CPD on Maternity – reality vs fiction (aka Shout Out to the MTPT Project)

When I changed my blog title to ‘The Motivated Mother’ in my pre-baby-2-mat -leave-calm I had no idea what the next 9 months would bring.  It’s not to say I’m not still motivated but I have had to rein it in and manage my own expectations. I’m not one to blog personal reflections on my life but I can’t recognise the wonderful MTPT Project without doing so because ultimately that is what it’s all about.

My version of nesting was to fill my pre-baby mat leave with all the CPD opportunities I could lay my hands on – #WomenEd Annual conference, #The Difference conference, #MTPT Project coffee mornings and NEU free twilights – some of which tiny baby T was dragged along in the early days.  I was going to do a research project, I became a governor and I was going to be super proactive in my support of the school going above and beyond, I was going to shadow in schools, I was going to visit a PRU, I was going to read all these books bought eagerly with mine (and my husband’s) TeacherTapp John Catt vouchers , I was going to get a SLT role for next September, I was going to blog about it all, I was going to….

But then a few things happened. Baby T (number 2) is not the easy baby R (number 1) was. We’ve had the Christmas hospital stay, food allergies, chronic constipation, colic endless unsettled crying and he still wakes up frequently through the night before being ready to start the day again at 5.30am on a good day; he’s super active and is currently threatening to walk at 8.5mths. He is also a Covid baby – he’s had mummy 24/7 for pretty much his whole life, he has only by held by a handful of other people and he hates being put down.  I can just about squeeze 10 minutes out of the jumperoo while I chop up dinner ready to stir and cook one handed. My left arm is STRONG, I walk round with a permanent hip tilt and I astonish myself on a daily basis what I can achieve with one hand.

This all would be surmountable but then add in entertaining a 3.5 year old with no playgrounds open AND amidst the lockdown chaos my teacher-husband and I have managed to get new jobs and are relocating to a different city (a logistical nightmare!). Quite frankly I am tired. I can just about muster the brain power to chose which film/series I want to watch the start credits of before I fall asleep in front of let alone start to contemplate any of the many ‘maternity projects’ I had lined up back in November. What I can say is thank goodness for the MTPT project coaching.

I didn’t know what to expect from the coaching.  I’ve dabbled as a guinea pig for friends training to be life coaches and done a bit of self awareness and leadership stuff over the years and I thought it would be similar but I can honestly say it has been the most wonderful form of counselling/CPD/wellbeing support all rolled into one. The last couple of sessions I have almost felt guilty beforehand as I didn’t think I had anything new to discuss and how wrong I was.  Every session I have come out of feeling like a load is off my shoulders having acknowledged, discussed and dissected things I simply had not had the headspace to think of, and that I almost would feel guilty spending my precious child-free time on when there is so much I need to do for the family. And therein lies my number 1 battle – successful career and great mum, I want to be both.

Session 5 was this afternoon and as I washed up the dishes, a rare evening where both children are asleep before 7, one phrase we spent some time on kept going round in my head – what is enough? This feels like something that has resonated through all my sessions and I have been picked up for using the word should (be doing)time and time again. Actually what do I really want? There are so many inspirational women I have had the honour to hear speak through podcasts and various conferences.  The #WomenEd movement is amazing and has it has been incredibly empowering to take part in a number of CPD offers.  However, and this is a big personal ‘however’, it also has been my undoing in some ways.  I look at these women, some of which are younger that me and their dazzling achievements and I am inspired but I am also a little overwhelmed. They are so dynamic, eloquent and dedicated. How? How the heck do they find time to do this?  And more to the point I really, really want to move up the ladder but I also really, really love my children and spending time with them and I also really, really need to sleep.  Then alongside time there are the personal insecurities – do I have the personality needed to be good in an SLT role?  The MTPT project coaching has helped me to manage my own expectations and more importantly to be at peace with my career and family decisions. When I reflect back over what I have achieved over my maternity leave it wasn’t what I expected, but it has been important in so many ways outside of my career and for the well being of my family and my community. My CV hasn’t got much longer and I don’t have any life goals ticked off but through these crazy Covid times I have a healthy, happy, well-adjusted family.  I also feel prepared to return to work in a new school/role/city/house and I feel incredibly well equipped to deal with working as a middle leader and teacher in a remote and disrupted world.  I have readjusted my expectations to realise the importance of ‘being not just doing’ and to think about how to build up my relationships both with colleagues and pupils. I understand myself and my drivers and I also recognise that what I have always seen as my weaknesses are actually vital to who I am – I am not lazy for watching 2 hours of TV on an evening, I am giving myself the headspace and time to regenerate and be able to hit the ground running the next day.  I didn’t get an SLT job for September but quite frankly I don’t feel regret, I feel relief and excitement that I can do a job I have done previously well, and find time to look after my lovely boys and support them through the massive changes in their lives. SLT can wait a couple of years when hopefully Baby T starts sleeping a bit more.

 Thank you MTPT Project (@maternityCPD) – to Emma Sheppard (@Comment_Ed) for her creation, to Katie Friedman (@Katiefriedman8) my amazing coach and to Teamworks TSA (@TEAMWORKSTSA) for their funding.