Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A NOT Back to School Post

Since we've had the unofficial "end of summer" weekend, I thought this would be an appropriate post to share. I wrote this post, titled "Back to Normal", last summer when all my teacher friends were getting ready to start the school year, and I truly felt that I was no longer JUST on maternity leave anymore - I had made the move from teacher to stay at home mom. Now I've officially resigned from the district and I know I'm not going back.

This year things are obviously a little different. Madison starts preschool next week, and both girls have activities that started with the new school year. In addition, now I've officially resigned from the district and I know I'm not going back. 

Still, felt like an appropriate time to share this post from my archives. Enjoy!

It's back to school time.  I can tell because most of my friends are teachers, and my Facebook feed has been clogged with posts about setting up classrooms, counting down days, making the most of the last week of summer, having bizarre school starting dreams, and the like.

I was in that room for nine years and have no pictures of my room. And I LOVED my room. That's kind of sad.

And I'm not one of them this year.

It's a bizarre feeling.  My first year of actual teaching started in the fall of 2002, so for the past 10 years I've been going back to school as a teacher.  The 5 before that I went back as a college student, the 13 before that was my own K-12 days, and 2 before that was preschool.  So I've had a first day of school for the past THIRTY years.  For 91% of my life (that's right, I did the math!) I have spent the waning weeks of August buying school supplies, picking out outfits, and preparing for the September-June routine.

Since my maternity leave got off to an abrupt start in early February, people have asked me if I'll miss teaching.  Since I made my stay-at-home-mom status public in May, the questions increased about how I feel about it.  And now, well, they're everywhere I turn.

"So, does it feel weird to not be going back?"  Up until August?  Didn't really register.  Now?  Yes.  Yes it does.

"Are you SO excited to stay home?"  Yes.  91% of the time (I was going to say 90, but I liked the idea of having that percentage come back).

"You are so lucky!"  I know.

"Do you think you'll miss it?"

There's the kicker.  I don't know.  School has been such a major part of my life that I don't know HOW to not have it and it's still too surreal for me to think about if I'll miss it.  If the girls were in preschool (and no, I'm not rushing them out), I would have THEIR first day of school to shop and plan for, and that might fill some of the void, but I don't.  Our routine honestly won't change that much.  Our Gymboree schedule will stay the same, our library class schedule will stay the same, we'll still have play dates with the same people.  We won't have swimming lessons.  That's it for the changes we'll have after this Labor Day.

I was one of the lucky women who had a choice.  Adam's job provides me with the option.  His employer provides benefits at NO cost to us, so I'm in an odd position of saying "teacher benefits...eh".  My salary would pay for childcare, with a small amount coming home to us after that expense.  I've been saying it's "nothing" but to many, many people it's not nothing.  But deciding to stay home wouldn't mean that we had to move to a smaller home, give up cable, or make any MAJOR lifestyle changes.  We can't be frivolous, but that's probably not a bad thing.  I'm not forced to go back and put two kids in daycare.  And I'm not forced to stay home, because the cost of daycare exceeds my salary and it doesn't make fiscal sense to work.  The choice wasn't an automatic one.  I got to make it.

Please don't think that I'm judging anyone who IS a working mom or anyone who thinks I'm a moron for even pausing to THINK before becoming a stay at home mom.  I've done short term SAHM on maternity leave and in the summer, I've done part time teaching, I've done full time, and I've done complete SAHM.  There isn't one right choice for anyone.  Personally, my worst experience was with part time work, which is what I thought was the best of both worlds.  For me, it was a terrible experience.  So my choice was black and white this time.  This isn't about what I think women should do.  This is purely about me.

Adam told me he would support either decision I made, although he did express a strong desire for me to stay home.  After the two years I've had as a working mom, I knew I wanted that choice too.  When you are working mom, you have many, MANY days when you feel like you're not doing enough.  You aren't doing enough to make certain people at work happy, and you don't feel like you're spending enough time with your kids.  I would feel guilty I wasn't doing as much as I used to at school, and I would feel guilty that I basically had two hours of awake time with Madison every day, and in that time we had to get ready to leave, make and eat dinner, and get ready for bed.  I LOVED her babysitter, I loved the socialization and attention she got, but I was so jealous of that time. 

And don't get me STARTED on days when your kid is sick.

I made the decision pretty easily.  I'm HAPPY with the decision.  I really didn't need to think about it all that long.  I get to be the one who raises my kids.  I get to play with them when they're well, I get to stay with them when they're sick without worrying about whether or not I got a substitute and how many absences I've tallied for the year.  I get to schedule doctor appointments for 10:00 on a Tuesday.  I get to go on playdates, and to Gymboree and to the library.  I get to truly experience their childhood.  I am SO HAPPY about that.

And yet....

91% of the time (yup, I'm going to use this number throughout.  It's pretty accurate.) I really loved my job.  I loved seeing every kid in the school, knowing their names, and having them know me.  I loved feeling like a celebrity when I walked past kindergarten lunch in the cafeteria.  I loved knowing that my job entailed a lot of PLAYING.  I loved feeling like I was good at what I did.  I loved seeing when a kid really "got" a concept, when a piece of music really spoke to them, and when my choir performed with such enthusiasm and musicality.  I loved my colleagues.  I loved stopping in to chat with them, about kids at school, our kids, books, movies, LIFE.  I loved the routine of my days and weeks.

Yeah, 9% of the time I didn't like stuff.  The paperwork part of being a teacher stinks.  I won't get into all that, but it's not fun.  Dealing with those FEW kids who I tried SO hard to like, but just couldn't get there because of their attitude or behavior.  Dealing with the small percentage of parents who felt that you would always be the enemy.  Having to be "on" all day long, even when you didn't feel up to it.   When I was having an off day, I couldn't shut my office door.  Heck, you can't even go to the bathroom until designated times. 

Long story short, I think I will have some moments when I miss it.  When I see my old colleagues laughing about something on Facebook, I will miss that adult interaction.  When it gets to be concert time, and I don't have one.  When one of the girls is having a bad day and I would love to just let someone else have them for just a LITTLE while.

But overall, as the school year creeps closer, I feel confident and happy.  I feel grateful that I had this choice, and I feel sure I made the right one.

Happy Back to School Season!  If you're heading back, have a wonderful school year!  And if you aren't...want to set up a playdate?
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