I find that lots of my conversations these days begin with the comment, "I was listening to this podcast...", and now I'm using it to start a blog post. But in this podcast, this lady (eek!) was talking all about re-launchers - those of us who have been out of full-time work as we raised our young children, and then face re-entry into a career space that doesn't recognise, let alone value, the time spent and skills developed through investing in this most precious resource. My relaunching phase has been stretched out over three children and two cities. I have filled it with much experience (raising children, losing my mind, volunteering, launching a business, losing my mind) and education in the shape of a Masters degree. But I have to admit, I'm still not sure what I want to be when I grow up.
We re-launchers have a lot to offer the workforce. We've gone almost mad not being at work and spending way too much time with infants and toddlers. (By "we", I mean me.) Once "we" decide to head back into the full-time work space, we are desperate to wear clothes that don't have to be washable nor allow for sitting on the floor. Although aa Kindergarten teacher, these are fine traits in clothes. Maybe it's just not wearing thongs (flip-flops for you Americans) every day and actually applying make-up. And oh, to use those brains that we once relied upon for more than finding shoes and plotting ways to sneak nutritious food into the mouths of the dictators - I mean the children - in our care. Add to that the skills of multitasking, organising, and abilty to relate to really difficult (little) people. But this time and these skills count only in the negative with my work. In my case, as my experience had been gained abroad I soon came to realise that this actually counted as a deficit.
I decided that rather than starting at the bottom again, it would be a good time to finally get that Masters degree which all that apparently useless experience overseas had gotten in the way of. And I loved every second of it. I chose the courses that peaked my interest, and the times that allowed me to escape bed-time once a week. I gained a lot from it. Except...I still wasn't sure exactly what the benefit would be to my career. It didn't make things any clearer for me, other than to reiterate how tough it is to teach today, and how undervalued and overworked our teachers are. So, despite missing with all my being the joys that come with teaching, I pursued my passion in writing education and began consulting.
Consulting has many benefits. I can choose my working hours - except I also have to chase them. I get to work with lots of different schools and teachers, children and communities - but it is only for a certain amount of time, and then those relationships are mostly lost and the opportunities to collaborate gone. The passion for this work is still there, possibly more than ever, but there are many aspects of teaching which I loved that are lacking.
So what comes next? Is there another re-launch on the horizon? I miss the neediness of my own kids, so perhaps I need to get that once again from a class. But as I have gotten older, and with the varied experiences I have had in such diverse contexts, I am less able to deal with practices and conventions that I don't think are best for the kids we teach or the teachers who teach them. Can I find a school system in Australia that will take me? So I am back to consulting. I will take the bad with the good, relishing the fact I can take my kids to school and pick them up most days. Missing the days we spent together in their infancy. Desiring the comradely of a school of teachers, and a class of children of my own. Always looking for what might come next.
I'm not despairing, however. As that lady (sorry!) said in that podcast, it is exciting to re-launch and position yourself to navigate a future on your own terms. Indeed. What a fortunate and exciting position to be in.