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Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Road I'm Taking

I'm currently on leave from my position as an elementary school teacher. I was teaching grade six students and dealing with nearly 30 kids on the brink of teenage-dome, five days a week, ten months a year. I am fortunate to live in a country that supports a one year maternity leave, so after I had Thing 1 in March 2004, I embarked on motherhood with a one year leave leave from my school board in my back pocket.

As my twelve month long hiatus from work and any economic responsibility drew to a close, I was already pregnant with Thing 2. With only three months left in the school year, I made a last minute decision not to return to my classroom that year. I was riddled with morning sickness and putting forth every effort to cope with an eleven-month old with severe separation anxiety.

When Thing 2 arrived in October 2005, the school board granted me another twelve month maternity leave. As my second little boy inched closer and closer to his first birthday, I began to ponder what to do with my life, with my career, both as a teacher and as a mother.

I struggled with the decision of whether to go back to work or to stay home longer with my two young Things. Day care costs were astronomical and as a relatively new teacher, my salary wasn't exactly at the higher end of the pay scale yet. Paul and I decided that the best decision for all of us was for me to stay home for another year.

In the spring of 2007, I became pregnant with Thing 3. Having another babe in the womb affected my decision to go back to work in September 2007. I was feeling sick, exhausted, and I was taking care of Things 1 and 2, only 18 months apart and ages three and almost-two. I had a full plate and didn't think I could handle the stresses and responsibilities that would accompany heading back to the classroom.

Thing 3 joined the human race in January 2008, and if you're one of those *bright* people that can zip through math calculations in their heads, that indeed means she is almost one and that I'm closing in on yet another one year leave from my profession.

I spent a great deal of time this past fall trying to decide what I would do as Thing 1's first birthday approached. I began to dig around and look into my day care options. As a mom who has been home with her children for the past nearly five years, I was absolutely and completely stunned upon realizing what the cost of day care for three children entails. It's monumentally and ridiculously expensive. It soon became evident that unless I was going to be able to find a job that afforded me a gargantuan pay raise, going back to work would have to wait for the short term.

I struggled with this and waffled back and forth on my decision for weeks. I like working. There are days I miss it and feel pangs of envy towards my employed and full-time working friends. I miss the satisfaction, the rewards of earning a pay check and feeling like a valuable member of a team. I was used to having my performance measured, and to participating in goal-setting activities so that I could improve on my abilities and set expectations for myself.

When being a mother is your full-time job, your career, it is often impossible to measure your success. How the hell do I know if I'm doing a good job at this mothering gig? When will I ever know? Maybe when the Things grow up, seek happiness, find jobs and settle down to families of their own. Who knows? There are no pay checks with this job, no vacation days, no sick days, no coffee breaks, no corporate bonuses. From day to day I can't tell if me being at home with the 3 Things is really benefiting them - or me - at all. Are they learning enough? Eating healthy enough? Stimulated enough? Involved in enough activities? Oh wait, we already know they do NOTHING! I do my best, and that's all I can do.

And just as I was sailing through the stormy waters of the parenting seas with my 3 Things, along came a wave and out of the water bobbed a new opportunity. Something told me to seize it, and for now our little boat has its course charted out for it.

A good friend is heading back to work after her own maternity leave, and was truly struggling to find day care for her son. I mentioned to her that I could watch him when she goes back to work, and it turns out she took me up on the offer. He's a few weeks younger than Leah, so for the most part they will be on the same schedule, will eat the same foods, will do the same activities, will pee and poop at the same time . . . well, one can dream, right? It seems like this may be the right decision for me, as I will be able to spend a little more time at home with the Things, and I will have some income as well. So the working world is out of my reach, for a little while longer.

And I'm okay with this.

It's definitely the road I've taken.


Donna M said...

Glad to hear you have reached a decision and one that you are happy with! You can always go back to teaching when the Things are in school if you want to. Or you may end up with more than just 1 little extra one to look after. That's life. Decisions, decisions.

Landerson said...

Not that it matters, but I think you've made a great decision. And so have your friends who decided to have you watch their child. Can't wait to hear how it goes. Oh, and I know you probably don't hear it enough, but you're an AWESOME MOM!!!!

Anonymous said...

I can totally relate to so much of this. It sounds like you have found a great way to combine mothering and working.

And you can always go back to teaching when the things are older. Did you know even Sandra Day O'Connor took time off when her kids were young? Clearly it worked out okay for her, career wise.

Phyllis said...

Ahhh....the story of me. Wishing I could be back out in the working world where I was someone other than 'Mommy' but knowing that noone else would raise my kids just as I would. It's a tough decision, not even factoring the financial aspect of it all. I'm glad you've found this solution! The big, bad career world is still out there, waiting till you're ready to re-enter the outside work force.

Lara said...

That sounds great!! Good for you! :) I certainly know how difficult it can be to figure it all out.

C! said...

I am happy that you've chosen a road, no matter which road you take - it is always a good feeling to have a decision made. Even with just one child, I wish that it had been possible for me to continue to stay home. I've been back since last June, and I am grateful to have a fairly secure job that is somewhat flexible - and it is wonderful having the money and even time to be someone other than just mommy - but it all comes at such a huge price, one that has nothing to do with the $180 a week for childcare - but more to do with the fact that for most of his waking hours each day my child is in someone elses care and control. Many parents are fine with that, or have no choice, like me - it is a daily battle for me to feel ok with working. I know, even though we've never met in person - that you are a great mom - and that the time you are spending with the kids now will pay off, so don't let the "glamour" of work entice you back too soon - it isn't really greener on this side of the fence, just different.

amanda said...

perfectly said friend. and so very true. all of it!

so happy you have found the right decision :)

tiarastantrums said...

good for you. Such hard decisions we moms have to make. Missing the small moments for a bit of sanity and self worth (smile). I think it is fantastic that your position was "there" for you ofter 5 years? The US is greatly lagging in that aspect!

dougnlarry said...

I know you've been struggling with this for a while and I'm so glad you've found a middle road. If anyone can handle 4 kids all day, it's you! Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Oh Miss Mom, good for you. That sounds like avery good solution for your situation - we are thinking you will be really happy with the decision.

Grins & giggles your way,

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