Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Don't look down

I can't say that I feel that I am being successful as a working mother, but lately I've been feeling like I've created a delicate balance that seems to be working. Or maybe it just felt like it was working on Monday. Doing crazy type-A chores like putting together all my clothes for the week on Sunday night and making all my lunches on Sunday night seem to help. I know the exact amount of time I need to get my lesson plans together so that the minute Little Lipstick's head hits the crib mattress for her nap I am frantically working, praying that she will sleep for a full hour and a half so that I can get it done. The poor souls who try to interrupt me at this point are usually met with total frustration or are ignored. It's not pretty, but it works.
At school I mentally schedule every minute- I have two minutes to send everything to print, two minutes to make copies, three to get together the materials. Forget making friends or having pleasant conversations- get the work done and get out- seems to be what it's about.

Delicate balance, but some days it seems to work. I just can't look down and think about exactly how high up on the tight rope I am. If I wobble or second guess my balance at all it all comes crashing down.

Little L woke up with a fever yesterday- which of course means frantic sub plans, emails to everyone involved at school, trying to make it all work out. As the day went on she got sicker and sicker. By the time we got to the doctor's office at 5 she had a ridiculously high fever. We were there for hours as they ran tests.

The careful balance I'd figured out for this week came crashing down. All those details I'd spent so long working on needed to be written into sub plans, emailed out, canceled, changed, rearranged. All I want to do is think about poor Little L and all I can do is frantically type plans and emails.

How do people do this? I wasn't giving my baby what she needed because I was focused on school. And I wasn't giving school what I needed because I was focused on my baby. Disappointing everyone I work with, my family, and myself.

I've always been overly committed to teaching. Even when I just volunteered in classrooms when I was in high school and college I always went above and beyond for the kids. It's a huge strength, and a huge flaw. I have trouble identifying when to draw the line and step back from the work.

Now that I have my own little one I desperately need to find a way to keep school in it's school box so that Little L will always come first. With the demands of the classroom, the needs of the students, and the desire to give my students the absolute best- my difficulty in letting things go- all creates a horrible storm where school is always in my mind even when I'm with Little L.
Last night I was holding her burning hot body at the doctors' office, talking and singing to her, all the while mentally making sub plans. and I hate myself for it. Moms, how do you all do this?

I love my job. When the tight rope dance works works, I appreciate that I can be a working mom. But when it doesn't? Is it OK to fail as both a teacher and a parent?

At 11 o'clock last night I was staring at my computer trying to decide if I needed to cancel my extremely important meeting for this morning. Every bone in my body told me to go to work and hold the meeting- it feels so wrong to cancel on work. But thank goodness I put Little L first- it was a rough night and she needs me here today.

How do I find the balance? How do I make it OK with myself to put school aside and focus on my family?


The Science Goddess said...

I'm not a mom, but...

One of the most important lessons I learned in my first year of teaching was that the kids (in the classroom) will be all right. Sure, the instruction isn't the same and everyone's routine gets a little bent. But when you go back, you pick up and move on. Somehow, I thought that the world would end and gave myself guilt trips about being out sick---and I didn't need to. It was all really okay.

Remember, you have paras in the classroom and others who know the kids and expectations. Make a "master plan" that will tell a sub the essentials about your classroom, then you can fill in the gaps when you need to be away. Is there a para for your room that you could call and give instructions to? It's a lot faster to talk. What about recording a message for the sub?

The most important thing is to not beat yourself up. Take care of yourself and Little Lipstick. The rest will be there when you're ready.

Anonymous said...

In a two-parent family, a wise economics professor once wrote, things would work out far better if both parents could work a 2/3 schedule, but on different, overlapping "shifts." Then the child(ren) would have an on-duty parent all except for about four hours per day. The real world, of course, doesn't seem too interested in accomodating that system.

luckeyfrog said...

You'll learn the balancing act. And maybe to have some emergency sub plans ready :)

It'll get there. I'm not a mom, so I don't know from my own experience, but my co-teacher said that it took time, but she slowly learned how to move more of her activities to routine ones, more prep to other people (or to other days where she could, say, get a babysitter for an afternoon and get tons done), and also just to let more go.

Your child is your first priority- and the rest will happen. Just might take a little time to figure out.