I sat on the stairs with tears in my eyes as I listened to my daughter playing in her room with her dolls. My newborn baby boy was crying in his swing and all I wanted to do was hold him. But there were lesson plans to write, papers to grade, parents to email, and oh yeah, I need to buy those cookies for my class because they were so well behaved for the substitute.
I love my job, but it’s hard.
Teachers don’t leave their work at the workplace; they bring it all home with them. We bring home papers, lesson plans, grade books, a handful of red pens, and a slew of emotions that we are still processing when we walk through the door to greet our family. We come through the door with glue on our fingers, paint in our hair, and love in our hearts. We cook dinner through tears as we think about those students that probably won’t eat a meal tonight. We rock our babies to sleep while worrying about tomorrow’s evaluation and next week’s IEP meeting. We can’t sleep at night because we can’t stop thinking about why Johnny failed that math test (he’s so good at fractions!), and why Jill doesn’t seem to grasp inferences.
We sacrifice every bit of our heart for the twenty-something students in our class, because we love them as our own. And then at some point, we have to focus on our own family. If we aren’t careful, it’s easy to become emotionally drained and overwhelmed.
When the days start to run together, remember these four things:
The days are long, but the years are short.
Teacher-Moms, it won’t be like this forever. Someday, you won’t have to take pump breaks in the closet. You won’t have to bribe your toddler to sleep in his own bed so that you can grade a stack of papers. Someday, you won’t have to beg someone to babysit the kids for parent-teacher conference night. Someday, you won’t have to stress about finding a substitute when your sitter cancels last minute. In fact, strangely, you might even miss these days.
Simplify, simplify, simplify!
Do you really need to throw an elaborate classroom Valentine’s Day party complete with eight crafts, personalized photo frames, and themed finger foods? No. You don’t. Pick up some donuts at Weigels and call it a day. Make your life easier in the evenings, too. Take some time – if at all possible – to make some pre-made freezer meals to have on the ready for nights when working late is a must. I like to take a day out of my fall and spring break to make dozens of meals for the deep freezer.
Remind yourself daily of how much you love your job.
Some days are harder than others, but how many teachers are in it for the money? Ha…ha… Sometimes I jot down little memories in my journal to remind myself of the good days. Our days are full of witty one-liners, hilarious quotes, and heartwarming experiences that remind us that we love what we do. We have the same hours (most of the time) as our kids. We get spring break, snow days, and lots of little perks along the way that make up for the late night paperwork. We are reminded by Johnny’s parents that we’re the reason he loves to read, and with teary eyes, we watch his face light up as he receives an award for it at the end of the semester. We love what we do- and those beautiful moments remind us of that.
Give yourself some grace.
You’re not a Level 5 teacher? It’s okay, because you’re a level 5 mom. Stop comparing yourself to the teacher across the hall. Someday you will be seasoned and find a great balance. The at-home responsibilities will become lighter. The kids will grow up. The struggles of being a teacher-mom will ebb and flow.
Find the positivity and persevere. You are molding the future, both in your own home and within the four walls of your own classroom.