I have been fascinated by the reactions that people have had to me when I was on maternity leave, when I was getting ready to go back to work, and now that I am back at work. I find that some people are very judgemental about how they expect families to work. Well, I’ve got news for you everyone, we’re all different, we all have different needs and that is one of the amazing things about us.
My aim is to share the stories of families of all different types and spread the word that we are all playing a #BalancingAct to get through and raise our little people the best way we can. Let’s celebrate the diversity between our families, let’s not judge each other.
So, this week it’s over to Naomi at Life by Naomi.
1. Tell me about your family
My family is small: myself, my husband Tim and our son, Ben, who is 2. Here is a family selfie from Easter Sunday.
2. What was your job/position before you started your family?
I was a Full Time English Teacher in a Secondary school – I had quite a bit of responsibility within the school as well, leading various Teaching and Learning projects, which I loved. I had been doing it for 7 years before having Ben, and had mostly kept my work in school, often working 7am-7pm if necessary. I really enjoy teaching and do think I make a difference for the students I teach.
3. What was your work-life balance like?
Not very healthy to be honest – I think I was a bit of a workaholic! But I did manage to keep the balance by keeping my work at school where possible, and I tried to avoid doing a lot of extra-curricular work. I have done quite a lot of exam marking too, which took over in the summer term, but was worth it for the money – it paid for us to have several nice holidays.
4. How did you find being away from work when you were on maternity leave?
To begin with, I loved it. I had Ben in August, and I didn’t even think about school when September rolled around. I promised myself that I wouldn’t even think about work for the first 4 months, and I didn’t. I thought I’d miss the social side of teaching, and the general ‘buzz’, and this did become more obvious as the year passed.
By 9 months (I had a full year off), I was a bit bored, and started planning lessons. I really enjoyed my Keep In Touch days too. This surprised me – I wondered if I’d want to become a stay-at-home mum, but I think I’d be too bored! I missed the creativity of teaching and planning, even if I didn’t miss the marking and classroom management.
5. Have you returned to some kind of work since having baby and how did you come to that decision?
After maternity leave, I went back 3 days a week, and it was perfect. I had slightly more time at home with Ben, and enough time in school that I felt that it was worth it. I enjoyed my work days and enjoyed my time at home. Being part time made the marking and planning manageable, although I always worked on my days off.
I did that for a year, and then we moved house and I got a job at another school. I could only get a full-time position, and deliberately didn’t apply for anything with any responsibilities. I started in September, and, to be honest, it has been really hard. I think it’s the combination of starting at a new school (new schemes of work, new systems, different exam boards), and all the recent changes in English, but the thing that makes it so hard is being full time.
Now, my days run like this:
7.30am – Either drop Ben at nursery or arrive at work, depending on what my husband is doing. If I drop Ben at nursery, I arrive at work around 8am. I think do any last minute setting up, a bit of marking or some planning.
8.35am – 3pm – Teaching – I do as much as I can in my free periods and certainly don’t get time to have a cup of tea! We have half an hour for lunch, and I try to spend at least 15 minutes of that with colleagues.
3pm-4pm – Booster classes or Enrichment – I teach two Year 11 classes and run an English enrichment activity, so this takes up quite a lot of time.
4.30pm – 7pm – Rush back to pick up Ben from nursery (I usually get him around 4.30pm). Spend time with him, cook dinner, do laundry and any urgent housework.
7pm – Ben’s bedtime.
7pm-10pm – Marking and planning. I often end up working until 10pm, and always have more to do at the weekend. When there are extra jobs to do – mock exams to mark, for example – I have to find the time somewhere. Tim often comes home, asks how much work I have to do, and then tells me that he’ll ‘take over’ bedtime. That’s hard, because often I’ll have spent 11-12 hours working, but only 1 with my son.
Sometimes, it feels absolutely relentless, and I have to remind myself that we do get excellent holidays – even if I do often have to spend 2 or 3 days of it working!
6. How (if at all) has work changed since you returned (if you did)?
Personally, I thought I’d become much more tolerant, much more relaxed. But actually, it’s the opposite, especially with behaviour. I find myself thinking – “Actually, if someone was behaving like that in my child’s class, I wouldn’t be happy.” I’m a lot stricter as a result! I think I’m actually a better teacher for it.
I’m also much stricter about what I will and won’t do – and I need to do more of this. It’s hard, being in a new job, because you want to appear willing to go the extra mile, but I have to weigh up the cost of that extra mile to my family. But I won’t do anything in school in the holidays, for example, because that’s my time with my family.
In terms of the job changing, it has changed massively in the last 2 years. In the first three months that I was back, there were huge changes to the curriculum and to exams that happened mid-year. That all took a lot of planning and resourcing – education ministers never seem to factor in that time for teachers when they think, “Ooh, let’s change GCSEs!” or something similar. But that’s the same for all teachers, and isn’t anything to do with me going on maternity leave.
Technically, with my job change, I suppose I’ve lost some responsibility – I’m a bog-standard English teacher now, rather than a Lead Teacher, but I don’t mind that. I’m actively avoiding any additional responsibility for the moment!
I still really enjoy teaching, and even enjoy the marking and the planning. It’s a challenging and a creative job and no two days are the same. But the impact it has on my family at the moment isn’t right.
7. Describe your work-life balance now in 3 words.
Unbalanced. Stressful. Guilt-inducing. (Can I get away with hyphenating two words?)
8. This might be difficult to answer, but are you happy with your work-life balance?
No, I’m not. I have to do too much at home, but I don’t know what the answer is – the lessons have to be planned, and the books have to be marked!
9. Would you change anything about the family and work balance that you currently have?
If I had the chance, I’d go part-time again. If the powers-that-be could give us planning time for the changes they implement, that would be appreciated too!
For all the previous posts, see the #BalancingAct page.
If you think you’d like to get involved in this feature and share your story, please leave a comment, tweet me @mamavsteacher or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.