As a part-timer, it's the simple pleasures that count. They have to
I take a deep breath. What could I ask my new colleague to do in the two days she will be sharing my job next year? I tentatively take up a pencil.
"Task one: monitor photocopying costs". The two lists look a bit more balanced now. Maybe I should leave it at that and let her find her feet a bit. Or maybe she'd want to be thrown in at the deep end. "Task two: order drinks for the Christmas party". That seems fair. Two years and two children later I've lost touch with how normal people socialise anyway. My long suffering department would end up with two tins of SMA and a Rudolph-shaped rusk.
My next line management meeting is titled "delegation". It's taking me a bit of time to get used to this whole job-sharing thing, having juggled my old job on a part-time basis since I returned from maternity leave six months ago. Being the proud parent of a one-year-old and a two-year-old has meant that my working life is the one area over which I feel I have any control. It's a peaceful oasis from Bob the Builder and his myriad bleeping friends currently littering my living room. Now, in life's latest cruel biological trick, I am sharing my bed, my food, my sofa and finally the thing you'd think would be unshareable - my job.
Apparently, job-share arrangements are actually the closest a woman can come to having it all. "Just remember," my husband said to me yesterday at 6am when I was writing the agenda for an important meeting at 8.30 - our baby was down with chicken pox, and our toddler was trying to break his way through the garden fence and into the dual carriageway beyond - "we're living the dream". I decided to add a few more items to my job-share's list of responsibilities.
Aside from developing a productivity rate to rival your average under-age worker in an illegal sweat shop, there are some important home truths that as a part-timer, you need to accept from the outset. Important meetings will always take place on your days off. Whenever a crisis blows up it will invariably be when you are bouncing your kids round the toddler gym. The Post-it that you left on your colleague's desk to explain something important will mysteriously disappear. You will arrive at work after your day off to find 24 urgent messages on your answer machine and 300 emails.
Then, in the days you do work, nothing will happen. Gossip will pass you by. It will be approaching Easter and you will realise with shame that there are colleagues who joined in September whose names you don't know.
You will get used to people looking at your haggard face and saying "it will get better you know". You will resist the urge to ask for an exact time and date.
Ultimately, you will get by on telling yourself that you love your kids, and you love your job and it is just about possible that the two things may complement each other, and somehow, in some way make you in the end a better person, a better mother, a better teacher. And of course there's the non-stop supply of coffee and chocolate, even when you know you should be eating pumpkin seeds. As a part-timer, it's the simple pleasures that count. They have to; you've precious little time for anything else.
Gemma Warren is head of inclusion at a London secondary school. Email: email@example.com