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: Being a mum of a disabled adult

How to raise a disabled child

Today’s Wonderful Women feature is an interview with Sharon, a nanny of three (almost four) and mummy to Lauren, who suffers with cerebral palsy.

Sharon was nominated for this feature because her whole life has been full of sacrifices as a parent of a disabled child. She gave up her career to be Lauren’s full time carer and has been in that role for nearly 27 years now! She also raised her two older boys into adulthood as a single mum… Let’s give it up for Sharon!

1) Tell us a bit about yourself…

My name is Sharon, I’m 56, I live in Ashford, Kent and I have 3 grown up children. The youngest is Lauren who is 26 and is severely disabled so she still lives at home with me. Before I had Lauren I worked as a dental nurse and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

2) Your children are all grown up now, do you have any advice for new mums/mums of teenagers?

Yes, my children are all grown up now, but really the only advice I can think to give for teenagers is to keep your boundaries. They seem to want you as another friend but you’re not, you’re their parent and they have to abide by your rules.

For babies, just do your best and make the most of it because before long they’ve turned into horrible teenagers!

3) You’re a full time carer to Lauren who suffers with athetoid cerebral palsy, can you tell us about that?

Lauren was almost a year old when she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, although I had an idea before then that was what the problem was. Athetoid cerebral palsy affects all four limbs and causes severe spasticity in those limbs.

4) How has it impacted on your life having a child with a severe disability?

Having a child with a disability has had a great impact on my life in many ways, but I think the main one is taking away my ability to go to work and earn my own money… So I’m completely dependent on the state.

5) You probably never expected to still be a full time parent when your children had grown up, is it tough to carry on that role for longer than you expected?

It’s very tough to still be caring for your child once they’ve grown up, especially as I’m getting older myself! Our bodies were not equipped to care for our children’s physical needs once they become adults and, of course, I often wonder what she’d be doing in her life if she’d been born able-bodied. What sort of person would she be? etc…

6) Do you have any advice for mums with disabled children?

It can be a long slog but don’t give up. Make sure you’re getting everything you can because once they become adults it’s like they’re suddenly cured!

It is also very rewarding when your child achieves something you were told they’d never do.

7) Is there a lot of support for children with cerebral palsy?

There is a lot of support for children with cerebral palsy but unfortunate that stops when they become adults.

8) How much of an impact did Lauren’s health have on your other children growing up?

Lauren’s health had a big impact on my other two children growing up. Simple things like going somewhere for a family day out isn’t as simple anymore when you have a disabled child.

My two boys became my little helpers once I had Lauren and had a big role in helping me to care for her. They went from two little boys into two men overnight.

9) You have grandchildren now, and Lauren is an Auntie, how are the grandchildren around Auntie Lauren?

I have 3 grandchildren and they are all very mindful of Lauren’s disabilities. The girls are especially and Lauren has a lovely relationship with them and loves them coming over.

10) Finally, do you have anybody else you’d like to nominate for our wonderful women feature? Anyone who inspires you?

Sarah, you inspire me. Your drive and determination is unreal – the way you start things and see them through, even when life wants to chuck more shit your way you do all this off your own back. You had no guidance, no nurturing and, I suspect, no encouragement!

I’d also like to nominate all the women out there that get up and do their bit, juggling jobs / childcare / running a home and everything else life wants to throw their way! I don’t think you realise how hard motherhood is until you have a child.

Thank you so much to Sharon for being part of this series celebrating wonderful women everywhere! If you have anyone to nominate please get in touch!

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