My morning starts with the sound of an early alarm clock followed by getting ready for work before “rounding up the troops”. It’s a bit similar to a Cirque de Soleil event; organized chaos of trying to get my oldest dressed, changing a last minute poopy diaper, or helping my indecisive husband decide what to wear. I then hurry downstairs to double check that lunches are ready, and determine if it’s a gym day, art day, or music day at my daughter’s elementary school; this is key knowledge for the proper shoe attire. If we’re lucky, we can get out of the door on time and maybe, just maybe, have enough time to stop for some much-needed caffeine at the nearest Starbucks.
The rest of my day is pretty similar, except with a routine. I’m going nonstop from 7:50 am – 3:00 pm because I am a high school art teacher at a low income school. In addition to teaching studio art skills, I am also a counselor, caregiver, lunch lady, assessor, planner, role model, nurse, and at times a parent. The four-minute passing periods are used to rush to the restroom, make photocopies, greet students at the door, pick up any messes that were left from the previous class, get organized for the next class, answer student questions, or catch up on emails. I’m also given a 30-minute lunch period. Those 30 minutes are spent doing the very same tasks as the passing period, except this time with a sandwich or leftovers in hand. Even during my lunch time, I am rarely alone. I typically have a student that is using his/her lunch time to make up a project, serving a lunch detention, or spending their time with me because they want to avoid the cafeteria at all cost. Similar to being a parent, there is zero alone time as a teacher.
When the school day ends, I get to relax during my 10-minute car ride to pick my youngest up from daycare. I then head over to grab my oldest from school in order to become super mommy until around 6pm when my husband gets home from work. At around 7:30 I get some much needed rest and relaxation time, which typically ends with me falling asleep around 8:30 while watching Netflix.
Before I became a mom, I would always hear that my profession was ideal for having a family. I would have weekends, holidays, and summers off. I would know the ins and outs of the educational system. I would be able to tutor my child and teach them skills because of my passion for education. It sounded ideal and it definitely has its perks, but being a “teacher mom” is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.
Every Teacher Has a Story
When I learned I was going to become a mom for the first time, I became consumed by the stress of being able to “raise” my students and raise my own child. Friends (mostly non teachers) assured me that I would find a balance and it would be ok. Well, here I am a mom to my baby girl with another on the way. I still don’t have a balance. What I have learned is THERE IS NO BALANCE for teachers. Every decision we make is made by weighing our options and all of our decisions mean that someone, whether it be our kids at home or our kids at school, will benefit more than the other. Being a mom to all my kids means making choices every day, really hard choices. Who is going to get more of me today? Once I stopped searching for a “balance,” I started to feel a sense of control again and because of that, I am a better mom all around.
– Melissa Courtney (Language Arts Teacher)
Being a mother and a teacher is both demanding and rewarding. Like parenting, there are days where you feel like you have conquered the world. And then there are days where you find yourself questioning everything. You feel defeated. What non-teachers don’t understand, is that, although we get our weekends, holidays, and summers off, teachers spend the majority of each calendar year having only two hours a day that are child-free. Teaching and parenting takes quite a toll at times, and we find ourselves taking our work day home with us.
It’s hard, but I do try to separate work from home. We have a “5-minute rule” in our house; we just have 5 minutes to talk about our day. Then, unless it’s something that absolutely cannot wait, we vow to be work free when we are home. As parents first, we need to make sure we are parenting our kids instead of working at home for “our kids that we teach”.
– Kelly Bergman (School Counselor)
Although it is overwhelming at times, I love my job. I love my students. I care about them, worry about them, teach them, create opportunities for them, protect them, comfort them, and at times provide for them. Like I said, I love it. But it also takes its toll. There have been a number of times when I have had students who are neglected, abused, homeless, and bullied or harassed. I hear their stories, wipe tears from their eyes, and pray that they will have a happy ending. I wish that I could offer them refuge, a hot meal, or a warm home, but I can’t.
I love my students and often say things to them that are very mom-like. As a mom, however, I find myself often giving so much of myself at school that I don’t have much left to give at home. Simply put, I’m not the mom I want to be because I really give so much at work… I’m still trying to figure out how to save some reserves for home-life… I fear that with the more strain being put on educators, the expectation is that we give up our home lives for our students’ benefit… but what keeps me coming back is the students. I love teaching and watching students grow as individuals.
– Heidi Mittelsteadt (Foreign Language Teacher)
The Teacher Village
However, for every negative there is a positive. Seeing your child hit a milestone, achieve something great, or simply seeing them happy is one of the greatest things for a parent. I get to experience this every year, every month, and sometimes every day: not just with my own children but a handful of others. For this I am thankful.
I am a mom that teaches. I remind myself on a daily basis that I’m doing this job because I want my son to value education and our position. On a daily basis I go above and beyond the “requirements” of our job because every kid deserves someone working for them, teaching them the value of working for themselves. My son doesn’t get all of me, but he gets to see that my hard work is for all sorts of kids, there are no barriers, and a lot are better off because of it… Not sure this makes any sense, but most teachers are crazy special people for our underappreciated abilities to care for, support, and inspire kids that aren’t our flesh and blood…
– Amy Sanford-Smith (Science Teacher)
Teacher moms often feel the guilt of not always being totally there for our own children, but we know that we are giving it our all. My children know that I love them and would do anything for them. I think they know that I would also do the same for my students. I hope that one day they will see and appreciate the efforts that I give to educating others. I hope that they acknowledge the hard work and commitment that their own teachers give them. It definitely takes a village, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
Contributing Sister Site and Author
Mary, a native of Rockford, Illinois, attended DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois where she received her BA in Secondary Art Education. In 2007, she moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa after accepting a position as a high school visual arts teacher with the Cedar Rapids Community School District. She and her husband, Collin, who is a teacher in the Iowa City Community School District, reside in Cedar Rapids with their daughters, Zoey and Munroe. Zoey is five and Munroe will be turning one in October 2016. In addition to being a full time mommy, full time teacher, and writer for the Iowa City Moms Blog, she is also a professional artist who has shown and published works both nationally and internationally. Mary enjoys traveling, painting, and most of all, spending time with her family.