Balancing being a teacher and mom can be difficult. My friend and colleague (and unofficial mentor/life-coach throughout my doctoral program), Dr. Natalie Duvall is a teacher and mom, co-owner of a tutoring business, and about a million other things (including a confectioner!). I asked her to share some thoughts with me about how she finds balance as a working mom, and she wrote her thoughts as a lovely essay, which I’m sharing below.
Here, Natalie describes being a mom to her students, and then going home to be a mom to her actual babies. Here’s Natalie…
Last year, my good friend and colleague said that the hardest part of being a teacher is that you spend all of your good parenting hours on your students and then go home and give your own children the leftovers.
I had never thought about that before, but she’s right.
I have about 80 students I see between the hours of 7:30 and 3, and I put so much effort into being a good mom to them. I try not to yell, I try to understand their perspective before snapping at them or scolding them. I make sure the classroom is clean, supplies are organized, our day is planned, the lighting is appealing, and there is easy access to a bathroom and water fountain. I call them by name, I check in when they’re having a bad day, I apologize if I did something wrong, and I even have vanilla scented candles on the desks to make them feel cozy, warm, and happy!
And then I go home. And I’m tired. And the kids wake up early from nap. And we go downstairs and my daughter asks for her green iPad and I say I’ll get it for her and before I even have a chance to set the baby down she starts screaming and crying that she wants her iPad which makes her older brother scream and cry and I say quite a bit too loudly,
“I’m not going to respond to you when you’re screaming and crying like that, so when you stop I’ll get your iPad!”
And I go sit on the couch and my daughter comes over to me, hiccuping on her tears, and says,
“Mommy, I can’t stop crying.”
That’s when the mom guilt hits. She’s two. I had expected my two-year-old to act more mature than my high school seniors. We hugged it out and I apologized to her.
So why do I teach? Why is it worth it?
There are some parents out there who are really good at home improvement or auto repair. Their kids grow up knowing how to install kitchen cabinets or change headlights. Some kids grow up knowing how to nurture beautiful rose bushes or take care of horses. This is all because they learn this from watching their parents do it.
I don’t know how to jump start a car and can never remember what poison ivy looks like. My kids won’t learn that stuff from me. I think I have something else to teach my own children, though. They have seen me take my students out for pizza. They’ve gone to dance recitals and holiday parties and charity all-nighters. They’ve helped me bake eight dozen cookies (and vegan cupcakes because one student has an egg allergy). They’ve watched me respond to emails after bedtime and they’ve shopped with me for birthday treats. They’ve met my students and been gushed over and fawned over in return.
My children will never learn from me how to fix the kitchen sink, but I’m hoping they’ll learn that we all have so much love to give, not just to our families, but to other people’s families, too.
I hope they’ll learn that not only was I their mom, but for 8 hours a day I was able to be someone else’s mom, too, and that even though sometimes I was snappy or short with them because I was a mom to so many, I always loved them most.
If you’re a teacher and mom, or a working mom, can you relate to Natalie’s experiences? What makes being a teacher and mom, or working mom, worth it for you?
P.S. – Thoughts on “Mom Guilt,” the challenges of being a stay at home mom, 20 tough truths about being a teacher and mom, 7 ways to survive the struggle of being a teacher and mom, this thoughtful reflection by Jennifer Wolfe on finding the balance of being a teacher and mom.
(The header image for this post features Mother and child art, created by the artist Katie M. Berggren, available for purchase from her lovely art store here. The image is used in this post with the artist’s permission.)