It Must Be Mum

SEND: There are costs to parents too.

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Next month I will start my ‘Return to Nursing Practice’ course.

This is not ‘exciting’ – I am not being turned into a carefree, responsibility-free 18 year old again.  It is 31 years since I first started as a student nurse and I worked until 4 years ago where I had a senior job in a role that I loved.  Like many in my position, I became unable to continue working due to Peter’s needs being constantly unmet by school and his resulting escalating mental health problems.  In nursing, quite rightly, when you have been away from practice for a certain period of time you need to complete a substantial amount of re-training.

In the last few months not only have I entered into the world of blogging but also the wonderful world of twitter.  It is striking how little is written about the impact on parents.  I’ll come back to the financial and career implications later, but here are some other costs:

Eventually, for many of us, the final blow inflicted is when we are no longer able to work.  Any chance we had of a life outside of managing the impact that inadequate practice has on our children rapidly vanishes.  We now develop new skills of applying for benefits and repeatedly justifying our need for them.  Our isolation increases, we are unable to afford holidays and our houses (and clothes) become less presentable as we are unable to afford to fix (replace) them.

The ‘us and them’ divide is now complete.  We are no longer an equal, a professional, we are now just ‘mum’.  A much easier target and far less of a threat.  Those of us that gather ourselves together to advocate for our children are labelled ‘warrior mums’ and seem to have the equivalent of ‘hazard warning signs’ pinned to us at every transition.

The accusations that maybe it’s our stress or mental health that is the cause of our child’s (non) disability (cue eye roll) is then in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I hear of even the most depressed and desperate parents that are terrified of asking their GP for help: 1) in case their difficulties are seen as being the cause of our child’s difficulties after all and 2) in case their need for them is used against them by social workers when following up on fabricated safeguarding allegations or within educational tribunal hearings.

The cost that this all has on our mental health, our physical health and our general well-being is awful.  Symptoms include those associated with trauma as well as anxiety and depression for many.

So there you have it.  It’s not exciting that I have been robbed of four years of wages, of my pension contributions and future career prospects.  I love nursing, really love it and I will enjoy working back on the ward; there is no doubt about that.  I can see that it brings fresh opportunities too and that my experiences over the last 4 years have led to me developing new skills and qualities that will make me a better nurse, colleague and manager (if I manage to climb the career ladder again).  That’s not the point though.

It really isn’t the point.

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