I haven't worked part time since I was in, what? college, maybe? The reasons behind my decision are many, but basically boil down to feeling like my life has taken control of me, instead of the other way around. My son needs more care and patience than I can give him at the end of an eight or ten hour workday. My mother needs care and attention. My daughter needs support in adjusting to her brother being home and all of the inevitable issues that arise. My husband is still struggling with his foot. And I-- *I* need some time to figure some things out.
So this is my last week, this semester, to work full time. FMLA allows up to twelve weeks unpaid leave for family situations such as mine. My son requires intensive care and therapy interventions, and thank God for FMLA in this economy. I'm only taking six of the twelve weeks, and only going part time at that, instead of taking the full amount off. I do think that some work is grounding for me. Plus I hate to leave my students--whether they are adults or children.
I am comfortable in my decision and know it is the best one for my family. I am hopeful that my son will flourish with the extra adult attention and extra therapeutic time this break will allow. I'm hoping that I will learn some better strategies in dealing with his disorders, as well as discovering some meaningful things about myself. I'm hoping my mother will continue to improve, and feel comforted knowing that I can go to see her more easily now if needed.
The most heartbreaking part of this process for me is leaving one of my preschool classes. You see, at my school, some of the children attend my class for up to three years. I have several right now who have been with me for three years, others for two, and of course there are some that this is their first year with me. Community is very important to me. I want my children to feel a part of the classroom--to love school, to love the curiosity of learning and the learning process, to feel confident to share their thoughts with the group. We are nutty bunch together--our days filled with lots of learning and fun and explorations and adventures. We laugh together every day. We learn new things about the world. We are friends.
Leaving your friends is never easy. The idea of leaving these children for the last six weeks is heartbreaking. Tomorrow, I will begin talking with them about how they will be getting a new teacher. And we will begin to count down the days until I leave.
I don't know a way to make life easier for them, other than a positive attitude and a great new teacher. They will have both. They'll have a fun week of learning with me before I hand them over to a hand-picked long term substitute. Knowing that I'm doing what is best for my family, and that I have to put my family first, is of little comfort when thinking of these nineteen children I have come to know as my own little teachers, learners, adventurers. My buddies. I will miss them.
I am fortunate that FMLA will protect my job so that I can return, hopefully full time, in the fall and resume teaching that same class. Some of my buddies will still be there. And I am thankful for that. They are too young to know how difficult this is, how I agonized over this decision because of them. I know they will be okay in the end, and so will I, but saying goodbye sucks. And in this instance, it sucks royally. Like raw egg-sucking sucks.
Love and purpose are guiding factors for me. I find both in my work, especially with this group of children. But what I recognize, which has been most difficult, is the need to find and hone in on these two factors in my personal life. Love and purpose have to cross over for me, into the arena of my personal world, more clearly. And hopefully the next six weeks will do that.