Tags: Emotional Literacy | SEAL Coordinator | Teaching and Learning | Work-Life Balance

Waiting for the birth of her second baby boy, drama teacher and head of emotional literacy Julie Leoni reflects on the difference between teacher time and mummy time

When you read this, I will be the mother of two boys. I am writing it, though, in the second week of my maternity leave, with the baby sticking his feet up under my ribs so as to keep me focused on what is important!

Time difference

It is strange to find myself again in the world of mothering, where time is governed by the forces of nature. As much as I would like baby to come sooner rather than later, as many hills as I walk up, as much rest as I take, he’s going to come when he’s ready! It is a long way from school, where time is always obsessively managed. I have an internalised bell ringing to such an extent that my estimate of how long things will take is usually spot on. I’m always on time, I remember all the things I have to do at set times and I hold a near perfect diary in my head. And did I mention that I can get really stressed if things don’t go to my internal time plan!


As a result of my new freedom, my first child Matty and I were able to go to our local school’s pre-school Ladybirds this week. On previous visits, he has clung to me and hidden from the other kids; so last Sunday night I reassured him that I would stay with him, to which he replied, ‘You don’t have to’. Feeling a slightly smug sense of ‘mother knows best’, I just replied that we would see how he felt when we got there. Monday morning arrived and he was up, dressed and fed and waiting to join the neighbour and her two children on their walk into school. Cerys, the eight-year-old, grabbed Matty and ushered him all the way to school, showing him which gate to go through, introducing him to the teacher and telling me where I should meet him. At this point, Lloyd, another neighbour, came to say ‘hi’ and to show Matty where to hang his bag, before handing over to Ben, aged four, who is also a neighbour and who would be Matty’s buddy for the day. ‘Do you want me to stay?’ I offered. ‘You can go home’, were his parting words as he disappeared with a crowd of kids to do ‘stuff’.

Everyday story

There are several reasons why this everyday tale of village folk is so significant for me. One is just the recognition that things change. I’ve left school for a short time, just as Matty is starting the process of full-time education. His interests and relationships are spreading beyond the home and into the community, while all my energy is becoming increasingly focused on the life inside me and those closest to me. His time is still structured and mine is more fluid. For once I am on the receiving end of the educational system, rather than part of it. I was also reminded about how important school was for me as a child. It was a safe, stable place when things at home where going awry. It provided friends to play with and later confide in; teachers who cared and were more emotionally predictable than my parents for a time. School was a place where I felt at home. When my mum announced that we were moving away, I refused to go and organised friends to live with, as I knew I needed not only stability to pass my O-levels, but also my attachments to get me through. It also brings home for me how good it is to have found a pace of life where neighbours do stop and talk on the street, where we can borrow wheelbarrows and walk each other’s kids to school, and where there is time to sit on the village bench and see how many tractors and trucks will flash their lights when we wave! Finally, I recognise that while being on time, and hurrying up so not to be late, may be useful ways of getting through the school day, they are actually obstacles to intimacy. Anyone who has ever tried to hurry a toddler out of the house in the morning knows that it is not the way to create a warm and sharing start to the day. Allocating ‘quality time’ has much the same effect. As a part-time worker I don’t have to do the ‘quality time’ thing, but I have friends who do and who can’t understand why their progeny don’t always appreciate and enjoy the time as their parents would like.

Enriching lessons

So, however much I try to control time and change, I will lose. Instead, motherhood has given me another opportunity to step out of the timeframe of work, to reprioritise and to be ‘busy doing nothing’, or rather, just being. Time to be with people, and to surrender my timeframe to the needs of one just being born. Not easy, painless lessons, but important and enriching ones.

Julie is now spending her time with Ben, who was born in the second week of June.

This article first appeared in School Financial Management – Jul 2007

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