One of the reasons I chose teaching as my career was its family friendly reputation.
After all, given my other choice was to be a theatre lighting technician – it seemed like there really wasn’t really a choice to make.
As much as I would have loved the theatre lifestyle in my early twenties, I knew that long term I wanted a family. And that meant that I needed a carrier that worked with the lifestyle I envisioned.
Fifteen years on, I still love teaching. It’s a choice I’ve never regretted. Well except maybe when I’m sat in a theatre watching the curtain go up.
But the reality is that it’s less family friendly than its reputation suggests.
We get school holidays off that is true. And undoubtedly where childcare is concerned that definitely makes life easier.
But if I’m honest that is where it ends.
I have never walked the Bear in to school on the first day of term. That job has always been the Other Half’s. Whilst she is meeting her new teacher. I am stood surrounded by my new class, looking at a sea of anxious parents. Settling the nerves of other parents, putting my own into the background.
School plays, sports days and harvest festivals are missed each year. Unlike other parents I can’t choose my holidays. They are set, fixed in stone. I stand there cheering on my class, whilst my mum and the Other Half watch the Bear. Not because I don’t want to be there, simply because it’s impossible.
Instead I watch the videos taken in retrospect, conscious each time that I have let her down. That she sees the fact that I never attend as a betrayal. That she wishes I did a different job.
Holidays – the summer in particular – are not spent relaxing, having fun enjoying the children. They are spent planning, making resources, decorating my classroom. And if anything, this happens more since I became a parent than before. I realise now just how important my job is. I don’t want ever to give less than I would want someone to give my children.
True my children are with me. But it’s rarely the quality time I once envisioned it would be.
I do not regret my choice.
Teaching is a job I love. A job I have always loved. But I do sometimes wonder if I would have made the same choice, had I thought about the realities.
This year, for the first time I have reduced my hours.
I’ve realised the price my children were paying for my commitment to my job.
They deserve my full attention – some of the time at least. After all they are only small once.
That said, I still missed the first day of school.
And the Harvest Festival.
Maybe, just maybe there is a chance that I will make the Christmas Play.
On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that I won’t.