Deb is a Mum of two who has been lucky enough to have a career she’s loved, working in Performing Arts and at local universities.  Deb shares her story with us and tells us why things were never the same again once she’d had her own children.

Deb and her husband tried for a few years to conceive a baby and when she finally did she knew that she couldn’t continue working in the same way she did before.  Deb set her sights on a new career that would benefit all her family, one where she gets more time to spend with them, one where she’ll be able to enjoy the school holidays and most of all provide a service that benefits others too.

During this interview Deb shares her journey with us and talks about fertility problems, IVF, babies, new careers and so much more!

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I was personally drawn to Deb in the school playground as she was one of those school Mums who always looked approachable, she always smiled and chatted to others and always took a genuine interest in how you were doing.  It was this that drew me to Deb initially and 2 years on our children have become good friends and so have we.

Living Proof is a feature that showcases all types of women and men and showcase how they’re living a life of purpose and passion – their way!

It could be freedom entrepreneurs, business men or women and/or even a stay at home parents and anything in between, there really are no limitations.  You see, the way one person chooses to live their life is different to another and that’s the real beauty of it.  We’re all made differently and we all have our own purpose and passion that we’d like to follow in this life and that’s just fine.

This feature will highlight those who are ‘Living Proof’ of living a life they love and we’ll follow their journey together through interviews and photographs of their life, their family and passions.

The Interview

What were you like growing up Deb?

I was a very quiet child and I was quite introvert.  I was often found reading as I loved books and was a real book worm; it was something I loved to do and would often get through about 10 books a week as a child.

My passion for books started when I was about 6, my Mum had gone to a book fayre and bought me book by Enid Blyton called St Claire’s, and from that very moment I fell in love with reading.  As soon as I realised that you could own your own books that was it and I took pride in the books I owned and cherished them. That was a real turning point for me as a child and from that point forward I was a regular visitor at the local library.

Every Saturday morning my Mum would take us to the library and I got the chance to choose up to 10 books to read for the following week.  Our whole family were readers and all of them shared my passion for reading.

That was how we spent our time, we’d often read more than we watched TV and as a child that’s a little unusual for some.  As I grew older I kept my passion for reading but, as I hit my teenage years the reading got less as I found myself socialising more with friends.

As I moved up to secondary school I realised that education was getting a little more serious and I didn’t enjoy it.  I wasn’t very motivated and looking back I know I could have knuckled down more but I don’t think I took it seriously enough and there certainly wasn’t the same pressure on education that there is now.

I had a real love for ballet and I spent my evenings and weekends taking lessons and competing.  It was so much fun and even though I realised quite early on that I wasn’t very good, I still loved it!

Growing up, did you know what you wanted to be?

Like so many other little girls I grew up wanting to be a ballet dancer but, even after many lessons and competitions I soon realised that it was a competitive world and I wasn’t good enough to take it all the way.

I was okay with this though as I just enjoyed participating in the lessons, it was fun and it had a real sense of community.  As I grew older I moved into the performing arts side of things and studied a BTEC in Performing Arts at Stockton Riverside College and it was then that I realised that I was never going to be a professional dancer as the competition was huge.

When I was 18 I had to find my own ballet placement and I took the decision to look at placements in London and was lucky enough to secure a placement there for 2 weeks.  I was 18 years old and it was one of the most exciting times of my life, I was passionate about ballet, driven and ambitious but, these 2 weeks were so tough – I loved every minute of it!

When I came back from London, Cleveland Arts came along and were looking for someone to come and work in admin over the summer. I applied and got the job and I was over the moon and from that point onwards I worked in administration.

What happened next?

Even though I loved this job I realised that it wasn’t going anywhere so I decided to pursue a career at Teesside University.  I started working there and really enjoyed the work I was doing and after many months of working there I met my future husband.

It was 1996 when I first met Jonathan, I was 26 years old and he was a lecturer at the university.  We always chatted at work and I knew I liked him but wasn’t sure the feeling was mutual.  He was intelligent and good looking, but most of all he was funny and made me laugh.  We were both out with work one night and one of my good friends worked her magic and got us together – and the rest is history!  We got married in 2005 and started talking about having a family together.

Did you always imagine that children were going to be part of your life?

I always imagined having a big family but in my twenties and early thirties I got so busy with work and life and over the years I tried to imagine how my life would look without children.  But, we both knew deep down we wanted children and the more I thought about it the more I knew my life needed to have children in it to feel fulfilled.

We tried for our first child for a couple of years but, nothing seemed to be happening, the more I wanted children the less it seemed to be happening and that was really hard.

After some time we were referred to a clinic and we had our first round of IUI and it failed and we decided to would try again and the second attempt failed too. Looking back I remember feeling upset but Jonathan always told me that it would work out so I tried to take on some of that positivity.  We also knew it was such a low success rate of 9% and throughout it all everything felt okay because I had Jonathan’s support.  He kept saying to me, ‘We’ll have a baby one day,’ and this made me feel assured that that was always going to be okay.

About the same time we were told that if IUI didn’t work we could go for IVF the following May so I always knew we had a fail safe.  This wasn’t the end and there was another route for us if we needed it.

We tried IUI for the last and final time, it was our 3rd attempt and we had to wait 2 weeks before we could do a pregnancy test.  It was a waiting game and we weren’t particularly hopeful after the last 2 attempts.  But 2 weeks later to my amazement, I tested and it was ‘positive!’  We were so happy and overjoyed, we felt so lucky to have fallen pregnant and from that point forward we called our baby ‘little bean’ because that’s kind of what he looked like on our 7 week scan!

Oh my goodness this is amazing, how was your pregnancy and did you find out what you were having?

We found out what we were having as we were so excited and couldn’t wait.  I loved being pregnant and I cherished every moment of it.  I loved feeling my body change with the growth of ‘little bean’ and feeling baby kick was the best feeling in the world.

We found out we were having a little boy and we were so pleased.  As I’d been experiencing all the amazing Mummy things during pregnancy I wanted Jonathan to be involved so I let him choose the name.  The name he picked was ‘Benedict.’

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Did you go onto have any more children?

As we had treatment with Benedict we didn’t think we’d fall naturally but, to our surprise a few years later we fell pregnant with Meredith.  They were both September babies and we were over the moon that Benedict had a little baby sister.

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Were you still working at the university when you had the children?

Yes I was working full time worked in primary education at Durham University.  I absolutely loved working in HE and loved my job. When I had Benedict I was due to go back at work in September one year later but, I just couldn’t bring myself to go back to work full time and leave him.

We’d tried so long for him; I didn’t want to leave him so I applied for flexible working.  Jonathan and I agreed that I could go back to work 4 days but, I had other ideas (laughter).  When I filled out the flexible working request form I put that I wanted to work 3 days.  I don’t think I really even discussed it with Jonathan but luckily he was okay with it (laughter).

Once I had my own children I realised they were my priority and not work.  After I had Meredith I struggled to go back to work altogether and that was the point that I realised something needed to change.

It wasn’t the work I didn’t like as I loved my job and loved the people, but it was the realisation that I was spending too much time away from my children.  I wanted to be the one who took them to school every day and picked them up so I knew I needed to make a change and to create more time for my children.

I went back to work in September 2014 and nothing changed until September 2016 really.  Then at this point I was told that they were going to be closing the Stockton campus and they were moving everybody to the Durham campus.

This was the final push I needed, I was only working 10 minutes away from the children at that point so moving to Durham would have meant a 45 minute journey to work and I didn’t want to be that far away from them.

I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to be with the children more and I wanted to work term time to give me more time with them, so I started looking for jobs.

I always wanted to work with children and I began looking into becoming a Teaching Assistant and then after many evenings of research I began looking at training to become a child-minder.  This way I could look after my own children and be at home with them too, with the added bonus of getting the school holidays.

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What steps did you take that encouraged to be brave enough to pursue a complete career change?

I’d already spoken to Jonathan about making a change and initially he wasn’t keen on the childminding idea as he couldn’t envisage other people’s children running around the house, which I totally understood as it was his home too!

I’d always known that I wanted to work with children and last summer, 2016, I was chatting to friend about this and discussing my ideas with her and she said, ‘Would you look after my children?’

This was the chance I needed and even though I didn’t say yes immediately I thought about it, in fact I did nothing else but think about what it would be like living life as a childminder.  I’d get to see more of my own children and work with other children too – it would be perfect!

After some discussions Jonathan realised that this could work for us as a family and I started looking into a childminding course.  I then took the brave decision to just, ‘Go with my heart,’ and I set about working towards my new business.

I also found out that one of my friends, who was a mom from our school, was in a similar positon to me as she wanted a career change too.  We both worked towards our goal together and have since become very good friends.

I started the childminding course immediately and it was quite over whelming to begin with but as I got further into the course I knew this was something I definitely wanted to do.  I made the decision to leave the university in November and handed my notice in then. I felt euphoric and I couldn’t stop smiling and just beamed until I left in December.

I knew I’d made the right decision for myself and my family!

When did you start childminding?

I had such a lot to learn and prepare before I was able to become a practising childminder but I worked hard to do this.

I was the first of our group to go through the registration process with Ofsted but I knuckled down and worked hard to get everything in place. I had a great support network too and people who believed in me from the very beginning and I felt so lucky.

Jonathan has been amazing throughout all of this too and the morning after I got my Ofsted registration I came down to flowers, chocolates, card and wine from Jonathan.  He wanted to show me how proud he was of me and the fact that we’re not really gift givers meant so much more.

I felt so proud of myself too, I’d worked hard and set my sights on something I wanted to achieve and didn’t stop until I achieved it.

So what lies ahead for you Deb?

I plan to spend plenty of time with my children and I want grow my business to help support other parents.  I’m already working towards the Oftsed grading process and want to gain a good reputation locally and achieve my best with Ofsted.

I want the children who come to me to be happy and remember me as childminder that was fun.  I want them to enjoy coming to me.  I treat all children as part of my family and I look after them as if they’re my own.  I encourage learning, play and fun as I feel this is the best way to encourage them to flourish.

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What about you personally, what have you got planned?

Well, we’ve already got lots planned as a family.  We’re going to Legoland shortly and we have some planned breaks away with the family, I really want our holidays to count for something and I plan on making so many new memories with our own family.

As a family our life has improved dramatically and I get to take and pick Meredith and Benedict up from school and I love this.  It’s my favourite time of the day and as a childminder I bring all the children home and we make crafts and have fun.

I’ve always got something that keeps them engaged and I want them all to feel at home when they’re with me.  I have a real emphasis on learning through play.

What’s the biggest life lesson you’ve learnt so far?

That it’s important to take control of your situation and that work is not the most important thing in your life.  I’ve learnt that you don’t have to do something you don’t enjoy; you can set new goals and work hard to make your own dreams come true, I know I have.

There are times when we can all get so stuck in what we’re doing, we can lose our way and feel confused about where to go but my best advice would be, ‘Never stop looking.’  Always look and explore until you find your passion and don’t stop working towards your dreams.  Take control of the things in your life and start living the life you want and never look back!

I’ve always looked on the bright side of life and my positive thinking has helped me overcome any barriers and obstacles I’ve had in life.  Now I know the importance of being brave even when you feel scared or you’re not quite sure how things will work out.  Just do it anyway – take action, I know I did and now I’m ‘Living Proof’ you can achieve anything you put your mind to.

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