"When's Daddy coming to my Christmas play?" asked my five year old daughter on more than one occasion. "He has to go to work darling, so he can't come."
When I had children I resigned myself to missing out on some of these little moments. Having the school holidays, not having to travel for work and sometimes being able to come home for tea time seemed like a fair trade for not being able to do the school run, go to presentation assemblies and attend end of year productions.
As it has happened, with the odd difference in days off between my school and my daughters', I have had the privilege of picking them up from school and seeing the eldest presented with her 'Pupil of the Term' certificate. Teachers are kind and have allowed us the last parents' evening slots so I do feel a part of their school life.
But the Christmas show wasn't to be. Or so I thought. At the end of the penultimate week of term the head pulled me aside, asking why she'd not had a request from me to go to see my daughter's Christmas show. Inside, crushing emotion and self-disappointment welled up. I'd let my little one down. She had wanted me to come, and I could've gone if only I'd asked. I had unnecessarily prioritised work over my family. My voice cracked as I tried to explain why I hadn't asked.
The happy ending is that, as a result of my boss's prompt, I went to my middle daughter's nursery Christmas show and it was lovely - Christmas really began that day. I had checked with my super-understanding five year old and there were no hard feelings; she is sweet enough to be able to be excited for her younger sister even when it might not seem fair. So, No.2 and I shared giggle fits during one of the songs and I smirked as she spent a whole number rearranging her star outfit, complete with full-on hands down skirt moments. Family came first that afternoon. And I got to miss the SLT meeting: Christmas bonus.
And what have I learned? Well, it was a reminder of how to prioritise. I have a kind boss who cares for the wellbeing of her staff and who, despite not having children of her own, understands the importance of family. I should have known that I could at least ask. Not everyone is fortunate enough to work for such a leader. I have a family at home who need me and deserve my best. My job is important, but actually my own flesh and blood are more important. Really, I'm essentially doing my job because of them - so that I can support them financially. But their needs are more than just that. They need my time too.
I don't think I'll be suddenly leaving school at 3:25 everyday to get home to them, or even automatically assuming that I can take time off work to go to every school event, but I will consider my family more in the decisions I make regarding how my time is spent.
That Boy Can Teach is a teacher from the North of England. He tweets at @thatboycanteach