When I was asked if I would write a piece for International Women’s Day at first I didn’t really know where to start, so I thought I’d start at the beginning.
My first memory of a powerful woman is that of my Nana. She was a real family woman who had 10 children (sadly one died), so my mum was one of 9. Maybe that’s where my love of big families came from. Growing up I remember going round to see Nana and Grandad, and playing with all my cousins, of which there are many! Then there is my mum, she is a very capable and strong woman, a good role model to me growing up. My mum has worked hard, really hard, running businesses whilst bringing up her 4 children. She has taught me that anything is possible if you work hard.
As for me, my journey to where I am now, a foster carer for Young People at Heart….. well I have met many inspiring and inspirational women along the way. All of which have had a part to play in making me who I am now, mum to 4 amazing birth children (who are all grown-up now and still make me immensely proud every day), and foster-mum to 2 equally amazing children, both of whom have complex health needs and a life limiting condition.
I have always wanted to be a ‘mum’. From playing with dolls with my sisters when I was little, to being a ‘mini mum’ and caring for my younger brother when I was 10 years old, I have always loved babies. I think the fact that I am a big kid myself, and love getting down on the floor to play, or playing ‘peek-a-boo’ with toddlers in the supermarket, means that I have a good rapport with kids. When I left school I trained as a nursery nurse, then when I qualified I got my first job as a Nanny. I was in my element and quickly became part of the family (I am godmother to one of the children). I went on to have several other Nanny jobs, one in London, one on the Wirral, and after having my first child aged 21, I took my new-born daughter with me to look after 4 children in Southport! I have always been a very busy person…….
I loved my role as a Nanny as I was able to empower women to go to work, continue their careers, whilst knowing that their children were being well looked after in their own homes. I would cook, clean and drop the children at nursery/school, and I learnt a lot about how to manage a house and my time whilst multitasking looking after the children and making tea. After leaving work to build on my own family I later decided to return to childcare but in the form of nursing and I went to university aged 36 and qualified with a first-class honours degree in Children’s Nursing.
I worked as a Children’s complex needs nurse in the community for 6 years, before going on to work in a children’s hospice. I have met so many exceptional and inspiring nurses along the way, who have mentored and guided me, but also championed me when I needed their support. Working with children and their families at ‘End of Life’ was when I really started to question who I was, and what I wanted out of life. I was now a single parent and had overcome many of my own health issues that, at the time, were making it difficult for me to work. I took the huge decision to leave nursing and move myself and my family across the other side of the country (to be closer to my family) and start afresh. I had always dreamed of being a foster carer when I retired, but as the reality of my children growing up and leaving home was setting in, and the thought of me being on my own was too much to bear, I decided to bite the bullet and apply at the age of 45. It was a long and very hard process (as I had applied to a local authority first and was messed about), but when I finally found ‘Young People at Heart’ things started happening and I have never looked back. My fostering journey has been full of ups and downs, challenges of great highs and lows…… it is definitely an emotional rollercoaster!
Due to my background in nursing I decided to foster children with complex health needs, as I had the knowledge and experience to not only look after them, but also to advocate for them and give them the best life possible. I have 2 siblings who do have a life limiting condition, and this is hard as a single carer, they are getting bigger and their needs greater but I have had my house adapted, which was a huge process in itself, and we have now been funded for additional respite, and we are under the care of a local hospice which is brilliant. I am finally in a place where I feel fully supported by all involved, and my supervising social worker, Gina, from Young People at Heart has been with me all the way.
So that’s me and my story. Thanks for reading if you got this far, and thank you to all of the wonderful women who have helped, hugged and supported me throughout my journey. We all have our unique story and each one is special. There’s nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it!! Happy International Women’s Day! Kate xx
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