#ShareRamadan 

On Friday 28th I chose to take part in #ShareRamadan. 

I’ll start by saying that I thought this was a great idea and I wanted to support and be involved with it as I try to uphold the values that it represents in my day to day life and feel that this it is even more important to do so now that I’m a mother. Unfortunately that was also the problem, I’m a new mother – a new nursing mother. So fasting for a day was not the most sensible plan for me or my boy. It was this that caused me to adapt the idea slightly: rather than fasting, I chose to spend the day as if I was a mother on my NQT salary; I decided to use this method to remind myself how lucky I was and how there are many mothers struggling to balance the budgets. 

I cut the luxuries out of my day and chose my food for the day on what was in the ‘reduced to clear’ section and was affordable on my starting salary. 

I found it an interesting experience as the impact and realisation of the struggles of others didn’t really hit me until I was giving my son his bedtime feed. That quiet time was perfect for reflection and I walked out of his room with a huge load of respect and admiration for the families who often have to choose between feeding themselves of feeding their children. I also thought back to the time when my parents were struggling and, unbeknownst to me, they were sacrificing to ensure I was unaware of their financial struggles. I left my son that night with a greater appreciation of my parents and fond memories became fonder as I finally realised how much effort and sacrifice my parents put in to making sure I had those fond memories from those years. 

On a personal level, I learnt that I’m incredibly lucky to be able to live the life I do, but that if I had to, I would sacrifice anything to make sure my child grew up with fond memories. I also decided to stop trying to sell the bundles of baby clothes he’s out grown and gift them to those who need them instead. After all, we’re united in wanting the best for our children and I don’t need the money from them more than a new family may need the donation of baby clothes. 

And finally, I also learnt I’m useless without my Earl Grey; that would be a hard sacrifice to make again!

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New teacher-parent blues

The end of the Easter holidays signifies the start of my first full term after returning from maternity leave (I did 3 weeks before the start of the holidays). 

As expected I struggled in my first weeks back. I found creating a balance between being a good teacher and spending quality time with my little man challenging and much more emotionally painful than I had anticipated. 

Don’t get me wrong, I have been supported by both my department and SLT but there’s only so much they can do. Based on my own experiences the following have been the biggest problems and, if they are nationwide, must be leaving a large amount of exhausted and emotional new mothers struggling and feeling like there is no real solution. 

Isolation

Firstly, I’m still feeding Oliver and it’s important to me that he has a bottle of expressed milk along with his formula bottles whilst I’m at work. And this means I have to express at work. My school was great at giving me options of which room I wanted to use, but it’s much more complicated than that. To keep my body in a routine and prevent mastitis I need to express at a regular time and, as you know, the only regular time teachers have is lunchtime. I’m happy to do this and want to do this for Oliver, but it’s quite isolating. I miss out on the social time with the department. This just makes the other issues seem worse. 

In addition to this, I’ve had a weird experience of feeling like a new member of a department I’ve worked in for 3 years. There are people I don’t know and references I’m unfamiliar with. In my weaker moments these can leave me feeling a little left out. 

Workload 

As expected workload has become a problem. Three weeks in and I’m already behind. It’s so depressing to look at my marking pile up and not see any way of catching up. PPA does not give anyone enough time to get everything done and I’m now choosing to come in later and leave earlier than I used to. Both of these factors mean I’m behind already and can’t see how to catch back up. To make matters worse, I have picked up 6 exam classes so nearly all my marking is equally important and urgent. 

Teacher-guilt

I’ve always felt this in one way or another, but now on top of my standard teacher-guilt is the guilt that comes from knowing that last year I would have put more time in. Or I would have agreed to revision sessions without a second thought. 

I’m no longer the teacher I used to be. And that’s fine because now I’m a mummy and that makes me so happy. But I’ve got to find a way to get closer to the teacher I used to be while still being the mummy I want to be. Problem is, that takes time and, as always, I don’t have enough of that. 

Moaning

I’m finding myself resorting to a default “I’m fine” or avoiding answering if people ask how I’m doing / coping as I don’t want to come across as moaning. This feeling is made worse by the knowledge that everyone is busy and stressed and falling behind in our usual run up to exams chaos. 

Self doubt 

I’ve often had moments where I’ve expected someone to walk into my room and ‘out’ me as a fraud; to be honest I was beginning to learn to ignore them. But having not taught since July (timetable-less in September) this feeling came back with a vengeance. I felt rusty and uncertain about finishing unfamiliar units with unfamiliar classes. But, again, I’m working through that. But it’s the self doubt about being a mother which is most crippling. Especially when I’m also worried about whether I can be a good teacher and a good mother. 
I honestly don’t know if others have felt like this on returning to work or the best ways to solve these problems. But, I know what would have helped ease my return to work:

  • A return to work meeting. I have really appreciated all the offers of help, but with everyone being busy and me working in my room the majority of the time, it can feel hard to ask for help or to have time to off load. A scheduled meeting with a LM or SLT member would have made it easier to voice my worries, even if there was nothing that could really be done. 
  • A phased return to my timetable. Due to staff absence, I wasn’t able to properly find out where my classes were in the unit or what they were like. It would have been really helpful to have shadowed some of my classes first. Not only would this have allowed me to better get to grips with what I was inheriting, but it would have also given me more planning time. 

    I love teaching and I’ve really enjoyed being back in front of my students. And most have been really understanding and patient with me while I’ve tried to find my feet with texts I don’t know and delivering lessons they’ve already been taught. But I still left for Easter exhausted and wondering if teaching was the job that would allow me to be the mummy I want to be. 

    In all truth, I do know it’ll end up being ok: I’ll find my new way of working and create a new work / life balance. And the upcoming gained time will help that. I just wish there was a way that I could do that without beating myself up as both a mother and a teacher.