Throw your hands up at me… Haha, I can safely say that when I bring in money, it won’t be by being the next Beyonce.
Recently I’ve had to make the decision about whether I will return to my teaching job. It certainly hasn’t been an easy one. There’s a few factors that impact on the decision – financial, professional, social and emotional – and it took a couple of “evening summits” before we came up with a solution that we were happy with.
We’ve absolutely gnawed down our savings during the seven-odd months I’ve been on maternity leave, although thankfully we’ve managed to leave our investments untouched. Admittedly we’ve been a little bit cavalier with our spending given that we only have one income coming in; skyrocketing power bills, unexpected dental work and rent increases have been surprises we could have done without. On the other hand, having this time at home has been such a blessing. We know of others who simply haven’t been able to make it work and the reality is that we can, just not in the manner to which we had become accustomed. Papa M’s salary covers the basics and while we can’t save for our major goals of international travel and home purchases, we can afford to save for Christmas gifts and enjoy some entertainment. But how long to put those big financial goals on the back burner?
Professionally I already feel like I’m a little bit out of the loop – CJ and I went to visit my former workplace recently and it was bizarre to hear them talking about new policies and processes that have been introduced while I’ve been on leave. Despite teaching being a vocation as old as time, the curriculum and best practice is changing constantly and too much time out could leave me completely lost should I wish to return full-time. And I do enjoy teaching, despite the average pay and bureaucracy – it’s not something I want to close the door on completely. Yet I am enjoying having the time (albeit squished around naps and at night time) to explore my writing. Working full-time as a teacher and growing a person completely sapped me of my energy and creativity at the end of last year. I worry that working full-time and raising a child would do the same thing.
One of our coffee group mums is returning to work this week and I already feel like it is the end of an era. I like the “in the trenches” collegiality of our coffee group time. I love that CJ and I are getting out and exploring so many different parts of Auckland. I enjoy taking him to Wriggle & Rhyme and seeing how much he loves both the music and the other babies. It does make me wonder, though, that if he loves being around people so much whether he would be happier in some sort of day care. He certainly does put his grumpy pants on if we have a row of days where we stay at home. Socially, staying at home is great for me but I don’t know whether it’s great for him.
Emotionally, I’m all over the place. There are days where I am hideously jealous of Papa M for his baby-free commute where he can just enjoy the quiet and the mental space to think about whatever he likes. There are days where I think how blessed I am to have a little buddy to always hang out with. I like being able to focus on my home. I hate not earning “my half” of the salary. I miss my students. I don’t want to have a carer see all his firsts. Damn hormones – they do not make this decision easy.
So after much discussion and soul-searching, I’m extending my maternity leave from my full-time position for another year. We’ll be spending November finding an at-home carer for CJ and he’ll be having lots of lovely adventures with them while I work a couple of days a week as a substitute teacher. Working as a sub will mean that I get to keep my feet in the pool of education without the ridiculous amounts of after-hours paperwork. The occasional day where I have no CJ and no call-in for work will mean that I can write to my hearts’ content. And in the interests of keeping it real, the extra money isn’t going to hurt either. The decision to work or not to work is so deeply personal, but it’s a bit of a weight off my shoulders that this decision for us is now made.