The definition of ‘werk’ from the Urban Dictionary (so it must be true): A congratulatory declaration of support, praise or approval, for an outstanding achievement in any area of life.
Sometimes it feels like I am the only full time working mum in the world.
But, that’s because, for the most part, I am an idiot.
I am, of course, acutely aware that there are millions of us working parents out there who are doing our best to annihilate the guilt that whispers in our ears every morning as we leave our children in various places. Be sure, when I say ‘various places’, I mean Grandparents and nursery and school – I don’t mean the bread aisle in the local Co-op. We know deep down that even though our choice to work full time was a difficult one, (or a necessity for me as we stupidly bought a house we couldn’t afford) it is a choice we made with our children at the forefront of our minds.
Then there are teaching mums.
And, of course, there are teaching dads and teaching assistant parents and learning supervisor parents. I could go on, but I always set a limit of 1500 words, otherwise people zone out…I can already see your eyes drifting over to the Amazon advert in the corner. Stop it! Stop it now – you don’t need that three prong barbeque fork, this weather is not going to last.
What I trying to say without offending anyone is that the parents who work in schools and with young people have it hard. We have it hard because we work in a job that requires us to care for a large number of children as much as we care for our own – but in a very different way. We have a sense of duty to them; we keep them safe in a world of uncertainty; we work hard so we can watch them succeed and we are interested to find out what they have achieved in life beyond school and how they have made their mark on the world.
Sometimes we have to pick them over our own children.
Not just because it’s our job, but because it’s a part of who we are.
So, to all of the working parents out there.
I see you.
I am you.
To the mum sitting in her car with her head in her hands as guilt whispers softly in her ears, I see you. Do you know why? Because, last week, I was you. I not only missed my daughter’s first ever sports’ day, but I forgot all about it. In fact, I will go so far as to say that I didn’t know about it because the newsletter that was carefully placed in her bag went unread. I know. Bad mum. In my defence, when I come in from work after picking up my children, the last thing I think of is to check the school bag. Come September, when my daughter starts full time school, perhaps I should prioritise checking her bag for important documents. However, after a day of teaching, I want to hug my children and watch ‘Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures’ and silently debate as to whether I think Andy is fit or not.
I still haven’t decided on that one.
I like his hair.
But, his nostrils are pretty flarey. (Is that even a word? It is now, I am an English Teacher after all…)
Anyway, back to my story. I dropped my daughter at her nursery (that’s a part of our local school) to be greeted by four year olds wearing trainers, t-shirts and shorts. My daughter, however, had on her red school uniform and black patent shoes. She looked up at me and I looked down at her.
“Is it Sports’ Day?” I asked.
Fret not, the nursery workers assured me, they had spare kits that my girl could borrow. Regressing back to almost twenty years ago, I recalled the one time I had to borrow PE kit from the lost and found box at school. Recoiling from the memory of big blue PE knickers that weren’t mine, and the stigma attached, I refused to be beaten.
“Give me ten minutes!” I said to no one in particular and dashed out of the door to race home to retrieve my daughter’s shorts, t-shirt and trainers.
When I returned to nursery, it was noted how quickly I had returned (winner of the three legged race circa 1989 I will have you know…) and helped my girl into her PE kit.
I overheard a mum telling her son not to worry if he dropped the egg and that it was the taking part that was important. And she was right. All that mattered was that the children had a good day.
In saying that though, I am quite competitive having played netball since I was ten years old.
Leaning into my daughter’s ear I whispered: “Go out there and win.” We fist bumped because we are cool like that, but then she unintentionally dropped the guilt bomb in my face and it exploded.
“Are you staying to watch?” She asked.
This bomb caused tears to well in my eyes.
“No, baby. Mummy’s got to go to work.”
My heart felt like lead as I left the building. There was no dashing this time; I dragged my feet because I didn’t want to leave.
But, I had to. Other children needed me – I had my job to do.
I was the parent sitting with my head in my hands in the car. The clock was ticking; I was close to being late for work.
I called my Mum.
Sports’ Day started at 9am and by this time it was ten past eight.
I woke her and she told me that she had an appointment at the opticians.
She assured me that she would try to pull a few strings and told me to get myself to work. Thankfully, she was able to do her own sprint finish and make it to sports’ day and in time and just as I was about to teach my first class of the day, she sent me a wonderful photo of my girl jumping along a Hop Scotch grid.
I thanked the Lord for grandparents.
My guilt was still with me though as I dropped the ball.
I missed another big event.
Later on in the same week, I attended a presentation evening for our pupils. I, along with a large number of colleagues, stood and cheered on pupils who were receiving recognition for their hard work and commitment throughout the year. I am certain that not all parents could make it; they too could have been missing a first. So I stood with my colleagues and we applauded their children because that’s what we do. I am in no doubt that there was a teacher standing on a grass verge cheering on my daughter last week perhaps missing a first of her or his own because that’s what we do.
In all honesty, there will be lots of firsts that I will miss and that’s life. There will be seconds and thirds that I get to experience and it’s those moments I will cherish rather than dwell on the ones I have missed.
Tomorrow, we go on holiday for the first time in three years. That’s one of the many good things about being a teaching mum isn’t it? The holidays. I am looking forward to the many firsts I will experience over the next six weeks. However, the Dude has developed a penchant for climbing, so here’s hoping they’re all positive firsts…
So, to the mum sitting on a sun lounger with her head in her hands feeling guilty because she wants a moment’s peace.
I see you.
I am you.
Fancy grabbing a cocktail?
Enjoy your summer, folks!