It finally happened — I returned to my post as Academic Director at our little school. I knew this day was coming, but I certainly put it off as long as possible in the hopes that somehow perhaps the school would vanish into another dimension before I went back, thus relieving me of my responsibilities. But alas, it was not to be, and I grudgingly made my way back to school this weekend, and like a kid returning after summer holiday, I was a bit excited, but mostly not so thrilled at the prospect.
As anyone who has ever gone on maternity leave can attest, no matter how capable the hands that you turn your job over to might be, you never know what to expect when you return. This especially holds true when you are, like me, a manager of sorts and responsible for all manner of people and crises. Throughout the duration of my leave I’d fielded phone calls from the staff, who despite being sympathetic to the fact that I’m a new mother, and thus very busy at the moment, were clearly desperate for my return. This is due in large part to the fact that my partner at work, the woman who is my Chinese counterpart (and also in control of doling out our paychecks) decided to have a scheduled C-section on payday last month. Thus the entire staff did not get paid for several weeks, which left them in the odd position of feeling like they should be sympathetic for our manager, rather than annoyed about their pay, which they clearly were no matter how hard they tried to hide it. In any case, one boss out on maternity leave was hard enough, but with both gone the school was clearly engulfed in chaos. Having no managers at work might sound like a sort of office-utopia, but the reality was, apparently, not so much fun, and thus I returned to this state of chaos and started making attempts to straighten things out.
I have posted about my school before, and most of it has been positive. I do enjoy running my school, and the kids definitely make me happy, even more so now that I’m a mother myself. That said, it has never been my ultimate ambition to be a teacher, or even to manage a school, and now that I have a son and am approaching my thirties, I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t seize the moment and do what I’ve always wanted to do, return to school for my PhD, pursue work as a translator, try for a job with an NGO — in short, get out of the TEFL business. With a child in the picture everything is more complicated than it was before, and my husband and I both owe it to our son to make sure that whatever path we choose, we do something that will allow Dylan a decent education above all else. So, while I’ve returned to work (and the Chinese manager, who also gave birth to a little boy, by the way, will be back soon too. And everyone did end up getting paid in the end, in case you’re wondering), I’m definitely keeping my ears to the ground in a way that I wasn’t before.
And while I’m on the subject of returning to work, I should mention that my husband Wang Yao also started his new job as a stay at home dad. This isn’t very common in China, but it should be relatively clear at this point that we’re not a very common type of family! Since I’m the breadwinner around here (the only way Wang Yao could win the bread as a musician would be for him to be out on tour and away from us all the time), Wang Yao happily agreed to stay at home with young Dylan. When I returned home on my first day I found a happily sleeping baby and a dad busy cooking up dinner. Wang Yao told me he and Dylan had a wonderful time in the park and that Dylan had been smiling loads all day long. I’d been a bit apprehensive about how Wang Yao would actually handle being alone with the baby for such a long period of time, but he and Dylan both did great, leaving me free to return to my chaos guilt-free.