Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It's a juggle...

I'm a working mom in rural Nova Scotia. In fact, I'm a teacher.
Lately I've been at the brunt of or reading / hearing many insults flung at teachers over school cancellations and snow days.

Call it PMS. Call it mom-craziness from the staying-at-home-with-the-fighting-kids storm days. Call it pure bitching.

Call it what you want.

I'm gonna rant...

I'm not gonna rant about how good I've got it as a teacher. I'm not even gonna step on the "You-Could've-Chosen-This-Career-Too" soapbox. Been there. Had to do that. (Got no further ahead, by the way.) Instead, I want to shed some insight into what the past week / next couple of weeks will mean for me.

It's a reporting period. On each of those storm days when I wasn't being a mom to my kids (and had internet service) and every night when my little darlings are snuggled into bed, I've been sitting at this godforsaken laptop til 11 or 12 at night planning lessons and writing report cards. See, I don't want to half-arse them. I want them to say something. I want these report card comments to really mean something. (After all, I am a parent, too... I at least know the kind of jargon I don't want to hear.) This process takes time. It takes lots of it. Add to that the frustration of many storm days when students couldn't finish the last bits of their final projects... or couldn't hand them in... or didn't have the means at home to finish them... all of these things, to me, are very important considerations as a teacher and a parent.

I have a heart...

With reporting period comes parent/teacher interviews/ conferences, whatever you want to call them. (Personally, I think the ones in my school are useless because I would much rather have my 10-13yr old students be a part of the conversation... something which is seen as a no-no for reasons I won't/don't/can't understand... and all of this is just simply something you'll have to read one of these days on my teacher blog.) These parent interviews happen on a Thursday evening and Friday morning to accommodate parent work schedules. Wait. What was that? Parent work schedules? Oh yes... right... I'm a parent, too. Frig that in this case. It doesn't matter.

See, in order for me to participate in this aspect of my job... as I'm expected to.... after hours... I have to arrange for alternate childcare for these two days.

  • Problem A: On the day where parent teacher interviews happen in the evening, I do not have sufficient time to drive to the sitter's after school, drive kidlets home, and drive back to school in time for the interviews. (Remember I said I live in rural NS. That said amount of commuting equals almost 90 minutes of driving... way more if I follow the speed limit and watch for icy conditions or take roaming large wildlife into consideration.) I tried this once. It wasn't pretty. 
  • Problem B: Because it's of my own volition that my child(ren) can't be at the sitter's, I still pay her. (Fair enough. I think of it as vacation pay for her.) But... if my husband can't take off work that day, I have to get someone else (usually my mother) which usually means at the very least paying for gas money for the replacement sitter. 
  • (Also, my sitter usually takes the Friday of these parent teacher interviews to travel with her family since her children, like mine, are not in school. Again... understandable. Long weekends are nice. She's a mom to her own children, too! Holiday pay. Deserved.)
So, I pay double (or more) the money in childcare to stay after school for these interviews, as I'm contractually required. Fine and dandy. Done. Signed. Sealed. Delivered.


Also happening in the next few weeks are ski trips for our school to the local ski hill. YAY! We are so lucky to have a ski hill close by for our students to enjoy. But, wait... for me... that working, rural mom... this ain't so easy.

Do I want to go with my students to see them wow me with their moves on the hill? Yes!
Do I want to go so that kid who I know won't bring lunch money will be able to have a hot lunch on that day at the chalet and will really be able to feel as part of the whole experience? Yes! Of course. I'd buy that lunch for that student in a heartbeat.

But... it isn't that easy. Sigh. And... some people think I'm trying to cop out.

  • Problem A (or should it be C? Frig it. I'm calling it A. A different scenario here.) Because we're rural, and because of bussing times and schedules and all that jazz, when our school goes skiing, they go to the hill for 10am and stay until 4pm to make the whole trip worthwhile. (We, as a school, have a heart!) This means we do not return to school until 5pm.
Not a problem for most. But for me with one child at the sitter, one in school... it's a problem. Kid A isn't old enough to be included in the ski trip. Kid B is at the sitter's. Kid A leaves school on the bus after school to get home at 4pm to... no one. It doesn't work. Hubby doesn't get home from work til 4:30. Kid A would have to walk a kilometre up our rural road... all by herself... to be home by herself... at 7 years old. Can't happen. (Besides, if it's a Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday, she's got lessons to get to after school...which are another 20 minute drive away, too.)

But, wait. Shit. We forgot Kid B. Oh yes... he's crying at the sitter's and the sitter is calling cuz she has somewhere to be and I don't leave him at her house until that hour... and even if I could leave him there...I still won't get home until after 6pm... and where's Kid A again?!

(Oh...And before it's suggested, hubby works an hour and 15min drive in the other direction from the sitter. Sigh. Rural working life.)

So, I can't be one of the chaperones on my students' skiing trip. It bothers the hell out of me. But it bothers me even more that people don't even try to understand why it can't happen. (I wonder if these glaring-eyed people would like to find me a concierge to coordinate/babysit/chauffeur my children on these days?)

But wait. Wait. It will happen... it will!

My husband has booked... over a month in advance... a vacation day... a day off work to be with Kid B, so that our kids  (that some people think can't be my priority in this scenario) will have someone to care for them and be home to meet Kid A getting off the bus and drive them to lessons so that I can go to the ski hill with my class...

And not get home until after 6pm... And probably spend a bunch of money on hot chocolates and lunch for that student, (if he goes skiing that day)...

But, I've got it easy. And I'm a lucky, plush-arse-jobbed witch-with-a-B, to have those storm days off.


Breath. Sigh. Shoulder slump.

/End Rant.