I’ve been asked quite a few times over the last month or so “how do you do it?!”with regard to balancing our home life with our little Bug & full time working life and it reminded me of the six weeks leading up to the end of my maternity leave and how I’d had exactly the same thoughts. There were a lot of tears. I was ready to step back into a job that I absolutely love, to use my brain again for something other than the routines of being Darcey’s Mum like what to cook for tea and what craft to invent for her that day but I really wasn’t, in any way, ready to leave her. The day before I went back to work, Nath took us for lunch at our favourite restaurant and I spent most of the day crying. I still look at pictures of that day and feel unbelievably sad. I was very concerned that I’d end up doing half of each job, poorly. And I said to Nath from the start that if that happened Darcey would, of course, come first and I’d take a break from teaching.
That hasn’t happened but I’ve felt pretty close to it at times! Fellow teacher parents will know that for (most) teachers work doesn’t end when work ends. The way I’ve mostly managed not to do a bad job of either is largely at the expense of sleep! We’re both absolutely determined that the second we get through the door it’s Darcey’s time. Neither of us would choose to work full time if life didn’t necessitate it but we are a young couple with a mortgage to pay and needs must. But when we’re home, it’s Darcey’s time and no matter what that isn’t interrupted until she’s in bed so you’ll often see us in work clothes covered in banana or paint because every minute is hers.
We eat with her at the dining table every night. Gone are the days of eating in front of the TV because this time is precious and we know we already have too little of it. Something we really need to get on top of is using our freezer and slow cooker to free up the time I spend cooking before Nath gets in. Something we want to buy as soon as possible is the Little Helper FunPod because Darcey loves being in the kitchen with us but she’s not quite spatially aware enough to realise that she will fall if she forgets not to step back! There are times when the balance isn’t right for me, especially, when I realise that other people have my daughter more than I do and that I have other people’s kids more than my own but I do love my job. And I’m good at it. In my infinite bloody minded stubbornness and thinking that I’m invincible I stepped up as Head of History which is the job I’ve wanted since I started teaching but which is a job that has taken a lot more work than I had previously experienced due to huge changes in our staffing and the school structure. It’s taken its toll.
BUT. In spite of the mad 6-7am rush where Darcey and I do our make up (!) and in spite of the joy and total guilt I feel getting pictures from my lovely sister at ‘Monday Club’ with Darcey & my gorgeous nephew Cameron, and in spite of less than six hours sleep where I’ve crammed in a set of book marking between 10 and 12pm she (and we) are still smiling. A lot. We can afford to buy her everything we want to, we were able to spend a number of lovely breaks in Cornwall last year, we make sure she can maintain her brilliant swimming lessons. We’re getting some of it right and she’s not suffering. Sometimes we are but she has a good life. I can never underestimate how lucky we are that my sister, Rosie, and Nath’s Mum are able to take the pressure off so that we don’t have to send Darcey to nursery five days a week. And she adores them both.
So to anyone about to take the plunge and go back to work: you’ll figure it out. It won’t always feel like that (ask me in June when I mark 800 papers for my exam board!!) and you will learn to live on much less sleep than you have ever done before but there is a way to do it and keep everyone relatively sane. Sort of.