Do we lose our identities when we become carers for our children? – Guest Post

We are delighted to share a Guest Post with you today from a fellow mum/carer.

Kerry replied to a Facebook status we had added about caring for your child and how being a carer made you sometimes feel as if you had lost your identity.  We invited her to write a guest post for us and I am sure, like me, you will read through this and be nodding away in recognition (and genuinely laughing out loud in parts).  A huge thanks to Kerry for taking the time to write this for us.

Do we lose our identities when we become carers?

This is something I have pondered for some time before I set out to write this. Casting my mind back more years than I care to remember I’m not sure if I ever lost my identity. I had looked for an identity in some odd places- as a child I wanted to be a pirate, I spent one summer desperately trying to walk on one leg with my nanas old broom handle for support, I admitted defeat once I found I was somewhat landlocked and without a boat! Plus, our canary never really cut it as a parrot! The day my father announced that World War 2 had ended before he was born, scuppered my chances of fighting with the resistance and riding a Raleigh Shopper with a beret on my head in a sleepy market town didn’t have a ring of Che Guevara!

Fast forward to the day before my 18th birthday, I came out of hospital with my first child; so I have been mum since that day (29 years of being mum).

Early to enter mother hood but it never stopped me doing what I had wanted to do (no, not the resistance, piracy or revolution in a South American country!)  I studied, went to university, kept having more children, studied became a teacher, gave birth to my fourth child and bang that’s when it all seemed to stop, whack!

The world stopped as I spent most of the following year and most of the next in and out of hospitals for many long stays – my identity was mum, nurse, an insomniac (not through choice but through necessity) a train wreck, with a sprinkle of House – investigative medic -why, how, when – researcher and law fiend in that mine field of medical negligence.

I had been an art teacher, I had studied Art – but from the moment my son was born I never touched a pencil, paintbrush, paper or canvas. I became full time mum, full time nurse, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist –the list is endless I discovered skills I didn’t know I had and a patience I never thought capable. The most important thing I learnt was to be confident in fighting for my son’s needs – confident to say no you’re wrong.

We learn so much as carers, our transferable skills are second to none and that child with an over active imagination still has the beret on top of her head fighting against a forever oncoming tide and hurdling every wall we come up against on a regular basis.

The art:  I have made some wonderful and brilliant friendships within the Parent Carer community and several of those beautiful friends encouraged me to start again.  One bought me the Artist’s Way to unlock my blocked creativity and they cajoled and nagged me back to painting again.

So in the 16 years I have been a carer have I lost my identity? No I think I have concluded I have grown and maintained a lot of the spirit that was there from childhood. I am who I am and have adapted to life as we all do regardless of whether we are carers just with less sleep.

What about you?

How has caring for your child changed who you are?  Are you still the same person?  Do you still carry on with the same activities?  How do you make time for you?

We would love to hear from you.  If you would be interested in writing a guest post, like Kerry, then please just email debs@bringingustogether.org.uk and I will be happy to chat about it.  Your post can be anonymous if you prefer and please don’t worry about spelling/grammar, etc (so many people have said “I’d love to but my grammar is awful” or “I cannot spell to save my life”), your story is the important thing.  We can help with spelling and grammar, but we can’t tell your story without you.

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11 steps to success – Steps 1 to 3

We are delighted to share with you Alan Wilson’s 11 Steps to Success.  Alan is a Life Coach who has set up Develop your Child and Every Family Matters.  For 15 years he coached companies in business-to-business markets to develop a differential but for the last 12 years Alan’s vision has been to create programs and resources to provide sustainable personal empowerment and self-responsibility. His next step is to create a whole school coaching ethos where teachers, students and parents are working together to create a learning environment they own, with the ‘Ethos of Empowerment’ program.

Alan’s 11 Steps to Success is a great introduction if you have never really looked at goal-setting for yourself before.

Today we are looking at Steps 1 to 3.  Over the next week we will be sharing the next steps but we wanted to break it down into easy chunks.  We know how manic life is and after an Easter break, many of us are exhausted.

11 steps to success [01]You’ve got this far, so we know there’s a part of your life you want to change. If the change were easy, you’d have done it by now.

However provided you are prepared to stick with it, we can help you overcome the difficulties and create a better life for yourself.

You may need to consider changing your current habits and look at creating new ones. After all, if you keep doing what you’re doing – you’ll just keep getting what you’re getting now! Just by committing to making one small improvement each day can make all the difference.

It can be as easy as that. In reality it is not always easy, so if you seriously want to make a change in your life and are ready to work at it, then let’s start to get you on the path to success.

Step 1 – Preparation

Before you start each exercise in this course get into an energised and positive frame of mind to get yourself motivated. Think about what makes you feel good and do it for a few minutes!

  • take a brisk walk
  • play some music loudly and sing along to it
  • stand up and have a big stretch
  • jump up and down ten times
  • stand outside and take some deep breaths of fresh air
  • think of something you enjoy and breathe deeply
  • think about the best your life could be – where are you? what are you doing? who are you with? etc

If you haven’t read our “Treat yourself” and our “Bounce Back” posts, then read them now as they have lots of suggestions about feeling good and things that make you smile.

 Step 2 – What I do well

Don’t fall into the trap of just looking at what’s wrong or what you feel you don’t do well.  Start noticing – and take time to reflect on – what you do well. Go one step further and make a list to keep near you as a reminder. This can provide a great boost to your confidence and self-esteem which really can help you to push through barriers and move you forward towards what you want.

So, are you ready to make a commitment to yourself?

Write that list – what do you do well?

Step 3 – What’s good in my life right now?

Eliminate the word ‘failure’ from your vocabulary – it can be quite a liberating experience!

Starting thinking of failure as just a different outcome or result to what you had expected.

Some of your greatest learnings will come from these different outcomes so don’t deny or ignore them. Rather, celebrate the experience and the learning you have gained. Also make a note of what’s good in your life right now. We can sometimes be so focused on what’s not good that not only can we miss valuable opportunities but we miss the good stuff that’s actually happening around us!

Write that list – What’s good in your life right now

What next?

We will be taking you through the next steps in stages so give yourself time to think about what you do well and what is good at the moment.
Your gifts/skills/talents may not be something you consider as something you are good at, so ask a few friends what they think you are good at.  It may be listening, it may be you can always be objective, it may be that you have a talent for writing or maybe you make people laugh with your quick humour.
As for what is good in your life, this can be difficult when you are facing a tribunal, fighting to get a child out of an ATU, desperate to get an EHC Plan but think about it, have you got friends supporting you (that’s good), does your child make you laugh out loud (that’s good), have you got people to turn to for advice (that’s good).  We know that in the middle of chaos, it can be really hard to find any positives but there will be a few there, they may be hiding or maybe something we just take for granted, so give it some thought and write them down.

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