The born supremacy

10th January 2014 at 00:00

The Duchess of Cambridge and I are both on maternity leave. Although she and her husband may have pledged to get stuck in to childcare and manage with only a part-time nanny, she won't be short of footmen waiting to wipe the royal bottom. But for all their fame, wealth and power, as the owner of a very small child I still have a big advantage over my future queen: I'm a teacher.

In these dark days of performance-related pay, a nosediving work-life balance and endless reforming politicians, a career in teaching may come with little to recommend it, but it's a perfect training ground for surviving life with a newborn.

Teachers already possess most of the skills needed. We're used to feeling snowed under, inadequate and guilty that we're letting children down. We can cope with projectile vomit, sleepless nights and tears. Add to that an ability to improvise under pressure and a PhD in multitasking and we're pretty much all set up for life as a parent.

Apart from the birth (marginally more painful than a visit from the Ofsted inspectors), life in charge of a baby is unlikely to be more taxing than school. Spending your days with one child whom you are biologically programmed to like is a breeze compared with spending them with 30 children who have been put there to test your patience.

You don't get members of class 4B waking you up at 3am looking for a snack, but you can feed and burp your own baby without having to submit a plan for the activity and follow it up with a detailed evaluation including steps for progression. You can also change a nappy knowing that someone who hasn't changed a nappy in 17 years isn't going to materialise with a clipboard and put you into capability procedures because you took too long finding the wipes and allowed the baby to wee on his own face.

Activities other parents find trying just don't faze teachers. I have a friend who burst into tears when recounting her first trip to the park because she found packing everything she needed for the baby so stressful. This wouldn't bother a teacher. It may take nearly an hour to get you, your offspring and all its associated paraphernalia out the front door, but the pleasure of walking to the park without shouting at children to keep facing forward while carrying seven inhalers, a sick bucket and two rolls of bin bags far outweighs the bad points.

If you're lucky, when you get there you might run into a school trip. You can steer your pram into the cafe, from where you can watch teachers trying to marshal their charges and eat sandwiches in the rain while you enjoy your cup of coffee.

Two of my friends are about to return to work and both have said they're looking forward to it. "It'll be so relaxing just to be around adults for a whole day, to spend my lunch hour shopping, reading or surfing the net; to drink a hot cup of coffee and go to the toilet when I want," one of them told me dreamily. I stared at her blankly, but the conversation reminded me that at some point I'm going to have to start doing the parent and the teacher thing simultaneously, which is where it's going to get tricky...

Jo Brighouse is a primary school teacher in the Midlands, England.

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