Written by Sarah Brennan
Here we are again - Sunday night. Amélies clothes for the week are sitting out and ready in piles on my kitchen table, the change bag is packed with spare outfits and packed lunch for the childminder who picks her up from Pre-preschool at midday everyday. As for me, the Sunday night panic is still setting in to face another week of full time work.
Please, please, do not misunderstand - I adore my job. I’m a maths teacher blessed to be covering a maternity in a wonderful school where I love my classes and the staff are friendly, but even so, I’m back to full time this year and I would be lying if I said it wasn’t taking its toll on me and my family.
Tomorrow my final alarm will go off at 5.05am to get up and shower, get last minute things ready, dry my hair, get dressed in the clothes I’ve laid out, put on my makeup to wake Amélie for 6.45 - she doesn’t mind the early start most days and gets up to brush her teeth and go to the toilet, get dressed and her hair done so we’re out the door to go to Pre-preschool for 7.30. With my commute I’m in school and setting up for the days lessons by 8.15.
My timetable in school is extra-heavy this year (because they knew they were getting a substitute to offload extra classes to), so I’ll teach 5 hour-long classes most days and stay on to 4pm to evaluate lessons and start preparing for the next day; if traffic is light, I’ll be back home for about 5pm.
At this point I get to breathe; I have my gorgeous, smiley happy girl again - I collect her from my childminder or my mum depending on how late I am, go home for a quick session of play and to get Amélies dinner ready. I would LOVE to say that she gets made nutritious food made from scratch every night; but I’d reckon this only is managed 3/5 weekdays with ‘freezer dinners’ utilised on days when my classes have given me particular trouble.
By the time bedtime rolls around; I’ll have spent roughly 2 hours with my beautiful girl. And it’s not enough for me - not even close. I can’t keep her up late as it makes her irritable in those early morning starts, but it breaks my heart to tuck her into bed.
I know, I know. There’s a fairly obvious solution here; and to be perfectly honest my husband does earn enough to justify me staying at home with her. I would see her far more often for far longer at a time, and we would save money on childcare. Seems easy, right?
The thing is; I am absolutely terrified of the prospect. Whilst off on maternity, I suffered from Post-Natal Depression pretty severely, I had my husband demented as I was a basket-case at least 70% of the time. Going back to work was my saving grace; it made me focus on something else, it gave me the outlet I needed to come off my antidepressants and thankfully, I haven’t needed to go back.
I could give up my job. I’m only a temporary teacher working in a post that will not extend past June - I can literally walk away at any time. But the fear of that awful depression and anxiety setting back in is enough to make me reach for my planner tonight, and plan a few more lessons before bed.
My work keeps me sane. I think (and hope) that I’m setting a good example to Amélie for when she’s older to always do what is required, even if it’s the harder option. All I can promise myself is that one day; hopefully sooner rather than later, I can get a permanent, part-time post that will make all this heartache worth it, give me the distraction needed to keep me elated and give me the work/family balance I crave.
Being a stay-at-home parent is amazing, and rewarding and hard work, and thankfully I know my own limitations well enough to know I couldn’t do it long-term. At least I know that no matter how awful Sunday nights are; Friday afternoons are filled with unbridled joy to balance the week out, and our weekends are spent having fun as a family and making every moment count.