Wonderful Women: Raising Children in Germany

This week’s Wonderful Women Wednesday is featuring Sarah, a full time working mum and army wife who has lived abroad for … years and is now adjusting to life back in the UK with her three kids!

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do for a living.

My name is Sarah and I am 44 . I have changed jobs recently during to moving back from Germany after 7 years away. I now work selling animal feed, garden bits and the boots department is my bit.

It’s good to be working with people, but hard work to start at my age .

2. You’re a mum of three kids, how old are they and what are they doing?

I have Taylor who has just turned 18 and graduated from boarding school. It’s good to have her home. Shes a little emotional right now as failed medical for Army and didn’t quite get the great results she needed or was hoping for from her IB exams.

Blake-Louise is 8 and just last week was diagnosed with autism. She struggles with emotional and social situations, and she is also being assessed for a bleeding disorder as she suffers from prolonged nosebleeds quite regularly. She’s holding her own at school and tries to make friends.

Then theres little Paolo who is 5 – he is the sweetest of the bunch. He suffers with allergies, and he carries an epi-pen as he’s had two episodes of anaphylaxis. He also spent his first years in and out of hospital with bronchitis.

Both the youngest only really know Germany so it’s taken time for them to get used to the UK.

3. Did you find it difficult having such an age gap between your eldest and the next two?

Oh boy yes did I!

It was like starting over again and I had to ask my sister things as I’d forgotten some bits! I felt old with the other two and my energy levels now are awful.

Taylor doesn’t (and hasn’t for a while) come on days out with us as a family, as she’s not interested in the same things and often finds it boring.

4. Which stage is harder: toddler or teenager?

Toddler is so much easier I think. As a parent of a toddler you get to have fun, take photos and be a kid yourself again. Don’t always worry about a tidy house , just make memories.

I share quite a bit of stuff about kids on social media and I do think we need to remember in this day and age that they are little and learning all the time.

Teenagers are another ball game! You have a younger adult there who is trying to find their way with your rules. I have brought Taylor up to stand up for herself and now she’s doing it with us.

5. Your husband worked with the PWRR and was posted in Germany for quite a while! What was it like bringing the children up in a different country and how have you found it coming back to England after such a long time?

When we first moved to Germany, I was in a bad place.

My father has passed away in the March 2011 and we were due to move in the July with a 7 month old and a 10 year old. Neither my eldest daughter or myself had been to Germany before.

I felt so down and practically cried on and off for the first 4 months. My husband started work and had the car so that left me to walk everywhere with a pushchair and my 10 year old daughter in tow.

Thank goodness the German people are so kind! Many helped with speaking English when we went shopping. It took a while to make friends as all I did was stand at the bus stop, but I met a lovely lady who came from the Isle of Wight like myself. We remain friends now 8 years on!

Our first winter in Germany was a bit of a shock – the temperature dropped to -21 degrees! Christmas in Germany is amanzing and the culture there is very family orientated.

I soon settled and went to a singing group with the baby, Blake, in the end I was running it for 5 years.

The healthcare in Germany is amazing, too, and they have a separate hospital for children. I had another baby while in Germany and it was the best of all my C-Sections. We spent so many months on and off in hospital with my little boy as he has allergies.

My husband did a tour of Afghanistan while we were in Germany which I found very hard, especially not having any family near. But the friends I made helped me get through it.

Coming back to the UK after such a long time was a wrench. Germany was our home and all my youngest children knew.

My eldest came back early to go to boarding school, so she was used to living back in the UK by the time we came back!

6. Being a mum of three and an army wife must be difficult – do you spend long periods of time managing yourself, the kids, and your job on your own? What have you found helps you to cope with all of that by yourself?

Short tours away I think are harder as you don’t get used to them being away. 8 months with him away with a 4 month old, 3 year old, and 13 year old was tough and I really struggled at times. My husband’s mum and sister came to visit, as the Army paid for them to come to Germany.

No-one, and I mean, NO-ONE, understands how it feels and what it’s like unless you are an army wife, and I stand by that. My sister who has been an army wife gave me great advice…

Count the weeks, not the days. Have one thing to look forward to each week, whether it be treats, or a nice day out. Don’t panic if you miss a call from your man, he will call again. You can’t run your life waiting by the phone.

Claire, Army Wife

Chocolate helps, too, girls!

7. What do you find most rewarding about having three wonderful children?

Hahahahahaha

8. And the most challenging?

Everything is challenging!

Paolo, the youngest, has allergies and we carry an epipen. I have had to use it and it was frightening. I have done a paediatric first aid course, but seeing him have a seizure was heartbreaking. He has spent a lot of time in and out of hospital in his first 3 years of life.

Blake, the middle one, has bleeding issues and we are still trying to get answers. Taylor is my wing woman, so to speak, as it was just us two, butte has been through it, and we have both had mental health issues.

They are all lovely kids, though (when asleep)!

9. You’re also currently going through the motions of getting an ASD diagnosis for one of the kids – how do you manage her additional needs?

Miss B is 8 and a half now and we have had thoughts there’s something not quite right for a while. We started by speaking with our GP as B, after our two pet cats passed away, became obsessed with cats, said she wanted to be a cat and said she wanted to die so she could be with her brothers (the cats).

When speaking with CAMHS and the doctor it became apparent that there were other emotional problems. She also liked to collect things – from a young age she carried around batteries, eggs, and tomatoes. I seem to cope better than my husband does as he is far more short-tempered than I am.

She does not like surprises and so we need to make sure she knows what’s going on at all times. We have, since being in the UK, got her Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) done and are due to get paperwork confirming her diagnosis, which, even though we expected it, came as a shock, as none of our family thought there was an issue. They said she was just naughty, or rude, or it was just a phase.

10. Is there anybody else you’d like to nominate for our wonderful women feature? Anyone who inspires you?

My sister. Even though sometimes I’d like to kick her up the butt, or shake her and say “get a grip”, she has come through so much. Army wife, break up, and her husband had PTSD. She is a fighter – even though she wants to give up, she doesn’t.

Wonderful Women: Mum of three, brain surgery & ASD

  • Although we are ‘Mummykind’, put being a ‘Mummy’ aside for a second and tell us about you!

Hello, I’m Rachel. I’m currently not working because I’m recovering from brain surgery. I’ve been working on some minor home improvements as I let my standards slip a little bit when I was poorly! I enjoy gardening, spending time outside, looking after my small menagerie of animals and enjoying the company of my beautiful granddaughter!

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  • How about your children? How old are they, what are they up to?

My youngest is 13 and in Key Stage three at school. Then we have my 20-year-old son who is off to University in September, where he will study Urban Planning. My eldest is nearly 24 and a Mummy to my Granddaughter, she enjoys writing and promoting Mental Health awareness.

  • What are your favourite and least favourite parts of being a parent?

My favourite part of being a parent is seeing my children genuinely happy and succeeding. I love the relationship my children and I have. When all else fails, I know I can depend on my little family and they know they can depend on me. They all have a fantastic sense of humour and there is honestly never a dull moment when any of us are spending time together! My least favourite part is when my children are ill, especially when I nearly lost my daughter when she was giving birth and also when my youngest had severe viral encephalitis. It has also been awful seeing my children being bullied to the extent it has impacted their mental health.

  • When did you first consider that your youngest child was different?

When he had just turned two, he suffered multiple convulsions that lead to a prolonged period of him not being able to breathe. After this period of ill health, his character and behaviour completely changed. He was still our little boy, but he wasn’t quite the same anymore. The specialist said that the period in which is brain was shutting down could have well have led to cognitive changes, causing ASD.

He started to stare at the washing machine as it spun around. If he was ever in a small space, he only ever wanted to escape – he’d run into walls and try to climb out of windows. He was sensitive to sound, touch, to having too many people around. We’d have to cut the tags out of his clothes, including his pants and socks. He was withdrawn and easily overwhelmed.

  • How difficult has it been to get him the help and support he needs?

It has been virtually impossible to get him the help he deserves. Despite showing typical signs of ASD and related disorders, he wasn’t diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder until he was nearly seven years old.

Getting that diagnosis took continual visits to the GP, countless visits to our local specialist, support from his primary school and other trusted people’s supportive documents. He has been declined 5 times for a Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) as he isn’t “Autistic enough” despite being “too autistic” for mainstream school, according to his specialist provision at school. He has many struggles with not only ASD, but ADHD, APD and even some aspects of Tourette’s (to name a few!) – but he is high functioning, which hasn’t helped at all with his EHCP.

  • Describe a typical day to us? What are your biggest daily struggles? What are the highlights?

Mornings are so stressful – we have a minute by minute system of what we need to do to get him out of the house on time. It has taken 18 months of almost literal blood, sweat and tears for us to find a routine that works for him. We face multiple difficulties like him struggling with shoelaces and his tie because he doesn’t like how it feels. His anxiety levels are so high that he can’t get the bus to school, so he must be driven. He is almost done with his second year and still not doing a full school day.

He has started doing more mainstream lessons as he prepares for his GCSEs. The highlights are when he comes home happy, when he has learnt something new that he’s excited about. He does so well academically despite his difficulties that in most subjects he’s on the same level as his neurotypical peers. He is really interested in Physics and has a keen interest in space… hearing him talking about something he is passionate about makes me so proud.

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  • How has the past year been for your family?

It has not been the easiest of years! This time last year my brain condition was affecting how I thought, how I walked, how I talked – I was using a stick and wheelchair. I wasn’t myself at all. I had surgery for this at Kings in December and I’ve been recovering well since! I am so thankful that I had that surgery done when I did, it’s been life changing.

My husband had a DVT which lead to a life-threatening DVT pulmonary embolism, causing permanent lung damage – he’s been placed on medications for this and since then he’s been much better.

My son’s specialist unit at school has closed, so we’ve been in lots of meetings regarding a new smaller provision that is being piloted. We’re hoping this works well for him and helps him feel secure enough to continue to achieve.

There have been so many mishaps and incidents – I’m just thankful to have my family and my dogs by my side!

  • How have you managed to cope? What do you do to unwind and relax?

My family inspire me to keep going, as I said before, when all else fails, I still have them, and they have me. We try to get away on holidays whenever we can. I love a good soak in the bath, or a cup of tea and a chat. You can’t go wrong with either of those!

  • What hopes do you hold not only for your youngest child, but for your whole family?

Understandably my youngest causes me the most concern, above all I just want him to be happy on whatever path he chooses to take. School, work, college? If he’s happy and fulfilling his potential, I couldn’t be happier! I hope my eldest son does well at university and enjoys his chosen career. I hope that my daughter finds an answer to her many medical problems, so that she can live a happy and healthy life with her little girl. After all, I believe the most important job in the world is brining up happy and healthy children.

  •  Do you have anybody you’d like to nominate for our Wonderful Women Wednesdays?

I’d like to make a couple of nominations, if that’s okay? Firstly, Maria of Mummykind – I admire her fight to save the world for future generations. She is an excellent influence and recently won an award for her green thinking! I’d also like to nominate my Mother, Angela for a different perspective on parenting and to incorporate and include ladies from a further range of backgrounds.

Do you have anyone you’d like to nominate for our Wonderful Women feature? Let us know!

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