This is my last week of work. In some ways it was expected that I wouldn't go back to work, but mostly it was a shock, even to me.
Once I began working as a High School Teacher, that's what I assumed in my mind I would be forever. I was witty and wild, caring and concerned for my students. The part I loved most about teaching was connecting with my students, creating positive relationships and providing support. Being a French Teacher provided me with the platform to tell stories of my time in France, my experiences in school and provide examples for my teenage students to build their own ideas from. Seeing some of my own former students study abroad, travel to France, and get jobs here has been incredibly rewarding. It was always my goal to use my classroom to teach them to dream, for even if they weren't interested in learning French, I wanted to jettison them in the direction of what they did want to study and learn in life.
So when I had the opportunity to return to the classroom in a part time position, I jumped on it. I was blessed to be teaching at a successful local high school a few days a week, and also remain home some days and "just be a mom" to my growing toddler son. I learned a lot while working at this school, they were progressive and results driven, they pushed and encouraged me to become a better teacher. I learned how to maximize the use of technology in the classroom. I worked with some absolutely stellar teachers that truly renewed my faith in the education system, and I hope my children are lucky enough to have teachers of that caliber in their schooling career.
As much as I enjoyed learning, I loathed the schedule. The very schedule I thought would be perfect for a mom, working part time on alternate days. It was hard to keep up with the schedule, I taught in the afternoons, arriving at school around noon. Some weeks it was Monday, Wednesday & Friday and others it was Tuesday & Thursday. I never caught on. Was I a stay at home mom? Or was I a working mom? Basically I was both and I felt like I couldn't keep up with either job description. Projects, grocery shopping and general housekeeping fell to the wayside as I squeezed in as many mom-like activities with my son on my days off. Other days I rushed out the door frazzled, trying to squeeze in grading, prepping, photocopying and meetings.
I always felt caught in the middle and honestly I never caught up. It was a difficult schedule for me, and if I had to choose to be successful in one arena and let the other slip, there was no way I was going to let my son suffer. I consider my responsibility as a mother important, perhaps the most important thing in my life, and I figured I could either try to affect a classroom full of teenagers lives, or focus on the life I had at home, ensuring he becomes a positive and productive citizen.
I asked for my schedule to flip to mornings next year, instead of working afternoons, and I assumed that would solve all my problems. I wouldn't spend every waking minute of the days I worked worrying about getting everything done before getting to school, and my childcare would be easier with Jeff in preschool. So when next year's schedule arrived in my inbox one day in May, my heart sank. Surely there had been a mistake, I thought, as the schedule was the exact same as this year: afternoons. I immediately e-mailed my boss, checking to see if there was any chance the schedule could be switched, the response being no.
I toiled inside: do I let go of my job, my career and simply be a mom? My gut was saying yes! But my brain was filled with guilt and conflict: how could I walk away from a part time gig at a great school, one that allowed me alone time, the ability to get dressed up and even earn a (small) paycheck? I had even noticed over the year of working that people were happy and impressed to hear I was teaching, it provided much more fodder than simply saying "I'm a stay at home mom". I stressed about this decision for two weeks, but staying at school felt like the door had closed and I was rushing about trying to find an open window to make it work, only to find they were all closed, too. I would have to find new childcare for my son for the next year, taking him out of the preschool I had already signed him up for, and what would happen if I were to have another baby? I wouldn't get maternity leave being part time, and all these things weighed on me.
One of my best friends, Craig, looked at everything a bit more logically: the time commitment of teaching in general, the pay scale, and my stress level. "That's some American bullshit" he clamored, when I expressed my desire to be an independent woman, part of the work force. I appreciated this point of view, and considered it to be true. Maybe keeping a job that was causing me stress and not earning me much money in the meanwhile was really not for my benefit, but part of our culture that creates the sentiment that working people are more valuable. Maybe my joy in motherhood was enough for me. Maybe the angst of working was stealing time away from my own creativity--and time to blog. Maybe being a wife, a mother, and a landlord is enough for me at this point in my life.
As soon as I resigned, I felt relief. It was almost as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. A weight I didn't quite know was there until it was gone. I began to focus on other things as soon as I had resigned: writing for this blog, a renovation up north at our new ski condo, and helping my friends and family around me. I'll surely miss the students, I'll also miss my colleagues and the challenge of teaching, but I'm looking forward to focusing on what matters most in life: raising my son and helping my friends and family.
So, as I approach my last week at work, I'm excited for my new endeavor, and truly proud of myself for following my instincts instead of what I "thought I should do". I'm hopeful that my future free time with him in preschool will allow me to write, to blog, to be more creative. Mostly, I'm looking forward to time with my son, watching him grow, going on hikes, and enjoying all the little things that make each day great!