So I returned to work earlier last week and man what a couple of weeks it has been. It wasn’t the getting back into the swing of work that has thrown me – I knew that just after a day the last 15 months would quickly have become a distant memory, and because I have spent the last few months working on Pudding and Chops and writing my blog, I’ve kept my brain busy so that bit wasn’t what was hard. What was hard was leaving my boys.
Now this wasn’t the first time I had experienced this, I did return back to work after my first mat leave with my eldest, and although it wasn’t nice leaving him for the four days that I worked, I knew it wasn’t for long as I was already pregnant with my youngest, so my spell at work was a short one. But this time it was different, there isn’t a plan for any more babies, if it happens then great but right now there is no plan for any more – I dont think my pelvic floor could cope to be honest, so this was it I was returning to work!
Some people see returning to work as a small blessing where you get the opportunity to pee in peace, have a hot brew and eat some lunch without being harrassed by small people – but I returned to teaching, so I’ve replaced one set of children for another. I still forget to pee, always have a half drunk cup of cold tea and lunch is a constant interrupted affair. Every day starts with a frantic rush around, trying to get up and out of the house and to nursery by 7.30am – previously we would only just be meandering downstairs in our jammies, now I’m ushering two bleary eyed boys who are half covered in Cheerios and have no recollection of being thrust into their clothes before being dragged out the door. Then the reality dawns on them and they remember where they are going – now to be honest the boys actually really enjoy nursery, both get involved with all the activities and have formed attachments to certain people, but the drop off is always the same. The look in their eyes tugs at my heart until I feel that awful pang of gut churning guilt. Now the eldest likes to further add to this guilt by adding “No mummy, no go work, stay home and play with me” – well that’s it I’ve been hit with a ton load of guilt at full pelt. As I peel my youngest from me, he bursts into tears as he realises I’m leaving him and I walk away without even saying “Goodbye” knowing it won’t do either of us any favours I think “Why does it have to be like this?”
Now its not just since having the boys that I have felt like this but it is even more poignant now than ever before – Does it really have to be like this?
Does life have to be this rat race that we scamper along in racing from one obstacle to the next? Must we really spend every weekend drowning our sorrows from the week before before hitting the Sunday night blues as another week of work approaches – I know that this is a sweeping generalisation and not everyone thinks or feels like this, but it make me think of the bigger picture sometimes. How did we as a species get to this point? How did life become this thing where we work ourselves to the bone for things we need to pay off, to buy more and more stuff and ultimately take time away from our children. Life seems to be this constant hamster wheel where we are compelled to strive to have the next new thing to better our lives, so we work hard or get ourselves into debt, get whatever it is and then boom there’s the next thing ready in waiting to “strive” for. It’s madness and it seems sometimes we lose sight of what life is about.
But what is life about? What are we supposed to do with our short time on this planet? I do marvel at what as humans we have achieved over time, the technologies and advances we have made but on a personal level what do we really want from our lives? Is it really about stuff or is about enjoying our moment.
I know that it’s so easy to get bogged down in everything thrown at us, the bills, the house, the car, the must have holidays, the latest gadget, the “memorable” experiences and yes all those can add to our memories we build but when these are put before our lives and our children isn’t this where we go wrong? The external pressures to have the perfect life, with the perfect family is constantly shoved in our face. The pressure to succeed is ridiculous, its not just aimed at us, the pressures children are under are phenomenally outrageous, recent SAT’s exams have reduced young children to anxiety ridden shells of themselves. Tears were shed over questions that made children question their ability, question their intelligence, it literally broke them down! How is that life? How is that how life should be? Why should our children be holed up in classrooms day after day having information shoved down their throats and then forced to sit exams that then shatters their confidence, that disengages them because “what is the point I’m going to fail anyway” – what happened to learning that was engaging through experience and play? why must everything be so serious all the time? What happened to equipping children with life and emotional skills, what happened to the excitement of discovering and learning something new? Why aren’t kids racing home desperately wanting to share what they have learnt as opposed to trudging through the door with homework to do, facts to learn and mocks to practice in preparation for the real thing.
I looked around a primary school the other week and I was so disappointed at how the classroom environment noticeably changed from fun,bright and colourful in reception….still grasping onto that more fun stage of learning in year 1 and then quickly disappearing to the general bog standard classroom wall display layout into year 2 and beyond. How had the fun disappeared so quickly? Since when did 6-7 year old children stop enjoying life and want to sit hour after hour whilst they are pumped with SATs ready information in preparation for the confidence shattering moment when they realise that they are not on par. This is not a criticism at the teachers, far from it, its a criticism of the system. Teachers are forced to abandon why they came into teaching and the desire to inspire young minds and instead they have to race through heavy loaded ever changing specifications ticking each assessment criteria off as they mould these young people into regurgitators ready for the onslaught of assessments that they must undertake. Again this is a sweeping generalisation as there are some absolutely incredible teachers out there – but the pressures are still there. Why must it be like this? Why can’t children be children and just discover life?
Then there’s the rules, the things we must live our lives by, the things we cannot do – in fact some are classed as a criminal offence if we do try to do them – yes I am talking about holidays, family holidays within term time. How has life come to a point where it can be a criminal offence to take your child away on holiday?!?! It seriously baffles me. It’s bad enough that we have restrictions on how much time we can have off with a job – standard holiday entitlement is 20 days!!! Twenty days in which we must decide which opportunities we may have throughout the year will make the cut, and that’s not counting the moments where we may have to use a day’s holiday here and there for appointments or to look after children etc. Then when we do have the opportunity to indulge in the luxury of a family holiday we are restricted by when we can do such a thing because woe betide we take a child out of school to build memories with their family. Now don’t get me wrong if there are examinations or moments when students must be in school then I’m all for supporting that but when families are desperately trying to get a holiday together and the only option because prices are ridiculously high in school holidays is to try and take a week here and there either side of term dates then what is the problem? Why has it become damning that spending quality time as a family is seen as a negative rather than a positive.
I understand that there may be some people out there who don’t value the education system as much as they should and their children don’t get the most out of what they are given but imposing fines etc may not deter these people. What it is doing is putting the fear into families who are conscious about the rules, it is scaring the people who do make the effort to ensure their children attend school, behave as they should, support them through their homework, exams etc and what do they get? The threat of a criminal offence if they take their children on a family holiday!!! How is this right? How can this be called life?
I know for myself my priorities have shifted somewhat since the boys came into my life. Those first few moments when my eldest was born and there was the worry that he may not make it shifted my mindset, nothing else really mattered, everything else was trivial, I just wanted my baby. That feeling has never left me. With that deepened the urge to want to get as much as I can out of life, to focus on what is important and not to stress about the trivial things but to also speak out when I feel something is unjust – why should I shy away from voicing my opinions, thoughts and concerns? I want my boys to have as much out of life that I can give them – I want to show them the world to broaden their horizons, I want them to see beyond the bubble in which they exist in but ultimately I want to be there to hold their hands as I guide them through life. I want to be present in their lives as opposed to being sucked into the rat race of work work work. Yes obviously I will still need to work, I don’t have a rich long distance relative leaving me millions but what I will be doing is making sure that I will better our lives as much as I can but not to the detriment of spending quality time with my boys.
As much as it’s nice to have pretty things and the latest gadgets it’s not what we reminisce over on our death beds – instead it’s the loved ones in our lives and the time we had with them. I don’t want to regret lost time away from the people I love, instead I want to look back and feel like I’ve given as much as I could have done and that my boys can always remember me being there.
Life is what you make it, and yes there may be rules but some rules are meant to be broken – if you think “Does it really have to be like this?” then you know something isn’t right and this is the point in which you can change it. It doesn’t need to be life shiftingly monumental – it can be but it doesn’t have to be, it can just be the small things you do that have the biggest impact because in the end you only live once, make it worth living.
Life is what you make it!