Thoughts on returning to work

Perhaps understandably, I’ve had to take a bit of a break from blogging over the last few weeks. I went back to work at the beginning of September, and even though I’m only working 3 days a week, I’m struggling to find a good work-life balance which allows me time to do things that I’m interested in outside of work.

The thing is, I’m a teacher. When I was working full time, I tended to work a 60 hour week. Most teachers do – in fact, I think Primary Teachers often do more than secondary. Now that I’m working 60% of the time, I do about a 40 hour week. I do like to do a good job, and to keep on top of things like marking, but there are still days when I feel like I’m cutting things fine. Or, I’ll get ahead of myself, and then someone – usually the Education Secretary – will move the goalposts, and everything will have to change.

Before having Ben, I could prioritise my work. I would happily stay at school until everything was done – even if that meant staying until 7pm. Most days, it was more like 6pm. Besides, that way, I missed the bad traffic. I didn’t have to take anything home, so I could switch off (sort of) in the evenings.

Now, I’m trying to leave at 4pm to pick Ben up from nursery at 4.30pm. Technically, he could stay in nursery until 6pm, but I don’t want him to – I want to spend time with him. I want him to be at home. Some days, he’s so shattered after nursery that all he wants to do is eat his tea and have a cuddle. That’s fine by me – I’m usually the same. When Ben goes to bed at 7pm, that’s when I start my work again. I’m usually done by 9.30pm, but there have been some nights when I’m still working at 10.30pm.

On my days off, I usually feel like I have so much to do that I have to spend every spare moment working. When Ben goes down for a nap, I work. Most evenings, I work. If I’m not working, I’m usually cleaning or doing laundry.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I enjoy working, and really enjoy my days in school and the time in the classroom. I just feel that, for working only 3 days a week, I really haven’t got the balance right.

It might be that it’s just this term – the Autumn term is really tough, as you’re working with new classes, and, usually, new systems and new changes. Putting Year 11 in for early entry GCSE adds to this pressure significantly. Dark, cold mornings and afternoons and long terms combined with seasonal colds and flu affect you physically and mentally. So perhaps it’ll get better after Christmas.

It might be just the process of returning to work, and learning to manage it – in which case, I have a lot of learning to do. I do think it’s compounded by Ben struggling to settle in at nursery, picking up a seemingly endless stream of colds as he’s exposed to different germs, and broken nights. These things are out of my control!

Returning to work has made me really enjoy my days with Ben though. To be honest, by the end of my maternity leave, I was struggling to fill the days. Now that we have Thursday and Friday together, and the flexibility of a car, our mummy and Ben days are full of fun. Ben dropping to one long nap has helped as well, as we don’t have to worry about fitting in so much around naps. Play groups, swimming, soft play, gymnastics… and the occasional trip to the shops. Filling two days with fun is easy; plus we get the weekend as a whole family.

I know the phrase “working mothers” is bandied around a lot, but it is incredibly difficult just to fit it all in – childcare, work and running the home. Once you start putting other commitments, like church or community things, or other essentials, like exercise, you realise that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day – you’re running at maximum efficiency as it is.

So for now, my plan is to get my head down, get ahead as much as I can and stay focused. I can’t afford the time of getting distracted or procrastinating. I just have to get on with it – and try to appreciate it as much as I can.