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Business as usual

Posted on: February 14, 2012

Okay, so now that that’s all sorted, I suppose it’s back to business as usual around here. I’ll continue to blag on about whatever is on my mind, and you’ll continue to read it… or not read it… or comment on it… or not comment on it… whatever ūüôā

On my mind at the moment is the question of work-life balance. How do I get some? How do I get the right amounts of work and life and balance? This question never really occurred to me until quite recently. But then it hit me and now I’m confused and I don’t know what to do. Let me explain.

For the first two weeks of this term, I was a real teacher. I had a class, and a roll, I went to meetings, I sat on a committee, I marked work, I planned activities, I stressed and agonised over my students’ wellbeing, and¬†I ran assemblies. I loved it. Some bits were crap, but¬†overall, I loved it. I loved the feeling of belonging I started to have within the school – I had an important role¬†in a place¬†outside my own home, for the first time ever, really. I also loved the payslip at the end of it all! It was totally worth it.

However, while I was having a great time at work, I also had to do all of the things that I would normally do with my own kids.¬†Except, I had to cram all of that stuff into mornings, evenings and weekends. A bit stressy, but do-able. The kids coped reasonably well – they behaved beautifully (for the most part) for their various babysitters, and saved up all their nonsense for when I got home, but that was to be expected.¬†I think I’m still paying for it a bit¬†now, actually, but I know they’ll get over it.

Being the selfish cow that I am,¬†I also continued to row, went out for dinner once and talked on the phone to my Mum for at least an hour.¬†Tom made sure he¬†got a word in edge-wise, too. All this left me happy, but bloody exhausted! There really weren’t enough hours in the day to do everything, so I missed out on a fair bit of sleep to keep up. But that’s okay, because it was only for two weeks.

The problem is, now I’ve had a taste of what it’s like to have a job outside my home, and get paid nicely for it, and I want more. So now¬†I have work-life balance issues. I didn’t before because I mostly thought I didn’t like working, so it suited me just fine to be at home with the kids and not get paid. Plenty of time to hate work later! But I don’t hate work. Since starting at the Special Education school where I’m currently working, I have discovered a new side to teaching, one that I didn’t see before. It’s not the same, and it’s not exactly where I imagined my career would take me, but that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile. It’s not something I can see myself doing forever, but it feels like a nice place to (finally) start¬†my career.

But I’m torn.¬†With my two-week block over now, I’m back to being available on Wednesdays and Fridays. I have¬†been given a¬†class on Fridays for the rest of the term (and hopefully the year, but we’ll¬†see), and I am thrilled! I have a class and¬†a pigeon hole! I’m part of the team. But I’m thinking¬†it would be even cooler to be on the team for more than one day a week… I’m thinking of adding Thursdays to the mix, meaning I’ll be¬†available three days. Three. Consecutive. Days.

This is a huge step for me, because up until now I have been adamant¬†that this is not something I can do, yet. I know other Mums out there do three days, or more, and they and their kids are just terrific. But when I started the Mum thing, four and a half years ago, I really saw myself staying home at least until the youngest was in school. I’ve worked and studied on and off since then, up to my maximum of two days per week, but never got much enjoyment or satisfaction from it.

But,¬†something has happened to me. I think I¬†was so engrossed in being a Mum (hello, three babies in three years – can you blame me? It’s been intense!), that I forgot a lot of things about myself. I forgot that I’m passionate, driven, creative, social, competitive and somewhat sporty as well as caring, loving and cuddly. I am lots of things, I’m interested in lots of things, and I can do lots of things. I thank online feminism and my wonderful, supportive Tom for helping me to rediscover these things about myself.

The dilemma is this: now that I know, deep down, that I enjoy working and want to work more, what do I do about it? The obvious answer is ‘do it’, but it’s not that simple. What about the kids? Tiernan and Molly would be fine, eventually. I think Tiernan would struggle for the first few weeks, but I feel he would pull through okay. He’s nearly five. Molly is very secure in herself and I think she really wouldn’t miss me for one extra day. But Neave… she’s still my baby! I know she’s almost two, but (sniff)… there’s that pang of my heartstrings telling me it’s too soon.

It’s interesting, because while doing my two-week block, I didn’t miss Tiernan and Molly as much as I expected to. There, I said it. But it’s true. I did feel the occasional little moment of sadness that I was missing out on something with them, but at the same time, I kind of felt it was good for them and good for me to spend a little time away from each other. I’ve been, too often, a cranky, stressed Mum of late, so I think they were probably having a nicer time on their days spent with people who don’t see them all the time and were therefore more patient and kind to them than I would have been! And I made it up to them by being extra patient and doing nice things with them each afternoon, when I could.

But I did miss Neave.¬†I promise I’m not playing favourites, but I have to say she’s at my favourite age so far – she’s learning new words each day and she’s still super cute always, and doesn’t cause much trouble. Also, when the others were her age, I wasn’t writing, rowing and working like I am now, so part of my reluctance is probably guilt that they’re not all getting the same deal, I suppose. I really don’t know how she would cope… she’s definitely more clingy and attached still than the others, more because of her age than her personality, I feel. So, I think in time she would get used to it. But do I want her to?? It’s hard wanting two things at the same time. I know I can’t have everything.

So, I will sit on it. I’m lucky, I have until next term to make up my mind. Tiernan and Molly’s preschool (which is a long daycare /¬†preschool), still have openings on Thursdays, and the co-ordinator has agreed to set three places aside for me for next term. Yikes.

Any thoughts, fellow Mums?


2 Responses to "Business as usual"

Well, I’d be the last person to give you guilt over wanting to do the work you’re clearly passionate about. I think it’s important that we give our kids as much as we can, while still letting them see as as whole human beings who have, you know, interests and stuff. And keeping ourselves fulfilled – spiritually, emotionally, etc. – is one of the ways we can model living holistically to them.

Sometimes those things dovetail with being a full-time parent, but sometimes they don’t. They don’t usually, for me: I enjoy my children, yes, but I also feel called to be doing more in my community, and following the dreams about which I’m passionate. I want them to be able to see that both of those things are part of who I am, and to understand that I don’t love them any less for having other loves in my life.

Very nicely put Jaq, thank you.

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