So the last time I had a “real” job was in 2010-2011 and I was a full-time Para-Professional in the school system. I did get summers off and was at school by 8:30am and out by 3:30pm. So I guess technically it was part-time? Prior to that I worked for myself baking dog biscuits and creating animal gift baskets for Lucky Paw Gifts (named after our first dog), and before that I was a teacher’s aide at a school. I really haven’t had a full time job (not including the school jobs) since I was a call center operator at Alimed in Massachusetts in 2000. I have worked officially since I was 13 at the public library in Swampscott, Massachusetts, the town where I grew up. Before that I baby sat for $2.00/hr starting at age 11. I’ve worked full-time since I was 16- 40 hrs a week as a tutor while I went to the Community College (left high school early). So I worked a full time job from the age of 16 up until we had kids.
In our family we decided together that I’d stay home with the kids. It was a negotiation, like anything in our marriage. He was a Software Engineer and I was a teacher’s aide (forgot I did that just before the dog biscuit gig) and we knew that with his income much higher than mine, it made sense for me to stay home. Soon in less than 3 years we had 3 kids (Cole arrived at the 2 years 9 mo. mark since having Quinn) and there was no way we could afford to put them all in daycare even if I was working a well-paying, full-time job. So that became our normal and we liked it.
In 2010 I returned to work at the kid’s school and it went well and I continued thru the winter of 2011 just before the end of the year. Cole had begun to get sick and we didn’t know why. He required a lot of intervention from the nurse. My Principal had approached me in the late fall and suggested I take leave (at this time I was a Reading Specialist) to be there for Cole. I literally switched from working 36.5 hrs a week to volunteering 20 hrs a week doing essentially the same job so I could be in the building when Cole needed medical intervention with his asthma symptoms. It stunk. My dreams of becoming a teacher were shattered. I had been on the plan to finish the year out as a reading specialist, take the MTEL’s (teacher exams) and student teach the next fall. It was a good plan. I knew as the kids got older I could retain my Master’s degree which is required in the state of MA within 5 years of getting your teacher’s certificate. I was excited to start back at it.
All of those dreams ended in June of 2012. Cole was out sick for 2 weeks but he became well at home. Well enough to only need his inhaler at night. The last few days he didn’t need it at all. I called the doctor. It was the last day of school and asked permission to let him go in and say goodbye to all his Kindergarten friends, attend the end of the year party and thank his teacher. She said “sure” and so we went. Within about 2 minutes of being in his classroom he began this bark like cough and I started to cry. I said “I can’t believe he’s now coming down with CROUP! He’s been so well at home the past 2 weeks!” That was when the teacher looked at me and said “What do you mean? This cough, he has it every single day- that’s how I know he’s here when I take attendance!” Holy smokes- I had never spent any time in his classroom, only meeting the nurse at the office to give him his meds. We both ran to the Nurse who then ran us to the Principal’s office. It had to be something in the classroom. Before we could say too much the Principal said “There is NO MOLD in this building!” and funny thing is my response was “Um- I never said there was…”
And so an investigation on my part began. I made inquiries. I asked my other 2 kids how they felt at home vs in school and my daughter’s leg rashes she had every fall and Spring went away and Quinn’s bad Fall and Spring headaches went away too. I knew that the school was built on wetlands. I knew that the flooring was concrete and I knew that there was lots of white swirls all over the carpets. I called some teacher friends of mine who wished to remain anonymous and they said “GO TO THE MUSIC ROOM- there is BLACK MOLD on the walls!” EGADS! So I called the superintendent,no response. I wrote to the town’s health department and again – no response. I then called the Environmental Protection Agency in Boston and spoke to Mike Feeney who told me he’d be happy to come and do an Indoor Air Quality test but since he has to be invited I would have to really push the town to let him in. LET HIM IN? WHAT? Apparently the Board of Health can enter any building, school, restaurant etc but not the EPA. Preposterous, but it was true. So I began talking to anyone who would listen to me and honestly probably just to get me to shut up they invited the EPA to the school in August. School would begin in September and I figured it’d be ok.
Long story short (if that’s possible) is that the school prepared well for the visit. They painted hallways that hadn’t been painted in years. They put tile in the foyer,ripping up 22-year-old carpets. They made it look all shiny and new and they cleaned the air ducts. They also opened up every single door and window for a week prior to the testing. I got a call the day of the testing. “They prepared for me. They went again my request to leave the building as it has been to get accurate information. My recommendations will only be that, it’s not enforceable by law..” He went onto say “The school has definite issue, there is a higher than State average using inhalers and most of them began using them after entering Kindergarten. He said the Kindergarten wing in particular had a mold problem but it wasn’t a public health hazard.” Well, well. Since finding out about Mold we had gotten Cole allergy tested and sure enough he was allergic to Mold and Latex. Mr. Feeney suggested I pull all 3 kids as he would not allow his 3 kids to attend the school even though the air quality wasn’t alarming. I wasn’t sure what to do but we made a decision about a week before school began, to home school all 3 kids.
So unbeknownst to me I’d have my dream of becoming a teacher, just not the way I imagined. I worked as a homeschooling teacher/mom for 5 years. I provided resources, researched educational opportunities, and provided guidance as needed. It was hard but it was fun. Meghan asked to go back to school in the winter of 2016/2017 and she asked to start in August of 2017. The boys soon followed and I had 3 kids going into 3 different schools and the Spring of 2017 was probably our busiest homeschooling semester ever. They had to take placement tests over several days (at 3 different schools at 3 different times), they had to go to orientations and meet everyone. It was arduous but it was worth it. They all began in August and we haven’t looked back. It’s been great for them and now I have some time to do something for me and I have found it.
I am now a Research Assistant at the WWII Research and Writing Center. I get to work from home and meet in person about once a week and I get to do something new and exciting and work that will never bore me. I can utilize my degree in Anthropology and African-American studies finally to get some other vantage points to the research and I can utilize all of my other skills as it’s clear I am more than a Research Assistant. The new job title will get sorted out over time but meanwhile my life is full and I am excited. But I wonder- how do I manage a part time job, a 5 hr a week driving job, 3 kids, dropping 3 kids to school daily and a return pick up later in the day and all of the house-hold chores that are normally on my plate. ???
Yeah that is what I have to figure out and I know I will. I only started my job on March 26th so I am slowly working up to figuring out how to juggle my time and I give all you full-time working Moms credit. I am not sure how you juggle it all. I know some of my friends have cleaning ladies and some do take out at least once a week, if not more. I know some have helpers who do this and that and maybe their Spouse works 40 hrs and they take on some of it too. My husband works about 60 or more and he travels so I don’t get a ton of help. To ensure he gets quality time with the family we hired a lawn service about a year ago. It’s worth the money to spend time with John instead of losing him to “lawn time.”
So now I felt it was a good time to begin again and I feel good about it. I didn’t even truly apply for this job. I wasn’t looking and one morning I was on Facebook (like every morning) and I was on for like 15 minutes and I saw a job posting on another FB friend’s timeline and I was like “cool” and that was that. I posted under the job posting and got messaged about it and the rest is history. I am excited and I am renewed and I value my family and my free time way more than I did a few weeks ago.
Now to figure out how to get more help around the house (all the kids are old enough to do their fair share and we will figure out what that is). I think I’ve got to learn to juggle and balance and I’m up for it. I honor all of you who have to juggle life, kids, working and more. In truth, my new job is not much more work than homeschooling (actually that was a lot more work without any concrete deadlines) and I think that’s the big difference here- I have accountability to someone else and I know I will figure out how to manage that. So that’s the big CHANGE that is going on in my life. But I feel good about the direction I am taking and that makes all the difference.