- Written by Jenny Smith
July / August 2014
With all the window displays and supermarket special offers, it would be difficult to miss the advent of the new school year at the best of times. This year it is more difficult than usual. As I type, Baby E and I are preparing in our own way for the difficulties we are going to encounter as September rolls around.
Next week, my little newborn turns nine months. She's crawling now, standing, beginning to cruise the furniture, and saying “mama” and “dada”. Change, change, always change. Nothing stands still very long with a baby.
This morning I have left Granny in charge. It's a trial run for us, and her. It's almost impossible to concentrate with an almost-toddler on the loose, and finding the mind space to focus and write a coherent blog entry just won't happen at home. It's good to get them used to spending time with each other like this, as Granny is going to be our child-care solution when the day to day work rolls in. It seemed like the simplest solution, at least in the short term.
Baby E loves her granny and adores spending time with her, so in that way we are lucky. We don't have to go through getting her settled in nursery. She will spend time at home or at familiar baby and toddler groups with her. We're in the process of setting up an outside play area in the back yard, complete with artificial grass. And of course she has all her toys, the dog, a beach down the road, and the soft play and park around the corner. Granny will read to her, play with her, and have adventures with her just as I would.
We tried looking into child minders and nurseries. We really did. We even went to see a couple. But I found that not knowing what days you will be working really limits your childcare options. Some people were more flexible than others. I found someone I really gelled with, but couldn't give her exact days (not knowing if I would be offered work) and so she offered E's place to someone else. Fine and fair enough. But it left me feeling very disheartened at the thought of having to send E somewhere I didn't feel completely happy about just because I can't be sure when I will need child-care. Financially it's not worth putting E into nursery or with a child-minder unless I'm working, so we were in a bit of a double bind! I teach in early years, and I know the difference between good and bad. And I know what I want, and I wasn't finding it. And that's where Granny comes in.
It's not an ideal solution, though. In the short term, it still won't provide me with the complete flexibility I need as Granny lives around fifty miles away, so at the moment we are compromising to see how it works. I'll take pre-booked work, but it will have to be at least one full day. It's not worth my mother's fuel money for a morning or afternoon. She brings her dog and stays overnight currently, so if I do take more than one day, they would need to be consecutive. I can't really expect her to come back later in the week! We plan to pay for her fuel and a dog walker short term. The long term plan involves mum moving closer. My grandad passed away in March, and she's got no family back home now, so she would love to be closer to us. And Baby E will have a close relationship with one of her grandparents, and that's important to us as her daddy's family live at the other end of the country, so at the moment we're juggling house hunting along with everything else.
I'm not sure I'm wholly ready to step into the classroom again just yet, but I am trying my best to get into practice. At the moment I'm parked in the library, barely ten minutes away from home, with my phone on the desk here next to me. If it rang, and E needed me, I would pack up my things and fly home as fast as I could. What about when I am in school and my phone is parked at the bottom of my bag, ringing in a cupboard somewhere? What happens if she's ill? Will she be pleased to see me when I get home? Will she miss me? Will she settle for Granny?
All these questions and more occur to me, as I sit here enjoying the luxury of a hot cup of tea from the library café, distilling my thoughts and concerns into a coherent piece of writing. And I'm reminded that supply teachers everywhere face the same issue. We're reliant on the goodwill of a small army of grandparents and other adults, or we're only available for work on certain days. Or we struggle, taking turns with a partner for childcare, or we're lucky enough to have a hugely flexible arrangement with a child-minder or nursery. However we tackle this issue, we still turn up for work in the morning with the same amount of dedication as we always did; we're just more exhausted and sleep deprived than we were before! We'll struggle with the same issues as other supply teachers, and on top of it all we'll worry about our kids.
Ah well. All that is for another day. Today I have the luxury of still being on holiday. Today I am mummy first and foremost. So I'll finish here, and go and change the library books I packed in my bag. Then I'll make my way home and appreciate spending time with my little girl.