As we make our way to a day on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway (or the La’al Ratty, as it’s affectionately referred to by us West Cumbrians), listening to Noah’s Thomas and Friends soundtrack- we have a little train lover- my love of being off work expanded a million times. My son has been so happy and well-behaved this week. It’s an absolute gift to spend so much time with him when we’re off work. Don’t get me wrong, he’s by no means a monster at other times, but he can be rather temperamental for someone so young. I look at him now, so happy to be with his Mammy and Daddy, and it’s been like this since 4.30pm last Friday. As much as I want to ignore it, it’s glaringly obvious what makes him “act up” sometimes when he’s not with us. Pure and simply, he misses us and is seeking attention in less than appropriate ways.
I went back to work, teaching full time, when Noah was 15 weeks old. The maternity money had dried up, and we had barely any savings. We felt we had no choice, so off I went. I also felt a huge responsibility to my GCSE classes and felt I had to rush back to them. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I can’t even call it a decision, because it wasn’t. Andy and I had no choice at all. With a mortgage, bills etc, life would be stretched, but add to that a fair bit of debt that I amassed whilst at Uni (I lived like a millionaire, courtesy of store cards and credit cards), having more time off would’ve crippled us. I know it’s all down to me, and how irresponsible I was with money, but leaving my tiny little boy with his Nanna and Grandma, when I should’ve been off with him, was the biggest punishment. Even now, I’m still digging myself out of the debt, but luckily the end is in sight.
I’ve never kept it a secret how low I was when I went back to work. It wasn’t too long until I couldn’t cope, and was diagnosed with depression. I was on anti-depressants for about a year. They helped me cope with life a bit better, but also built up a bit of a false sense of what I’m capable of. Looking back, I don’t know how I did what I did. I worked full time, which despite what people think about teachers is not just 8am-3pm. I think I was probably borderline manic. I took the job of Head of English and just kept going at top speed. Noah probably didn’t have a clue what was going on, but it’s safe to say I wasn’t being the best Mammy. I was almost trying too hard to be Superwoman. It all came to a head in September when I had a bit of a break down. I was signed off work with stress related illnesses, and I’ve been poorly off and on since then. I decided to stop being Head of English, and put my family (and my health) first. I’m 29, but sometimes feel far older. It’s not right! As much as family and friends have helped us out, there comes a point where we can only help ourselves for true success.
The guilt of going back to work at all, never mind full time, was hard to deal with. When Noah started biting, I blamed myself. Every time he ever does something remotely naughty, even when it’s typical behaviour for two year old boys, I beat myself up for it. Why can’t I be the perfect mother like so many others out there, with their organic produce and their constant play dates? It’s hard not to compare, especially when you feel so inferior and, quite frankly shitty, to those around you with their perfect lives and perfect children.
I had to take a day off for Noah’s two year check up in January, and it was so nice to do normal “Mammy” things with him. For that day I was happier than I’d been for a long time, and the rest of my week at work was more enjoyable. It got the wheels in motion, and the thought of part time became a distinct possibility. After talking it through with Andy, it seemed more like the right thing to do.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my job most of the time. Being a teacher is a huge part of my life and I enjoy working with young people an incredible amount. My issues weren’t entirely with the profession, although it’s not what it once was. I felt like I was doing a “half arsed job” as both a teacher and a mother. I applied to reduce my hours by just one day, which will give me the freedom to have one full day with Noah, and the scope to carry on teaching. I’m dropping my responsibility, so the pay cut will be significant, but manageable. If I dropped any more hours, we’d struggle on the wages which would, in turn, stress me out even further. Going to four days is the best option for me and my family. I feel like it’s taken two years, but this decision is the right one. Never again will I make decisions based on anything other than what’s best for me, my husband and my son.
Bring on September; I’m going to enjoy my one day a week to have adventures with my little man! Making the decision to go part time has already made me far happier, I can only imagine how good life will be once it’s happening!
No matter what guilt and paranoia I have felt, I’ve learned to look at the beautiful, happy face of my little man, I’ve learned to appreciate that he has perfect manners, and I’ve learned to realise how loving and intelligent and affectionate and wonderful he is… All of this tells me that we’re doing a pretty amazing job! We’re a pretty amazing family that, like any other, has it’s ups and downs to contend with. That’s life!