Congratulations! You have chosen two of the most difficult jobs that ever co-existed 🙂 It is NOT for the faint of heart (but you have probably already figured that out). And it looks nothing like this cozy mom up there chilling on the couch while her baby sleeps soundly (stock photos….#eyeroll). So, what’s the secret to balancing being a mom and a teacher?
There is no secret
It’s like going from one full-time job to the next and then back to the first one. At the end of three consecutive shifts, you might find yourself passed out on the couch while Netflix streams in the background or possibly still horizontal in your toddler’s room after the fourth reading of “Little Blue Truck.” Does it ever get easier? Will I find the magic formula that allows me to be a wonderful mom and teacher simultaneously (oh, and a good wife/daughter/homemaker/friend…ect?)
I am here to tell you…
No, probably not.
But, if you come to terms with the fact this teacher/mom life will always be full of challenges and as a result, you will always be tired, you can find ways to get a handle on things at least part of the time. Here are a few of my realizations since becoming a teacher mom 8 years ago.
Realization #1: There is no such thing as balance. I wish I could share the mind-blowing tip for shifting your schedule around that would result in chunks of free time to get it all done. Instead, I encourage your to shift your mindset. It’s less about teacher-mom balance and more about finding a rhythm.
“Sometimes, we hit a storm surge with work. Other times, the waters ebb. But you can’t schedule that ebb and flow; rather, you need to recognize different seasons in your [life] and your [school] year.” – William Vanderbloemen (Forbes.com contributor)
When you have a newborn and a toddler and are getting little to no sleep, your school year will inevitably look different from the one you had when you were single with no kids. That doesn’t mean you are a bad teacher or a less effective educator. But you have to let certain things you did before fall by the wayside. Conversely in the same season of life, you cannot allow yourself to spend all your time at home worrying about schoolwork. I get it, sometimes you need to get things done. But, we aren’t getting paid to spend our family time working. And even if we were, it would not be worth sacrificing quality time with your little ones who will not keep.
Something is always not getting your full attention. Compartmentalizing our time is key. “To compartmentalize means you have the ability to shut out all distractions and other work except for the work in front of you.” (Carl Pullein, management, and productivity expert)
When you are at home with your own children, keep them your focus. They don’t know that you are focused on your students at school and vice versa. But, your own children will know if you are spending your weekend lesson planning and laminating instead of spending time with them. Guilt lies when we feel like we should be doing something else. You can’t let the guilt override your ability to be present and utilize your time wisely.
Let go of trying to do everything. Make your lists. Prioritize and cross out the unimportant stuff. Does it really matter if your students get laminated homework coupons printed in color with an individual inspirational message on each one? Do your kids need their lunch to include a star-shaped PBJ and spiraled carrots? While you might set these expectations for yourself in your own head, unless you’ve verbalized it, your students/own kids have NO clue that you intended to prep an Escape room challenge or make individualized party favors. This leads me to my next tip…
Take shortcuts and accept help. Outsource whatever tasks you can. Order the pizza. Hire the cleaner. Ask explicitly for help from your significant other. They cannot read our minds and do not know what would be most helpful unless we tell them specifically.
While compartmentalizing your time can be possible, compartmentalizing your emotions can prove to be more difficult. You will think of your students while laying in bed trying to fall asleep and your heart will ache from time to time when you are not with your own kids every day. Include your kids in school stuff and talk about your family with your school kids. It will make you feel a little more connected and your students will love to know about how your baby started babbling or your toddler learned his ABCs. Share about your kids. And your students will be more empathetic when you tell them you were up all night with a teething baby.