Thirteen years ago I came to live in Durham. This weekend is freshers weekend in Durham and I remember making the journey myself. Scared, excited, nervous with anticipation, I was coming to one of the best universities in the country to study Education with History.
Three years later I graduated with my 2.1 and started my PGCE the same year. My dream since childhood (except for a couple of years mild flirtation with joining the Royal Navy) had been to be a teacher. Fast forward 13 years, two children and a period of ill health I now have little idea of who or what I am.
This year marks two years since I stopped teaching and there are days, weeks, months even where I miss it. Events like the current refugee crisis or general election fire up the history teacher in me and I spend my evenings trying to reason with or explain to others on various forms of social media why they should care. Then there are the same number of days, weeks and months where I am glad I am out of the profession and how ill it made me.
So what am I now? I don’t think I am only a Stay at Home Mum (SAHM). Henry for example is at school and Isaac at nursery for 3 days a week. I fill my days when Isaac is at nursery with the sling library and sling library admin. When he is at home we go swimming, we go to play, we walk our dog, play, paint, bake and even go to the breastfeeding café where I am a peer supporter. Does the sling library mean I am a Work at Home Mum (WAHM). Well, five out of the eight sessions I run a month are not from home but points from around the region, and now there is only one session per month where the boys are around. Most of my private consultations are from home but in my dedicated office. I see myself as self-employed as I am not keen on the term WAHM as I feel it does not sound professional enough. That is not to undermine those who do use the label and are happy I’m doing so, it just doesn’t fit with me. Yes my office is at home but it is still my office. It has my files, equipment, slings in it. It is a room in the house the boys are not allowed in. I like the flexibility of being self-employed, although not the insecurity of income. I can choose when I work. Over the summer holidays I stopped most library sessions and limited 1:1 availability so that I could spend time with my boys and my husband and if my boys are ill I can care for them.
The joy of smart phones and mobile devices means I can be sat cuddling them on the sofa but can still reply to emails, enquiries and questions if needed. If school or nursery are closed I know I could take my boys with me to do library sessions. Henry loves it when he gets to come to the library. He after all is the reason I started carrying. He loves to offer people biscuits, say hello and play with their children. The downside to smart phones and tablets is the feeling you can never switch off. Emails arriving, phone calls and text messages. Facebook’s recent decision to add responsiveness rates to Facebook pages for example makes it feel like I always need to be on duty. I dislike a multinational corporation dictating what small business can or should do and therefore I have taken to switching the ability to message my Facebook page off at night and weekends. I am self-employed but that doesn’t mean I should have to work 24/7 – that realisation was probably the biggest weight off my shoulders. I hope my clients would be well aware of how hard it is bringing up children and that our children come first. Always, without hesitation.
I love being able to help new parents and those with older children start or continue their carrying journey. I love that I can set my hours. The only “fixed” times are the drop-in sessions. Consultations only occur when I have childcare but I can choose whether to be open or closed. I can choose whether I am going to reply to that email now or when the boys are asleep.
Whether I am going to play with them or post to on social media. I choose, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Rachel Coy | The North East Sling Library