Be Honest with Yourself…

Sometimes, it’s tough not living up to other people’s expectations. It’s even tougher trying to figure out why you’re trying to to live up to them in the first place. When Ploy told me that if I wanted to stay in Thailand I needed to teach English I was dismayed. I don’t particularly enjoy the company of children. Where other women let out a chorus of “ooohs” and “aahs” I stare dumbfoundedly for a few seconds before I remember that I’m supposed to let out an approving, “Oh he/she is so cuuuuute!”

I knew teaching English was a bad idea before I ever stepped foot in a classroom. I just hoped that perhaps my lack of fondness for children stemmed from underexposure and that if I taught them, I would find that magical maternal instinct that so many other women seemed to have. Within 1 week of quitting from the first school, I got a call to teach at another Thai school. I chuckled cynically. Was the world trying to tell me to keep trying?  I turned that job offer down. Instead, I applied for a job at a call center in Chiang Mai, a town 2.5 hours away. Remarkably, the following week, I received another call to teach at A.M.E.C., a pilot school. I was waiting for a response from the call center position. I accepted to interview due to some gaffes with the call center (showing up onsite for what should’ve been a telephone interview, showing up half an hour late to the onsite interview because I got lost).  I was upfront about the job opportunity in Chiang Mai. I told them that I preferred the other job and that if I was offered the position I would take it. This didn’t bother them. They still wanted me to teach at their school.

I said yes to A.M.E.C.. I knew I wasn’t ready to go home yet. I was hoping that the terrible working conditions at Bansankhong got in the way of developing my maternal instincts.  This acceptance was tinged with dread. I kept thinking, “What if it’s really true that I don’t like kids?? Does that make me a horrible person?” I couldn’t figure out why I was doubting something I’d known since I was 10. I received a job offer from the call center on the same day I started teaching at A.M.E.C.. I told A.M.E.C. I would teach there. I also told them that I was more interested in the call center position. I was torn. I waited 2 days to tell them I was leaving. I felt like the world’s biggest jerk.  Yes, I found the kids irresistibly adorable. I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear when one of my kindergarten students would come up to me at my desk and offer me one of their stickers (even the ones they didn’t want anymore because they were dirty and wouldn’t stick to anything anymore). It didn’t bother me much when I had to clean up the kid who peed himself. I even gave out a few nicknames: Backwards Shoes Kid (because he always put his shoes on backwards), Mad Scientist (because she always wandered around talking to herself, rubbing her hands together, and laughing maniacally for no reason), Waterworks (because he cried everyday)…

I taught at A.M.E.C. for about 1 month. It was a much better school than Bansankhong. Things were organized. They made sure you had everything you needed. Class sizes were all capped at 25 students (and they enforced this limit). I recommend them to anyone who wants to teach in Thailand.Still, I never shook the feeling that it wasn’t quite right for me.I had been miserable. After being exhausted from trying to living up to expectations, I  gave up and walked away. As I wracked my skull trying to figure it out, I realized that I wasn’t being honest with myself. I was forcing myself to like kids in order to win people’s approval. I figured that by playing the role society thought I should play I would be more acceptable and make more friends. It didn’t work. It doesn’t help when friends’ adamant claims of, “You’d be a great mom!” bubble up out of nowhere. I’d always assumed that being a good mother was correlated with wanting to be a mother. Not necessarily, I learned. I’ll probably still mince my words when it comes to liking kids. Why? Because nothing kills a conversation about kids faster than a woman stating, “I don’t like kids.”

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