Rebecca (mother of 2 children, daughter Sarah, 8 years, has Pallister-Killian syndrome): Probably when I would have wanted to go back to work, would have been the year that both the girls were in school. And that year Sarah had major hip surgery and had a three month recovery, and we got very little sleep for a while there. And that probably pulled the rug out from under me a bit.
Karen (mother of 3 children, daughter Ginger, 7 years, has Down syndrome): I never actually really stopped work, because I run my own business. But having said that, in some ways, the pressure was a lot worse because I still had this business running, but I wasn’t doing so well and my baby wasn’t doing so well. So it was really really difficult and I eventually ended up not being in the business for 17 months, which almost really killed the business. I did manage to bring it back to life, which is good, but at the time it was very very difficult.
Rebecca: When I was first pregnant with Sarah, I kind of assumed that I would have a few years off, I knew we wanted to have more than one child. So I was willing to stay at home, be a stay at home mum for a while, but fully expected at some point, to be able to go back to teaching fulltime. I did some little bits and pieces, so stayed involved, I did a little bit of textbook writing and things like that. So it was very low pressure and I needed that, I wasn’t really ready to go to that point of being able to devote myself to being a teacher of other people’s kids. I really just had to look after me and my family for a bit.
Sarah (mother of 3 children, son Jimmy, 6 years, has Fragile X syndrome): Jimmy’s specialist appointments, they always seem to be on that one day that I was working. So I was constantly going to the boss and saying I really need that day off, because we’ve got to go to this appointment, we can’t get in any other time. And they were amazingly understandable, but at the end of the day, it was just unfair on everyone, so we just had to make some other arrangements. I went back on sort of some leave, parental leave, and just thought right, I’ll just see how it goes and see where we go with Jimmy as he gets older. So that’s sort of what we did. It was a really really hard decision to make, to say look this is not working, we’re going to – I’m going to stop. I’m going to stay home and do more hours and spend more time with Jimmy and try and really push him through whatever he needs, I’m going to be there for him. But it was also really sad, because that was like my little time out, it was my time to go and you know, be me I suppose, and not be the mum of the family, be someone else.
Karen: I think going back to work is really great and also really difficult. When we go to work, as mums, we are going in to an environment where we know exactly what we’re doing, we’re good at what we do and we’re being paid to do it. We can drink a full cup of coffee; we can go to the toilet. So in some ways it’s wonderful to be there, because it works, we know what we’re doing and it’s a rest from being at home. It’s also a chance to be just Karen again, or just you again and not someone’s mum. So they’re the good things about it. And also you know, your self-esteem takes a massive, well mine did. My self-esteem took a massive hit and my sense of myself, you know giving birth to a child with a disability.
Rebecca: I decided to go back to uni, I did a Masters of Special Education instead of a Masters of Education, which I had thought about earlier. That was a good step for me towards getting back to work. It wasn’t as scary as taking on a job, and that was really good. So that gave me a bit more confidence, but it’s now been eight years since I taught fulltime. And I finished the Masters of Special Ed, but I’m only doing little bits of casual relief teaching at the moment. And part of that is because of my confidence, it’s been a really long time out of the classroom and I’m feeling I need to sort of rebuild my confidence in the education sector and make sure that I can really do this.
Karen: It was a gradual process and it was to do with, you know acceptance, sorting out interventions, her life, her day care, when that was going to start. So practical things as well as how I felt inside.
Rebecca: We are lucky enough that we live in a place that’s relatively inexpensive to live, and that Tim’s income is enough to support us. So in some ways it came down to what did I really want to do as well. It’s not the same anymore, I was a physics and chemistry teacher, teaching very clever, very privileged children. And now my interest has changed, that I want to help those kids that are a bit more like what I experienced with Sarah.
Karen: I remember waking up one morning and just seeing, like the fog had just lifted. And so it was a feeling decision then followed by a decision to go okay, I’m going to go back to work, I’m okay, I can do it.