I had the day from hell last week. It took me two hours to get to school, I had piles of marking, masses of meetings, and a persistent cold that was making me feel like rubbish even though I wasn't actually at death's door, so I didn't feel justified in taking the day off. The computers were down, my colleagues were down, and my students were high. They always tend to discover a taste for active learning just when I'm trying to promote a taste for silent reading. Curses. I worked late, fought my way back home through the traffic and almost beat up an old lady in Tesco in an attempt to get hold of the last packet of oven chips. I finally made it home. Then my husband told me he'd like us to have a baby.
I wouldn't mind a child. I'm not one of those teachers who view all their pupils as extensions of their own family, so couldn't bear the idea of having a child of their own. I don't have those freaky conversations where you couldn't call a child any name that was shared with a student and so decide it would be easier to remain childless. I like babies. I've been straying into Baby Gap to buy presents for various pregnant friends recently, and I don't mind admitting I've stayed a little longer than I've had to. I've had pregnant colleagues and I've happily indulged in long conversations about the state of their tummies while we should have been invigilating silently at the back of exam halls. What the hell, I thought, it's only chemistry.
But I'm not sure how having a baby would actually work. I mean, I know how they're made and everything, and I'm reasonably OK with the idea of childbirth. I had a tetanus jab last week, so how bad can it be? But how would it work with me being a teacher? Could I still devote my entire life to school, and have enough left over for a child of my own? I'm still at the stage of my career when even thinking about not spending every waking hour (and most sleeping hours) obsessing about school seems vaguely adulterous.
How would I get my marking done if I couldn't stay at school until 7pm? How could I go to all those meetings that aren't 100 per cent necessary? How could I have enough energy to focus on my own child, and not just other people's? Opinion is split. Some ex-colleagues have had children and given up work. Others say they'd rather die than do that. Some of my friends work because they've got to pay the mortgage, some say their wages barely cover the cost of child care so it's more practical to stay at home. All of them talk about the highs, the lows, the exhaustion of being a parent.
I reckon I've had a lot of practice at that - sounds a bit like being a teacher. Could I still keep my career aspirations? Could I still start a masters? Could I maintain my friendships with colleagues, my husband, my family? Someone has told me that a baby has a funny way of silencing all those questions in your head. Peace at last. My colleagues in the science department have brought me up to speed on the ins and out of my ovaries, so perhaps it's time to start raising a class of my own.
Gemma Warren is an assistant special needs co-ordinator at a London secondary school. Email: gemmablaker@hotmail. com