Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m standing with my toes curled over the edge of a very cold pool, knowing that I need to just take the plunge, but not quite ready to do so. Little Man is going to first grade next year, and the plan has always been that I would go back to work full-time when he went to school full-time. I’m a teacher by profession, so my going back to work full-time would mean having an almost identical schedule to the kiddos. I taught at the high school level before Ladybug was born, so worst case, I would be the first one out the door in the morning and we’d have to figure out a way to get the kiddos on the bus and Big Man to work on time. It has always been a solid plan.
I never thought of myself as being a teacher who would ever leave the profession for good. But here’s the thing, lately teaching has been sucking the life out of me. For the past four and a half years I have been working as an adjunct instructor at a small four year college, to keep myself out of trouble, make a few extra dollars, and keep my resume active. It has been a good situation in terms of scheduling and we have been able to fill in coverage gaps for the kids pretty easily. But there are days that just suck, and they keep coming closer and closer together. I think I hit rock bottom when a student asked me “what’s this line here?” when referencing the equality part of the “less than or equal to” symbol. (≤) Now don’t get me wrong, I get that not everyone is super mathy, but that’s elementary school knowledge and this conversation took place in a college level Statistics course. I answered my student, without further comment, but in my head I was thinking to myself, “how the hell did you get OUT of high school, let alone IN to a college Stats course?” I could go on and on about days like these, lack of personal responsibility as a trait in today’s students, and people in general, but that’s a whole different post.
I’ve been thinking about and researching other careers. Big Man has been helping. There’s a lot a girl with a Master’s degree in math could choose to do. My senior year of college I went on a few interviews for actuarial positions, but then I got a free ride to grad school and couldn’t pass it up. I could start studying full time for the first two exams and then start interviewing for actuarial positions. I had legitimately been interested in the field back in the day. I’d have to start off at entry level, but eventually the financial pay out would be worth it. It’s a high satisfaction, high paying field, according to all the research I have done. There’s a lot of statistics involved with actuarial work, and I find statistics more interesting than other types of number crunching. I will also admit, the idea of going back to work full time does elicit daydreams of a closet full of Ann Taylor, as well as shoes, and handbags. Work out gear that doesn’t all come from Target. Not throwing the Athleta catalog away as soon as it comes in the mail, to prevent accidental bankruptcy. But the money… would it really be worth it?
So many of the careers I could pursue would involve working full time, all year, starting out with only two weeks vacation and holidays. Ouch. But it’s not about my time so much. It’s about the kids’ time. We had a busy day on Friday. The kids were home because of a teacher in-service day. At 9:15 we were at the eye doctor’s office for me. Then we hit a coffee shop for coffee and treats (we were out of coffee at home, gasp! and the kids had been stellar in the waiting room). Then a quick stop at home, but right back out the door. In the car I called the kids’ pediatrician for a follow up appointment for the Bug. We hit two craft stores gathering supplies to make a banner for the Bug’s First Communion. Then home again for lunch. Then back out to the dentist for Little Man. Then back home by 2 pm. After a little down time for everyone, the Bug and I did some baking. Then Little Man and I ran the Bug to gymnastics before coming home to finish baking. How would all of that work if I go back to work full time? Who would do those things? On days like Friday, I feel like I’m a personal assistant to some very important, VIPs. And they are VIPs as far as I am concerned.
Then on Monday the kids were both at school, but I was home. I got even MORE done. 5:30 am, swim with Betty, 7:15 am, home to feed kids, pack lunches and snacks for school, and oversee the tooth brushing and hair combing. 8:35 am, everybody on the bus. 8:40, kitchen cleaned, house vacuumed from top to bottom. 10:30 am quick trip to grocery store for those few things that were missed during the weekend trip to the store. 11am, quick run, shower. Noon, lunch. After lunch I picked up a few things around the house and tidied the office a bit. Sent a few emails and gave myself a break on the couch for about an hour before Little Man got home. Ladybug had after school stuff going on. Of course, throughout the day I did about five loads of laundry.
Today the kids are home because of the snow, but all that meant was that the Bug didn’t miss any school when I ran her to her 9 am doctor appointment. The roads were fine, so we hit the grocery store (AGAIN) because my classes were cancelled too, might as well try some new recipes. Then a quick trip to Dunkie’s for treats for the kids and coffee for me (AGAIN, but we do have coffee in the house now). We hit the gas station on the way home and I am actually excited to be home with my kids today. I can try at least one recipe, fold all of yesterday’s laundry and hopefully clean the bathrooms, with plenty of time to actually PLAY with my kids. (Yes, Sue, I will make eye contact today.) Forget going back to work at all! I should stay home. It would lead to a better quality of life for all of us, right? The stuff that I do at home IS important!
But for how long would we have a better quality of life? The kids may want to go to college or grad school. Big Man and I have very little to retire with. Every time we’re “up” and start looking to really save, something blows a hole in our plans. A car needs four new tires, or brakes, or both. A washing machine needs to be replaced. The well pump dies. Etc., etc., etc. Well, the kids can get loans for school, can’t they? But should they? Big Man and I aren’t doing the best job of saving and we have no college debt hanging over our heads. We’re not crazy spenders and we don’t travel every year. Ever so diplomatic, my husband often calls me “frugal” when he really means “cheap.” How will our kids manage in their adult lives if they have huge college loans to deal with? I need and should go back to work. But doing what? Should I suck it up and continue teaching knowing it will continue to suck the life out of me, but also knowing that I’ll have more time for my family? Should I choose something else and possibly miss too many moments now, but potentially have the money to retire and enjoy all of those moments? I can’t guarantee that I’ll find a job that allows me to work from home. Do I really want my kids in after school programs year round, summer camps, and constantly in the care of someone other than me? I’m a planner, so life without some sort of a loose plan is incredibly daunting to me.
I’ve read and heard similar sentiments from other women about to transition as well. What to do? I know that there is something to be said for living in the moment because we don’t know where we’ll be tomorrow, but if we’re still here tomorrow, wouldn’t it be nice to know what we’re doing? For now, I’m still stuck, standing on the edge of the very cold pool, knowing that I have to jump in, but not quite ready to. It would be nice if someone would come along and just push me in, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how this is supposed to work…