Skyping with a 19-month-old
For the past four years I’ve taught in the European section of my high school, to the seconde (=tenth graders), and I LOVE IT. I love these kids so much. I get to be a homeroom teacher (=professeur principal), and my class is actually only at most half Euro-section kids, but this mix is just magic, and the class is so great.
I jumped on the opportunity to teach this class when our Euro section grew to a class-and-a-half and we needed not only someone to take on the extra English hours, but also take them on an exchange trip.
When I took up this class, of course, I was living with J, not yet married though in the midst of wedding planning, and having kids was in the plans but very abstract—as it is for everyone, I think, until those kids arrive and change your life.
When we were trying to get pregnant, I had no idea how to manage these secret plans and also probably take my students on their exchange trip. I discretely checked out partner schools that were NOT a 27-hour bus ride away, and in the end, got to travel by plane since my group was so small. In the midst of mostly secret first-trimester fatigue and nausea, this trip somehow turned out to be one of my best. The kids were so sweet, the colleagues were so nice, and the country was so beautiful.
I got back home and announced my pregnancy and took organizing a school trip off the table for the following year. While colleagues seemed to haphazardly forget that I was not doing this trip and need reminding, everything worked out really well and I actually got to keep teaching and homeroom-ing this class, save for the four months I was on maternity leave.
And then my colleague told me he was taking the 11th graders to Ireland. So we all know how my “no trip” plans worked out. Again I got to go on a fantastic trip with sweet students and wonderful colleagues and, truthfully, visiting Northern Ireland was culturally really important to me and also blew my mind. But it was really hard leaving Littlest even then, when he was too small to really understand when I was and wasn’t there.
So this year I’ve jumped right back in the game renewing our exchange with our partner school in Warsaw. And this time I also hosted a Polish teacher and managed the week that the Polish students were here. And it was exhausting with a tiny man in the house—repeated evenings out are not my thing anymore, and Littlest was not sleeping great the week before our guests arrived.
For the time being I’ve firmly decided I won’t leave for any more than a week, which means traveling by plane, which is more comfortable for everyone anyway. A week is about as much time as J can take, I think, taking care of Littlest alone, but also as long as I can stand to leave them.
But I don’t know how moms who leave all the time do it!
Add to the equation that these aren’t trips that I can just back out of—sixty-plus people this year were counting on me to be there unless there was some sort of emergency. So how exactly do you juggle having and planning a family with this dynamic?