I’m a working (outside the home) mom. Right now I’m working 80% of full time. For me that looks like 7:30-12:00 five days a week. I commute during my lunch hour and need to do grade papers or plan at least an hour when I get home. At first I didn’t like this set up much. It’s very isolating both at work and at home; I rarely get to see my colleagues and I only have an hour in the late afternoon to meet up with other moms at home (which I never do). It’s also stressful because I have very little time at school to make copies, plan and prepare my room.
This past week I had to turn in my Letter of Intent to the district office. In my letter I requested a return to full time next year. I don’t really have a choice in the matter; we need to put Isa in a full time day care/preschool and we can’t afford that if I’m not full time. I’ve know I would go back to full time since the year started. Isa is already enrolled in a Spanish Immersion program and we’ve paid the deposit. There are no surprises with any of this.
Still, I’m bummed out. The idea of going back to work full time is stressful. It stokes my anxiety. The thought of coming home, in traffic, picking Isa up from a long day of “school” (I’m not even getting into how stressed I am for Isa to be at “school” for 8.5 hours a day) only to go home and be with her for a few short hours while somehow also managing to stay on top of the chores and maintain my sanity, makes me a little panicked. I know I can do it, I did it last year, but I also know it was hard. Really hard. I was tired, so fucking tired. And if I’m pregnant next year, which I’m hoping to be at some point, tired isn’t going to be an adequate descriptor.
The truth is I’ve gotten used to this schedule. It definitely has its drawbacks but there are positives as well. I like having time, during Isa’s nap, to make myself lunch and eat, to write, to do laundry (no one is ever using the machines at 2pm on a weekday) or sweep floors or finish up dishes or do whatever else needs to get done. I’m not as tired when I come home in the middle of the day. Even though I need to bring work home from school, I’m more relaxed with the current arrangement.
I’ve never considered myself a career woman. I never wanted to be anything when I grew up. When people asked me that question I always answered “I want to be a mom,” at least I did after deciding styling My Little Pony hair probably won’t pan out. I went to college because I love to learn, and I guess I assumed I’d do something with myself when I wasn’t focused on my family. But I never had any grand aspirations, I never felt drawn to any particular callling.
I became a teacher kind of by default. I always loved kids; every job I had growing up revolved around children. After college I started subbing to make extra cash. I decided teaching suited me and even though I had grand plans to try something not kid-centric before I became a teacher, I couldn’t think of one other thing I wanted to do.
My mom cautioned me that teaching didn’t pay very well and that the benefits weren’t very good but I ignored her. I think, looking back, I figured my husband would do the “heavy lifting” when it came to making money. My job would be more for improving our quality of life, not maintaining it.
I’ve been teaching now for eight years. I enjoy it but it’s tiring, sometimes grueling work. If you’ve never had a job where you need to stand in front of people (if 34 hormone addled, easily distractible, always disgruntled middle schoolers can be called people) and convince them to give a shit about something they inherently do NOT give a shit about for five consecutive 55 minute intervals, then you have no idea what it means to be a teacher. It’s intense, exhausting work. You never have a moment to yourself. You can’t eat when you want, you can’t relieve yourself when you want. Sometimes it feels like you can’t breath when you want. You have to be “on” for the better part of seven hours, five days a week. There is no hiding behind email or Twitter or Facebook or a blog reader. There is no hiding behind anything. You must be there, present and accounted for, from the moment the first bell rings to the final ding of dismissal. Sometimes you even have hall duty, or a staff meeting after school.
As if that weren’t enough there is the constant grading of papers and dealings with parents. Parents these days feel incredibly entitled and it’s not uncommon to get irrate emails on a Monday morning, demanding the answer to a question asked on Friday night (that question is usually why you, the teacher, are giving their child a D in your class). As if all of that weren’t enough, schools, and teachers, are expected to solve (or at least work around) the problems of chronic hunger, malnourishment, abuse, and language deficits, just to name a few. All while remaining understaffed and underfunded and always underpaid.
It’s no surprise that 50% of teachers quit before their fifth year on the job.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my future, specifically the job part of my future. I’m not sure if I want to be a teacher for the rest of my life. The reality is I’m not sure if I can handle being a teacher for the rest of my life. I doubt I have the stamina for it. When I imagine what I hope to be doing ten years from now I draw a complete blank. In the next five years my biggest hope is to be working a 3-4 day week, though I have no idea what I could find on that schedule. If I wanted to keep teaching I would have to move to a lower grade or find a high school with a block schedule; no six-period a day school will allow a teacher to work part of the week. The lower grades have never interested me and I don’t know of many block schedule high schools in the area. If I leave teaching, even for a few years, I have to figure out what will happen to the money I have in STRS (teacher retirement). I can’t move it to Social Security and then back again, as I lose a huge percentage of it with each move.
The thought of not being a teacher is terrifying to me. I have no idea what else I could do. I have no other skills to speak of (except maybe writing, which is guaranteed to make me less than I do as a teacher). I’m not really qualified to do anything else. And I must admit, the thought of finally arriving at that place in my life when my kid(s) are in school and not having their schedule is frustrating. I became a teacher so it would work well with being a mom and now I’m too burned out on teaching to make it to that point when being a teacher is beneficial! I just don’t know what to do.
It’s all so hard, so complicated. There are so many things to considere–money, retirement, benefits–and if feels like happiness is the least important of them all. Simply entertaining the idea of leaving a very secure job in such a dismal economy wreaks of all kinds of insanity. It’s bat shit crazy is what it is. I don’t know what I’m even thinking.
I wish I knew what I wanted to do. I wish I had some kind of calling. I wish it were clear in my heart what would make me happy. Instead I just know I want to be home more with my daughter and I don’t want to be so bone tired at the end of the day that I can barely interact with my husband. Not very much to go on at all.
Do you love what you do? Do you even like it? Do you feel like you have a calling in life? Do you wish you did? What does your ideal work situation look like?