Before starting this crazy journey as a mum to three young boys, I was a primary school teacher. I love hearing people’s reaction to that. They usually fall into two categories, ranging from, “That must have been hard work/challenging/ stressful/tiring/ exhausting!” to, “I bet that was rewarding!”
Teaching in a school is all of those things. But so is being a parent! An afternoon spent in a school hall, with 120 children aged 7-11, could sometimes be draining. Especially if they’d been stuck indoors for wet break, or a windy lunch time had hyped them up in the playground. But come 3.30pm, you’d wave them off at the school gate and peace and quiet would be restored.
In contrast, at home, you are responsible for your own children around the clock. No exceptions or allowances for illness. You’re never off duty. You are constantly educating, entertaining, cajoling, refereeing and comforting, whilst preparing food, cleaning, managing their social calendar and chauffeuring.
There is no ‘staff room’ or personal space at home. As any parent knows, even the bathroom is no longer a place of privacy. Children seem to have temporary amnesia at the end of the school day, yet have an inbuilt radar that alerts them at the precise moment you go off in search of solitude (or in my husband’s case, food) and they are suddenly able to tell you what colour cup everyone was given at preschool snack time, or what order they were chosen to go and change their reading books at school. Incidentally, this same recall seems to be triggered as you try to tuck them into bed.
Once you get them into bed, there is no guarantee they will stay there. Sleep deprivation goes well beyond the newborn phase. At 18months old, our oldest was up to 2 hours sleep a night. He is now a five year old who wakes frequently and worries about night time noises and shadows. Our three year old likes to visit me in the night, to ask questions like, “Would you like an orange babana or a yellow orange? A green strawbebby or a red kiwi?” and then ponder whether it would be more likely to taste like it’s colour or the type of fruit. We also have a hungry two-month old.
At times, the long hours, lack of personal space and sleep deprivation can feel exhausting and overwhelming. Parenting is intense, but I know that one day my boys will stop wanting to tell me every detail about their day, that they will keep their worries to themselves and I know that I will miss being the person they most enjoy chatting to.
I loved teaching, despite all the challenges and target-related stresses. I relished the variety of school life. No two days were the same and children are predictably unpredictable. I found it exciting finding ways to make the curriculum fun and relevant to the children in my class. I enjoyed building relationships with pupils, encouraging them, supporting them and helping them overcome difficulties. There is nothing more rewarding than being part of an “Aha!” moment where something finally ‘clicks’ for a child.
The best part of being a parent is that I get to take my favourite aspects of teaching and apply them in my own home. I get to watch my boys develop a love for learning. I get to nurture them, and I have the privilege of knowing and understanding them better than anyone else. It is relentless and often an undervalued role, but being a parent is one of the most important and influential jobs in the world. What can be more rewarding than that?