You know the age old tale of what it’s like to be a first, second or even third year teacher and all the hustle and grind that it is. You get to work before 6 AM and you leave sometime after five or 6 PM and probably still have more papers to grade or lessons to plan once you get home and a lot to do on the weekends. And that’s just to keep your head above water.
As if those first years of teaching aren’t bad enough it’s as if the universe looked at me and said just wait. At the start of my fourth year of teaching I became a mother and everything changed.
Suddenly what had been my absolute top priority, which was teaching even above my marriage, sad to say it but true because I’m such a workhorse and so professionally focused, but motherhood shook the bedrock, if you will, of my priorities. And I had no clue how to deal with that when my identity had been so wrapped up in who I was as a teacher.
And that is where this episode comes into play. Really that is what has inspired this episode and a lot of my thinking around the subject of being both a teacher and a parent.
In fact, after listening to this episode you will be encouraged as a teacher mom or teacher dad, feeling heard and seen knowing the impact of the two amazing roles you play on this earth.
Now you may be someone who is not a parent yet or doesn’t plan to be but I do hope that this episode gives you a glimpse into the struggles of what it is to be both a parent and a teacher because those are two very unique roles that an educator could play at some point in their lives.
It’s also important because, and here’s the truth, you’re essentially raising a lot of children not just your own and so to balance those, both with your time and in your mindset and how you are emotionally, is no easy task and so I hope that this episode can be an encouraging one for you but also a practical one in helping you take on both of these amazing roles.
Before we get started though if you know of a teacher who is also a parent I would so love it if you would share this episode with them. Click on the share button where you’re listening and you can send it to them via email or in a text message letting them know “hey this episode was made for you.” Plus I would so appreciate you helping us get into the ears of more teachers with our message of encouragement and sustainability in their daily teaching lives.
Let’s get to it.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to be a confident person, at least outwardly I am - inwardly is a whole other ball game that we probably won’t discuss here - but I tend to think about my choices as a teacher, make a decision where needed, and feel confident about it.
But never before in my life did I question myself more on a daily basis than when I was a mom and a teacher. In both roles, I became less confident in myself, for whatever reason, and it very much impaired my abilities in both of the roles - or that’s at least what I told myself in my head.
I remember one of the very rare times that I almost cried in front of my students. I never actually cried in front of them, but this was one time where I had to turn my face and force the tears back. My students were working and engaged in the lesson, and I had a chance to stop and answer an email in what was already a rather long email thread with a parent. I forget what exactly the issue at hand was with this parent, but it was something about helping this student get back on track even though he was reluctant to do so, and at that moment I got a text from my son’s babysitter.
It wasn’t all that earth-shattering of a moment, and yet I was stopped in my tracks as the thought crossed my mind, “Oh my word, I am here raising other people’s kids as I pay someone else to raise my own.”
And that, my friend, is what I can look back in hindsight and realize was a toxically negative thought, meaning it was the thought that held me back, not that I was impaired in either role in reality.
What I’ve come to realize is that the pressure of both of these roles, and my undying passion for both of them - to be an outstanding educator and a really supportive and great mommy - is really intense. And I felt that I couldn’t be good at both of them, especially when the two roles clashed with each other, and they did, often, especially when my kiddos were young.
I actually went to a pretty dark place in the shuffling game that I was living as a newer mom and teacher. I doubted every move I made in both roles, and lost a lot of confidence in myself.
Now whether you’re a spiritual person or not, I will briefly share how this was part of my spiritual journey. I believe the God allows these hardships because within them we get closer to him, and he’s powerful enough to make something really great come out of them.
And, my friend, that dark place that I felt, and the struggle that is the teacher-mom life is what my business, Teach On A Mission, that is now three years running, was created for.
Teach On A Mission is bigger than me thanks to you who is listening right now, thanks to the hundreds of teachers who are in any of our programs, thanks to the thousands of teachers who follow us on social media and receive our weekly emails, and especially thanks to the teachers who are now part of Team Teach On A Mission and are working in actually supporting teachers in their daily teaching-lives.
So now that I’ve shared a bit of my own story, I would like to offer some tips that truly helped me in overcoming the struggle that is teacher-mom or teacher-dad life.
First tip is bring them to work. Meaning, bring your kids to your classroom with you on the weekend or if the sitter can bring them in for a visit some day.
What this does is it allows your kids to see what you do and where you do it. As they get older, assuming they are young right now, they will ask about your classroom and really take a great sense of pride in what you do as a teacher…. Especially when they go to school and have already had a behind-the-scenes experience inside of a classroom.
Now this may not be totally possible in a post- or during-pandemic situation, but there are other ways to accomplish this. Have their pictures in your room. Talk about them - share the funny stories. And maybe even have a Zoom with them - you’ll have to organize that with your babysitter or daycare center, but how cool would it be to have a Zoom into work day with your kids?!?
Now, what this also does is create a real-life relationship vibe inside your classroom. It lets your students know that you are not just a teacher. You are a mother and you love being a mother, which shows them that as much being a mother is your absolute top priority, you are dedicating much of your day to them, your students. And, hopefully, they see that and feel valued.
The second tip I have for you is an understanding of motherhood. I want you to embrace a beautiful part of motherhood, and fatherhood for that matter, which is that being a mother or father doesn’t mean you only have mothering capabilities for your biological children, but very much have a maternal presence with all children and even some adults that can be of comfort or solace for them in some way that encourages them to grow and thrive in life.
The maternal presence you have is one that is encouraging, guiding, loving, patient, and sometimes full of tough-love. Sometimes it’s soft, sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s loud or very obvious, and other times it is silent, but still incredibly powerful.
Embrace it, and use it to show these kids love - the action word love, by taking action for them when someone else might not be.
The last tip I have for you is this: Be the mother (or father) you wish all of your students had, and be the teacher that you hope your children someday have.
This is no small order, but don’t let your mind go into all of the over -the-top, perfectionist ways that you could be a great mom or teacher. Don’t immediately think of the filtered highlight reels of amazing moms or teachers you see online. That’s not obtainable. Instead, stop and consider these things in each of these settings
Consider both of these, visualize them, stop questioning yourself and your impact, and then live from that space.
Alright teacher-friend, there you have it for overcoming the struggles of teacher-mom or dad life. I hope, now that you’ve listened to this episode, that you are encouraged as a teacher-mom or teacher-dad, feeling heard and seen, knowing the impact of the two amazing roles you play on this earth.
Don’t forget to share this episode with your teacher-friends and even on social media by tagging us @teachonmission, and I’ll see you here, same time next week.
Bye for now.