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What keeps me awake at night - Can I be a mother and a teacher?

Excitement and panic. They are what keep me awake at night. There are 110 nights remaining until I return work as a secondary teacher after what will be 11 months of maternity leave, and I suspect that for almost all of them thoughts of returning to work will punctuate the slow drift off to sleep.

Will I remember how to teach? Will I remember pupils' names? (And, rather embarrassingly, will I remember colleagues' names?) Will I have time for all that teaching requires? Will I be taken seriously now that I'm part-time? How will I feel about someone else bringing up our daughter while I'm at work supporting other people's children? How will I cope being a mother and a teacher? And - the question that returns to me most often as I try to focus on the same four pages of the latest book I am trying to read before bed - will I be any good at either role?

I just don't know.

Perhaps I will be hopeless at both, unable to devote sufficient time to either role.

I just don't know.

And yet, simultaneously, I find myself in many ways hugely excited about the return to work. In answer to the question "What do you do?", which so often comes up, especially as I meet my husband's colleagues, I will actually be able to answer with something other than a mumbled, "Well, I used to, erm, teach... but I've had a baby, so... " (Images of dirty washing, bottles, clean nappies, dirty nappies and sweeping half-chewed toast soldiers off the floor can't help but spring to my mind as I reply.) To which, incidentally, there is inevitably a reaction of either "So you teach primary?" - as though secondary school teachers are somehow only allowed to have teenage children and not seven-month-old babies - or "So, you're a lady who lunches."

In 111 nights' time I will once again be a person in my own right. A teacher. And one who is proud to be so. I will be able to think of things other than nappies and pureed food for a few hours a day. Lesson planning, making resources, marking, intervention work with GCSE students, inter-house events, revising schemes of work and all the other integral demands of being a teacher: they will be part of my life again. No, I won't be able to spend 60 or 70 hours a week working any more, but perhaps that is good. Life will be horribly busy, but is it naive to think that it may be more balanced, that there might be more "me" in my life as of January?

Maybe I'll be able to say in 117 nights' time.

I just don't know. But one thing is for sure: in answer to the question "What do you do?", I will once again be able to proudly state, "I'm a teacher."

The writer is a secondary French teacher in Northamptonshire. To tell us what keeps you awake at night, email

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