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My week in wellness: A 32-year-old teacher caring for a sick baby, and trying to stress less

This week, a Roscommon dad struggles with some old sports injuries and a lack of sleep.

TheJournal.ie reader

WELCOME TO HOW I Live, a new wellness diary series on TheJournal.ie.

We’re asking readers to keep a record of their mental and physical routines every day for one week – what their stress levels are like, how much activity they fit in (or don’t fit in), and how much sleep they get.

Each wellness diary is submitted by readers just like you. When reading and commenting, bear in mind that this is simply an account of a week in someone’s shoes, and their situation may not be relatable for everyone.

If you’re interested in submitting your own How I Live diary, email wellness@thejournal.ie with your name, age, location and a few lines about your current health and wellness goals.

This week, we hear from a 32-year-old PE teacher in Roscommon who is trying to find time for self care and fitness while also minding a son with medical issues.

Option 2A Final

Occupation: Secondary school teacher
Age: 32
Location: Roscommon
Who you live with: My partner and our nine-month-old son.

I’ve been through a lot of change this year. My son was born four months premature and spent the first six months of his life in hospital in Dublin. He has had many operations, is on medication and needs constant care. I also got a new teaching job which involved us relocating from Kildare to Roscommon.

I was very fit a few years ago – I cycled the Ring of Kerry in under seven hours, took part in extreme events, and ran 5kms and 10kms with ease. But I have been plagued with injuries over the past two years, and along with the birth of my son, my fitness goals and aims have been set back a lot.

I am going to get physiotherapy to help loosen up the different parts of my body that hurt on a daily basis. I think I rely too much on painkillers for those aches and pains and I’d rather not do that.

Daily activity: I am pretty active due to my job as a PE teacher. I average at about 15,000 steps during the week and less at the weekend.
Stress levels: My level of stress had been very high this year due to all of the change mentioned above.
Eating/drinking habits: My diet is extremely basic and boring. I would eat the exact same things for the majority of the week. I do tend to vary away from healthy food and splurge out maybe once a week. I don’t drink too much, maybe five units in a month.
Sleep quality: Early to bed and early to rise. I aim to be up before 6am every morning. Sleep quality is often poor as I wake when the baby wakes.
Self care: I might get to sit down and watch an hour or so of TV most evenings. I also love listening to podcasts or motivational videos on YouTube. I try to go for two good walks a week, and stretch when I can.

Tuesday

4:30am: Wake to the baby crying. He has the sniffles and his blood sugars were on the lower side of okay earlier, so I am a little worried about him. He gets a feed and then back to bed for an hour.

6:30am: Wake for work and have breakfast, which is porridge with blueberries. I need to feed the baby again and prepare food for my day in school (a banana, two yogurts and two pita breads).

8:15am: I arrive to work and supervise the yard for 30 minutes, making sure all students are in their base room and wearing masks. Classes start at 9am and I’m in class most of the day.

4pm: I help out with Homework Club until 5pm and then drive the 35 minutes home. I walk into the kitchen to find my partner making homemade pizza. I devour half the pizza before the baby loudly signals that he needs a feed and change.

7pm: We start to watch a movie on telly. Get two thirds of the way in before the baby needs feeding and his numerous amounts of medicines, and then it’s bedtime for him. He’s struggling with a runny nose and is very upset with it as his feeding tube gets in the way too. 

9:15pm: I get to bed early. I’m absolutely shattered mentally and physically, having done no extra exercise, or taking any time out to do things that would typically help my wellness. I still managed 11,000 steps throughout the day. I have a feeling we will be awake a good portion of the night.

Wednesday

1:30 am: We awaken to the baby crying from congestion. It’s his second time waking tonight. I pick him up out of his basket and put him in bed between us. He settles right down and goes to sleep again. We do too, eventually.

5:45am: My alarm goes off. It takes me 10 minutes to properly wake up. I put on a soccer podcast and have breakfast. My partner gets up at 6:30am and we both work together to change, feed and give medicine to the baby. I leave for work at 7:35am after making the exact same lunch again for today. Variety or imagination in terms of food is not one of my strong points…

8:15am: Yard duty and it’s quiet today. No students arguing about having to wear a mask or stay in their base classes. I have five hours of PE today and I join in with the fourth years playing ultimate Frisbee, but I am wrecked quickly enough. My chest is wheezing from asthma and a lack of fitness and my hips have completely stiffened up. I haven’t done any exercise since the baby came home in June after six months in hospital. I’m sure I have had the opportunity, but I’m also sure I’ve found the right excuses at the right time.

5:20pm: I arrive to my parents’ house for dinner. A big Irish fry and a bowl of ice cream too, which I didn’t want but didn’t say no to. Not the best food choice for me and I wish I had cooked myself something different. My partner and baby are spending some time at her mother’s house while the baby is sick. Her parents’ house is only 35 minutes from where I work, and an hour from where we live. I’ll miss them both tonight terribly when I’m not in a deep and undisturbed coma. I visit my uncle after dinner.

8:30pm: I get home from visiting my uncle. He’s a bachelor in his seventies, a real old school Irishman, who doesn’t own a car and lives by himself in the countryside. We phone each other every Wednesday and Sunday at 8:30pm religiously for a long chat. I really enjoy it and the connection and it does the two of us the world of good to give out about anything that has happened that week.

10pm: I’m in bed in an empty house. I got 19,000 thousand steps done today. I fall asleep very fast in an eerily quiet home.

Thursday

5:45am: My morning is very different without my partner or son. I decide to stretch my back and legs and use a tennis ball to roll out the knots in my shoulders and hips rather than taking any painkillers.

8:15am: I’m in work and doing the rounds on the yard. I’m in the classroom until noon. I sneak down to the shop at 12:30pm for a coffee and settle into the exact same lunch as the previous two days. It’s very bland – and shockingly boring and I hate it. I’m back for two hours of PE after lunch.

4pm: I supervise evening study in the school for two hours and I bring some instant noodles to tide me over. I get to prep some work I need to do for tomorrow and write up positive behaviour reports for some of my students.

6:30pm: I arrive at my partner’s parents’ house. We are going to swap cars for the morning – the baby has two hospital appointments in Crumlin tomorrow, and my car is more economical over longer journeys. I get to see my son and I am met with excitement from him, or at least I interpret it as that. I have stew for dinner and settle into an evening of cuddles with him until I put him to bed at 9:15pm.

10pm: I get to bed. I’m glad I got to stretch this morning and sacrificed a little sleep for it. I also managed 15,000 steps but my planning around my food is very poor. I really need to spend more time at my own food prep the night before. 

Friday

5:30am: I wake up before my alarm goes off and have some breakfast. I get the baby up and feed him. Then I’ve to prepare his stuff for his two appointments in Dublin: food, nappies and medicine. My partner and I are both on the road for 7:30am. I try to play either a podcast or some motivational speeches in the car on my way into work in the mornings. The change of job has been tough. It’s been hard getting to know people when the staffroom access is limited and when we wear masks all day, every day.

8:15am: I’m in work to do yard duty. I count and time the laps I do around the school to keep my brain engaged and switched on – I’m starting to wear a track into the ground at this rate. I have a quiet day in school ahead, only two classes and a break duty. School finishes at 1pm.

2:30pm: I get home, put some chicken in the oven, and do some housework. All the news from both of our son’s appointments was good. It was playing on the back of my mind all day. He will need another little surgery in a few months but it’s nothing for us to worry about right now.

5:00pm: I go for a 5k walk. Everything is still stiff and sore, so I stretch afterwards. I try not to take any painkillers and just rest instead. It’s hard not to take them as they are a fast fix.

7:30pm: I stretch after the walk and it helps. I sit for the night, watch a movie and then go to bed. On my own again tonight but they should be home tomorrow afternoon. I’ve walked 15,000 steps and have avoided eating any rubbish today for a change.

Saturday

8:00am: I get a sleep in until 8am and have cornflakes for breakfast. After breakfast I want to finish setting up the baby’s room. We have been in the house for six weeks but I just haven’t got around to finishing it. More excuses I know!

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11am: I drive to town to get fuel for the car. Pick up two jambons in a garage. I drive to my father’s after that, drop off some wood I need to split later for the fire and then go back into town to pick up a bedside locker for the baby’s room.

1pm: I get home from town and my partner is home with the baby. I missed them both. My partner cooks egg fried rice and heads for an appointment in town. The baby does not stop screaming for the duration but I eventually get him down for a sleep. It can be a bit overwhelming at times

4:30pm: We go to visit my mother at work so she can see the baby. We spend an hour there and then go food shopping and squabble about buying pumpkins.

6:30pm: We get home and my partner makes another homemade pizza for sharing. We also open a bottle of white wine. I have two glasses and my partner has one. My stomach gets very sick (and remains very sick into Sunday afternoon). We settle to watch some TV at 8pm and have a big bag of crisps and biscuits between us. It’s been the worst day for food or exercise in a long time and I pay the price with the pain in my stomach. We get to bed at 11pm.

Sunday.

2:30 am: The baby wakes and won’t settle. I bring him into the bed and after an hour he goes back to sleep.

6:10am: Baby wakes up again and I go down with him to change him, check his sugars, give him his medicine and feed him. We finish all that at 7:30am as I had to change him again half way through his feed. Feeding him half of his meals through a tube takes longer than if he could drink his whole bottle. I put him back in bed with his mum and I go downstairs and fall asleep on the couch.

9:30am: Time for another feed for the baby and we all eat breakfast. We’ve bottles to clean and a wash of the baby’s clothes to put on. My stomach is still very sick.

1:30pm: We go into town to pick up new bedclothes and a duvet for the spare room. We still have to get around to cleaning the place for any friends who might stay when the COVID restrictions lift again and we can have a small social life. It hasn’t been a very active day for me.

5pm: We settle back at home and get the baby changed and fed. We put on dinner for ourselves, pasta with roasted vegetables and a burger. Decide to light a fire as the evenings are getting cold. It’s our first fire in the new house. It smokes the front room right up and I let the fire go way down and open the window to let out the smoke.

8pm: The baby gets very restless and we put him to bed after his medicine. He didn’t take any more bottle so my partner tube feeds him at 10:30am. He doesn’t settle at all for the night. We bring him back into bed with us but it’s no use. He’s teething badly and coughing as part of it. He keeps us both awake the majority of the night.

Monday

6:20am: I slept through my first alarm and it throws me off for the morning. It’s later than usual before I can feed the baby and I forget to give him his medicine. A bowl of cornflakes and cup of tea is on the menu for breakfast

8:15am: I get to work after stopping in Lidl for an air fryer. I think it’ll be healthier than frying on the pan and it’s faster too. I do yard duty and am in class from 10 until 3pm. I didn’t get a lunch break and ate while on lunch duty, arguing with students about the one way system in the school. I remember I hadn’t given the medicines to the baby and ring my partner to let her know.

4pm: I get to my friend’s house and we do a workout in his garage. We set up our own little gym in his garage when I moved back west for my new job. We workout for an hour. It hurts in a good way as I pushed myself a little. It easier to work out when I’ve a workout buddy.

5:30pm: My parents invited me up for tea after the gym session. My partner and baby were already there and we ate with my parents.

7:30pm: I get home with the baby and my partner stops in the shop to pick up a few bits. The baby is very unsettled with teething so I place him on his back in his bed. He attacks his teddy in fun and he helps wear him out. We give him his medicine and a feed and put him to sleep for the night around 9pm.

9:30pm: I go to bed and fall asleep around 10pm.

What I’ve learned…

  • Between time at work and time with my son in the mornings and evenings I get very little time to myself. I understand why and I am not complaining. I am happy to spend so much time with my son after all he has been through. Every minute with him is a blessing.
  • Going forward I would like to build on my fitness and introduce a little excitement into my lunches at work. I just need to plan and shop better.

Last week’s diary: A 41-year-old community worker who’s trying to run more to keep stress at bay>

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