Thursday, January 13, 2011

Not the post I thought I would write about going back to work

Leave all this? I wouldn't dream of it.

This week is the first week back at my school and I taught Tuesday and Thursday, right on schedule, with no maternity leave. Everyone in my department was wonderful with their offers to help early on when James was so new, but for some reason I thought it wouldn't be necessary. "Nope," I joked, "The first six months is really awful no matter what. I might as well be earning some money and job experience at the same time."

What I was not expecting was that I would enjoy James's newborn period so much. Or that I want so badly to sit at home snuggled up with him and only him during the big boys' preschool hours. And also, I hadn't really thought through the whole sleep thing. In other words, when you have to go to bed by nine to make sure you get enough rest, when the heck do you prep for class? That's how I found myself asleep on the couch last night, pen in hand, notebook and laptop still open, with the following sentence written in my lesson plan for today: "The atomic number indicates the number of protons an&bpppft$#l beans and sour cream." Apparently, I was dreaming about Mexican food.

I started dreading going back about the second day of James's life, when it was still three weeks away. The dread got worse and worse, mostly at three o'clock in the morning when I was nursing him in bed, both of us wrapped in cozy blankets. On Tuesday when my carefully constructed fourteen slides yielded only TWENTY MINUTES of lecture material, I was ready to throw in the towel. Last night, when I had to stay up and get ready for today instead of dozing my way through Law and Order SVU and looking forward to another day of baby snuggling and (extremely) light housework? Let's just say I ate a lot of Hershey's Kisses.

But today was a confidence builder... After we dropped the big kids off at school James and I drove the thirty minutes to school feeling so warm (in the car. it is NOT WARM outside) and happy with great music on the radio. I managed to talk for THIRTY-FIVE minutes. And afterward when another faculty member stopped by to see James I managed to carry on a semi-professional (albeit with James chomping away on my pinky finger--it's a progressive school, but not whip your boob out while conversing with your department chair progressive) conversation about the future of the department--and was surprised by finding myself wanting to be a part of it. I love my school and I love teaching, but this week has been so hard for me, mentally. Every day at home was so wonderful and the nights of work (and breastfeeding!) were so hard. The memories of just how miserable I was with no job just a year ago were distant and fuzzy.

It was good to get a reminder of why I am working right now. It is not for the money--we pay for the babysitter, preschool, and part of our summer vacation with my paycheck--it is for the experience and to keep some professional momentum while our kids are young. I love being able to spend so much time with the boys. And when it is not a big scary hard transition, I love working. My school is a perfect fit, the students are friendly and hard-working, I have a ton of flexibility in my workload every semester--it's a perfect situation.

Next week James will be spending more time with the babysitter because he'll be staying home with her instead of coming to school with me. I know that will be another hard transition. But I've been reminded of my goals (full-time job is in the ten-ish year plan somewhere, I want to get everyone to kindergarten at least, for my own sanity and disinterest in spending forty-thousand dollars a year on child care) and what it's going to take to get to those goals--sticking with it now even when it means I have to leave those sweet, sticky faces behind for a few hours a week (in good hands, and really, a few HOURS five exits away up the highway, it's not like I'm on a research expedition in Antarctica).

I keep reminding myself of the ridiculous grunt-work I did at the beginning of my undergrad research assistant job and how quickly I was given more responsibility. That job eventually turned into my PhD program! I'm not doing grunt-work now, but it serves as a reminder of how you never know where something will lead so you always have to do the best job you can and keep looking for opportunities to learn. But, for now, that process is exhausting, honestly, and I think I'm anticipating summer vacation even more than my students are.


Marianne said...

I love this post, Becca.

I'm making this huge transition from full-time employee to full-time mom, with the adjunct on the side. The horrible HORRIBLE amount of money they pay adjuncts is just painful, but I know it's for the greater good. I've got two and a half years until Nathan is in school and we'll see what that brings ... Thank you for the encouragement, whether you meant it or not.

Erin said...

Hey there from another adjunct. It is pitiful money (at least my position is) but I agree about the momentum. It's SO HARD to leave my baby (only one of them, now two years old) but when I get to school and teach and know that I'm keeping a solid foot in the door it makes me feel very...balanced. Happy. Like I'm keeping up with a variety of things that make me who I am. This next semester I'm just doing my own grad work, which is also great. But yeah. All that to say, "I hear you." I'm amazed at how many of us are following similar plans!

Sarah said...

You are doing great! When you put in perspective the number of hours you actually are at work, it sounds less daunting. The way I look at it is I was in school for 10 years-- a bit of job flexibility is not too much to expect after all that. And the job can be incredibly fulfilling. But yeah. I remember leaving tiny Harry for like 2 hours 3 times a week and it KILLED me, so I get you.

sarah said...

What a great post; as someone who did not find great fulfillment in her career prior to having a child (at least not at the very end of it) and who really doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows up, I am envious of your position, believe it or not. I know its exhausting and frustrating right now, but to have the family you do, as well as a career that inspires, energizes and fulfills you--that's amazing! You're doing great!

Ronni said...

I can totally relate to this post Becca! Thanks for your honesty and openness :)