MTPT Blogger and Primary Teacher, Deniquè D reflects on how her ambitions as a mother and a teacher have always been intertwined, training as a single mum, and stepping in and out of teaching as her energy levels required.

Trigger warning: this blog post mentions baby loss and struggles with mental health.

I have been a teacher now for coming up to five years. I am still reasonably fresh in the game but seasoned enough to know what I’m doing and where I intend to go in my career. Being a teacher has always been my dream ever since I was a little girl, and so was being a mum. I now find myself blessed with the plenteous role of being both.

When I started my journey in teaching, I was a single mum. I lived in a hostel with my baby before saving up enough money to rent a flat. Then, I worked a part time as an Early Years Assistant, ran a network marketing business and studied at university for a degree. A year later, I qualified as a teacher with a post graduate certificate in education and QTS, I did it! All whilst raising my son on my own. Talk about biting off more than I could chew! But I chewed, nonetheless. It was one of the proudest moments in my life but it was hard. Looking back on it I realise those challenging years were a collection of character-building moments for me, which changed the course of my life and career.

My son and I started school at the same time, him being in reception and me being an NQT (ECT). However, instead of experiencing the joy and excitement of being a new teacher, I was exhausted.  I was exhausted because for so long I had been on the go and had not stopped.  Since my son was born, I felt like I had been running on adrenaline, desperate to prove myself to the world and become more than just a single mum. The determination to prove myself manifested into my goal to become a teacher, however once I got there, I had no energy left for the actual teaching. I compare it to the feeling you get after a long, tiring day at work when you finally get home, and you can take of your bra and shoes! My training year and the years running up to it felt like the long hard days at work and I thought that when I qualify, I was going to get that nice feeling of relief you get when you take off the bra and shoes.

But boy was I wrong- in reality, the work had only just begun. The bra squeezed even tighter and the shoes begun to give me blisters. This scared me. What have I done I thought? I would go to work and be with other people’s children all day then come home and have to deal with my own child. On my own. I was staying up late, marking planning, missing out on any hope of a social life. I was working in a new school, during its first Ofsted year, I was supported by a great team of people but because the school was still brand new, it was a very unsettling time. I had been through different mentors and seen headteachers come and go in a year.

To top it all off, I then fell pregnant again. That pregnancy ended. Being such a maternal person, this hit me hard. It wasn’t what I wanted.

Things weren’t looking or feeling the way I’d wanted them to be. I remember feeling that it was all just too much. Once that shiny NQT lanyard came off and I was behind closed doors the fake smile faded and the tears flooded down my face. I could not cope. After so long of being strong both in my career and in my personal life I just wanted everything to stop. So, not long after qualifying as a teacher, I had a bit of a breakdown, I call it my ‘funk’.

I quit my career which had only just started. I ran and left the whole damn thing. Mission aborted. (I know – so dramatic). I always have been a bit of an impulsive person. But a kind, caring, loving passionate type of impulsive person. So, I decided I wanted to do things my way. Only I didn’t have a clue what way that was. Turns out the world was also in a bit of a funk as not long after leaving school, Covid came and turned the world upside down! In 2020 I took a year out from classroom teaching. I call it my ‘gap year’.

To make ends meet I taught online as well as doing some family support work in my community.  During that time, I did a lot of soul searching, praying and learnt about myself. It gave me time to refocus and as painful and strange a time as it was, it was also in that season that beautiful blessings began to spring forth in my life. Eventually I recovered from my funk, I went back to teaching full time in my school. I rekindled my relationship with my childhood sweetheart and got engaged. Then in 2022 I fell pregnant again. Everything seemed to happen so quickly.

So here we are today. Five years on from the start of my career and I have birthed another beautiful baby boy. I am thankful to God. Things have settled down now and my personal life has changed a lot, for the better.  I’m more of a woman and less of a girl, I know what I want and I’m not afraid to take up space. I no longer run from the things I’m afraid of, I face them. It took me all that I went through to get to this point.

It is ironic how the driving force behind my career has been fuelled by motherhood, the very thing that we can sometimes fear will stop our career growth.  And now for every obstacle I face in my career, I reflect on what I went through as a single mum and draw strength from it to move forward. It is also funny how being a mum is congruent with my career and weirdly I am beginning to feel that all too familiar urge to uplevel myself again.

Now, being on my maternity leave I have heard that inner voice say “What is next for me in my career? Where do I see myself in 5 years time?”. Just like the inner voice I heard when I had my first son, that gave me the initial determination to achieve in the first place. Only this time round, the voice is a lot  calmer and confident. This voice knows herself and she loves herself. It is not about proving herself to others, but she is cheering me on, for me. I will uplevel for me. This time, I am determined to build on the foundation I already have and not run away from everything I’ve built. I am determined not to burn out. I am determined to pace myself and do what feels comfortable to me. I am determined to be comfortable saying no when necessary. And I am determined not to be so bloody impulsive but a bit more level-headed and mature.  What this will look like is yet to be confirmed but I know that leadership, self-development and more projects are on the horizon.

Joining the MTPT has been a game changer and a massive confidence boost for me. It took a while for me to gain true belief in myself but there is something powerful about motherhood as it forces you to dig deep and find strength in areas that you never knew you had. I am loving motherhood and I love my career. For me, each new chapter of motherhood has marked milestones in my personal and career growth. As you give birth to a baby you also give birth to something special deep inside of you. An inner strength, something spiritual, something primal perhaps. I know it is not the same for everyone and each woman has her own experience of motherhood. We all struggle in different ways, but this has been my struggle and my journey so far. I look forward to what the near future holds. I wish love, strength and growth for every parent no matter what your parenthood journey looks like, there is always room for improvement and there is always hope when you believe. Stay tuned to find out more about motherhood journey, CPD, and career.