How do people pull this stuff off?

As you may have read, I spent the final 3 months of the 2012-2013 school year in a teaching assistant role in my son’s elementary school. In my “Should I even be going “there”?” post (I fear posting this may have me tarred & feathered or at the very least have me NEVER hired by the District again!) I expressed my concern about both the state of school management itself but also where my perspective on that state comes from.

I began my writing with the intention of posting more about the power of leadership….but actually I think it was more about how I felt working there.

I did help me open up to some questions & self-reflection that are always useful though.

Now when I talk about “going back to work”, I have to be honest & admit, I was essentially “working” for possibly the shortest stint ever.

So why did it have such a significant impact?

I guess because until now, while I’ve done various projects, I’ve certainly not worked part-time or full-time, on someone else’s clock since the kids (& Ethan turns 7 in about 10 days so it’s frighteningly longer than it feels).

Thus for us, it was a major change in many ways:

For the first time, Kevin’s schedule wasn’t all about Kevin’s schedule. He actually had to be available for pick ups & drop offs, for the random sick days, for the odd kid appointment. He had to have Mylo sometimes whilst also trying to work from home & he had to do a little more around the place to keep things ticking over as I wasn’t as hands on as usual (and for the record, I have an amazing hubby who takes on a lot around the house in terms of chores – even when I’m not working, it’s often been 50/50).

The kids, had to put up with a more tired Mummy initially, who was also sometimes a bit over “kid stuff” after a long day with Kindergartners….or more often than not, was totally in love with her kids, appreciating them & their great behavior & loving ways after a long day.

I had to acknowledge a number of things: how much I treasure alone time as I no longer had any (!); how much I missed friends…while I consider myself more of an introvert & often quite a loner, I also realize I treasure some very special friendships, ones that feed my soul so to speak. Women that offer so much value to my life & not spending time with them on the odd hike or the odd coffee date really affected me.

We also felt the time pressure in the weekends which was unexpected – getting housework done, catching up on laundry, the gardening, getting groceries & meal ingredients prepared….

I realized that working part-time definitely has its bonuses – I got time with the kids in the afternoons & time to get some things done….

But working part-time as a TA has its disadvantages too – the pay does not justify a cleaner, after-school babysitter help, a gardener – any of the things that would help to ease the weekend load. So once I went back to work not only were the days full with work, homework, activities & daily chores, none of which I could complete in the hours without the kids (seeing as I non longer had any)…but the weekends became loaded with those particular chores.

All in all there was almost no balance & the pay barely covered childcare. On the days Mylo was not in preschool, a sunk cost, I only broke even for the child care we needed.

Didn’t really make it feel worthwhile given the experience I was having as detailed in my previous post.

It did open my eyes to all working parents – I feel like working parents do not at all get the empathy or support they so deserve. More often than not, they just get a lot of judgement. Their workload is not at all acknowledged in a realistic way… I barely touched on what many working friends do so I truly have no idea how they pull it off AND do so, so successfully!

Super women is one way I can put it. They really go that extra mile in all aspects of their lives & deserve not just respect but admiration.

And the Dads too… I don’t know many Dads these days that work 9-5, come home to a cooked meal, put their feet up with a beer (or perhaps as martini Don Draper would?) & read the paper… Dads are just as or almost as involved in chores, pick ups, drops offs, school activities & the daily kid-routines as Mums are.

Parents juggle a lot these days & I think are often our own harshest critics (or am I only speaking for myself?)…. I just want any working parent out there that may read this to know you are amazing. You are very likely pulling this whole kid/work gig off beautifully even though most days it doesn’t feel like it & I for one am giving you a huge pat on the back.

For now I’m no longer back “on the clock” so to speak… I’m on my own clock though as a friend & I work toward launching our online accessories/restored furniture store so right now that consumes me & I hope it continues to in the way outside work would…. here’s hoping or I might just be back to being on the clock & trying desperately to pat myself on the back for a job I believe being poorly done!


Categories: Family Life, Life as it is, Mummyhood, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Should I even be going “there”?

Earlier this year I took on some part time work as a Teacher Aide in my son’s elementary school.

This in itself will be the subject of a number of posts – but to start with, I am “anonymously” sharing my concerns for a school of so much potential & such a supportive community…. and from my experience potentially on the cusp of great growth….I hope.

I “returned” to work (not my original profession strictly speaking) for a number of reasons… Once upon a time, I was a High School teacher – a job I loved, felt passionate about, gained great professional & personal reward from. I have absolutely felt the loss of teaching in my life.

For a long time, it was like I’d lost a part of myself – a huge component of my identity.

I also felt like some extra cash would not go astray given we’ve had no income for a considerable period as we “self-fund” our start-up (sounds sooooo much more glamorous than it is by the way).

In addition to this, the school was in need of a teaching assistant fast & I thought that trying this for the final 3 months of the school year was a great means of seeing how I felt about returning to work; seeing how we all juggled it (& right there you have the topic of my next post!)

Until now I’ve not worked due to either having small children home full time; having Kevin traveling for work almost full time & then of course having no documentation to allow me to work. Now I have one kiddo in elementary; one in pre-school 3 days; a husband in the same country AND more flexible & a green card.

Perfect right?

Not at all.

Apparently, being assistant teacher in a Kindergarten class is NOTHING like being a High School History teacher. Go figure.

I have to admit, I loved the feeling of space & “self” I gained just being at work itself.

I LOVED the teachers I assisted & I quickly loved the kids.

I loved the job in itself & have been enlightened to the incredible load both elementary teachers AND TA’s carry as well as the strengths, skills & most of all, compassion & kindness they offer to our children.

I didn’t love however, the way I felt like a second class staff member by being an assistant rather than a teacher.

I didn’t love the way every minute of my time was clocked & felt no sense of professional independence nor respect.

I didn’t love how this environment meant I was struggling to find a means of contributing skills I’ve acquired through both working & parenting. I felt I could offer so much more yet the political atmosphere within the school District was so suffocating & controlling it didn’t encourage growth, a sense of autonomy or any means of opportunity to contribute in any meaningful way.

While my direct peers, the teachers & support staff were absolutely phenomenal people – so dedicated, hard working, intrinsically motivated & also supportive of my newbie status….The overall experience was both frustrating & in truth quite degrading.

Had I not taught in a past life, had I not spent a brief period as a Head of Department; had I not been mentored, encouraged to speak up, to try new initiatives, to take risks, to lead as well as be led, to be a part of something bigger than myself & to be proud of what I was achieving & supported in my own visions…. would I still have felt frustrated & degraded?


But this got me thinking….

Did these feelings really stem from the school/District or from me?

Have I spent too long in the CEO role at home? Spent too long making most of the decisions, most of the mistakes & hopefully then most of the positive changes?

And am I, as a result, overly critical of a school culture & system of which I really know nothing – I mean I was only privy to the tiniest sliver of the place, who am I to judge?

Did I find the role challenging because now in my late 30’s, I’m arrogant enough to think I’ve learnt enough that I can add value to a place full of people with more experience?

I would like to say that my anxiety over the direction of this school is all about them & the result of my “insider’s” experience… but perhaps it is a lot more about me & my frustration at my own lack of professional development these past years. Fear & frustration that perhaps without having worked since the kids, I cannot actually add value & they do actually know what they’re doing?

Why is the way they run the school & treat their staff necessarily a reflection of the quality of education?

In my mind the two go hand in hand – it is a reflective value system that I would like to see in every crevice of the school….

But perhaps this is wishful thinking? Too optimistic or unrealistic? Perhaps I am too quick to judge?

This year ahead sees great change in the school & I have already been impressed with the dynamics of the new leadership, some significant changes implemented ….so, I very much hope that we see this potential grow..& filter down.

For the time being I’ve decided the experience has shown me a number of things:

  • I want to be more involved on the parental side. I have no right to sit back & criticize when I could easily become more involved & be supportive rather than a destructive device.
  • Sometimes (yes, only sometimes, let’s not get too carried away) it’s not actually all about me & I need to spend time reflecting on where my judgements come from – are they the result of my issues or the actual situations.
  • And then, sometimes it really isn’t me – organizations, institutions, leadership, management – whomever it is, well, they just need to get it together. Lead up.

Is this case, time will tell.


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Inefficiently efficient or efficiently inefficient?

Arghhh, I am hopeless with this blog of late which makes me so sad, as so often I begin these delightfully witty pieces of whimsy in my head about all sorts of interesting topics of social commentary.

They begin as a thread in my mind & quickly spiral to something I love…on the way to drop off… on the way home from pick up… on the way to swimming… on the way home from kumon….

But never quite when I’m near the laptop or even a pen & paper.

The day just disappears it seems. They never quite take literal shape.

The crack of daylight appears through the blinds & right now, being winter time, being cosied up in bed with a four year old who somehow snuck in a few hours before & is nestled right down into you, “blanky” tucked in one arm, two fingers being vigilantly sucked (thumb sucker but two fingers instead) in that manner that is so familiar now….& it’s hard to get up.

But of course the next one soon appears.

I’m hungry. Can I have porridge? But don’t forget I want to mix the honey.

And you, Mylo?

I want yogurt & honey. No. Porridge. No. Toast. No. Is it a school day? Can I have pancakes?

And suddenly we are at – shoes on, have you got your lunch? Please wear a sweater I know you don’t think it’s cold but it is

Out the door, carline; drop off; run the errands (maybe a sneaky coffee stop en route); off to the next activity; playdate; lunchtime; return to tackle the “must-do” chores; and suddenly it’s pick up time again.

And then we get home from school…or swimming..or Kumon…or a playdate and it begins – the afternoon delights of tired kids –

Mom, can I have something to eat?

Only an apple. Or a banana. Or some watermelon.

Oh, I’m not hungry then.

Can we build a fort?

Sure – here’s the sheet. I’ll help you tuck it in & set up a pirate mast – how is that?

But it’s for racing cars.

Oh of course, silly me.

Peace for five minutes.

Soon followed by high pitched squeal and

“MOM!!!! Mylo bit me”…..

A quiet thump comes thereafter.

Mylo, please go to your room until you are ready to say sorry & play together, in your cubby nicely.

NOOOOO!!!!! ARGHHHHH!!!! (shouted with great force in my face).

Soon a remorseful – sorry Mum [this one’s still got the Kiwi accent on certain words]; sorry Ethan. I need a huggle

…. Five minutes later play resumes, I start the dinner & the packed lunch ritual only to be interrupted with one whooshing past in agitated angst/fear while the other chases, car in hand ready for high speed rocket launch.

And thank you Mylo. I will take that.

Hmmm homework; outside play (it’s cold & dark); engage with kids in a board-game which Mylo will destroy when he hits yet another ladder …or make a meal as they’re probably both hungry.

Apart from wanting to kill each other.

….And so it goes on until the part of day where actually sitting down at the laptop seems possible.

Kids are down, laundry folded, next load on, house pick up complete, urgent emails replied to…..and really I just want to go to bed, especially now it’s cold & dark. Read my book, escape into a show (just quietly I am addicted to the CW & it’s terribly good looking young characters) or daydream about design walls & other delicious features I want to fill my house with while I browse many a DIY blog.

And then I lie there going over what went well today & what didn’t. What will I work to do better in the parenting department tomorrow? The list seems endless some days.

Others it’s manageable.

I feel so inefficient  but look back & realize not once did I sit with nothing to do & wonder “hmmmm  what should I do to fill my time right now?”

In fact not once did I sit down except when driving – even the brief email replies I did whilst standing up, or in carline or while waiting at swimming – one eye typing, one making sure Mylo’s bey blade does not spin into the pool.

I will get my routine down one day. Will allot my time better. I will. After all – I did it once right? I once worked as a professional in quite the efficient manner.

Before I had kids of course.

Ah, bingo – that’s it – kids! Of course!

Still I wonder – am I efficiently inefficient or inefficiently efficient? Maybe it just depends on your perspective.

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