Tuesday, 24 January 2012

My top 10 things you do in the first days of being a mummy

I've been doing a lot of work stuff on my blog lately.  That's fine but work is really not all of my life and being a mummy is the most important thing I've ever done and will ever do.  A friend of mine has recently had a baby and I've been trying to offer some help and words of encouragement (whilst acknowledging I'm no expert).  It got me thinking back to the early days with my first baby and how utterly bewildering it was.  So I decided to do a top 10 things that everyone seems to think or do in the early days with their first newborn.

1.  Wonder at how the hospital have allowed you to take this fragile and tiny person home.  I mean surely you shouldn't be left alone with the baby.  You haven't got a clue.

2.  Become completely confused by how complicated breastfeeding is.  In the antenatal class there was a doll and you put it to your breast and surely that's all there is to it?  No it turns out it's quite complicated getting the baby latched on correctly.  Then it gets a million times toucher when the baby is screaming and there are thrashing limbs everywhere.

3. Decide that you will have a little outing and go shopping or something.  Baby screams almost continually.  People stare.  Old ladies ask you if the baby is hungry.  You have no idea.  You fed him/her about 1.5 hours ago so surely not.  You feel useless and inadquate.  You go home vowing not to leave the house again until the baby is 2 or something.

4.  You retch and nearly vomit when the cord drops off.

5.  You sit wondering how on earth you can bath a baby with only 2 hands.  I mean you need at least 2 hands to hold the baby and make sure they don't drown.  So how on earth can you get cloths, or wash the baby or get a towel.

6. Take picture of baby to use as your new mobile screensaver.

7. Marvel at how something so tiny can produce such a massive amount of poo as you change clothes, bedding and wash baby's back, legs, bottom and change your own clothes.

8.  Decide that there's really no point washing your clothes just because there's a bit of posset or sick on you.  You won't have enough clothes and it will generate more washing.  This is it people.  This is when the standards start to slip ;)  I discovered baby poo on my knee mid way through a legs, bums and tums class that had got missed.  Could not believe I hadn't noticed this.  I was mortified.

9.  Vow that you will not lose touch with your friends that haven't had babies yet.  But decide you can't really ring them because they're at work in the day and in the evening you're dealing with a screaming baby/asleep/lost the power of speech.  Decide you'll e-mail them instead.  A week later think you must finish/write that e-mail.  I'm convinced the invention of smart phones came from a mother wanting to keep in touch with friends, not from someone wanting to keep in touch with work!

10.  Find yourself reduced to tears over the most minute things.  Nappy won't go on straight = tears.  Baby has been crying for over 30 minutes = tears.  When my daughter was born OH put our son to bed and came downstairs to find me in tears saying "I can't go back to work, I just can't leave her".  OK, he said.  She is only 4 days old - maybe let's talk about it in 6 months?

It really is an amazing, mystical, frustrating, soul destroying, joyous, heart lifting experience and I wouldn't change for it the world.  In fact I'd do it again tomorrow............

Saturday, 21 January 2012

My advice to trainee/wannabe solicitors everywhere

During the 10 years I've been working since I finished my LPC I have noticed that people don't generally have a lot of sympathy for people in the legal profession.  They seem to think our hourly rate is what we get paid (far from it I think I worked out I get paid about 1/10th of what I charge clients) and that many of us have some family trust fund.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Training to become a solicitor is one of the most soul destroying things in the world, I think.  It involves an awful lot of hard work and an awful lot of money.  Don't get me wrong I'm not saying this is unique to the legal profession, or that solicitors don't eventually earn good money.  I'm saying if you manage to make it there you've probably bloody earned that money.

For those of you that don't know the "normal" route for qualifying as a solicitor is you do a 3 year degree, followed by a postgraduate course called LPC (or if you haven't done a law degree you do a different postgraduate course for a year then an LPC).  The costs for that LPC were about £9,000 for the year when I did it.  It's no doubt much more now.  The cost of doing a university degree is pretty well known and varies depending on where you go (from really quite expensive to bloody hell how much).

Once you've done that you have to do a 2 year training contract to then become a qualified solicitor.  There are various problems with training contracts:

1.  There are never as many training contracts as there are LPC graduates meaning there will always be a number of people that don't get one.
2.  Training contracts are not generally well paid.  If you're lucky enough to get one that is (and trust me they are like the holy grail) then you're generally expected to give a pound of flesh in return.  Many, many people are paid less than £20k (and sometimes far less than that) for their training contract.  Trying to manage living costs (especially in London) and debt repayments on that salary is hard work.
3.  There are firms who sadly exploit trainees looking for training contracts and will try to get them to do unpaid paralegal work for a vague promise that one day they will get a training contract.

I exchanged tweets with @fmfamilylaw the other day about the importance of a good mentor when you're training.  Sadly not everyone gets this.  It's a very hard profession to get into and it's a hard profession to survive in as well.  Apparently 1 in 4 senior lawyers is not an alcoholic and that is a frightening statistic but I can see how it can happen.  Training without good support and mentoring is seriously tough and it can take its toll on even the hardiest of people.

I was one of the people not to get a training contract.  I got a 2:2 degree (by a very marginal percentage point - 1.3% off the 2:2 I recall) which meant my CV was being rejected very early on by the process many firms have to whittle down the hundreds and even thousands of applications they get.  I applied for over 100 training contracts.  I had a few interviews.  At one firm I got down to the final 4 for 2 training contracts but still didn't get it.  I had work experience and I'd worked in a firm of solicitors for a year between my degree and doing my LPC.

Being rejected by that many firms is really hard not to take to heart.  For a long, long time it knocked my confidence and made me wonder if I would ever make it.  I'd wanted to be a solicitor since I was 12  (!) and I had never thought about doing anything else.

After I'd finished my LPC I moved to London with a good friend and I took the first job I got offered as a family paralegal in a high street firm.  I'd never wanted to do family law (I wanted to be an employment lawyer) but having a job seemed important and I felt it would at least be a start.  That was 10 years ago last October.  I've done nothing but family law since then.

I learnt an awful lot in that job.  It was a legal aid firm and I learned how to turnover a high volume of work quickly.  I learned about the differences between the law you learn in the classroom and the law you apply to people sitting in front of you with problems.  I also learned that everybody has a limit and once you're up to that limit you can't do any more.  The lady I worked with in the family department (we were the only fee earners) was in a similar position to where I'm at now (and believe it or not we're still friends).  She had just come back off maternity leave having had her second child and was working part time.  She was trying to manage being a working mother and also the fact that she suffered from depression.  Therefore when faced with an enthusiastic paralegal saying "give me work", "I want to learn", "what can I do" she gave me lots of the work.  Any trainee solicitor will tell you you get the dirty jobs and have to do a lot of the ground work.  It's the way you learn.  But after a while I started to get all the clients that complained and had to deal with angry clients who felt their work wasn't being dealt with quickly enough.  When you're not very experienced dealing with lots of people who are angry with you (as you think they are) is pretty scary.

I never said no to anything which looking back seems a bit weird.  Eventually I was stressed beyond belief (one day I came up with hives up my arm), exhausted and depressed and I could take no more.  So I ended up on anti-depressants and I had 2 weeks off work.  I went back because I wasn't going to quit but after a while I realised that I had enough experience to be able to get on in another job and that as long as I stayed there I would always be an assistant and therefore the prime target for all the crap jobs.

So then I moved firms and become the sole family lawyer at a new practice.  That's pretty scary having no one to ask for help when you need it (particularly when 2 years in a firm is all the experience you've had).  The principal of the firm wasn't bothered about anything.  He didn't really want to still be working and the firm slowly slid into intervention (this finally happening 6 months after I left) during the time that I was there.  Thankfully I got out there and did some networking and I met a great friend who also became a mentor to me and who really helped me at a time that I needed it.  But whilst I was there I applied to be made a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives which I was able to do without doing any more exams because of what I'd done.  Shortly after I left I applied to the Law Society for my training contract to be dispensed with which I was granted.  So I became a solicitor in 2006 - 5 years after I finished my LPC without ever doing a training contract.

I then moved on to the firm that I'm at now where I started as a locum and became permanent in between having babies.  It was nice to be part of a team until my colleague and then my boss left last year leaving just me and a trainee.  It's still hard not having anyone to ask for help or to go to when there's a problem.  Our senior partner monitors us but is not a family lawyer.

The whole process of being a lawyer can work brilliantly if you get in there and you get a great mentor but for so many people this really isn't the case.  The whole process of applying for hundreds of training contracts and not getting any really knocks you.  You do all the things you're supposed to like talking about your relevant experience and your enthusiasm (I have professed an interested in dental law in a vain attempt to get a training contract!).  But the fact is that there are more LPC graduates than training contracts.  This is not your fault!

If you can get a paralegal job then you get a foot in the door and if you impress people they may give you a training contract.  But don't let unscrupulous lawyers exploit you for free labour.  Yes you might have to be a paralegal for a bit before you get a training contract but they should pay you for your work (and a proper market pay) and you shouldn't have it held over your head forever.

I would also say that the job is not worth your health and your happiness.  It's so hard to see when you're in the middle of it but it really, really isn't.  If you do nothing but work, and you're ill and stressed then maybe it's time to move on and see what else is out there - either in the legal industry or maybe using your skills elsewhere.

Also try to remember that work is not all of your life and you might feel you're being rejected as a lawyer but that does not mean you are not a lovely, clever, sensible, amusing and wonderful person who other people love dearly.  And tweet me @mummylawyer or leave me a comment because I really will try to help if I can.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

What do we all owe society or our community?

OK it sounds like I've gone all philosophical today and I sort of have, but in a practical way.  I have always believed that if we all consider what we can do for our society/community/each other (call it what you want) and that if everybody thought about this for a few minutes then the world would be a better place.  At school we learnt about treating others as you would like to be treated.  It's always seemed like a good maxim to me.  It might be a religous phrase (I went to a Church of England Primary school) but I don't mean it in a religious way.  I just mean we should all think about how we would like people to behave towards us and try to behave that way ourselves.  For example:

1.  I don't want to wade through litter when I'm out and about so I don't drop litter.
2.  I don't like children running around me screaming in restaurants so I don't let my children do it to other people.
3.  Equally when my children are behaving perfectly nicely and, well, like children, when I'm out and about I don't expect to get dirty looks or people making snidey comments so I don't do it (and it wouldn't occur to me to do it but sadly it seems some people do feel the need to do this).
4.  I'd get very annoyed if someone parked blocking the entrance to my house so I wouldn't do it to someone else.

I mean things like that.  However, I do have a tendency to take this a bit far and sometimes feel crippled by what I think I should do.  My Dad in particular was always very keen on teaching lessons about the impact of our actions on others and I think I probably took it on board a bit too much.

Ages ago I had a conversation with a friend which started about reading Harry Potter books (which I love).  It moved on to discussing whether everybody has an obligation to society to make the best use of their talents.  She felt everyone should push themselves to realise their possible potential.  This has always stayed with me.

So if you have a gift for rocket science are you obliged to share this with the world to enhance rocket sciencism (or whatever it is)?  Or is it OK for you to decide that yes you understand rocket science but actually want you want to do is be a landscape gardener?

Or to use another example on a similar theme, I am a qualified solicitor and in order to do this I had to do a 3 year degree followed by a postgraduate course called an LPC.  This cost my parents thousands of pounds as they kindly paid my fees, my accommodation when I lived at uni, bought me books, and gave me money for my day to day costs.  I was extremely fortunate to have this support.  So if after 10 years I decide that actually I really don't want to be a solicitor am I not fulfilling my obligations to my parents after all they'd done?

Incidentally I suppose SAHMs could become caught up in this kind of argument in that by extending the above you could say should they continue at an important job if they have a talent for it?  This is not something that has every occurred to me when discussing this issue.  My view has always been that SAHMs have the hardest, most demanding and important job of all.

These are all the musings of a mad woman who lies awake wondering if she's done the right thing by her family, her neighbours and Joe Bloggs in a neighbouring town.

Last week I had a conversation with a different friend who is very firmly of the view that the only obligation you have in life is to make yourself happy and whatever that takes you need to do.  She thinks if you're happy you'll automatically put things back in the world and that this makes the world go round.  If she's right then to me that's something of an epiphany.  You may at this point be thinking, well that's obvious.  This probably means you sleep better than me!

If  I have actually managed to explain what I mean then I would be really interested to hear everyone's comments on this.  Feel free to tell me I'm utterly mental as I already know this and I may actually find this quite freeing!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

The day my BB broke...(or the day the law of sod descended on me)

Pathetic, isn't it...I mean I remember life before I had a mobile phone and life still happened.  But today my BB got knocked out of my hand in the supermarket and it broke and to be honest I have practically had a nervous breakdown.

I once thought I'd lost my phone and my OH's reaction was "oh well, it's gone, never mind".  He learnt his lesson in saying this kind of idiotic thing when I started having a panic attack and screaming in the car.  Today he was sympathetic, tried to assist and understood the problem.  But unfortunately he could not fix my Blackberry.

My life is on that thing.  As a mum with 2 children and a job my life is organised through that phone.  I manage work when I'm not in the office.  When I'm at work and there's a problem with childcare I can organise solving the problem from it.  I use it to look up stuff on the internet, to find directions, to tweet, to check arrangements and my husband and I have our calendars co-ordinated through google calendar so my life is mapped out on my phone.  Not to mention the fact that all my contacts are on there.

Utterly, utterly stupidly I had not backed it up.  You cannot say anything to me about this that I have not said to myself.  If something's that important why in the world would you not.  Lesson learned on that front.

So having tried to sort the thing out I tried to use an old Blackberry and couldn't get that to work either.  So time for some expert help.  I rang O2 who said not a lot we can do, take it to a store and they'll charge you to repair it because you don't have our insurance (I have a policy of never taking out those insurances as I work on the basis you'll lose out sometimes but mainly you'll pay and never use it).

So off I went to find an O2 store.  Nice way to spend a Saturday.  Not.  I got to the town and found a car park.  It was pay and display and I had only bronze coins in my purse.  I did keep change in the car but used it all up and didn't replace it.  Apparently you could pay by phone for the parking but MY BLOODY PHONE WAS WHAT I HAD COME TO FIX.  Grrrrrr.

So I drove off and found a garage and paid £1.92 to get money out of my account (I never use cash machines that charge either).  This was once I had got in the bloody garage it was so busy and the woman in front of me would not move forward a fraction so I could turn in.  Once I had money I got change (top tip here if you need change at a garage don't buy orange and lime tic tacs - they're disgusting).

Went back to the car park and finally paid to park feeling somewhat fed up and stressed.  Got to the O2 store and the illiterate, inarticulate yoof in the store basically said I can't do anything.  If we send it away to be repaired it'll take 14 days (cue hyperventilating in the store) and we'll charge you.  OK I said I'm on a 24 month contract and it's only got 5 months left to run, can I get an early upgrade?  We can't sort that out.  I'm sorry I thought I was an O2 customer in an O2 store.  Yes but you have to ring them.  Why can't you ring them.  OK I'll ring them.  But even if they'll upgrade you we can't give you a phone now because our stock wouldn't balance. At this point he looks at me like I know what'll happen if their stock doesn't balance and how awful it will be.  I don't actually give a shit if their stock never balances.

So he rings them and mumbles down the phone and tells me they won't upgrade me.  At this point it is clear I am going to get no help whatsoever.  So I leave.  But not before I've pointed out that I've been an O2 customer for over 10 years and their customer service is shocking.  He says "10 years, wow" and looks utterly amazed.  Presumably because 10 years ago he was only a foetus or something.

So I go out to the guys on the mobile phone stall who tell me that I need a new screen and they can do it in 30 minutes for £45.  This is my only option and I take it.  Bastard phone companies I think can the day get any worse?  Then as I wander along to get a coffee I come face to face with a giant poster of Justin Bieber.  So the answer to the earlier question is yes much worse.  Anyone who follows me on twitter will know I think Justin Bieber is an odious little shit and I try to avoid any contact with him.  This includes watching adverts on the TV, hearing his music and coming face to face with massive bloody posters.

My phone is then fixed but it's not my phone any more.  The icons are different and I've lost all my downloads and it's in a different order and well I just don't like change.  Least of all with my most important bit of kit.  I am slowly putting it back the way I like it as much as I can.

So what have I learnt from today:

1.  I am addicted to my phone.
2. I need to regularly back up my phone.
3. I must stop spending the change I keep in the car and not replacing it.
4. Lime and orange tic tacs are disgusting and to be avoided.
5.  O2 have shit customer service and I should really register my protest and move when my contract is up.
6.  This kind of day is exactly why I am a drinker of alcohol.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The year 2012, the future and my job!

Get me I'm blogging again!  How many blogs does it take before you stop feeling like you're doing something a bit daring?  Or do I just not get out much?

Anyway the last blog concentrated a lot on the past and the history of the last few years.  In this one I wanted to cover some stuff about my job and why doing my job more on my terms is something that has become very important to me.

I am a solicitor specialising in family law.  This means that my working life deals with people's relationship breakdowns and disputes arising out of that about money, property and children.  At times it's a hard job.  It's hard to deal with it without getting emotionally involved and whilst you try to be impartial teflon and let things slide away it's hard not to have days where you're a sponge soaking up other people's problems.  I have found it increasingly hard to deal with disputes concerning children since having my own children - especially where they concern young children like mine.  I've had a couple of cases that have literally kept me away at night.

I work part time and now work 3 days a week.  As any working parent will tell you it's hard work balancing the needs of your job and the needs of your children.  It's even harder when the nature of your job is that you have responsibilities that need to be shouldered regardless of what day it is and what else you have on.  It was easier when I had a head of department who ultimately shouldered the responsibility.  But since my boss left I am the most senior person in my department and so I feel it's unfair to leave things with less experienced and less qualified people even though it's not a day I work on.  There are days when I feel that I'm a victim of my own success.  If I had not got the job I had and had worked in a lesser paid job then I wouldn't have been able to make money working and paying for childcare.  So I wouldn't have to deal with these dilemmas.  Most days I try to remember that I am fortunate to have a good job that earns me good money and enables me to assist people with their problems (not always easy to count your blessings though, is it?).

The problem is that it's got harder and harder to actually see that I'm making a difference.  I believe passionately that anybody going through a relationship breakdown should be encouraged to deal with matters in a dignified, sensible way and as amicably as possible.  Don't get me wrong I'm not some sanctimonious preacher telling everyone what to do from my ivory tower.  I just know from experience that if you can do it in that way it will assist you all in the future and, above all, you will save money.  It might come as a shock to people that some lawyers try not to run up huge bills for their clients but I really don't believe it's anybody's interest for me to get them into debt.

Sometimes no matter how hard you try to persuade people they are determine to fight about things.  Sometimes it's about really important stuff like making sure children are properly cared for when they're with the other parent, or making sure somebody has enough money to keep a roof over their head.  These are all important, worthwhile things that need to be sorted out and it's my job to make that happen.

Other times it's not about worthwhile things.  Sometimes I spend days of my life arguing about whether children should be collected by the other parent at 10 a.m. or 10.30 a.m. Or I find myself making phone calls saying that my client will not agree to them having the flat screen TV in the bedroom and despite my very best efforts hundreds of pounds of fees are being spent on a TV that was £500 new 2 years ago.    Sometimes it's because people can't see the wood for the trees and are hell bent on getting revenge.  Sometimes it's because the other solicitor I'm dealing with isn't advising their client properly and if one spouse tries to fight for something trivial often the other one will then want a fight too.  It's this kind of thing that gets me down more than anything.

I have more and more become convinced that mediation is the way forward in the vast majority of cases. This is where the people separating sit down in a room with an independent third party who attempts to help them reach an agreement about all the issues they have.  The mediator doesn't advise them but just guides the discussions.  In many, many cases the people reach an agreement much more quickly than they would using solicitors to negotiate, they have spent less money and at the end of the process they are still talking and able to talk to each other about arrangements for their children going into the future.

Don't get me wrong it won't work for everybody and it works on two people playing fair with each other which is not always the case.

This year I will be qualifying as a mediator.  It's a fairly intensive 8 days course and I will probably be a dribbling wreck by the end of it but more and more I see my professional future doing mediation.  For the reasons I have outlined above and also for the following reasons:

1. I believe mediation will work better around my children as there is not the same level of work surrounding it outside of appointments which makes it easier to manage and pick up and put down.

2.  I have in the past suffered with stress problems and depression and I find that sometimes I am just absorbing client's problems and issues and this gets me down enormously and it also means that I am simply not able to function as an effective advisor.

3.  A change is as good as a rest, they say, and I have wanted to change my working life for so long.  I'm still passionate about family law but I just don't feel that the way I do it currently is fulfilling me as a lawyer or a person or serving client's best interests.  If money was no issue I would actually love to become a writer but given that that would take years to generate any hope of an income I have to focus on my current skill set!

4.  I have for some time felt I am getting bogged down in issues where I work and mediation potentially gives me the option to run my own mediation business where I will completely control my working life and it's success or failure will fall on my head and no one else's.  As a control freak - that appeals to me enormously!!

So that's hopefully work for me in 2012.  Watch this space........

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

My first ever blog!

Well this is my first ever blog.  How exciting.  I wonder if anyone will read it?

I'm not a big believer in New Year's resolutions because if something needs changing then why wait for the New Year.  But sometimes a New Year can be a good jolt to kickstart something new and I've decided 2012 is the year for me.  Primarily I want to turn my working life around so I am making a difference again and so it fits better around my home life.  But as with most things you can't deal with them as an isolated bubble so any change is likely to impact upon other areas of my life too.

To make decisions about the future I believe you have to understand the past and make peace with it in whatever small way you can.  The last few years have not been the easiest. 

I had my first baby in May, 2007 and my son is now 4 1/2 and at school.  He rocks my world even when he's bouncing off the walls trying to be a superhero.  Shortly after he was born my OH bought the business he worked in with some other people.  We thought this would be a new beginning with fabulous opportunities for us and our children.  It would of course be hard work and so I tried not to moan (too much) when OH worked long hours and I was on my own for the entirety of the period that our son was awake during the week.

Then the recession hit and it became clear that things would be harder than we had ever dreamed.  In August 2008 OH started to seem depressed and the stress was clearly beginning to bite.  Having suffered with depression myself I can recognise the signs and also the need to get help.  He felt he needed to just carry on - the alpha male providing for his family has to just stick his head down and get on with it no matter how hard things become.  I did not agree with this but I could see that he felt the need to work through this and to make it right.  In May 2009 I found out I was expecting our second child and was so happy that even though things were tough it could bring some much needed joy to our lives.

Things did not get better for OH and he continued to show signs of extreme stress and depression much to my concern.  However, he refused to consider getting help or seeing his doctor.  Anyone who has lived with someone being ill and refusing to get help will know how utterly frustrating and heartbreaking this is.  In August 2009 we went to a friend's wedding reception and OH drank too much culminating in the most almighty row.  OH told me he could see nothing to look forward to and felt there was nothing good in the world, or in our lives.  I felt I could take no more and notwithstanding the fact that I was 4.5 months pregnant I felt I had to do something.  So I started packing a bag to leave.  My son was at my mum and dad's and I thought I would go there whilst I made some decisions.  Faced with this OH broke down confessing the true extend of the stress and depression and that he had in fact considered ending it all.  How do you cope when the father of your child and the man who is your world tells you that?

He then agreed to see his doctor and he was diagnosed with depression.  He didn't want medication or counselling but I felt we'd made a start and that was significant.  Shortly after that we went on holiday for 2 weeks and had a fabulous time in Dorset.  I think at this point OH realised the truth of the old maxim "family is the most important thing in the world".  Things weren't magically better but although he was still extremely stressed he seemed to have found some glimmer of joy in the world.

Things continued with the business being up and down until our daughter was born in February, 2010.  I have loved every second of being a mummy to two.  First time around I was scared and incompetent.  Second time around I was relaxed, in control and unstressed by it all.  It was magical.  Those first few days I felt like I was on cloud nine.  Tired and sore from the c section but seriously, blissfully happy.

Until my daughter was 10 days old and OH got ill.  Really ill.  He would sweat uncontrollably, he would shiver under 4 fleeces and a blanket.  Blood tests showed something wasn't right but the GP was unable to work out what it was.  Despite being on his knees he felt he could not stay at home.  The business needed him and his partners were sympathetic but never sent him home.  So he worked and he came home and went to bed and that was our life for weeks.  I remember lying in the bath 2 weeks after a c section thinking how can I cope with a 2 year old, a newborn baby and running a house when I've just had major surgery?  The answer that came to me was basically you do, or you die.  So I got on with it.  Don't get me wrong I'm not some bloody superwoman.  Anyone that knows me will tell you I could be in the Olympics for moaning.  But my children needed me and my husband needed me and this was not the time to bang on about my needs.

Thank god we had private medical insurance because without that I don't think we would ever have got a diagnosis and OH would never have got better (this is of course not right but that's another post).  Slowly OH got better and improved and began to have a relationship with his daughter who he had spent next to no time with.  She would not agree to be comforted by him until she was about 18 months old (of course now she's worked out daddy's the soft touch it's a different story).

Once OH got better towards the middle/end of 2010 my mind was made up.  I felt OH had to leave the business and I didn't really care what it cost us.  He felt different.  He was tired of it and stressed beyond belief but he felt he couldn't leave without being declared bankrupt.  We would then lose our home.  He spent more meetings than I can remember talking to his partners and trying to get them to see how stressed he was and that no business can go on with cash flow problems like theirs.  Some months he took no drawings.  Some months we had to wait until 3 days before the end of the month to find out if we'd be able to pay our mortgage.  Yes I worked but I earned less than a quarter of what OH had when they'd started the business.  I couldn't cover a mortgage and bills.  His drawings nearly halved for a bit.  Then they went back up a bit.  Then they weren't paid.  We had to borrow some money from OH's parents.  Through all this OH's partners felt it was just a minor matter and that other businesses had teething problems and there was a recession.   They would take no steps to address the problems.  They could pay their bills thanks to having higher household incomes.  They didn't seem to care that the stress was nearly putting OH under.

So early on in 2011 we said enough is enough.  We decided OH would leave even if he went bankrupt and we had to sell our house and rent.  Sometimes you just have to look at what's important and let go of everything else.  It was touch and go and before he could leave we had to remortgage our house to pay a tax bill and we'll be paying that back for years.  But he has moved on and so now have we.  We are less stressed and our family life is much more balanced.  We have kept our house and OH managed to avoid bankruptcy.  There are ongoing issues which I very much hope will be resolved in the early part of 2012 so we can finally put this whole episode to bed.

I never, when my children were small, to keep working in the same job, doing the same thing in the same way.  But throughout all this it seemed more sensible to keep my working life on an even keel and to keep earning the money.  OH is now settled doing other things.  Our children are happy and healthy and son is now settled in school.  My daughter attends a private nursery and is looked after by Grandma whern I'm at work.  So it feels to me like 2012 is the year to do something for me and to make work, work better for me and my family.  Next blog post more about my job and the future.  Is this the longest first blog in the history of the world?  Told you I had something to say....