I often read posts arguing why being a stay at home mother is harder than working full time, or why working from home is tougher than being a working mother. Well, here is my argument.
Why working part time does not make me a part time mother. (and is, in my opinion, the hardest of the lot.)
Context first. I am a teacher. I work 3.5 days a week and ‘finish’ a day without meetings at 3.30. I have no more than 7 weeks in a term before at least a week ‘off’. (those who teach, or know teachers, will understand the irony of the terms ‘finish’ and ‘off’.)
I work at home in the evenings. This means that despite getting home at 4.30 and having time with my daughter, my working day often does not really finish until gone 11pm.
Lack of sleep. Being a breastfed 8 month old my daughter still wakes at night for milk. (about which I am NOT complaining before anyone tells me to ‘stick her on the bottle’). Functioning at home on limited sleep is tough. Functioning at work, surrounded by other peoples teenagers, when I have had less than 4 hours sleep, or been awake since 3am, requires patience in bucketloads.
Early and rushed starts to the day.
I get up, (when I’ve not been woken up already) at 6am, run the bath then breastfeed my daughter while it runs. My husband takes over while I bath and then I dress and dry my hair while she watches. (her favourite acitivity of the day!) She has breakfast in her vest before a full clean up and being dressed herself. On a day when I work a full day, we are, all three of us, out the house by 7.20. At some point during the morning dance her nappy is changed, my lunch is made, our bags are packed and she plays. She wipes her nose on my tights and is sick on my top. Sometimes I have time to change before work.
Meetings and parents evenings. There are days I don’t get home until gone 6. Missing lots of quality time. Worse still are the parents evenings when I am not home until gone 8.30. Returning to a sleeping baby that I want so badly to wake and cuddle.
I can’t switch off. Ever. About either role. I’m a teacher because I care. I worry daily about grades, assessments and planning. I worry more about the pastoral side of matters, finding myself lying awake worrying about X’s fight with their parents or Y’s low self esteem. I spend my weekends thinking about how to differentiate for those with additional needs, while still making sure that the gifted are stretched and reach their true potential. THEN, while at work, I can’t switch off mummy mode. Constantly wondering what my darling is up to. Does she miss me? Is her cough OK? Did the nursery remember that she likes to be cuddled to sleep for her afternoon nap? Has her nappy been changed? Is she getting enough attention? Will she forgive me for working and not spending time with her when she is old enough to understand?
Disjointed social life. In the evenings I don’t want to go out drinking with my teacher friends, I want to be at home with my girl. In the day I can’t go to soft play with my mummy friends as I am stuck at work. On my days off I cram in as much as I possibly can, but feel sad when they plan events on days I have to work.
Missing moments. I hate missing my daughters firsts. This needs no further explanation and is one of the things that makes me want to stop working the most.
Part time teaching is never really part time. If you work part time in other fields, for example retail, 3.5 days a week would mean that on the 3.5 days you are not working, you do not need to work. You show me a teacher who does not work weekends, or a part time teacher who does not work on their days off, and I will show you their mammoth, never to be completed, to do list. Emails don’t stop being sent because it is your day off, and deadline don’t change. Staff forget that you are not in school and expect work turned around as quickly as it was when you were full time.
Aspirations do not go part time. I want to get involved with everything in both roles. Having always been keen to help others this now works in both of my lives. At work I will volunteer to mentor, to give up breaktimes for homework support, to call parents and help with revision. At home I want to join committees, I want to run groups, to organise coffee mornings and to take my daughter to every group and session that I can possibly fit in.
Two way guilt and lack of me time.
When I am working I feel guilty that I should be playing with my girl. When I am playing then the pile of marking stares at me, shouting at me to remind me that I have year 11 again tomorrow and they need their feedback. At the end of the day, when little one sleeps, and marking is complete, I finally have some time to myself. But it is now 11pm and I know that if I don’t sleep now then two lots of year 9 first thing could be my breaking point.
The truth is, I am not part time at either job. I am a full time mummy and a full time teacher. And, despite how much I love my job, there is no question in my mind about which I prefer.