Becoming a parent: The baby’s arrival

30th March 2018 at 00:00
Two teachers share the life-changing experience of having a baby – and how that affected their day jobs

Becoming a parent will change you

As a teacher in my twenties, a lot of bonding with my colleagues was done via Friday drinks. It was a way to unwind from our high-pressure school environment and to welcome the weekend.

When I first became a parent, I gradually stopped attending these get-togethers. My partner was at home with our son all day and I felt like it was a good idea to relieve her, so after-work drinks became rarer.

With time, I realised I no longer wanted to go. I spent a lot of time at work already – at that time, I was a head of maths – and I decided that, actually, I just wanted to be home with my family.

Other things also shifted. Until then, it’s fair to say that I was a workaholic. Suddenly, I felt there was more to life than work and I was stricter about not letting the job bleed into my personal time. I didn’t become less ambitious (later, I joined the senior leadership team when our second and third children – twin girls – were a few months old), nor did I work any less hard. I simply became ruthless with my time. Lunches and breaktimes were no longer for talking in the staffroom – now I crammed my non-teaching work responsibilities into every possible bit of my time in school, so I had less to do at home.

Oddly, because I didn’t have as much time to myself, it made me value it more and I took up hobbies, such as photography, that previously I’d never have made time for.

This is my experience only – becoming a parent will change everyone in different ways. But it will change you. And you need to accept that it will.

Iesha Small is a teacher, educational researcher and author. Her book The Unexpected Leader will be published in September. She is a member of the MTPT Project

Being on call

The role of the parent-in-waiting who is not carrying the child and who is working as a teacher is stressful. All being well, you have a four-week window in which a birth might happen; normal life must continue until it does.

Life as a PE teacher made things more complicated. Not only did I have to be contactable during lessons, but my week is filled with sports fixtures, training and clubs.

You can prepare as best you can. Having your cover ready in advance is essential, along with a list of ongoing issues you’re dealing with. As head of year, I had several complex matters for which I had to write up a brief history, just in case anything happened in my absence.

You try to foresee every possibility, so that if you have to drop everything, run and not return for two weeks, your colleagues and students will not be adversely affected.

As for the clubs and training sessions, I called in favours from people to cover me; people tend to be very understanding, and you would do the same for them.

After that, it is just a matter of keeping your phone on. I am not going to lie, concentration is difficult – you just want the baby to arrive safely.

But you muddle through and, again, people are understanding. Particularly the students. If my phone rang, they would instantly sit up and ask whether it was time for me to run. They were obviously very disappointed every time it was just a random sales call.

But when it does happen for real, good prep means everything can continue in your absence without a hitch, as it should do.

Patrick Hallahan is a PE teacher and head of year at St Martin’s School in Essex

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