Balancing Teaching and Motherhood
Teacher vs. Mom
Which came first, the teacher or the mom? In my case, the teacher. After one misguided career choice, re-entry into college and a
mountain of debt graduate degree later, the long-suppressed teacher inside me was finally free. I can go on and on about those first years and the challenges of being a shiny new teacher in a very rusty education system, but that’s for another day. Learning to balance life and teaching was a challenge for sure. Any teacher will tell you that their lives basically revolve around their classrooms (and we kinda love it!). I lived and breathed teaching those first 2 years. Setting up my classroom, designing differentiated lessons, finding my teaching style, it was all the first chapter to the wonderful story of my life as an educator. And that is what it becomes- your LIFE!
So you can imagine the life-altering shift when the other piece of me finally showed up to the party. I became ‘Mommy’ on July 16, 2015, and that’s when the ‘Teacher’ changed forever. The problem is, I adore being a mother, and I believe I was meant to be one. Alone this isn’t the issue; it’s that I feel the same way about my job. How fortunate to have a career that I love, right? But it does present its own set of complications. In the words of my old German geology professor, “It’s a conundrum.” When you become a mom, you suddenly devote your whole life to another person; for many people, that involves transferring their time and energy from themselves to their child. For a teacher, however, that already monumental shift of focus goes from her students (her children), to her child. From 30 kids who have dominated her working mind and heart to one- one that trumps all others. Balancing teaching and motherhood became my constant struggle.
Enough Love to Go Around
For me, this was scary! I was worried about how this new love of my life was going to effect the love that I put into my classroom. Would I love them less? Would I have enough love to give my baby AND my (then Title 1) students, many of whom needed it so much? It sounds silly but I didn’t really know what to expect to feel after my baby was born, in reference to school. Most people don’t consider their emotional changes towards their jobs after a baby comes, besides having to leave said baby to go to it. When you are a teacher, however, the amount of class pictures tacked up on your bulletin board is directly proportional to the amount of love in your heart, and it grows every year. Now that I am a mom, I understand how unique parental love is, but I struggle to balance it with my classroom love. With so many students, a teacher’s “classroom love” is vast with many pieces to it, but a mother’s love is highly concentrated and weighs a lot more. A mother’s love will win every time, at the price of guilt and self-doubt. ‘Am I letting my students down?’ was forever echoing in my mind.
During my last school year as a child free teacher, I doted on those munchkins more than I care to admit, (and spent more, too! Don’t tell my husband). While I didn’t know exactly how it would feel to be mommy and teacher, I knew the reality was that I would never have the time and money I had then to devote to my class, so I made the most of it! Boy did we have a great time! I will always remember that group- they took such good care of me! One girl in particular reminded me daily during reading group not to cross my legs because her grandma said it can cause the umbilical cord to strangle the baby. (It took every ounce of self control to not correct her misguided understanding of biology, but she’s 10 so I let it go). They really let me have it when I tried to run with them during Field Day games! So sweet…man I miss them!
A Mommy is born!
But I digress. A month after that school year wrapped, baby Belle arrived. For 6 straight weeks I didn’t even think about work. (OK, That’s a lie). My maternity leave technically started the day school began, so I still had to work the pre-school week. And do you know what? I loved it. I still loved it. Every
pointless informative meeting, every stack of copies, every sticky new label with every student’s name I loved- in an entirely new way. I missed my baby, and I definitely wasn’t ready to leave her permanently, but I was actually looking forward to going back to work because
I was meant to do this.
I was meant to do both: Mommy AND Teacher.
This past year was difficult for me. It took a lot of trial and error (and support from my family and friends), but I have finally begun to find a little bit of that balance. Shocking plot twist: there is plenty of love to go around, split between classroom and home in varying amounts and intervals each day. One year in and I have learned a lot, but this is the never-ending lesson, isn’t it? There is definitely a learning curve and every day I try something to get ahead of it!
Going into year 2 as a teacher-mom, I enter my classroom with much less anxiety, a lot more organization, and my full heart wide open for the love and learning that this school year is sure to bring.
How do you balance teaching and motherhood, or family?