I’m back from a day spent with fellow English teachers. Yes, on a Saturday. I’m the president of our NCTE affiliate, and we meet every few months. These meetings are mostly business, but with a range of teachers along the experience spectrum, we also make the most of listening and learning from each other. I have been involved with NEATE since I was new to the profession nearly 15 years ago. Then, I am quite sure I never imagined I’d have any type of long-ranging professional involvement.
Fast forward to the present and I cannot imagine not having NEATE be part of my life. I did wonder if I’d be able to be active once I had a child. What I’m learning, though, is that my professional life doesn’t have to end; instead, it’s changed in ways that have benefited my professional growth, and I’d also venture that it’s impacted my parenting positively, too.
I wore E in a sling for those early days, and he slept through our discussions of conferences, constitutions, and membership growth. During conferences, he would willingly play with other members who would offer to take him for walks, even put him down for naps, while I attended to matters needing my attention. Never once did I–or do I–feel that I had to choose one for the other. There are always hands to hold babies wherever we go, always open. There is always enough for whatever we need.
At our board meetings, we have lots of mamas and babies. When a baby cries or coos, they are met with glances of understanding, of arms that reach instinctively to offer relief, of sympathy and of empathy. Here, parents don’t have to choose. All of our mama selves are welcome, as inconveniently messy as they are. That we can bring all of ourselves, and bring our kids when we need to, also means that we have a broad cross-section of professionals who might have otherwise thought they could not get involved in our organization. That would be the organization’s loss, because these mamas have so much insight and expertise to offer the world.
Granted, I’m now at the point where E stays with his babysitter while I attend the meeting, but that separation is not all bad. I can now offer my hands for someone else who needs them.
Hands to hold. Many, many hands.