The Maine island we live on is in transition from winter to spring. Ice and snow have given way to alternating drizzle and sunshine. Frost heaves (out here we call them “Thank you ma’ams!”) are flattening themselves out, and back yards and sheds are filling up with freshly painted pot buoys. Murders of crows are sharing the roadsides with flocks of robins.
I’m transitioning with the seasons. We saw the baby in 3D at our last ultrasound, and checked her for growth restriction (all good!). My baby shower was perfect, sunlit, and tulip-adorned; full of delicious food, family, and friends. We even found places for all of the presents, thanks to the cleaning and reorganizing we’d already done.
The last transition before the big one will be handing my classroom over to my long-term sub. Miraculously, we were able to hire someone on-island with enough of a music and English background to cover all of my classes, and a colleague is directing the spring play. I applied for and received a sabbatical for the first half of the next school year, too, so in all I’ll have eight months home with my baby.
Planning curriculum knowing that I won’t be there to implement it, selecting songs for a spring concert that I won’t be there to conduct, teaching my colleague the budgeting procedures for the play–it’s bittersweet. On the one hand, I’m taking time off for the best possible reason. And, in addition to my baby-oriented schedule, I’ll be taking time to write a lot, develop some curriculum, and improve my clarinet playing (very important for a band teacher!).
But I’ve had my job for nine years now. It’s my first and only career. I’ve had my eighth grade students since they were in Kindergarten, and the senior class was in fourth grade when I arrived as a magenta-haired 24-year-old from Boston in 2005. I’ve directed 35 plays, with some challenges and some triumphs, like a fishing-inflected Macbeth this fall. Kids as young as first grade acted alongside community adults, speaking their Elizabethan lines while wearing their oilskins and boots. It’s taken nine years to develop the trust and connections necessary to pull off a production like that. I know I’m leaving my programs in excellent hands, but it’s still a hard hand-off to make.
It’s not just releasing control of my classes and plays that’s making me antsy right now. It’s relinquishing my schedule. I’m a bit like a border collie. With a lot of jobs to do, a strict schedule, and plenty of exercise I’m as peaceful as can be. But with too much unstructured time, I start doing the human equivalent of gnawing the furniture (binge-watching cartoons in my pajamas, nail-biting, and boredom eating, to name a few behaviors I’d like to avoid). Based on the raised eyebrows and knowing looks experienced moms exchange when I talk about all of the things I’ll accomplish on sabbatical, I should be prepared for a total lack of schedule. In the summer, all I ask is that I get a few hours to make bread for the bakery, and then that the baby and I make it out of the house to the beach or on walks regularly. And out to dinner sometimes. And maybe I can teach a few music lessons? While the baby sleeps? When I’m on sabbatical, am I delusional to think that even if I give over all day to the baby’s schedule that I’ll get some work done in the evenings when my husband is home?
This is going to be a challenge.
Of course, what about this isn’t going to be a challenge?
I have three weeks left before my maternity leave. I’ll show my sub the ropes and turn the last six weeks of school over to him. If the baby’s been born and all’s well, I’ll go watch the spring play. I look forward to seeing a spring concert under another’s direction, too. And most of all, I’m looking forward to the biggest transition of all, from pregnant lady to new mother.