I certainly expected at some point in my life to be a working mom. When you marry a teacher, you can pretty much see that one coming! And in my hypothetical world, I wanted to be a working mom. Maybe not always or right away but I was definitely at peace with that idea. What I didn't expect was to not just be a working parent but the only working parent. I had always assumed if we did have a stay at home parent, it would be me. I had never counted on being the 'breadwinner' if you will. And I certainly never expected that I'd be working with children in the hospital. With babies in the ICU. With medically fragile dependent babies to worry about every day. I mean, of course not. No one ever expects things like that. So of course it is unexpected. But it's not all bad. Being a working mom is sometimes bad but sometimes really good. It may sound strange but in a way I actually don't see how I would have survived these last two years without my job.
Since people may not know how we ended up with our current set up, it was basically a matter of default. At the time the babies were born, I had a full time permanent position at a school I had been at for 2 years and Al was working every day substitute teaching. He had a hard time getting full time work here between immigation issues and the economy being well, sucky. We had no idea it would be as hard as it was but anyway, it was. So for the year the babies were born and in the NICU, we managed to both keep working some. I didn't actually work a lot that semester after the babies were born but enough to hold on to my job. And Al subbed when he could. And then the babies came home and obviously we had to have a parent home with them since they came home on dialysis 17 hours a day. And my job was secure and had insurance and Al's was not. So he would be the one to stay home and I'd be the one to work.
I love teaching but I will tell you that I went back to work at the start of last year for the insurance. And it was worth every second of stress. Our insurance paid for all of Max and Addie's medical needs and went above and beyond paying for us to go to California and even covering a lot of our travel expenses. We would not have been able to transplant Addie without it. Our insurance saved our babies lives and I know that going to work was the best thing I could do for them last year as their mom.
But my goodness, it was hard some days. Max was in his phase of turning blue and stopping breathing and I worried about him many days. We had appointments with hearing specialists and neurologists and were told absolutely gut-wrenching bad news and I'd head back into work the next day. Then Addie got so sick in November and ended up in the ICU. And I really tried to work part of that time but only made it 4 days out of that 3 weeks. I juggled transplant plans and hemodialysis, surgeries and a lot of concerns about Max's condition in Spring semester last year. There were many days when going to work and teaching was the absolute last thing on my mind.
Teaching teenagers though is such an interesting job. I know there were days when I just wished I had a boring desk job where I could sit there and churn through some numbers- anything that did not involve being 'on' and enthusiastic and disciplining teenagers. (One day the year Max and Addie were born I returned from a week off for their kidney removal surgery to find that one of my students had drawn a very realistic life sized drawing of Osama Bin Laden across a lab bench in my classroom- it's always fun to see what teenagers will throw your way!) Teenagers don't take it easy on you when you are going through a hard time or having a bad day. They don't sit quietly so you can decompress at your desk. They are full speed ahead, ready to take advantage if you are tired and weak. They say things that make you well up with tears, like when you hear one of them make fun of deaf people when you are dealing with your child's hearing loss... or hearing them call special ed students the 'r word' when you've just been told your child has cognitive deficits. There have been moments when teaching with everything we have had going on has just felt impossible.
BUT, the same things that made teaching hard are also what kept me sane and helped me through. Falling apart wasn't an option. No matter what was going on, I had to plaster on a smile and stand there and get excited for Science. I had to leave my stress behind. I had to be strong. I had to find some happiness and enthusiasm on days when I would have rather sulked. And doing that actually helped me be strong, it helped me be happy and it cheered me up. Having to act cheerful ended up making me cheerful a lot of days. And for every teenager who would say inappropriate things or act up, there were 3 others who loved me and would ask how my kids are and come in smiling and glad to see me when I was there. There were kids who would make me laugh with their funny stories and make me smile with their sweet attitudes and cheerful dispositions. My students ended up being an escape for me, a source of joy for me. I actually credit them with helping me through last year.
On top of that, I am so lucky because I work with amazing other teachers who supported me in every way from donating paid leave to bringing us meals to helping with my classes when I was gone. I have had so much support from my workplace. And I actually became really close friends with some of my co workers. When everything first happened with Max and Addie, I felt really lonely because my closest friends were all the way in Australia. Hannah would talk to me all the time and I emailed her almost daily and she came out and visited. But I didn't have a really close friend here to talk to and share it all with. Then my crazy year last year happened and I did keep working and I was there even on tough days and I shared those crises and my friendships become closer and stronger and by the end of the year, I wasn't lonely any more. My friend Shannon is one of my best friends and she helped me through every single bad day last year and even came and stayed with us in California and even if nothing else about work was great, it'd be worth going every day just to see her. And the other friends I have made there. As much as I would have loved to be home with my babies, I know I needed that support last year and that it proved to be a great blessing that I had to go to work and was in an environment where I was encouraged, helped and loved through it all.
Now this year at work has been this great fresh start. I haven't been away. I have felt like I've been able to teach properly and with less distraction. I have a lot of great students that I really love and I'm not feeling like I have to fake enthusiasm and cheerfulness. We are in a much better place and being a working mom has been easier. It's about to get a bit trickier as we head into another transplant but I'm really glad I've had such a steady few months and feel like I've really started this school year off on a totally different note from the last couple!
So even though it hasn't always been easy and even though it means missing out on way too many hours with my precious babies, I am so thankful for my job. I am thankful I have a job because I know that is a blessing in itself. I am thankful that it has enabled me to take care of my babies and ensure they got their medical needs met. I am thankful for the days my students have cheered me up more than they'll ever know and I'm thankful that I get to go to work and see my friends who listen, make me laugh and love me and my family in good times and bad.