Monday, May 23, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Two weeks ago, my time “solo mio” with the girls came to a close. I really wasn’t sure how I would take it. Before they came along, I proclaimed to those around me that I would unquestionably return to work without hesitation. This proclamation joined the ranks of other pre-motherhood gems such as, “We won’t need that many diapers, will we?” or “Tandem nursing will be a breeze, just look at how happy the mom looks in these pictures!” And of course, “I know what it means to be tired.”

Throughout my maternity leave, the idea of returning to work was associated with a wide range of emotions. Some afternoons, as I wearily rocked both screaming girls back and forth in a bootless attempt to soothe them until the next feeding time, I dreamed happily of the days when I could deal with teenagers again. I thought about being able to dress up without fear of being vomited upon and spending the morning not dealing with anyone else’s fecal matter. However, other afternoons I couldn’t imagine being more than an arm’s length away from those two smiling, squealing, cuddly little balls of joy who have irrevocably changed my life. So, as the hourglass ran out, I slipped on my high heels and wondered if I was doing the right thing. Was I shirking my motherly duties by having another person take care of my babies while I go off to do another job? Will they miss me too much during the day? Or, worse yet, will they not miss me during the day and find that they prefer the loving hands of someone who actually knows what they are doing?

I’m not going to lie. Those first few steps out the door on Monday morning were some of the hardest steps I’ve ever had to take. But, stepping back into my classroom being greeted by students and colleagues eased the pain just a bit. And, as the day wore on, I was reminded by how much I really do love my job. I love my students, I love my fellow teachers, and I just love teaching. I am blessed to be able to spend my days doing something that I am passionate about in a place that is incredibly supportive of working moms. Not only that, but I actually live about a stone’s throw away from where I work. I can literally see my apartment from my classroom window and can pop in if I feel the urge throughout the day (sorry Aunt Samantha and Aunt Tori, some days are more “urge-y” than others). Undoubtedly the biggest blessing of all has been to have two incredible sisters willing to come and take care of our little squirts while I am off gallivanting around teaching teenagers the wonders of conjugating –ar verbs.

So, am I doing the right thing by continuing to work and have someone else take care of my babies while I do it? Frankly, I don’t know. The fact of the matter is this: I love my babies and I love my job. Here’s to a lifetime of trying to make them both work.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Three Cheers for Literacy!

I had two main goals that I wanted to complete during my maternity leave, other than taking care of babies of course. The first was to read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. After reassessing what life with two new babies was like, this goal was quickly replaced by “survive”. Not to jinx myself just yet, but this goal has been attained so far.

The second goal I had for myself during my “time off” was to finally get on the stick and learn some Korean. Before moving here, Chris and I thought that learning it would be a breeze compared to the Chinese we had to learn while living in Taiwan. Korean isn’t tonal and it even has a phonetic alphabet for goodness sakes. However, here it is May of our first year here and we still know far more Chinese than we do Korean. And that is just plain sad, people… especially for a language teacher.

So, earlier last week I set out to remove this shroud of shame that has plagued me since we moved to Seoul. I determined that I would, at the very least, learn the alphabet and learn to count in Korean by the time I headed back to work on May 9. You know what? People were right. It really was easy! With the modern convenience of trusty ol’ Youtube, I was tutored by no less than half a dozen native Koreans on how to read, write and count.

My newfound knowledge has me feeling like a giddy kindergartener who has just learned to decipher Dr. Seuss for the first time. Signs and posters are now somewhat intelligible to me. No, I still don’t have any idea what they mean, but I can pronounce them, by George! That is something I was never able to do in Taiwan. A walk down our street has become a living classroom full of opportunities to practice my developing skill. Advertisements stop me in my tracks (much to Chris’ annoyance) as I attempt to sound out each syllable. “Sah, no wait, Seo.. … ul, Seo-ul, Seoul! That says Seoul!” While others around me may scoff at my 4-year-old linguistic ability, I have thoroughly impressed myself. And so I shall bid you a hearty 안녕히계세and go out and sound out some more words. I think that Laura Bush was on to something. Literacy is awesome.