Not literally. I mean, my arms and legs still go (althought my thyroid could do with some work), and I still (just about) string a sentence together. So, yes, I still work. But I don't WORK. This time, 4 years ago, I said goodbye to my form group, fellow teachers, and GCSE/AS/A2 students, saying "See you in a year!", and waddled out that door, heavily pregnant, and never went back. I've been at home, with kid(s) ever since. For a while, post son, I said I was going back. 6 months in, I tried to read a book about Napoleonic warfare, and the new syllabus, and failed. My brain hurt. I visited childminders in our neck of East London, fully intending to leave my little bundle with them and return to work. The fact that I wouldn't have left a dog with them decided me. (Amongst the gems were a woman with 6 dogs, one who said she wouldn't take me because I was ethnically wrong, and another who stood smoking on the doorstep saying she "only did it outside" in such a manner that I wondered what it was she did outside, as it could have been any number of things, including soliciting).
We moved. We moved far, and cheap. We moved far and cheap enough so that we could manage on one wage for a few years. Just as well ,as along came surpise daughter. (Yep, really. 6 months in surprise. You know when they say breastfeeding is not a contraceptive? They are right). But what was happening to me? In the (admittedly brief) interim between children, I struggled. I had been a 5.30 am riser, who went to work, worked all day, came back, planned, did some more work, then went to the pub. I was a good, committed teacher and a big socialiser. My love of subject (history and polictics) ,was such that I spent weekends campaigning, visiting musuems, and husband and I courted on the IWW battlefields, in trenches. I loved my job. I loved watching my class set up as the League of Nations, and do a better job than they did. I loved it. I loved my form group. I loved my work. And now, I didn't have it. What was I?
Well, to some of my friends, I was a big wash out, a let-down. Someone who had "wasted" their education. To others, I simply wasn't down the pub anymore, and slipped away. To one, I had "let myself down". I should be being MORE, being a job, an ambition, a dream. What could I say? Yes, I had a half finished novel, but waking up 5 times a night does for that. Yes, I loved my work, but was that all I was? And most importantly, is that all that matters? No.
I can honestly say it took over a year. Over a year to not be upset by my demotion, for, let's be frank, that is what it is. You had a bank account, it had stuff going in, now, it doesn't. You have to ask for money, or set up a joint account. You had a timetable, now you don't, your day is dictated by breastfeeding, weaning, potty training. (See previous posts for how I cope with this: effectively, I just teach a subject a week to them, it gives me a timetable and a focus). You used to have lunchbreaks and piss alone. Now you don't. Ever. (I still don' know what to do on "lady" days. I distract them with a trick.)You used to have a status, now you are "just" a mum. You used to have a purpose, now you are "just" a mum. You used to have targets, discernable results, now the only result comes when they are 18 and not a serial killer. Yet. There's time. It takes time. It took a gut wrench instinct to say "I want to be at home", as every fibre of my intellect screamed that no, I was a working woman, but all my mum fibres said "sod it". I fought it, but I settled. I have seen every first. I have cooked a gazillion refused meals. I wipe up wee. I wipe bums. I read "Peepo" 8 times in a row. But I am still a teacher. I explain sunlight, rainbows. I explain why they need to go to bed. I am lawmaker. I am a scary monster. I am the builder of sofa cushion rafts. I am the one they hate. Until they fall over. I am the bad cop mum who says "What do you say? How do you ask nicely?" when good cop dad can waltz in from work and be fun. I am the dispenser of Savlon. I am a mum. I am not a worker.
And yet. I am. I am there, the whole time. So much that they get bored of me. I am up at 6 sometimes sooner, bed early, for the night shift. I know i'll be up at least twice, for wees, lost toys, wonky duvets. It's work, but the results you want are different. It's not attainment based, it's happiness based. Can I help my son and daughter be happy? Can I make their days at home, with me, a privilige? Can I make them into nice people? Funny people? Tolerable people? When I shout, can I say "sorry"? Can I make them able to enter school, secure in the knowledge that when they come home and ask for fishfingers and mash, I really know they are asking for a hug? It seems like nothing, sometimes, this stay at home lark. But when, as I did today, you hear you son say to the searching playgroup lady, sending him out to be picked up, "My mummy is over there, she ALWAYS is", it does seem worth it, as well as a life sentence. Or am I just justifying my choice? So hard to know. I just know, I'm glad i've done it. Although I wish it had a ruddy wage and some respect. It's a life skill, a diversifiable skill, a transferable skill to be able to find the bedtime teddy when it goes missing. (In the drawer, in a tupperware box. Of course.)