What keeps me awake at night - Every child matters apart from my own

31st August 2012 at 01:00

As I trawl through the mountain of marking and homework in preparation for the new term, my son patiently waits for an answer to a question I never really heard. As a mother of two, an eight-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter, I find that a balance between work and life is increasingly unattainable.

I am swamped by the endless amount of planning, prep and often pointless meetings. Before the summer holidays, I had to explain to my son that I couldn't attend his sports day because of meetings at work. This seemed somewhat ironic, as one of the meetings was to improve the welfare of other children whose parents cannot be bothered.

I seem to spend more time and effort on other people's children than my own. I can hear the words of my mother-in-law: "You can't have it all." I think she might actually be right.

As I look around the staffroom, most teachers in senior roles have no children. I am yet to work for a head who has ventured down the rocky and unpredictable path of parenthood. Are schools "family friendly"? The answer, I'm afraid, is definitely not. A teacher's child seems to be confined to photographs in wallets and purses. The screensavers on many a laptop at my school are of teachers' children, who are waiting patiently for some attention.

The new term tends to begin with a flurry of teachers bringing their children to school for Inset days. I will be one of them, not listening to a word anybody has to say as I try to turn my son's Nintendo DS down and hope he doesn't need the loo halfway through the head's "back to school" speech.

Family friendly? God, no! Our children must be placed on the back burner between the hours of 8am and 4.30pm. We are looked down on for keeping our phones on if our child is ill; if we need time off the eyes of senior management begin to roll.

I would like to say that being a mother always comes first, but in reality the school bell, GCSE targets, curriculum changes and Michael Gove's flash-in-the-pan initiatives seem to dictate most family scenarios.

I try to juggle meetings with swimming, Cub Scouts, sports days, football, moderation and marking, and debate whether I should send my potentially ill child to school, for fear of what the senior leadership team may think if I need time off. I feel like the proverbial swan that seems graceful above the water but is paddling furiously beneath. For a teacher, it seems that every child matters apart from your own.

The writer is a maths teacher in Nottingham. To tell us what keeps you awake at night, email david.marley@tes.co.uk.

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