A question I received often when I was further along with my various pregnancies was “So, are you going back to work?” I remember the look and reaction I received when my response each time was “Yes, that’s the plan.” It never really bothered me until I was pregnant with the twins (maybe it was the extra hormones and the fact that these were babies #4 and #5), but their big eyes, dropped jaws, and shocked responses stuck with me. Then I began to question and I became more aware, and more torn.
Was I being selfish by thinking I could continue my career? Was I going to put my family at a disadvantage by continuing to work? Could I really manage this life, five children and a full time teaching position?
I was torn.
Am I wasting precious time with my children by working? Could I better support our family by being home? Would I be a better mom if I didn’t work full time? Would I be fulfilled or would I lose myself?
I went back to work each time. With the first three boys I took just six weeks of maternity leave and then came back and finished out the school year. With the twins I was able to run my maternity leave into summer break, but returned in the fall. One saving grace was that my mother watched the babies for me through the end of each school year, I can’t tell you the weight that was lifted knowing that I was leaving a six week old with my mother verse a stranger.
So I followed the plan and went back to work, but I’m still torn.
When I think about how I identify myself, there are various hats that I wear. I am a mother of five, a wife, a daughter, sister, friend. I am a peer, colleague, collaborator, a teacher. I am a confidant, neighbor, and mentor. I am a learner, facilitator, resource. I am a writer, a documentarian, and a blogger. If I didn’t go back to work, I would lose parts of who I am, pieces of what contributes to my being.
Sometimes we are born to do things. I was born to be a nurturer. I can be very structured, organized and linear, but at the same time creative. Teaching reaches these passions for me. It allows me to be a guide for young people, to be exactly what they need. Teaching English allows me to create curriculum, where I can be structured but also creative. I thrive off of collaboration and working towards a goal. I am fulfilled when I see my students grow, when they write me letters later in life and talk about how something we did helped them to become more confident and better equipped for the world around them. At times I feel like if I didn’t teach I would lose these things about myself - a nurture, creative, structured, goal oriented, a collaborator.
But I’m torn because I am already a nurturer to my five sweet littles. I am creative when I design chalkboards for a dear friend’s wedding, or take a theme and make it come to life for one of my kid’s birthday parties. I am structured, always, it’s how we survive. I was goal-oriented when starting this blog and can see how that could continue with this craft. I am a collaborator when I work with my children’s teachers to ensure they continue to grow and with my husband to keep our life afloat.
But, I’m a teacher, so I’m torn.
Everyone has a story and a reason. I know people who have paused their careers and then years later jumped right back in. I know others who stopped and never went back and then those who were able to travel a different path then they ever expected. There is a fear that rises in my gut when I think about walking away from this profession. There is also a guilt that consumes me when my children are sick and I ask my mother to stay with them, or I miss a musical at school because I can’t take time away from work. No one told me that a trial I would face when growing my family was to also consider defining who I am. No one told me that I would feel torn, every day.
Some days I think, I’m a better mom because I’m a teacher and I also find myself believing I’m a better teacher now that I’m a mom. Maybe I’ll continue this career into my 35th year or maybe I’ll find a different path, but what I do know is our circle, our tribe is what helps to keep us afloat and reminds us of who we are and the impact we have on this world. Thank you to my people in all arenas of my life, for being there for me, even when going back to work after babies #4 and #5 seemed just outrageous, you weren’t the ones with big eyes and dropped jaws, but those who said, “Of course you are going back, this will be a good thing.” Thank you for encouraging me to write, and thank you for picking up the pieces when I fall.
There is no right answer, there is no one way, and you also are never stuck. Just because you choose one way now, doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. May you have the confidence and support to choose the right path for you, right now.