We finally made a decision on what to put as first choice school for Tink’s reception year. After another visit to one of the choices, and after a lot of deliberation as well as the writing of a list of pros and cons over a hearty breakfast, we came to the decision that we’d put down the school she’s at now. The pros far outweighed the two cons, and the other school had a fair smattering of both, so it was a no-brainer in the end. We have no way of knowing that this is the right decision, but we have to trust our instinct for now. Who knows what the future holds?
Something I hadn’t even considered until it was mentioned on our tour of ‘the other school’, was that Tink may not even do full days at school – for a while at least. Maybe a good while. Legally she doesn’t have to be in education until summer 2017 and, if there isn’t enough funding to pay for a full-time one-to-one support, they may suggest she does half days. Or she may just not cope with a full day. So now I’m having to consider what I will do in terms of child care if that happens. If I’m at work, I can’t collect her, and I really don’t want to rely on my parents any longer than the rest of this school year. They do far too much as it is, and this is their retirement. They should be enjoying it as much as possible. So this means that I either need the holy grail of a 9-12 job really close to school or at home, or I don’t work at all.
So, this leads to my latest dilemma. To work, or not to work? Currently, I have a fab job, managing a Preschool open for just four mornings per week, and only in school term time, meaning I don’t work in the holidays. It sounds perfect, doesn’t it? And it was. B.A (Before Autism). Recently, I am finding it all incredibly stressful and, on top of still trying to get me head around Tink’s diagnosis and learning how this affects her life and our life as a family, I am not coping well.
Although the job is supposed to be only four mornings, I take my work home with me. I actually, physically have to take it home – I have no office or computer at work, so my kitchen table is my workspace to do admin stuff. I never switch off. I email parents late at night – if I don’t reply as soon as possible, there’s a chance my sleep-deprived, cotton wool-filled brain will forget. I lie awake worrying about whether I’ve sent the funding application off in time, or thinking of ways we can demonstrate we promote fundamental British values in the setting. I research different ways of planning, or scour Pinterest for interesting activities to try. I update the facebook parents’ group, write newsletters, prepare invoices, check wages, write up observations on my key children and assess these, ready to plan for their next steps in learning. I go shopping for glitter (did you know we’re not supposed to use it with small children?! I didn’t!), paper, glue and paint, I update spreadsheets and registers. I prepare supervision meetings for my team, reports for the committee, update policies and risk assessments. I answer enquiries about places, chase up references for new staff, think up content for staff meetings, check who needs what training and book courses. I print, cut, stick and laminate.
This is just a little of what I do. And it’s fine. It’s part of the role and I enjoy it. But it takes up way more of my time than I get paid for. And it takes up precious time I want to be – no – need to be spending with my children – Tink in particular. By the time I’ve collected her from her Grandparents after lunch, there’s not long left before we have to go and fetch H from school. And, more often than not, that time will be spent returning phone calls, answering emails and doing jobs that need immediate attention. Meaning Tink gets very little. And this is what I’m finding difficult. I am really struggling with the feeling that I don’t have enough time to devote to Tink and her needs. She’s at the age where I feel we could make real progress with her speech and communication and her tolerance for adult-directed activities, if only I had quality time to do some work with her, rather than just the odd half hour here and there, or weekends when H is around too. Nursery have made some suggestions, as has the speech therapist that she saw at school, but I just haven’t had the time to properly implement any of these. And I feel awful. I feel as though I’m neglecting her. I feel that if I don’t do it now, we’ll miss the boat and we’re making things harder for her.
The other thing is just the general responsibility of it all. I’d love a job with little to no responsibility, where I could just pack up at the end of a shift and leave it all behind for the next day. However, the buck stops with me. When Ofsted come knocking, I’m the one in the firing line and, if things aren’t as they should be, I’m to blame. I am a perfectionist when it comes to my work, and I’m my own harshest critic and worst enemy. I constantly feel that I could do better, that we could be better and I’m always striving for that, no matter what the restrictions to actually achieving that may be (no permanent set-up, lack of funds, staff, resources…) This, of course, is not a bad thing. It’s what makes great people great, after all – the constant drive for better. But it is a bad thing when it becomes all-consuming. At the expense of things that should take priority, such as your children, for example. the search for perfection is making my anxiety much, much worse again lately, and my stress levels are way too high. I am on the verge of going to the GP, which I really don’t want to do.
I am exploring ways of making my current role less stressful. Like not doing my current role! (I’m working on a plan, but I’m not hopeful!) I don’t want to leave my job; I like the people, the place and I love the kids! In a normal world, the hours would be ideal. It’s a bit further from home than I’d like, but it’s manageable. It’s just not compatible with my home life right now. It’s funny how your whole world can turn on its head in the blink of an eye.