Posted in Family Life, Teaching, Working Mom

Advice Needed: Transitioning Back Into Work

After four years as a stay-at-home mom, I’m headed back into the the working world. I’ve accepted what is pretty much my dream job: Head of English at a local state school. And there’s more:

  • it’s an outstanding school (that means it’s received the top category during government inspections)
  • it has an existing nursery (translate: preschool) and my eldest son currently goes there for FREE (yay, free preschool!!)
  • and it also has an existing primary school (translate: elementary school), where my eldest son has just been accepted for next year
  • plus, I’m coming on board as they prepare to open up a brand new secondary school (translate: middle and high school), so I get to design the curriculum from scratch!

My official start date is in September but I’m doing a few days here and there in between to prepare – and thank goodness, because I suspect this transition is going to be a big one.

Example: on Monday, I was scheduled to spend a half day at school. I’d reminded my husband several times, but he still hadn’t made any childcare plans the night before (it was his job to sort things out this time). When I asked if he wanted me to get in touch with our babysitter, he said it wasn’t necessary since our youngest would be napping and our eldest would be at school. (He works from home, so we have a lot of flexibility – thankfully!!) When I told him AGAIN that school would be closed, and that I would be gone for four hours rather than the two hours during which our youngest naps, he panicked. *sigh* Luckily, the babysitter was free and managed to help us out.

The following morning I was a total mess trying to entertain both kids and get myself organized. Somehow I managed to deal with the kids, but forgot to (a) eat anything before I left the house, (b) leave behind any cash to pay the babysitter, and (c) check to make sure I had any clean professional clothes. I turned up at work without a minute to spare in a mismatched outfit and with a rumbling stomach. Awesome.

The whole experience was surreal: grown ups were speaking to me, and not about diapers, sleep schedules or playdates. My memory felt unreliable, stretched to breaking point as I reached back years to access relevant examples for a training session. Plus, when it was break time, I got to, you know, take a break. Socialize.

It felt weird.

Also, here’s a strange thought: I’m going to be paid for this time. At some point, there would be a paycheck with my name on it (probably virtual, but I’ll take it). It hasn’t occurred to me until now, but the past four years represents the only period in my life since I turned 16 when I haven’t collected a paycheck. Someone thinks my time is worth money, and this is incredibly validating. Given that I had actually hoped to start work a year ago but struggled to find a job that fit my qualifications and our family’s needs, the impending paycheck feels especially awesome. I think back to the interviewer who suggested that I was too old for a particular job (completely absurd, but there you have it) and feel thankful and not a little relieved to have wound up where I am now.

So I made it through my first half day, and realized that I’m nowhere near as organized as I should be for September. And by “I”, I really mean “we”, because this is a transition for the whole family and you can be damn sure my husband will be picking up some of the slack. I have no intention of trying to be one of these supermom types who does all things professional and domestic. Here are some of the things I’m thinking about:

  1. Food. My husband used to do at least half of the cooking, but ever since we’ve had kids and I quit my “outside” job, I’ve done most of the cooking. And the planning and shopping. We eat a nutritious diet with lots of fruits and veg and about 80% of our food is made from scratch. I feel like hanging on to a high quality diet is going to be hard once I go back to work, especially since my husband and I often disagree about what counts as healthy. (Me: Greek chicken with rice and salad; Him: spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic bread.)
  2. Laundry. I hate doing laundry in London. We haven’t got a dryer and the washing machine is small, so it takes ages to get through all of the dirty laundry. Fortunately, husband has already taken on the task of hanging all the clothes up (possibly my least favorite chore). I’m thinking I need to find a (green) dry cleaners for my professional stuff, though, because he just throws everything in one load with no thought to different fabrics, etc.
  3. Mornings. We will have to get the kids ready while I also get ready. They’re slow, and to be honest, so am I. I used to be a morning person but now it seems to take me ages to get going. I blame middle-of-the-night wake ups.
  4. Childcare. Our youngest will go to a private nursery full-time, and he’s already attending two days a week, so that should be okay. However, our eldest will need care before and after school most days. We’re looking for a child minder (translate: person who is licensed to care for children in their home) to help out with that, but it’s taking a while to find the right person.
  5. Family time: Obviously I’m used to spending a huge amount of time with my family. I’m actually looking forward to more variety and some time out of the house, but I’m worried the change from stay-at-home mom to full-time working mom is going to be extreme – I’ll probably be working 50 hours a week. On the upside, teaching means I’ll have time off; on the downside, I’ll often still have work to do (and kids to entertain). I’m hoping the quality of our family time will still be the same, but I’m worried about feeling rushed and torn between two priorities.
  6. Breathing: Where will I fit this in?!

Advice? Experience? Links to other articles to read? I know the whole work/family conflict is a big one, and I’m hoping someone out there has some tips…