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Children. Now what?

At the start of the school year, Deborah was beginning her second maternity leave. While she couldn’t wait, she also worried what would happen to her career.

I seem to write as September approaches. Maybe it’s that change in the air, the sun fiercely shining on us all as we busy ourselves trying to relax before the storms arrive.

This time last year I was approaching my first year back as a new mum, but this September I have gained the slightly more terrifying title of ‘Mum of Two’ and I’m on maternity leave again.

I’ve been reflecting on my last period of leave as I now approach this new stretch of months ahead where I won’t have to learn hundreds of new names, or plan lessons into the dead of night. This leave already feels different, I’m, well…*whispers* enjoying it. Don’t get me wrong, my first daughter has and does give me IMMENSE joy, but I just found it all VERY STRESSFUL first time round.

Hands up, first maternity leavers, if you packed your drawers with nautical stripes (Boden never thanked me for the free advertising I gave them. Rude.); if you desperately sought mummy friends (Mush app, anyone? I had some entertaining first dates from this that require a whole other post); if you bought every baby product on the market; if you googled everything; if the self-doubt was crippling; and if you almost BROKE NETFLIX? That was me.

This time round it’s a bit different. I have a beautiful, fiercely free toddler to care for, nurture, feed and clothe while I care for my new little babe. Along with all this, in my usual way, I’ve posed myself a challenging question: Children? Now what?

To help me answer this question I’ve just started the MTPTProject in a bid to be 10% braver and seek new horizons in my personal and professional development. (Check out @MaternityCPD on Twitter.) But to be honest, I still feel a bit stuck. What IS my future as a teacher now? The statistics on the number of women occupying leadership posts in schools is, quite frankly, shocking…and it makes me worry. Children? Now what? The odds feel stacked against me: I want to continue with part-time working, but how will this impact upon my future as a professional? I have unspoken, fiercely ambitious goals: I know I can achieve them, I know I would succeed in them, but does my status as a working mum mean that I have to delay until I can commit again to a 60 hour week?

Since working part-time I have changed: I am more organised, I am more determined, I am more conscientious, I am more ambitious. Part-time is full-time without the pay. Schools: love and nurture your working parents, you get a good deal with us. Anyone who has children knows the manic bedtime routine that dictates your existence. We do that, but always save our last drops of energy to mark those books or adapt that resource for our SEND students, and then get in before everyone else in the morning to have every resource ready. A school with a large proportion of part-time staff sends a strong message: we love our children and other life commitments, but we love our school too and we save large portions of ourselves for you – in a way you get the best parts of us, because the coffee is HOT and WE LOVE BEING AN ADULT (NOT MUMMY OR DADDY) FOR A WHILE.

As I think now to another new September I reflect on where I am: on my last leave I kept a tiny human reasonably clean and well-fed, I wrote a book for trainee teachers which I keep forgetting about because, you know, toddlers! (Almost There: Lessons from a Trainee Teacher), I drank A LOT of coffee and learnt how to read for pleasure again. On this maternity leave I plan on being just as Boden clad, just as sleep deprived, just as productive, and just as determined to become a better teacher. Wish me luck!

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The author

Deborah McClean is an English teacher in a large secondary school in South Gloucestershire. She has experience mentoring trainee teachers, leading EPQ in sixth form and leading whole school Literacy. Deborah has also recently been appointed as a School Governor for a specialist school for Autism in Bristol. During 2017-2018 Deborah took a period of maternity leave to care for her first daughter, Ivy. She is just about to finish her second maternity leave with Cora in 2020 in the shadow of COVID19. During her first maternity leave she published her first book: Almost There: Lessons from a Trainee Teacher - written for trainee teachers and NQTs. Deborah is also a poet and writer, with work published in the ezine Ink, Sweat and Tears. Deborah tweets between naps @TrainTeachGrow.

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