In my last post I wrote about having read Po Bronson's "What Should I Do With My Life?" The book profiles about 70 people who've dealt with this question in terms of what sort of work has meaning for them. Fascinating reading, so it's not so surprising that this question has been on my mind over the last few days.
As my profile says, I am a mother of two and a sometime teacher. The second role came about because of the first role. In another life I was a business chick with a briefcase, a PA and an expense account, in a skyscraper. Becoming a mother changed my values and perspective entirely. I decided that motherhood would be my focus, and that everything else, work included, would need to accommodate it. I gave up my job, at the same time as Action Man was offered a job outside the city. In time, I retrained as a teacher, with the goal of becoming a "sometime" teacher. By "sometime" I mean casual, relief or supply teaching. That means I work some days, and some days I don't. The bulk of my work comes in Term 2,3 and 4 of every year. It's now Term 1, and I don't expect, or get, much work. For the rest of the year I bounce between day-to-day stuff and short term blocks where I work 5 days a week for a period of weeks at a time. (You will note a drop off in blogging at these times!)
I won't pretend that my choices have always been plain sailing. At first I lived with a lot of regret with what I had "lost"and played a lot of "what if" scenarios in my head. Also, there isn't a lot of understanding out there for people who make the choices I did, so at times I questioned what I was doing. It took a while, but over time I came to understand that I made the right choice for me. I can only live according to my values, not the values of anyone else. Once I took that on board, everything clicked into place.
I do whinge about the unpredicability of casual teaching at times, but on balance it's a choice I have made, and one that I am comfortable with . It allows me the time and space to be a mother of two to the standard that I am happy with, and it also allows me time to do the stuff about which I blog here. I find my family works best - we are all happier and more relaxed - when I am flexible, and I feel I am living up to my own values in the best way I can when I have the option to say "no" to work.
I am often under pressure from school principals to take on more work. Many people ask me "When are you going to apply to go permanent?" The assumption is that I am not a "real" teacher, that casual work is not "real" work, and that I am just mucking around, wasting time.
I would argue that I am making a contribution to a school community which would really struggle if not for people like me who are willing to tolerate the uncertainties of their work life. And as for "real" teaching, speaking for myself I go into every class with the goal of connecting with the kids and hopefully teaching something that day. I am satisfied that I am not wasting time or mucking around.
Will it be ever thus? I don't know. Action Man and I have discussed the possibility of swapping roles when AM is over life in Corporate Australia. If AM wants to do this at some point, I think I'd be happy to step up to full time work, knowing that the kids would always have one parent around. This is something I value as very important.
Please don't take any of this as implied criticism of anyone who has made different choices. I believe we have to listen to our own hearts and sort out our life according to our own values. If your values result in different choices, and you are truly happy with those choices, well done to you. I would never dream of criticising anyone's life choices simply because I am not in their shoes.