To Maternity Leave and Back Again


My husband and I made plans to have a baby January 2018. We made these plans two years in advance and amazingly everything went exactly according to plan. I got pregnant within three weeks of starting to try and Ezra Storm Gaw was born January 12. He’s as punctual as I am, I went into labor the day before my due date and had him the day AFTER my due date (that’s 42 hours of labor).

I wanted to have the baby in January so I could be out for three months on maternity leave and then go back to work for the last month to close up my classroom myself instead of leaving it to the substitute.

Sub Plans

Since I knew that I was planning on being out for most of the spring semester I began writing my lessons in great detail the year before and finished about 2 months before my maternity leave started.

I put the hard copy of the lessons in a binder and then had backup on a flashdrive and on the campus shared drive for easier access to links for videos and powerpoint presentations to show the kids. In the binder I also had examples of what each lesson would look like, I typed out and labeled the success criteria that needed to be up on the board for each lesson and organized it with the lessons so all my sub had to do was tape it up on the wall.

I made detailed procedural steps for everything I do:

morning announcements

restroom procedures

class flow

name tags and seating charts

getting supplies

social contract and behavior management



papier mache

success criteria

art storage

electronics usage

Sub Disaster

I found my sub early on in the fall before the school semester had actually started. She was attending the professional development conferences because she was long-term subbing for another elementary art teacher on maternity leave that fall. I thought I had such good luck finding someone to cover my classes so early and I wouldn’t have to scramble at the last minute as I’d seen other teachers do.

She came in for a day a few weeks before I was due and she shadowed me to see how to do things. We went over the plans together and she took the binder of lessons to look through and get an idea for what each grade level would be doing when she took over. I showed her what all the projects were supposed to look like.

When we came back after winter break in January I was only with the kids for three days before I started my maternity leave.

It ended up that I needed to take 4 extra days before going back to work and I asked my sub if she could cover those days and she said yes so I put her in the system. I found out a few days later that my secretary took her out and gave the job to preferred subs for our campus. This happened because MY SUB WAS ABSENT FOR 20 DAYS! That’s ⅓ of my leave. Getting switched out of working the 4 extra days made my sub mad and it made her feel like admin didn’t like her when in reality they just wanted someone reliable because she had already been absent two days that week.

So she quit 10 days before I was supposed to go back.

I ended up going to school to talk to the new sub and then I wrote new sub lessons for the last 10 days (there were actually going to be three subs to cover the 10 days so I had to write plans for three different people). I didn’t need to and my administration told me I shouldn’t work but I didn’t want to leave my school high and dry.

Apparently the music teacher at my school took my students pretty frequently because my substitute would call in at the last minute and it was hard to find a sub for her so frequently. Also, she would call and say she couldn’t show up until 8:30 am instead of the 7:20 start time.

Because so many substitutes were coming through my room it was totally trashed. No projects got finished. I’ve NEVER thrown away student artwork before but I had to. It was all slap-dash free-draw and printed out coloring book pages that had been scribbled on.

Also, for some reason she did 1st grade lessons with all grade levels (k-5) and then complained to the librarian that I didn’t leave her enough lesson plans.

Going back

When it was finally time to go back it was very difficult emotionally. I went back on a Wednesday and my mom came in for the week to stay with Ezra to help ease the transition of me going back to work. I showed up crying and then pulled myself together. Then all the kids came running over to me to hug me and I started crying again. Everyone was very welcoming and I got lots of welcome back cards and many of my co-workers stopped by to welcome me back. Once classes started I was so busy that the day flew by and all of a sudden it was time to go back home to my baby.

I had no plan for the week. I showed up, took notes on what each class did while I was gone though abandoned that when I realized no one did anything useful. So the next day I started them all on my favorite projects for each grade level that I didn’t get to teach because the sub was supposed to do it. I came back with 7 and a half weeks left of school and was glad that the plan was to teach my favorite lessons. I thought I was so smart having a month and a half left of school after coming back from my maternity leave but its been extremely difficult being away from my baby for this amount of time. This is just another example of me not being able to anticipate what it would be like having a child. I was blindsided by a lot of things after having a baby that I was told about but just couldn’t understand. Leaving my baby feels so unnatural and even though I truly love my job and going back has made me feel good in a lot of ways, I really just want to be with Ezra.
I’m keeping my eye on the future because in three years he can come to work with me and attend the preschool at my elementary school and then he will be with me until 5th grade. I wish I could take him to work with me now, but at least I will be able to in 3 years.

Daycare Disaster

My first choice was to have a nanny but every one that I messaged was really flakey. They would respond to me and then start ignoring me when I tried to confirm an interview. They would forget that we had set up an interview. They would message me about my job posting and then when I responded they wouldn’t respond to me anymore, or they would take over 24 hours to respond to me and it made me uncomfortable because if they are to be with my baby they need to be responsive.

I actually met and interviewed only one nanny after having communicated with at least 10 and she was nice but she made a comment about how she was confused as to why my son had a pink pacifier. I began to feel more comfortable with the idea of a daycare which was relgulated.

Before I worked in public school, I used to teach art to preschool kids at many different locations around Austin. I’d say I have been to at least 25 pre-schools so I thought I had a generally good feel for them. It ended up that I only had a good idea of preschools that are good for toddler age children between 2 and 4. Infant daycare is a different thing. We checked out a daycare about half a mile from our house and thought it seemed pretty nice. I asked many questions and kept coming back to two questions: do you hold the babies? Do you let the babies cry?

The answers from all three directors of this school were yes we hold the babies, its so important to their development so there is lots of holding and interaction. And no we do not let the babies cry, that is our thing, we are very attentive.

My second week back at work my husband brought Ezra to the daycare at 9:30am. We signed up for live video feed of the room so we could watch him throughout the day. After my husband left, that was the end of my baby being held except for feedings and diaper changes.

He was totally cool and calm most of the time. He just was not interacted with and he was not held. They told us that its their policy to not hold babies in their first week at the daycare because it acclimates them to not being held as much. This means they lied to me.

Also, my baby was the only new one and none of them were being held.

We started complaining and directly asking them to hold our baby. It got better one day and then went back to worse the next day. One day I showed up and heard him crying from outside the building. I went running inside, he was sitting in a buggy unattended in the hallway and he and one other baby were crying with no teacher nearby.

I left work early every day that week to go and rescue him from this horrible place.

Luckily my mom was able to save the day and ended up being able to drive from Houston to Austin every Monday and drive back home Friday morning for the remaining 5 weeks of the school year so he was only at this daycare for one week.  

We already had a nanny for Fridays that we were excited about because she is a friend in our dance community who has experience with babies and can sign to him (we’re teaching him baby sign language). She is awesome and I wish she could be his full time nanny in the fall but I’m grateful for what we’ve got with her because she’s a great fit for how we want Ezra cared for. What would I have done differently

If I had it to do over I would do a few things differently to make life easier for me and less stressful and, of course, better for my baby.

-Asked my sub for references, and called the other school she had just finished working for.

-Created sub friendly lessons instead of having my sub do lessons that I would have taught the kids.

-Gone to the daycare earlier in the day and asked to observe. I went later in the day after the babies had been mostly picked up because I wanted to go with my husband and he didn’t get off work until the evening.

-explored more than one daycare so I had other options.

-started looking for daycares earlier so I had more time to figure this stuff out.


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