Yesterday, I visited work to catch up and say hi to a few people. It was actually very nice to be in there, and I got a great reaction from the kids (and totally interrupted their lunch - sorry colleagues!)
I don't go back for another two weeks yet, but I thought it would be a good idea to start popping in and getting a feel for the place again. I finished work on the 18th of December last year. Samuel died 4 days later, and I haven't been back since. It has made me wonder how other people go in jobs where they can only get three days bereavement leave, or they have to go back after a week or two. I'm very lucky that I had enough personal leave saved, and an understanding doctor, or I may not have been able to have all this time off. And while I'm doing OK here at home now (most days), I don't think I would have done my job well. It's also been good to be here for Anthony and Ollie.
While it was good visiting yesterday, I'm not sure whether I could have done the job well if I had gone back a month ago. At the same time, I'm starting to realise how unproductive I can be!
It's amazing how much of nothing you can do when you don't have to go to work. Don't get me wrong, I have been doing stuff, but there are also mornings where I can literally do nothing and suddenly realise it's lunch time.
I think I'm one of those people who needs to be busy. I like being productive and making an impact in the world. I like to do something and be able to see the results (unfortunately in teaching the results are not always tangible, but I can generally see the difference I make to kids, even if I don't always see it in their work). I get fidgety and fiddly if I sit still for too long and tend to do several things at once. I think some of that comes from being a woman, and some of it is genetic. I have vivid memories of my grandmother knitting, watching the tennis on TV, listening to the cricket on the radio and having a conversation all at the same time. I've always got 6 or 7 tabs open when I'm on the internet as I can't just wait for one to load, I've got to go back to the other one. I am always the one who sticks their hand up to volunteer for this job or that one, even if I don't really want it and I always have several 'projects' going on at home.
It's funny though, the busier I am, the more productive I seem to be. And if I let myself get into the habit of idleness, I can do it very well too. As I mentioned above, I can be very good at doing nothing, but I get fed up with that pretty quickly. I wasn't even really all that good at the stay-at-home-mother thing. I loved spending time with my kids, but would probably have done more of that (and napping) than the housework etc that I should have been doing. And I would have missed adult company! I need to talk to people, to stimulate my brain, and the likes of Oprah and Dr Phil just ain't gonna do that for me (**please don't misinterpret my meaning, I think stay-at-home parents are fantastic and do a great job, it's just not a job that suits me). Luckily I was in a position to be able to go to uni/work, and Anthony was able to do what he needed to do (be a stay-at-home parent and start his own business).
Back to work?
My first reaction to the thought of going back to work was that I absolutely had to get out of a school (actually, my first reaction was to pack up my two boys and head for the hills, but that was a little unrealistic). I love teaching, and will probably do it (or something very much like it) until I retire, but there were two main reasons I would have found it difficult: the emotional commitment to a class; and the time commitment that teaching demands.
So I started the ball rolling in the Education Department, to see if they could get me an office job. One thing about this grief stuff is that you never know how you're going to feel from one day to the next, and in the week or two after I did that I started to think about how disruptive that would be for me and my family.
I then contacted my boss to see if she could give me a job in a school that doesn't involve teaching a class. The main reason for this is I just didn't think I could give my 'all' to one class. Some teachers are able to detach and just do the job 9-3, but a combination of perfectionism, stubbornness and empathy compels me to bust my gut for each class that I take on. In a support role, where I am teaching more than one class, I can do my little bit of planning and assessing and behaviour management, but it doesn't have to as full on as with a class full of kids. And I wouldn't have 25 kids depending on me. I wasn't sure if I could depend on myself, let alone a group of kids in some very important years of schooling.
Luckily my boss was able to accommodate me, and I will be teaching all classes in the school when I return. After visiting yesterday, I thought that would probably be OK. I'm glad I am not taking on a class, but I am also glad to be going back to school.
It must be so hard for people to return to work quicker than I have. I guess teaching and the demands that it makes on your time and your mental health do make it a difficult job when you're grieving as well (it's a difficult job at the best of times!), but I can't imagine running a McDonalds or waiting tables or sitting at a table pushing papers around would be much easier.