When maternity leave leaves you on the scrap heap

 

maternity leave cartoon humor: 'Good to see you back at work.'

After another glorious year of maternity leave it is that time again to start thinking about returning to work . I have written before about my frustrations with having to return to the bottom rung each and every time you have maternity leave (read it here-  New Year, New job and the Glass-Uterus Effect ) and I have conceded that this is just life, but it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.  Since having my eldest son 6 years ago I have always been all to aware of the need to maintain my teaching hours in order to stay up to date with changes in curriculum and methodology. For you teachers out there I am sure you would agree that a year is a long time in Education. As the school year comes to a close I ‘ve started to look at my options for next year and to be honest there aren’t many at all for a mum of three who is no longer a permanent employee who can’t face working full time.

If you are permanent then in most cases you are able to return to work in a jobshare/ part time capacity as the school/ principal is obliged to assist in your return to work where possible.  If you aren’t permanent then you are free agent, no one owes you a thing and it is up to you to start again from the bottom just to get some relief work. With this uncertainty comes having to commit to 3 days worth of childcare x 2  ‘just in case’ you get called in for a relief day on those specific days. If no work comes up then you are stuck paying $300 for nothing.

I have always loved my job. In the early years after graduating, single, childless me worked my bum off, volunteered countless hours and would attend the opening of an envelope in hopes of gaining a permanent position. It worked and after 3 years I was given permanent status. No more worrying about whether you had a job each December and if you were going to be paid in the holidays. Fast forward 12 years and a resignation after moving interstate and now I find myself competing with young girls with 2 years experience and hours to give for even the most graduate level positions.

It makes me angry, I feel like I’ve done my time- but what is the solution? Well that is to go back full time and start from the bottom again. It was my choice to have my three beautiful children, and as my husband points out, there are many childless women in leadership positions who would happily swap for my position as a mum. I agree with him. I also look at friends of mine who for various reasons have gone back to work full time with small babies and wonder if i could do it too.I did do it with my first son, and at the time it felt right. It wasn’t until after that it felt so wrong. Maybe I should have and I wouldn’t be sitting here with 12 years experience looking for jobs again. But then I look at my last baby girl (as she rips this laptop from my hands) and my stomach hurts thinking about leaving her with some one else every day. Before long she will be waving at me through the school gate and I’ll then have those hours to give again, just like  did 12 years ago.

I know what my heart says- but I still have this internal battle every school year as I see opportunities come and go.It would be much easier if I hated my job and could use that as an excuse not to return, as I am sure many mums who weren’t particularly keen on their careers pre-children do, but I don’t, I love it and couldn’t think of doing anything else.

I guess for now it is part time relief or bust! How did you feel about returning to work after maternity leave?

 

 

 

New Year, New job and the Glass-Uterus Effect

Featured image

Tomorrow is my first day at a new school. Since arriving in Queensland 6 years ago I have been extremely lucky to have remained employed at the same wonderful school, conveniently located ten minutes from home. I remember my first day six years ago. Having just moved from a really tough school in the dry, northern suburbs of Adelaide I arrived at what looked like a tropical holiday resort. With a golf club across the road, the Surfers Paradise skyline in the background and a lake right in the middle of the school oval.  I remembered thinking, ‘we’re definitely not in Elizabeth’ any more, closely followed up with ‘I probably won’t need to worry about my car being stolen while it’s parked out there’.

During my time there I have welcomed my two beautiful boys, and to be honest it has become more of a social outing than a job. Amongst the staff are teachers who have become great friends, and in some instances I have taught all siblings from the same family. For a school that was only ever meant to be a temporary stop gap while we figured out if we wanted to stay on the Gold Coast, It turns out to be the longest stint I have had in any one setting. My second home.

I am so sad to leave, but so excited to move forward. After a lot of thought my decision was confirmed last week while watching my friends prepare to go back to the classroom full time. At my school it was full time for me or nothing. That is the problem with teaching, it is often all in or nothing.

After applying for jobs close to home and being honest about my plans to have more children, I was met with ‘In light of what we discussed, there won’t be any suitable positions for next year’ and I totally get it. Being that I am on contract, I am a liability in a classroom. Having a class is like taking guardianship of 30 little lives for a the whole year- not just for two or three terms until I dare decide to have a child in the middle of a school year. Before I  hear gasps of ‘discrimination’ it is so not like that. If you are permanent then you have a rite of return as a part time teacher. As a contract staff member I was lucky to have been looked after as long as I have been between having my children. To be fair, If it hadn’t been for stopping to have babies I would have had a permanent position here in Queensland as well as in Adelaide. They call it the glass ceiling effect- a woman’s inability to progress as far as a male in the same work place, and it is alive and kicking in the teaching profession. I just call it the ‘glass uterus effect’. Our progression is severely affected by our biological requirement to stop and have children, and lets face it, that is just tough shit! You can’t have years off and expect to be the boss when you get back!

So I’ve gone further a field for a 3 day classroom position (job share), and I couldn’t be more excited. Rather than dreading the return to full time work and leaving the boys, I can have my class…and eat it too (oops…cake).  Yes it is half hour away, and yes it’s not as pretty as where I was, but it is the best option for my young family at this moment in our short time together.

Teachers out there will appreciate the lack of ownership and achievement you feel when you don’t have your own class. We didn’t get into this profession to teach 12 lessons of back to back library lessons for prep children. On most days this involves getting them safely to the library without losing one or all of them as they cross the yard like a flock of sheep, sending at least three with sore fingers to the sick bay, a poo in the pants, having my feet rubbed (not so bad) and at least 3 comments about why I’m wearing the same clothes as last week.   (FYI you kids are just seeing me at the start of my washing cycle)

So tomorrow I meet my teaching partner and see what will be my new ‘home’ for a while. For some strange reason, what would have made me sick with anxiety once upon a time, is now so exciting! Maybe it’s called growing up.

Wish me luck 🙂