Let’s rewind a bit.
Last November, I had another baby. #2. After having him, I started to think about how quickly time had passed with Cheeks (baby #1) and how I’d been feeling like a bad mom after coming home from a day of teaching. I’d give all my 2nd graders the best of me and my own children the scraps (read: exhaustipated–too tired to give a poop). I knew in my heart my own kids deserved better. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t do something about it. So, I started fantasizing thinking about what it would be like to not be a teacher next year (as in, right now). From about November to February, I had pretty much made the decision to stay home with my kids the following year. Now, hear me out. This was a pretty easy decision, but incredibly strange for me. Since I was about 8 years old, I’ve known a few things about my little type-A personality. I’ve known I wanted to be a teacher (check), get married (check), have a house in my hometown (check), and have 2 kids (check). Pretty basic, suburban American cliche dream right there. So, for me to suddenly realize that I wanted to be a stay at home mom (or really, work at home mom in this case), was very weird for me. Change? I can change my mind? Me? Noooo. I don’t do that. Even my friends (also teachers) were a little caught off guard. I remember one teacher friend, let’s call her Bibs, on account of the fact that she should wear them, asking me if I was actually serious about taking time off. Even Bibs didn’t think I would actually do it, and I don’t blame her. After turning in my leave of absence request in February, I kept it a secret. I told very few people. I was so scared to tell my coteacher. We were both hired at the same time 8 years ago and had developed that special bond that only happens when you’re lucky (#sisterteachers is what I like to think). So, when I went to her room to tell her one day during prep, I said, “I don’t know how else to say this, but I won’t be teaching next year.” Phew. Why was that so hard? Her reply? “Me neither! I’m pregnant!” OMG. Relief, then tears. Lots of happy tears. I patiently waited for the leave to be approved by my district (we can take leave up to 2 years and still have the security of being placed in a job somewhere). Then it came and I was so. Dang. Excited. I even made Cheeks stop eating a muffin to pose with the letter so I could capture the memory.
Then, from about February to May, I started to think, “Maybe I’ll stay home until both kids are in school.” And then, without warning, this summer. “I wonder if I’ll ever teach again?” So, my friends. I don’t have an answer to my own question (shocking, I know).
What I do know is this. Teaching is hard. Harder than anyone knows. And the funny thing about it all? It’s not the actual “teaching” that is hard. It’s the other stuff. Constant changes (which I know are necessary sometimes, but c’mon…I just organized that program into a binder system last year…), those parents, those coworkers, those admin. If you’re a teacher, you know what I mean. We love seeing the kids “get it” and feeling like we had some sort of responsibility in that learning. That’s the passion in it all. I also secretly (not anymore I guess) love that look I get from strangers when they ask what I do. No, not the one that thinks we’re crazy and all they can think about is our summer’s off (they’re jealousy is completely obvious and if they only knew, if they only knew…). No, I mean the look that makes me feel like I’m a good person. The head-cock, “Oh I don’t know how you do it! You are a saint!” look. You know that one. It’s a silent society-pat-on-the-back to make up for all of the negative comments we get the other times from the nay-sayer teacher-haters. And if I took a leave of absence, would that make me a quitter? Would I be judged by my coworkers for leaving? Or worse, would they not take me back as “one of the gang” in a few years? When friends that aren’t teachers talk about their jobs, I often fantasized about having a cubicle job that I could just leave at the end of the day. Or a shift job. Is that crazy? It sounds sad when I type it now. I think our spouses are about the only people that have a little bit of a clue. Even as a student teacher you think you know, but it’s definitely not the same. Not even close, really.
So, instead of returning to the classroom for my 8th year of teaching last week, I went camping. Yep, camping. I rented a cabin at this beautiful spot here in Juneau called Eagle Beach. As soon as I turned in my leave of absence request in February, I knew I would need a distraction for the days that I would normally be prepping my classroom and the first day of school, so I booked a cabin (you have to reserve months in advance or the spots get taken). While we were out there last week, I realized a few things. I LOVE my children more than I can even stand. It’s pretty gross. Like, I cried like a baby poured my heart out to my husband while they were sleeping all cute in the sleeping bags and we were chatting on the cabin porch. I wanted to know why something so powerful and that felt so, well strong for lack of a better word, wasn’t tangible. Thankfully, he didn’t laugh at me, but instead agreed and started telling me about some studies suggesting something to do with love and all the unknowns about brains (and that’s about where my brain turned off…”sciency stuff” past 8 p.m. isn’t my thing haha). It’s so hard to explain and such an amazing experience to be a parent. So, while we were out there to take my mind off of teaching, it became clear that I am on the right path for me. I think that the common thread I have now with my old self is that I love kids. Whether they’re mine or not. And right now, my head is full of wondering what is to come next and my heart is just plain full. I mean, how could it not be?
And because I’m a hopeless romantic…