The Whole Work Thing… Part II

Almost two full years ago I published my third post ever, a somewhat anguished plea for advice about the classic mom question: to work or not to work? Since then, I’ve settled into a position teaching social studies at a public magnet middle school for the visual and performing arts. It’s a nice small community, with colleagues I respect and relatively well-behaved students, by middle school standards at least. I have been, for the most part, pretty happy.

Sometime around November or December, however, I suddenly stumbled upon a realization: I am about to have a third child. I mean, I knew what the end result of my pregnancy would be, but for some reason it had never occurred to me to revisit the whole working question. I was going to finish out this school year on maternity leave and continue humming along in my usual routine. Easy.

Trying to imagine one more kiddo working at this table…

I can’t remember what triggered the panic. It could have been a frantic morning, the kids screaming about something as I rushed out the door, leaving their dad to deal with the aftermath because I was already running twenty minutes late. It could have been a larger than usual pile of grading to tackle, knowing that the only way to reduce the number of papers on my desk would be to stay after school, sacrificing any hope of going to the gym, or to stay up late, sacrificing any hope of spending a little quality time with my husband after the girls went to bed. Maybe it was one of those classes that just falls flat on its face, when my students don’t seem to care about learning and I don’t really blame them because the lesson I’ve planned on the industrial revolution is even boring ME. Honestly, I don’t know why one day it just dawned on me: I’m not sure I can keep doing this.

It’s not that I don’t want to keep teaching. There are so many things that I love about my job. I love when my students laugh about historical humor, like the fact that one of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s would-be assassins threw a bomb at the motorcade and immediately attempted to jump to his death in a nearby river that happened to have only four inches of water in it at the time. I love how even seventh-graders can be sweet and adorable: just the other day a girl ran up to tell me that one of her friends would be absent that day – “But she told me to tell you she’ll miss you and hopes you have a great day!” I love teacher camaraderie. I love knowing that even though I’m underpaid and overworked, and my job is SO hard, it’s important. But is it more important than being able to be there for my own kids?

There is no reason for me to make a decision right now. I have almost two months until baby arrives, and then another two until the school year ends. Yet every day the decision weighs on me as my heart and mind swing wildly from one side to the other. Don’t I want my daughters to see their mom doing important work outside the home? Won’t I go stir-crazy stuck in my house without adult conversation? Am I seriously willing to let go of the benefits of being a state employee? Those questions are there all the time, but so are these: Am I crazy enough to think that, with three kids, I can fit in all the work I currently do and still spend any quality time with my family? What about all the doctor’s appointments, school pick-ups, extracurriculars? Shouldn’t I have a better knowledge of my husband’s business, considering that it’s technically mine as well? When was the last time I even stopped by his office? Or he and I had lunch together? What’s more important: the money I make at my job, or the time I could be spending with my family? The pride I feel in my work outside the home, or the pride I could feel in actually having some organization within my home?

There are many women out there who don’t have the luxury of even debating these questions, so please be clear that I am not complaining. I know that there are no bad choices here, and no permanent ones either. I know that my fabulous husband is supportive of whatever I decide to do. So why does this still feel so hard?

The subtitle of this blog reads, “Mom. Wife. Teacher. Me.” To take one of those descriptors away feels a bit terrifying. Without it, after nearly ten years devoted to the profession of education, I’m afraid that the others won’t sufficiently add up to “Me”. But a girl can always reinvent herself, can’t she?

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