one of my final opportunities of having a few jars.

After a few maybe 4 I had a moment I can’t explain it it was like a voice saying phone Harriet it could of been the beer. On this advice I phoned to be told that Harriet had thought her waters had broke. I think at this point I had my first panic moment I couldn’t drive I had been in the pub for hrs. I then had the image of an angry Scottish taxi driver in utter rage as Harriet gave birth to Thea in a Scoda.

We were left with one choice call my parents to get a lift as you can imagine. I was slightly worried by this idea my dad is great but useless and it would interfere with his daily routine. My mum would be overjoyed but could get too involved you know what mothers are like! I didn’t have a choice I had a wife in labour telling me to get it sorted so my mother came to pick us up to us to the hospital.

The journey to the hospital was fairly uneventful I was in a state of shock being a mute as my wife and mother took control and talked for Britain as if this was normal it may well be but I’m not an expert of childbirths.

Glasgow Royal infirmary in the early hours of the morning is not a place you want to be really with your pregant wife and mother. It resemanbles a war zone and most people are drunk and arguing with themselves. So last thing I needed was to turn up to part of the hospital that is closed and boarded up like a scene from the walking dead we had to walk for 10 minutes past several people talking to themselves that looked like the walking dead.

Once we arrived I went to reception I was told by a very angry lady I was in the wrong area and my wife should not be walking anywhere let alone the streets of Glasgow while in labour. They put her in a wheelchair and carted her off with me like a naughty school kid behind and my mother carrying Harriet’s pillow showing no signs of leaving.

Once up on the ward Harriet was seen to by a couple of midwifes and I was left outside with my mother! I love my mum but she is intense I don’t really remember what we talked about due the to the Stellas and the general panic/anxiety of oh shit this really happening now! Either way my mother was staying for the birth I think I just wanted it all to be over and everyone to be well.

Soon enough another more happy women told us that Harriet was to be moved into a room for a water bath I wasn’t too keen on this I had refused for 5 years to watch one born every minute I used to say I don’t need to see that it’s too gruesome sorry I know some people love that but not me no way. Again my stress levels went up imagining a paddling pool and something like alien happening. I took a deep breath and went to the room I have to say I was shocked the room was massive and it had a huge bath in it. But Harriet needed the toilet and the midwife was not happy no water bath the baby was on her way cue a frantic walk to another room.

This room was great as well I was on one side my mother on the other the sun was rising my wife was in labour my heart was racing hands were shaking. Harriet started on the Gas inhaling far too fast I thought But was I going to say anything was I balls. A couple of minutes after saying this Gas does nothing I was covered with sick all over my hands,arms and chest.

The birth itself was very quick. Harriet was told to push by the midwife I stayed at the side as I said I didn’t have to see everything my mother on the other hand was like a crazy coach at a football match round the front cheering with encouragement smiling away. You can’t make this shit up I tell you!.

Baby Thea popped out she was tiny we all cried I think with relief as much as anything. Thea was screaming one eye open one closed looking like a pirate I thought. Then Baby was put on the scales as the midwife turned away Thea’s hand grabbed the scales plug and tried to yank it out causing panic from the midwife and her to say I have never seen a baby do that before!

So my life changed forever. I could never imagine a birth like it but I wouldn’t change it for the world it brought the whole family together.

I would love to give some advice, when your expecting your first you get some people that will tell you what to do or expect. I don’t really think you can prepare or know what to expect. In a few hours your world is turned upside down it’s never the same again and it doesn’t matter it literally blows your mind!