Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Part-time career-mum

I always knew that motherhood would change things for me: I knew I would want to be the person taking my children to school in the morning, to be the first face they see at the gates at 3pm, to have the time to invest in Easter bonnet competitions and dress-up days, to have a healthy, wholesome cooked dinner on the table shortly after they returned home from school, to be able to go to school assemblies and sports days and be able to help on the charity cake stalls at break time.

I knew I didn't want to be an over-worked, tired, teaching Mum who has to rush through bedtime stories in order to crack on with replying to those emails, feeling the constant guilt of rushing, of having no time to enjoy stories, baking, den making and day trips at the weekends because of the growing pile of marking. I knew that when I had children I would give up writing my reports at the weekends, that I would become efficient with my lunch times, that often, lunch times would not exist. I knew that I would not spend hours in the evenings creating resources, or filling in pages of data, or uploading lesson plans or planning the next charity event or readathon, school trip or after school club.

That said, I still want to do all of these things.

I now have two very important priorities and my child will supersede my work every time, which is why I must go part-time in order to reduce my workload to one that is manageable enough not to intrude on those all important bedtime stories and weekend outings. My 'days off' during the week will be spent with my child going to baby groups and cake afternoons with other Mummies, but when she sleeps, I'll work. I'll work my flaming socks off. I'll manage it, because less hours teaching is less marking, less reports and less preparation to do at home. I'll manage it because I don't only love my child, I love my job.

I have a young child and I want to be the best Mum I can be, but I'm also in my mid-twenties with more to prove.

You haven't seen the best of me yet.

I can't be the best of me as a full-time Mum and full-time Teacher, but I can be the best of me if I teach part-time. I still want to sweat the anticipation of examination time with a GCSE class, I still want to organise those charity events and readathons; who knows, maybe I'll even want to apply for that promotion.

So, just so you know, I'm going part-time, not checking out on my career.

Friday, 20 February 2015

"Pregnancy is not an Illness"


“Pregnancy is not an illness.” Then why do you feel so ill? Of course, it’s unlikely that people will repeat this common little phrase to your face, but you know yourself that the rat race makes little time for you to dwell on your pregnancy ‘symptoms.’ The mere pregnancy symptoms which leave you gagging at the threatening aromas of lunch time; which cause you to heave over the toilet minutes before your lesson is to begin only to then slap on your best enthusiastic, glassy smile on exiting the toilet; the devouring of snacks in class, an endeavour to relinquish that sickly feeling still in your mouth and to grasp an ounce of energy; that pounding headache at the end of the day when you’ve begun to go sleepily cross-eyed through deciphering handwriting and staring at your emails all day; that nagging from your misbehaving body to lie down on your desk for an hour or two; those unfortunate demands made by your bladder in the middle of a lesson, your body misbehaving yet again; another water infection-you’ve wet yourself; the sitting at home with your feet up at the end of the day in sheer, desperate exhaustion instead of marking those assessments; the work you turn away for that extra ten minutes of peace before bedlam enters the room, and noise.
Why do they seem so much noisier than before?

For me and for many other pregnant women, the 'glow' never arrived, the sickness failed to subside and every day felt like a huge mountain to climb. Pregnancy and me didn't get along, especially pregnancy and work. So how do you teach when pregnant?
This is a question I want to explore further.

The first Problem I encountered: Urination

A natural side effect of pregnancy is the extra pressure forced on your bladder, causing you to urinate more often, however being in charge of a room full of adolescents owes a duty of care. How do you decide between breaking that duty of care by having to leave the classroom and urinating on the floor? I found this decision quite a reality and rather testing. I opted to break the duty of care I owed my class on a regular basis rather than urinate on the floor. It's also hardly practical to send notes-with-child to neighbouring Teachers who are also teaching, every time you need to urinate to watch your class for you. Especially with a water infection. Water infections may cause you to urinate every 0.2 seconds and unfortunately, it's not practical to remain sitting on the toilet throughout your lesson either.

Another Problem: Sickness

Naively, before becoming pregnant, I assumed that morning sickness occured long before 12pm and consisted of a quick barf into the toilet, followed by immediate relief, allowing you to proceed with the rest of the day. How stupid was I? Vomiting during lessons was similar to the urination problem, only lacking immediate relief. Straining to vomit only caused a surge of dizziness, a huge craving for post-vomit crisps and a really, really bad headache. It made me dehydrated and made me feel, well, worse. Vomiting into the toilet required a lie down afterwards and I found it quite difficult to incorporate impromtu lying down activities with my class who were mid-writing task on exiting the toilet.

Here comes another: Exhaustion

Before becoming pregnant, I wasn't too familiar with the feeling of absolute and complete exhaustion. Pregnancy gave me the ability to have literally slept standing up, this wasn't helped of course by an iron deficiency. Heart, palpitations, dizziness and morning steak cravings became sidekicks to the extreme exhaustion. Any Teacher knows that once your class leaves the room, it's time to do 'your work'. I had no energy for marking, displays and planning by the end of my marathon day. It didn't happen. This takes me on to the next problem....

Workload=STRESS= illness=not good when pregnant= more headaches= even more tired.
It's a vicious cycle of hell. I couldn't meet my workload because pregnancy was making me ill, not being able to meet the demands of my workload was subsequently making me ill-er. Then I'd cry. At my desk. And kids saw. Dignity lost.

The doctor signed me off, increasing everyone else's bloody workload and the result? Alienation, frustration, stress for everyone else. It's common knowledge that demands on Teachers already is crippling; how do they cope with someone else's workload?

"Pregnancy is not an illness." On a serious note, for me, it was exactly that. The requirements of my job remained the same, but in the eyes of society, I was not ill, I was pregnant.
The result was stress for everyone, guilt for me, a feeling which poured its way into my sacred Maternity Leave.
I'll never get it back.
Never again do I want to be a Pregnant Teacher.

I feel sorry for the unlucky ones who are yet to experience the hellish juggling act of a sickly pregnancy, along with the demands of teaching.
My advice: if you are signed off, accept it. Nature doesn't want you busting your back for deadlines you'll never meet anyway. You have a more important job for now, like growing a baby and surviving the awful effects of that. That's demand enough.