Laura's story is a moving one and we thank her dearly for sharing it with us
I was working part-time when my husband, Paul, lost his job. I was 10 weeks away from giving birth to our first baby.
Paul wasn't particularly happy in his job and we had discussed updating his CV and sending it off to recruiters but unfortunately, other factors took priority and we never got round to it. Now this decision had been taken out of our hands. We just didn't know what to do. Bills were coming through the door and mounting up on top of the microwave. I tried to be supportive but as much as I tried his job loss affected me too, I suddenly realised how much I had relied on him and how this wasn't fair.
Luckily, we had some savings - enough to get us through the immediate time anyway. As time went on it played on my mind how much I had relied on my husband and if anything was to happen to "us" how alone and unable I was.
I am not an impulsive person, in fact, I'm the opposite, a saver, a thinker, organised with things; I knew I needed to make a plan. At this point, I was so huge, that sitting down thinking was possibly one of the only things I could do well. So with laptop on bump, Paul upstairs putting the washing away, ironing a few shirts in the hope of an interview I decided to change our lives around, currently for us both but, importantly for me too.
I'd got good(ish) grades at school - but that was years ago now, I had been working but now part time. I had IT skills but it was mostly self-learnt, I had bookkeeping and account skills learnt from my job but no qualifications to back them up. I searched the internet and found Oxbridge - an array of distance learning courses that could provide me with the qualifications I needed.
Paul came downstairs eventually - it took him so much longer to do the household tasks than it did me, but he had fitted into it and this gave me hope that even with little experience and no motivation that we could both move outside of our comfort zone and do things we hadn't done before.
As usual, Paul was practical - How would we fit it in? I explained that people do these courses around a full-time job and multiple children - done in your own time at your own speed and in the comfort of your own home. He asked if we could afford it? In truth no, but we couldn't afford not to do it either. I felt Paul was losing his confidence and I knew as each week went by it would get worse, I called Oxbridge the next morning when Paul went out to get the newspaper before he got back we were enrolled.
Paul was on the management course and I was training to be an interior designer.
When I left school I had trained as a make-up artist, I knew I had creativity and flair; an eye for detail, in my younger days, had worked on several beauty counters in department stores but circumstances led me to work in an office environment mainly money and more sociable hours. Since working part time, my home had become my passion, I was always redecorating, buying new interesting pieces for the house and lots of people had complimented me on my interiors when I saw the course I knew it was for me. Thinking beyond the immediate, I knew with a child I could work from home and do evening visits when Paul could look after the baby if he was back in employment.
Suddenly all of the bad luck and feelings of been down and not knowing what to do had turned, we were back in the controlling seat! I admit Paul was less enthusiastic than me but I knew he was getting depressed by not having a purpose. When the courses arrived we sat down and had a look at them together, Paul's attitude had changed slightly and he seemed more interested, at last, I saw a flicker of the old him back!
A few weeks into the course Paul re-started applying for jobs on sites such as Reed and Monster, his covering letters were more punchy and he was genuinely more enthusiastic. As a result I was less stressed and on top of that I was really enjoying my course, my creativity was flowing and I was thinking that this could be a real chance for me to turn my interest into a job, possibly a career and then, 2 weeks early, my waters broke and I eventually gave birth to our beautiful daughter, the very next day Paul got an email inviting him to an interview.
Paul went to the interview in one of his pre-ironed shirts, and got the job a few days later ... he was delighted ... relieved and so was I! He said that the interviewer was really impressed with his CV and experience and his willingness to learn outside the scope of employment.
After the birth, I was not very well and needed to take a break in my learning. My tutor was understanding and very supportive, a few weeks later I was able to resume my study and I was really looking forward to getting back into it. Paul was at work during the day and was doing really well in his new role, he had his own little routine of doing an hours work before his dinner when he got in. I once again had the responsibility of the washing and ironing and really missed the doing something for myself. I think it was the course that motivated me to get better quickly and to establish a routine. I felt as though I didn't want to be left behind.
I resumed the course and soon completed my units of study, Unit 6 - Setting up a small business, has been invaluable, I have learnt so much and have been able to put my previous knowledge of this course.
I told my old company that I wouldn't be coming back to work and have taken up a work experience placement in a design studio a few miles away from my house. I work here on a Saturday when Paul looks after the baby and I have been lucky enough to go on a few evening design consultations too.
Seven months on and Paul has been head-hunted by a leading company and is now a junior manager, he is so thankful that he did something with his unplanned time off and has since embarked upon another course.
For me, this course has put my life on track, for Paul his put him back on the right track. It has given me a purpose - a reason and taught me that there are options no matter what your situation is. You are never too old for learning, never too inexperienced to take up something new, it's not that you need qualifications to study again and there are people out there to help you succeed.