Every dreadful Monday morning, my coworkers were running in, disheveled to get their classrooms ready for 30 plus kids, every 47 minutes for an 8-hour workday. They seemed distant and detached. I had no idea that some of those colleagues had already fought battles with their children during morning routines. Dressing and feeding two or three kids who are half-cleaned and awake is a challenge even Marie Kondo wouldn’t touch.
I, in contrast, at the time, was single and would waltz in, freshly spritzed with the most current and new season’s soft, floral perfume. My only morning quandary was my disappointment with my chosen ensemble for that day. I pitied some of those mothers and fathers and had no real connection to what they were going through. I had no idea the amount of effort it took to be a working parent until I had my little one in 2015.
My first year as a new mother, I knew that I wanted to be successful at both, and that’s the over-achiever in me. I thought, I’ve been teaching already for a decade and mastered many of the skills as a successful teacher. So, throwing in a kid into the equation shouldn’t cause too much of a disruption in my life. I had already taken care of 150 plus kids every year, this shouldn’t be that difficult. I am highly organized. I can create a system that is conducive for my lifestyle. I got this. I will buy a cute spiral, some cool gel pens, stickers and get to planning my new mom-at-work life.
As a teacher, I went back to work three months after my son was born and was ready to take on my new role by the first fall-sounding bell. Unfortunately, all of the same standards, expectations, and deadlines were still there, this in addition to all of the new challenges new parents face with their little ones required 100-percent more effort. Where was I going to get that effort? For me, green tea and coffee became required concoctions throughout the day. Like taking vitamins or medicine to stay alive. Give me my caffeine fix.
My plans didn’t go accordingly. My sleep was disrupted, my body chemistry changed because I had a new, ever so fashionable “mom-bod.” Which made sex awkward because I felt like a wilderness safari with all of the movement and sounds. In addition, my eating habits and cravings changed, even my eyesight morphed to near blindness because of hormones. Stupid hormones. There were so many challenges my little spiral couldn’t answer. One evening, after a few glasses of wine, I burned my spiral. Yes, I watched all my little notes, doodles and plans go up in glorious, hot flames. Felt good. Screw it, I’m gonna wing it.
There is no perfect ideal plan. But in the end, I learned to be happy with the job I’ve chosen. Because when you are late to dance recitals, baseball games or dinner, it has to be for a good reason. I will say what you’re not supposed to say, being a mom didn’t fill my cup 100-percent. I needed more than that. Luckily, writing has given the ability to work from home and take on projects that make me feel important. Working makes me happy. It gives me something to feel productive and appreciated. Lately, the workplace paradigm has shifted. I adore the idea that so many mompreneurs have created opportunities for other moms to feel part of a community where they are contributing denizens. I encourage moms to be creative and if you need to work, think outside the box and pick up small projects. With the advent of home-delivery services, there are so many companies that will hire you to work your own hours at your convenience and you don’t even have to wear high heels.
Secondly, there is only one of you. Working in the public school system as a parent is extremely self-sacrificing. There are times when other people’s children come before your very own. This stress can lead to a lot of feelings of guilt and inadequacy as a teacher/worker and even as a mother, which is your most important job and responsibility. It is an extremely fragile dichotomy that can lead to a perplexing state. These feelings can deepen as time goes on can develop into anxiety and depression. Working through those feelings of guilt and inadequacy of not being there every single day is a cognizant process. I personally walk and it helps take those negative chemicals like cortisol and process them out of your system to leave you feeling euphoric and positive.
Lastly, remember that you are a mom first. You are not only legally required to make sure your child’s needs are met, but we have to remind ourselves that we are our children’s caregivers. No one else is going to step up and take care of them like we are. So, when in the face of feeling like you should put something else in front of your own child and feel guilty that you can’t take on those long weekend projects, don’t. We aren’t working moms, but moms at work and being a mom always comes first.