Wow…this week has been crazy. Unless you are living in some totally remote and digitally unconnected corner of the world then you cannot help but have noticed the very unwelcome world traveller that is Covid 19.
So firstly, I am in no way going to try to be any type of expert on this because very obviously I am not. There are plenty of experts giving us lots of information (maybe too much, maybe not enough) but lots of information on this. I would question whether this is creating mass clarity or mass confusion, I suspect the latter. Who knows who is getting the response right or wrong. I certainly don’t and my opinion swings hourly.
What I do know is very personal to me. I will carry on with things in a normal (ish) way, where I can and for as long as I can until further restrictions are introduced. I also know I have some exceptions to this which involve people in my life who I perceive to be potentially more vulnerable or susceptible to the affects of this disease. I don’t personally worry too much about our kids catching this (my stepson and my son)…in theory they should be ok. I do worry though about the potential for any of us to carry this knowingly or unknowingly and potentially pass it on to someone who is more vulnerable in terms of their ability to cope with and recover from this disease. As I say, my mind changes almost hourly on what I think and / or intend to do and not do. There is a lot to think about.
What seems very apparent is that this won’t come to an end in the short to medium term. We could be seeing this affecting our lives and very sadly taking lives, for months to come. I also feel this period is really tough because it’s so ambiguous. In the absence of hard and fast rules at the moment we are left to make sense of it all…to make our own decisions. So how should we live right now, and how do we make decisions?
For me this is simple in as much as there is no simple ‘one fits all’ answer. Until we are instructed to do or not do specific things we must each do what we believe to be right for us individually. We must make these decisions based on our own interpretation of what’s happening, our own assessment of our own and family risk levels. Right now we have our own right to choose how much or how little we continue to engage in everyday activities. At some point I think we all know that restrictions in our day to day living are going to come into play. Until then the choice is ours to make and there is simply no wrong or right answer. We are all going to do what we believe to be best for ourselves and our families.
My personal choice will be to carry on doing as many things as I can in as normal a manner as I can for as long as I can. With exceptions. I will be very careful around any of my family and friends who are more at risk. I will be more mindful of those living around me who might be feeling the practical or emotional stress of this more and try and help where I can. Those are my choices. Whatever you choose is absolutely the right thing. In times like these, we all have to do what we believe is right for us and ours. Just try and keep an eye out for those around us who will be hit the worse by this. Let’s be good neighbours, good friends and good family members and if we can do that then we all have our best chance of coming out the other side of Covid 19 in the best shape we can be.
As a brand, ARTventurers are very closely following all government advice for educational settings which means we are absolutely continuing to run our painty sessions. As and when any advice to our type of business changes we will adapt accordingly and keep you updated. That means I plan to keep calm and keep ARTventuring and I really hope to see you there…IF that is right for you. Our Mothers Day classes this week should bring us all some lovely, sparkly joy so don’t forget your bags to take home your Mother’s Day artwork 💗 Whatever you do, stay strong and safe and keep on painting!!!
Take lots and lots of care folks, love Sarah and ARTy Bear xxx
So I said this weeks blog would be about the benefits of art for children. In the week before my first classes that would be a really important topic to cover but having realised this morning that today was International Women’s Day I have decide to deviate from my original plan. Why, because IWD makes me think about my choices as a woman and the journey I have been on over this last year which has brought me to the place where I have a website and I am writing a blog.
So I am going to skim over some elements of this, not because they aren’t important, but because they are probably worthy of their own blog at another time. Today I want to talk about choices.
I have worked hard my whole life. I would always put more in than was required. I learnt at a fairly young age that I had some natural leadership ability and combining that with a desire to learn I progressed through different roles and different corporate organisations. I didn’t just love my job, I actually think I was my job. Or my job was me. Which way around that works I’m not entirely sure but it was the major focus of my life for many years and I would go as far as to say my job defined me. I never imagined a different life. It was hard work, fast paced and never ending and for many many years I loved it. I felt like my job gave me a better life in lots of ways. The ultimate buzz of fixing problems or delivering a good result, amazing friendships, travel to places I never thought I would see, a nice new car every few years etc. Yes the perks were amazing and I loved them all at the time but as the years progressed I would also feel other, less positive feelings. I would feel increasingly tired and worn down. Not just in a ‘I could use an extra few hours in bed’ tired but really exhausted. The buzz was maybe not as big and the travel became less and less appealing. I realised my life outside work had moved on and it would be nice to have more time for that but I was pretty resigned to the fact that I would work at that pace until I retired. That was me, that was who I was and what I knew.
So clearly I am writing this blog as a self-employed woman who paints with kids for a living so obviously something did change. Yes it definitely did change
It started in the years leading up to having my son, I think. We had decided to try for a baby and I didn’t know how much I wanted a baby until I was pregnant and before you know it I have built a new world in my mind with this perfect bundle of joy at the centre of it. When that pregnancy ended in miscarriage I was devastated. To cut a very long story short after a mixture of failed pregnancies and long periods of no pregnancy I hit 40 and decided it was time to stop trying. And as you hear so often within months of giving up we found ourselves pregnant! The joy was immense but also shadowed by a very real fear. I never really believed my son would make it out ok until he was there in my arms. We had done it and I was immediately and wholeheartedly in love. My maternity leave was amazing. I had thought I would struggle being off, that I would miss work and all the excitement of it. But I didn’t.
I thought I would try baby classes not really expecting to enjoy them. I thought they would be full of immaculate mums all so much more organised and better at ‘mumming’ than I was. But they weren’t. I met a group of brilliant mums who were so just so perfect in a perfectly normal way, it was amazing! We chatted and we became friends. We had coffee or lunch after classes and would go for a rare and precious nights out every now and then. It was an existence I had never known and it was a blissful time. I would get up and play with my son. We would tidy the house and go do the shopping. I would head to class to see our mummy and baby friends and go for a walk afterwards. I wasn’t bored, I was in heaven. I slept (when Brody slept) without the constant turning over of a million conflicting thoughts flying around my brain. I was truly happy. It was a year out of my busy, stressful life and I loved every second of it.
But as the time the return to work came closer the nervousness grew. So much so that it became a fear and I started to feel unwell. I knew in my heart that my job and Craig’s job plus a baby didn’t work. I needed to be everywhere apart from Scotland in my job so I had to try and do all the travelling around Craig’s shifts. I had always just prioritised being where I needed to be in my job so I quickly developed some very unhealthy ways of working in a attempt to make it fit. I would leave home as Craig came home from a night shift at 6am and drive 3 or 4 hours to see my teams or attend meetings and do the return journey the same day so I could be home in time for Craig to head back onto his night shift. I sometimes did this 2 or 3 days in a row. I was shattered but at least I wasn’t letting anyone down…yet.
But it was a yet, because then Brody started getting ill. Not just an odd cold but catching everything and badly. We were in and out of hospital, I had to cancel work trips and sometimes missed days work altogether. I probably wasn’t coping at this point but I kept going. But then the really big one hit and Bam! My sister got sick. We had been hit with the big C and that was the start of a huge turning point in my life. At first I made it all work still by taking Brody with me to stay at my mums so I could work from home or go to a more local office whilst visiting my sister in hospital and being with my family. I would do emails through the night to catch up on time lost in the day trying to juggle visits and Brody. I now know that throughout this period I was on the edge and just holding it together. I felt devastated that my sister had got this awful disease. I felt guilty that it was her and not me. I felt guilty about being half-hearted in my work focus. I felt like a dreadful mother having Brody so far away from his dad and brother and when I went home for a while I would feel dreadful about leaving my sister and family. I wasn’t doing anything right. I was beyond any level of tiredness I had ever experienced and I felt like I had to keep going. I had no other choice.
Again skimming a little but it’s doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened next…I got sick. In retrospect it’s actually hilarious that I didn’t see it coming but I didn’t. I started thinking I had chest pains or that I couldn’t breath. I started not wanting to go out, getting a feeling that something dreadful was going to happen. All the textbook stuff. I avoided social situations. I didn’t even want to go to Tesco in case I bumped into someone. I was properly ill and it was my mental health. Saying this now feels fine but you would be surprised how long it took me to accept this. I actually wanted there to be something physiologically wrong with as the thought of being psychologically ill was unthinkable. I was strong, resilient and beyond mental health issues….apparently not.
I won’t labour on the process I went through between that point of breaking and my decision to change my life. I will just say this. I had to learn about myself in a way I had never done before which made it possible for me to reach a point where I now understand that I had probably been unhappy for a long time. That despite being good at my job it wasn’t necessarily right or healthy for me. If I had been able to stop and say I couldn’t cope, I needed to put my family first then that would have been ok…the people around me at work wanted to help but I didn’t feel able to let them. My workplace was not the problem…basically my need to be invincible was the problem. And so, and this is the single most important point, in absence of being able to work in a healthy way I had a choice to make. I first had to accept that I did have a choice. Maybe a scary or difficult choice to figure out. Maybe one that meant sacrifices in other ways but yes I did have a choice.
I was in my 40’s but finally learning the really important stuff. That my job didn’t define me I was just a person with a job…that’s all. Walking away from a lifetimes career was not a difficult choice in the end. By the time that happened I knew me as a different person to the one I was prior to Brody and cancer and emotional unravellings. I saw myself as something very separate to the job I was a mum, a step-mum, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend…I was so much more than a job. Deciding what to do from there became easy. My mum asked me ‘what do you love?’. I didn’t need to think about that one for long. I had loved my maternity leave because I loved spending time with babies, children and their mummies or carers. I also loved spending time with my family and I wanted both. I came across an article talking about our ARTventurers founder Fiona’s own story and that was it. She wanted to build a career which she would love and that would let her do the school run for her kids. It hit me firmly and clearly, it was that simple. That was what I wanted too. And so my ARTVenturers journey began.
It’s early days, I have a long way to go before I can say whether I make a success of this or not but I know one thing for sure. Getting ill, leaving my job and all of this doesn’t make me weak. I feel clearer and stronger than I remember ever feeling. I have learnt what I really needed to know and love about myself were the things I always gave less time or importance too. My family in Scotland and my family in England are the single most important things in my life. They are what counts. They are what make me happy and I am now starting a very different journey of building a career around my family and not the other way around.
Many people can be hugely successful in the environment I was in and not make such extreme sacrifices. It’s about knowing yourself and prioritising yourself. It does come back to boundaries. I was not able to build boundaries to protect my personal life and create the vital work life balance that we all really do need and therefore that was no longer a healthy choice for me. I have eventually realised that you can decide to do something very different. It can seem impossible at first. It can be hugely scary, financially terrifying but those are not insurmountable barriers to making a change. My sister got a hideous, incurable cancer at 45 years of age. This taught me that life is not a given so we have to make it count. If you love what you do I salute you, keep doing it but if you don’t then be brave and change it. Love your precious life as much as you can.
Women are amazing creatures irrespective of career choices, family choices or any other choices we make. We are emotionally complex in a wonderful way. We often have strong intuition, warm hearts and a ridiculous ability to juggle lots without drawing attention to the fact. But we are allowed to be fragile and unsure and a bit broken sometimes too. Embrace those parts of you because they mean your are living as a warm blooded human being and not the wonder-woman machine that so many of us try to be. Put the really important things in life first. My car is not the glossy shining machine I had last year but my heart is definitely brighter, shinier and fuller than ever before! That’s what matters…that’s all that really matters.
Here’s hoping you find your wisdom a little earlier in life than I did. Stay strong and vulnerable and brilliant and be happy!
Ahead of my delivering my first classes, I wanted to really think about how to talk to parents and carers about the benefits of getting their children involved in baby classes at an early age. Lot’s of things to do for babies are meant to be fun, that’s not exactly a revelation and fun play is always good play. But is it fun from day one? What if my baby doesn’t seem to like it or my child doesn’t seem to want to get involved? Should I give up? Should I try something else??? If these things have or are going through your mind PLEASE know you are not alone. In the absence of any real mummy manual we aren’t meant to know what to do but sharing experiences with other mummies can really help. So let me share mine.
I started going to a couple of classes when my son Brody was uber little (6 weeks). At first Brody would lie there seemingly half oblivious to the explosion of sound and colour around us. He would sometimes nap. He would sometimes cry. Can I say I saw any clear signs of major enjoyment…no, not at first. After a couple of weeks I would see him try to catch sight of things moving in front of him. I would shake those coloured scarves and rattle those sensory bottles like my life depended on it but it always seemed like everyone else’s baby was so much more into it than mine. But patience is usually rewarded, and this was so true for us, as before too long yes I could start to see him paying attention. He was starting to react to things around him and this then grew and grew. As the weeks progressed into months I saw some very significant changes. I would see Brody’s face light up at certain sights or sounds. His arms and legs would move with excitement. I could see his eye muscles were strengthening as he watched things move around the room. It was happening!
…and then the magic really starts!
Brody sat up unaided for the first time in a class. He rolled for the first time. His smile, so wide, would light up my heart. He would hold something in his chubby little grasp and was so proud of himself. His giggles were the most amazing sound and seeing him reach out to touch another baby nearly finished me off. He would squeal with delight at the many exciting things around him. Yes, my boy was suddenly an active participant of the class. He was doing his bit and other mummies would be saying ‘how clever Brody’…these moments are ingrained in my brain for life as little glorious ‘the first time he…’ memories !!
It takes time for our little ones to get used to what can be an overwhelming environment at first but don’t just give up. Once they find their confidence it turns into something amazing. When Brody was around 6months we started art and creative play classes (ARTventurers obviously) and from that point we never looked back. The environment was new so again this took a little while for him to find his place and confidence but it was SO worth the wait. I very quickly saw him getting right into the thick of it all…touching and feeling, squishing and squelshing and using all those little muscles to make his very first marks which will be treasured masterpieces in my house forever. I won’t labour on the benefit of art for babies / art for children or even messy play in this post (major benefits) as that’s for next week’s blog. This is about the benefits of attending and, most importantly sticking to a class, or any new experience. Don’t write something off if your child is timid, unsure or just not that into it the first time. The best things in life take time but just know you will be setting your child up for not just happiness and success but also helping them adapt and learn to enjoy the wide world of experiences out there.
Your child doesn’t ever have to be the most confident, the first to do something, the one that gets involved first time…let them grow at their own pace and wide experiences really help that. Keep going and it will come and the benefits from your perseverance will be massive.
Being a mum isn’t a science but we can do lots of things to help our young ones grow, develop and build confidence and social skills. We want our children not just to be in love with us as mummies, we want them also to be totally in love with the world and all the amazing experiences out there to be discovered. Socialising your little one in a children’s class environment really helps with this from an early age. And for mummies? Well the benefits are immense. Put aside all the joy you get from seeing your little one grow in so many ways (which is pretty priceless), classes get you out of the house. You get to make friends. You build a network of invaluable mummies to ask questions of, share worries with and, in my case, catch up with over a glass or two of wine every month or so. My sanity remains (mostly) intact thanks to an absolutely amazing group of mummies friends all of whom I met in classes.
That’s all for my very first blog! Stay well and happy mummies, sending lots of love! Sarah xxx