On Friday I received my notice from the school district that my request for a leave of absence has “unfortunately been denied.” I had just arrived home from The Little Gym class we take every Friday and I grabbed the mail out of the mailbox as I went around the car to get Baby V out of her carseat. I saw the envelope. I felt its thinness. And I KNEW. When I received my paperwork for my maternity leave, it was THICK. Every document had a copy for me and a copy for HR. This envelope obviously only contained one sheet of paper.
I opened the passenger door of my car so Baby V could have some fresh air, but I left her in the car seat while I tore the letter open. Heart pounding, I scanned the first lines. All I had to see was the word “unfortunately” to confirm my gut suspicion. I burst into tears, which mystified my daughter, who surely knew what crying was, but had never seen mommy do it before. She looked at me intently. I told her, “It’s okay, Mommy is just sad.”
(Like you are, Baby V, right now, because Mommy is typing and not letting you pound all over the keyboard)
It hit me like a punch in the face. No sweet September with my baby while everyone else goes back to work. Going back to managing teenagers in a classroom. Trying to get young people to shut up and sit still while I try to teach them “standards” in preparation for that all important state test that they don’t give a shit about. Meetings. Commutes. DAY CARE.
Damn it, I was so optimistic about my chances of getting the 2nd year off, I didn’t put her on any waiting lists. Come tomorrow, my new full-time job is finding day care for my daughter. Five days a week. 7 a.m. to at least 4 or 5 p.m. It makes me nauseated to think of all that time away from her. Leaving my daughter with other people (and paying them through the nose) so that I can take care of OTHER people’s children! It feels unnatural.
I’m not going to feel to sorry for myself. Don’t worry. I know that a whole year off with my daughter is more than most people get. I have friends and colleagues who sobbed on their commutes to work every day, leaving their babies who were only weeks old while I sat in my chair nursing and watching DVRed episodes of my favorite shows. It was truly a gift, what I received.
I was looking forward to doing it all over again in September. My disappointment is profound.
Still, it isn’t like I don’t have choices. I have Odie’s blessing to quit my job. I am choosing to NOT give up my career. With the world the way it right now, it’s insanity to give up a tenured teaching position in a desireable district. I’m going to ask my boss for a 4/5 assignment. To you non-teachers out there, that means I teach 4 classes instead of 5 and I have no prep period. If I could teach 8-12:30 and then go get Baby V from day care and be home by 1:30, this work thing would be easier. Plus, I’m planning to get knocked up again.
There is the “blessing in disguise” factor. We are going through our savings more quickly than expected. If I work this next school year and get pregnant, then I can take the following year off and be able to save money this year. We could not possibly save money this year on one salary. Me staying home with baby #2 without going back to work would mean the end of our savings and possibly going into debt. Odie thinks we should make the sacrifice for Baby V and have me quit my job. However, he doesn’t want a second child. His plan would be me staying home with Baby V for another few years and then putting her in school and looking for another job, hoping the work environment will improve in 4 years. We’d have to tighten our belts a LOT, but it could be done. If I were 28 instead of 38, I’d do that because I’d have over a decade to have another baby. As it is, I see myself having another 2-3 years to have that second one.
We fought about this at dinner last night. The hardest thing in a marriage is when you don’t see things eye to eye. It isn’t a communication problem. It’s a difference of opinion. He wants one thing, I want another and there is no compromise. One person gives way to the other. Hopefully without too much resentment. Hopefully I’m not the one who gives way.
Having a child is hard work. I’ve heard that the mistake people make about having a second child is that they assume it will ONLY be twice as hard. And for us it will mean more day care too. I think it’s fair to assume that my district won’t give me a second year of leave for baby #2 any more than they would for Baby V. Bastard-coated bastards.
So on August 26th, I will once again be standing at the front of a classroom full of teenagers. And joining the Facebook group “Teachers Counting Down the Days Until Summer Vacation.”