Since becoming a part time teacher, full time parent, I, every now and then, take a look at myself in the mirror and remember the person that I used to be. The person I was before I had children of my own. The person who, on a regular basis, slept more than a few hours a night, and went shopping for her own clothes, rather than small ones, and the person who had time to straighten her hair on a regular basis before dashing out of the door.
I miss some of being that person. An occasional lie in would feel amazing, and it would be nice to go out for the evening without worrying about whether or not the children will wake up while I'm not there. I'd love to get my guitar out and twiddle unhindered, without a small audience, or indeed, sit on the sofa and read my very own book. And yet. Yet. I couldn't go back. Ultimately, she could, and did have to, put other children before her own. And, while some professionals manage to do that very well, and I have a great deal of respect for them for exactly that reason, I am not in that place. Not yet, and perhaps not ever.
Part time, or rather supply teaching appeals to a lot of mothers of toddlers and young children. It allows them to exercise their professional skills and still be there for their children, and that appeals to me immensely. Here's why.
Benefits of being a part time teacher, full time parent:
1. Teaching can be all-consuming. I remember a colleague telling me the story of how her son used to say “You love your children at school more than me,” and I used to promise myself that I wouldn't be that mother. I want to be the mother who is present while my children are small enough to appreciate me. There is time enough as they grow up to change my mind.
2. And…children grow up so fast! Blink and you miss those first few milestones. I have been fortunate enough to be able to see both my children take their first steps, and hear them say their first words, and develop an amazingly close relationship that makes my heart happy. My husband, on the other hand, has often been at work, because that has been the practical arrangement in our household. I remember the times he has, he thought, spotted something new, and it's actually not. His face says it all. I'm so glad that I have had that opportunity. Many parents do not.
3. I'm sure it's not in any doubt, but once you have children of your own, they have to become your priority. I think one of the hardest things to deal with as both a parent and a teacher is guilt. That we're either letting our families down, or we're letting our class down. Sometimes both. They are all children, and they all do, and all should, matter. I think as a parent with a young family, it is easier to give of yourself in small bursts, preserving much of yourself, and your time and energy for your own children. It's difficult to balance and weigh up what is important, but supply teaching provides the space to do just that.
4. One of the things that we have had to do as parents is to prioritise what our needs as a family are. We've thought long and hard about things we can live without (my husband's annual travel pass has bitten the dust, and he now commutes by bike). Holidays are few and far between, but less expensive experiences with us as a family are abundant. We make savings where we can, but of course, we are also in tune with the ever changing needs of our family. Once again, supply teaching has advantages for us at the moment for this reason.
5. There are days when, as a parent of young children, you just aren't at your best. Illness, tantrums, sleepless nights, all take their toll. There are days when you're glad of an opportunity not to have to dress for the day ahead and put your best foot forward.
Not, of course, that you can just go back to bed and hide under the covers when there's no call.
By Resident Writer Jenny Smith
Want more from Jenny? Try this: Work Life Balance: A SAHM’s guide to getting back into supply teaching
Or this: Show Me Show Me Skills!