Is Teaching A Family Friendly Career?

When I first told my mum I was applying for teacher training, her response was “a great job for a woman”. Okay, slightly sexist but I see her point. 13 weeks holiday a year, and you work half 8 til half 3, don’t you? It’s a no brainer!

Don’t get me wrong, the holidays are fantastic and as soon as Mr Gove starts to take those away I will be looking at alternative careers, but how family friendly is this job during term time?

I have pretty much come to terms that I will miss assemblies and sports days that occur during the school day as I cannot book the time off to go to see them. I cried all the way to work yesterday as I dropped my son off at nursery to spend his birthday there instead of with me.

But these are special occasions and are exceptions, what happens in the day to day reality of the job?

Let me give you an example of a typical Tuesday for me. I wake at half 5 to get to the gym for 6. Now this may seem like madness but if you’ve read my blog before you will know we are struggling to conceive baby 2, and I think that being healthy can only help to improve our chances. I can’t go in the evenings because that would mean a night when I couldn’t do school work, which would result in the work piling up. I arrive home just after 7 to jump in the shower to get ready for work. Hubby has got Baby O milked up so I get him dressed and we leave the house about quarter to 8. I drop him off at nursery and head off to work.

School starts at 8:35 and I have a full teaching day of 5 periods. I change classrooms every lesson (which means lugging 3 bags around with me for the day as I never get a chance to drop anything off so carry my entire days resources) and as I have the joy of teaching at a split site school I spend my break and half my lunch changing between the 2 sites. When school finishes at 3:15 I then have my compulsory revision lesson to do which normally goes on until about 4:45. Being on my feet for the majority of this time means that by the end of the day I’m physically knackered as well as mentally because in a lesson you never have a minute. Kids want your constant attention, and not always about the work. On Monday one of my Year 7 kids had the burning question of who I thought was the better superhero, Superman or Batman! (Obviously it’s Superman)

Just before 5 I leave to pick my son up from nursery, go home and spend some time with him before bath and bed at 7. Once he is safely tucked up I get my planning/marking/other admin stuff out and work until between 10-11pm!

Apart from Friday when I allow myself a night off this is how my week pans out most days. I have meetings once a week and with revision one night every week, by the time you’ve thrown in a parents evening most of the after school time has been taken up. Any teaching mums will tell you the time from the end of school until about half 4 is so precious as it is the small amount of time you have in school to get things done. Take that away from us and we’re screwed!

Oh, but what about all the free periods we get? I get 4 frees a week. It takes about 2 hours to mark one set of books and I have 6 classes. You do the Maths, the frees go nowhere! And that’s before we’ve even thought about planning a single lesson.

So to be told today that I’m not working hard enough was a bit of a kick in the teeth. When I explained the hours I was working (to a head of department with no children) the response was “at the weekend send my son to the park with my husband so I can do my work in peace”! So much for quality family time!

I fully understand that when I came into the job there would be work outside of “school hours”. I get that! But I didn’t sign up to working full days and until 10ish 4/5 nights a week to then be told that isn’t enough!!

Before I had Baby O I probably would have kept up the pace, but my son and my family comes first and after doing it last year I won’t compromise our time together. I used to love my job and I still love the time I spend in the classroom actually teaching but the amount of hours work that is involved outside of lessons is growing exponentially and I’ll put my hand up and say I can’t do it. Not if I want to have some sort of life as well.

So tonight I am knackered, the bags under my eyes are getting bigger, but I am taking the night off seeing as I didn’t get home from work until half 7! I feel this worn down and I’m only working 4 days a week, I know if I was still full time I’d be at breaking point by now, as several of my colleagues are!

So is teaching a family friendly career, you decide?



  1. November 14, 2013 / 12:32 am

    My sister is a teacher too – she’s not a mum yet, but spends loads of time at night / weekends planning and marking. She is passionate and enthusiastic. And very good at it. But she has even said to me that she doesn’t think it is a job she can do as well as being a mum, it involves so many extras.
    Take it one day at a time, remember that ifs just a jo, and if you’re not happy never be too afraid to think about changing. Xx

    • notafrumpymum
      November 14, 2013 / 6:49 am

      Thank you for your comment. The sad thing is I still love being in the classroom with the kids but, like your sister has said, there’s so many extras it’s impossible to ever feel on top of your workload! xx

  2. November 14, 2013 / 8:19 am

    As part of a mission I have set myself to work out what I ought to do in 2 years time (when redundancy money runs out) I have looked at teaching. To understand education more, I have become a governor and I try to spend a bit of time here and there doing activities with my eldest at school. I cannot work out how, especially for a new teacher learning the ropes, you could work any less hours than 7am until 7pm. Which would mean been unavailable at home 6.30 – 7.30 (assuming a local school). I also think you would need to spend a good proportion of Sunday preparing, otherwise you would have a week from hell. To be fair, that is similar to the hours I used to work in the Financial Services Industry – but as a family friendly option? I cannot see how I could make it work.

    You sound like a great teacher. I hope that the profession and the community that you support can adapt things to help you stay in your role. I am sorry a senior member of staff has demotivated you so much. As a parent, we want to know our teachers are supported.

    Out of interest, do teachers concerns such as this get escalated to your governing body? thanks for the food for thought on what questions I should be asking at Governing Body Meetings.

    • notafrumpymum
      November 14, 2013 / 8:33 am

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I don’t know how it works in other schools but as a teaching staff we very much feel we don’t have a voice, and are concerns are not listened to. Made all the more insulting as increased emphasis is on pupil voice and their opinions!

  3. November 14, 2013 / 6:51 pm

    I think other than the holidays – there is little family friendly about teaching. Even then I rely heavily on friends to help me with childcare during term time and end up repaying that back by offering to look after theirs where I can during holidays. I teach up in Scotland where wicked Mr Gove’s interference does not reach and that’s a huge relief when I hear the about the stress and worry friends have to endure in England. Some years ago I did some further training and I changed from being an English teacher to a Learning Support teacher and I’m so glad I did – the marking has gone and the planning halved. There’s still a huge amount of admin and I sometimes miss teaching literature but being able to decide for myself about what I need to teach to help a child, and how, has brought back the joy.

  4. November 15, 2013 / 5:58 pm

    I think that surely there should be some exceptions to the holiday situation as teachers get so much thrown at them and it may look like 8.30 – 3.30, 13 weeks holidays a year on paper but it’s not just that, so much more time is spent preparing, marking and all stuff like that. It’s not fair that teachers can’t just get the odd day off for special occasions. xx

    Kate (NW Bloggers)
    Help Me With My Hair Style Dilemma

  5. November 15, 2013 / 5:59 pm

    That sounds awful!! I think parents and children forget that teachers don’t just work their lessons. It’s a really tough job. I know I couldn’t do it.

  6. Colette B
    November 15, 2013 / 6:49 pm

    My god I feel for you. I absolutely 100% know where you are coming from. After 10 years I gave up my permanent full time teaching post to work on a supply basis. I have now achieved the illusive work life balance – I get to go to assemblies, I do the school run occasionally, I don’t have to go to staff meetings, work late planning & marking or get involved in staff politics …. Ok my income isn’t totally regular & I miss having ownership of my class but I have got a number of schools I work in often enough to feel I ‘belong’

  7. November 15, 2013 / 7:13 pm

    I cannot profess to know exactly your feelings but it does seem that you are very committed to your vocation. I say ‘vocation’ seriously instead of ‘job’ as I believe no-one should go into teaching lightly. It has to be a vocation/career/passion as no-one should go into teaching just because of the holidays. I do believe there are some teachers that do though and no doubt they get a big shock. Sadly, I think there are very few careers now that are restricted to office hours.

  8. we3three
    November 15, 2013 / 8:35 pm

    gosh just reading that made me tired you must be shattered!

  9. November 15, 2013 / 10:45 pm

    My husband is a teacher and I completely think that being a teacher is not family-friendly at all. My husband works from 8-5.30 ish most days. Apart from a Friday when he tries to get home for 4.30. We have three young children, and he stayed for open evening last night, so didn’t get home until 9.30. This meant that he did not see our girls all day and night – he is exhausted. Not only that, you have to think about the impact that this has on me – I work all day and then I have to tend to the children on my own. This sounds like I am moaning and everything – but I’m not. I love our life, but my point is that when people say “Oooh it’s dead cushy with all the school holidays…” they need to really get a grip with that – it winds me up no end! Hope you can find a way to take the pressure off x

  10. November 15, 2013 / 11:45 pm

    a friend’s husband persuaded me against teacher training as he said it would be a no go as a single mum of two when he struggles as half of a couple!

  11. November 16, 2013 / 8:08 am

    I think there will be a huge number of public sector workers who feel the same I.e. nurses, police officers. All work long and unsociable hours with difficulty taking holiday. I also hear that careers in retail demand the same and expect workers to work extra shifts and more hours without a thought to family life.

    I worked in admin so was lucky to have set hours and generally never had to work after 6pm, but having a school age child meant saving my holiday for the school hols, so I couldn’t take off sports day or Christmas nativity day either. I also didn’t earn very much being just admin.

    My brother works in the private sector and doesn’t see his kids monday to friday as his job demands him working away from home most weeks, and at weekends he has to work late at night. Yes he gets a very good salary, but at a price.

    There are so few family friendly jobs.

    • notafrumpymum
      November 16, 2013 / 8:19 am

      Thanks for commenting, I think you’re right. There are very few family friendly jobs and with a lot of families having two working parents it’s a hard juggling act keeping all the balls in the air.

      A friend of mine is a teacher and her husband works in retail. As the school holidays are the shops busiest time he was told he couldn’t take any leave in the holidays meaning they would never be off at the same time. They have had to fight to get him time off so they can go on holiday!

  12. thereadingresidence
    November 16, 2013 / 8:42 am

    I can feel your exhaustion and frustration jumping from the post at me. I don’t think teaching is family-friendly, no, for all of the reasons that you point out, and it is the things like inflexibility to have time off for family occasions etc., unless you ensure your kids are born in school holidays (as my deputy-head best mate has managed to do by sheer and happy coincidence!). Life-s too short to spend it on a treadmill like this, and I can’t imagine how you’d have felt to be told you’re not doing enough. But then, I understand that you love teaching, so I really hope that you can find a way for it to work for you x

  13. November 16, 2013 / 1:14 pm

    OMG you never stop! Teachers really do work hard!

  14. Kizzy Bass
    November 16, 2013 / 7:36 pm

    I will be applying to do my teacher training to start next September so thank you for the frank evaluation of the sheer work load you do each day.

  15. November 16, 2013 / 9:58 pm

    I run our school’s database and from what I can see, teaching’s not a person-friendly job, never mind a family friendly one πŸ™ There’s such a lot of work to fit in. And then family responsibilities on top of that makes it even harder.

  16. November 18, 2013 / 9:08 pm

    I feel exhausted just reading about your day, although I worked similar hours as an engineer, and latterly Project Manager. But, and it’s a huge but, I could take time off fairly flexibly. I hope you manage find a balance xx Popping over from #MBPW

  17. Kate
    November 21, 2013 / 8:45 pm

    Um, no. Not very family friendly at all. I ditched my job as a solicitor firstly because I couldn’t afford to go back, but secondly because I could see myself working similar hours to you and I didn’t want to be bringing work home all the time & getting stressed with the kids. Now we run our own business and I probably work those hours, if not more, but the difference is that I love it and the work I do benefits me, not some senior partner with plenty of money in his fat bank account and no appreciation for his staff!! The difference with your job is what you do makes a difference to the children you teach πŸ™‚ But being told you’re still not doing enough is shit, and absolutely uncalled for! I really hope you can find a way to ease the load lovely xx

  18. January 11, 2014 / 9:40 am

    I’d echo all this and more. I completed a PGCE a couple of years ago, following my wife who’d done the same 2 years previously. We had one toddler then, and a second baby arrived mid course. Loved the course, loved the teaching, but the imbalance between classroom and ‘other’ – roughly 30%/70% – meant that by the time the course ended, I’d concluded that it just wasn’t compatible with a young family, not if I wanted to be sufficiently involved. I’ve returned to my old career, where the hours are long but my time is definitely my own.
    ‘Just give it another year’, was advice I heard often, it’ll get easier. And of course it would, but only if you chose not to take on additional responsibilities, something that I’d have wanted to do for financial and professional reasons. Competent, ambitious teachers 5 years into their careers might find planning much easier, but SLT responsibilities weigh heavily on most.
    Teaching has many issues, and teachers don’t help themselves quite often, but I have every sympathy for anyone who makes it work. Nice post.

  19. Colette B
    January 11, 2014 / 11:35 am

    Have things got any better? X

  20. March 8, 2014 / 8:03 am

    I could have written this post word for word. Most people have no idea!

  21. March 11, 2014 / 9:21 pm

    Oh Jo, I completely and utterly sympathise! I wrote a very similar post a while back. Teaching is such an all-consuming job, and one which really doesn’t end at 3.30pm – far from it! I was a bit like you, I loved the classroom interaction, and the actual learning part, but everything else can just wear you down. And family will always, always come first. I hope things are a bit better now. Pay no heed to the people who say teachers have it easy (alternatively punch them in the nose. That works too πŸ˜‰ ). E x

    • March 11, 2014 / 10:29 pm

      Thanks Emma, things are a bit crazy at the minute, but keeping the Easter holidays in just over 3 weeks firmly fixed in my mind. I find it frustrating because with all the extra “stuff” they have us doing I feel it takes my time and focus away from the kids which I don’t agree with. Since having O, my priorities have completely changed and my job isn’t the be all and end all. Off to find your post for a read xx

  22. March 14, 2014 / 12:36 pm

    Hi, I’m so glad that I found your blog and in particular this post, through Life at the little wood! I am a teacher too, in a secondary school, teaching English. I completely agree with everything you say and I too feel ground down by the ridiculous admin, bueracracy and the ridiculous Mr Gove. I went back to work in September after having my first child and to be honest, I am hating it. I love the job, but I hate leaving my son with the childminder. I miss him terribly, more than I thought I would! I hate the fact that so many people complain about teachers and I hate the fact that we aren’t supported above, especially in terms of behaviour. Only last week I saw a comment on facebook from a parent that said they would teach their child to stand up to the teacher as teachers think they are so powerful! Ha I wish!!
    Amy x

    • March 15, 2014 / 9:43 pm

      I hated my first year back after having my son. I’ve gone down to 4 days and whilst it’s still hard going the day off during the week just about keeps me sane.
      I’m not sure who thinks teachers are powerful anymore, they must be crackers! I’ve never known a time we have less control over anything. And I love how we find out major changes to our jobs via the news headlines. Such a sad state of affairs, I’ve never know people I work with so demoralised!
      Thanks for commenting xxx

      • March 17, 2014 / 11:46 am

        I am really really hoping to drop a day for next school year. It’s just money though, I am not sure if we can manage! Yep you’re right, I think we have less power than ever and it’s just ridiculous that it’s in the news before we even know ourselves!

  23. March 15, 2014 / 9:47 pm

    Hi I have just found your blog. I totally understand what you have said! In fact I could have written it almost word for word! I too teach full time (primary school assistant head) and have two young children. It is a hard job juggling both teaching and a family. I love the classroom, day to day part of my job, seeing the children learn and grow is fantastic but it’s the extras that add to the pressure, all the paperwork, data handling, target setting, report writing, endless meetings before marking and planning. I tried part time after having my first son, but found myself working on my days off while he slept to try and catch up. I deliberately decided to send my children to our local school rather than my school so they could make friends with children we live near however it does mean I miss their assemblies, sports days etc! We just make the most of weekends and holidays. I make sure I don’t do school work on a Friday night or Saturday or Sunday during the day and start again once they are in bed on a Sunday! What doesn’t get done, doesn’t get done, school still manages to carry on! Take care and don’t work too hard. X

  24. KatyDouglas
    November 14, 2014 / 2:48 pm

    You have just described exactly how my life feels. it’s a comfort to know I’m not alone.

  25. May 13, 2016 / 11:02 pm

    I have two children, and just finished my teacher training program. During student teaching, I learned a lot of little tricks to get me working less, but smarter. I gave students online tests, which get graded automatically, I had all my lesson plans done on Sunday night (rough draft, I learned that I can’t be perfect with these), I used my prep times to make some copies if needed (my class was 90% electronic), and grade papers, I would revise my next day’s lesson plan after school for about one hour. I would put in grades into the system simultaneously as I graded. Oh, and I would bring Munchkins for the students as a reward for outstanding behavior and classroom participation. It’s also important to have a hook for them to use when they are done with their work; I learned about a stock market game (I teach business), students were hooked, this served as a classroom management technique and as a competition against their peers. My point is, try to find things that serve as facilitators, technology is the way to go and a creative mindset.

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