Stay at Home or go to Work? The struggle.

I never saw myself as a “stay at home mom” type.  My mom worked for most of our childhood and I considered it a badge of honor to have the ability to take care of a household and hold down a career at the same time.  I’m going to very shamefully admit that I looked at stay at home moms as…I don’t know…too weak to work at the same time?

After my brief stint as a stay at home mom, however, my oh my how that tune has changed.

Let’s back up a bit, shall we?

I’m a high school English teacher.  Last year, our district was making cuts and unfortunately, my position was not to stay.  I cried and boohooed, fought, stamped my feet, and finally, after much debate, tried to accept my reality.  I had a decision to make:  find another teaching position in an overly saturated market or stay home with the baby for the next year.  I had  many factors to consider.  What if my husband deploys?  What if I get another job in another school and we are stationed elsewhere?  Do I really want to be the new kid AGAIN?  Can I leave my baby in daycare?  What if I take a year off and then struggle to find employment again?  Etc, etc, etc.

Can I just say that I do not think people who are 8 months pregnant should be required to make any kind of life altering decisions.  I was too fat and emotional to see things clearly.

On one hand, I’m a teacher, in the same way that I’m a mom, a wife, and a friend.  It is part of my genetic make-up.

On the other hand, I’m a MOTHER.  Isn’t that supposed to be above all else?

In any case, my husband and I ultimately decided I would stay home.  So, May 26th, I packed up my classroom, balled my eyes out while making the rounds and hugging folks, and settled into a year long of stay at home wife/mothering.

The month of June brought temperatures entirely too hot for a pregnant lady to withstand, so I spent the bulk of it on my couch, watching trashy tv and wishing my baby would come so I could meet him.  This stay at home thing isn’t too bad, I thought to myself.  In fact…I’m really liking it!  My husband didn’t really have too many expectations of me in June as my stomach was bigger around than I was tall.  I caught up on my reading, I lounged around with the dogs.  It was GREAT.  I received several calls from various schools requesting an interview, but I always let them roll to voicemail.  I was a stay at home mom, now.  No time to entertain my career.  I wore an indention in the couch and waited.  And slowly, but surely, I felt just a tiny little piece of me disappear.  I wasn’t 100% ME anymore.  I think at the time, I attributed that to being very pregnant and being stuck in a sort of limbo until the baby arrived.  Looking back, though, I see that with each missed phone call, I lost myself, bit by bit.

Then the baby arrived.  And I have never been so happy in my whole life.  He was finally here.  All thoughts of returning to work were out of my head with the coming of a 6lb bundle of baby.

The transition back home was easy and we settled into our new lives.  The first few weeks, my husband stayed home.  We shared baby responsibilities and mostly just spent our days staring at him in awe.

Then A went back to work.

The first week, I LOVED having my baby all to myself for those daytime hours.  It was almost like being pregnant again.  I didn’t have to share him with anybody.

But, I realized something.  This whole stay at home mom thing?  Yeah.  Turns out they don’t just sit on their butts and goof off on pinterest.  They work.  There was always a bottle to wash, a butt to wipe, a dog to walk, clothes to wash, floors to vacuum, errands to run…and it was overwhelming.  Not because the work was particularly hard, but because I was not mentally stimulated by any of it.  I realized that stay at home moms have this amazing gift to hold down the fort while finding creative outlets to nourish their own minds and souls.  And y’all, I couldn’t do it.  I tried, but I couldn’t.  I loved taking care of my baby, but all of the other stuff that came with staying at home was not rewarding, nor enriching for me in the slightest.

I grappled with my inner demons.  Does wanting to go to work make me less of a mother?  I love my baby more than anything on this planet, but I don’t know if I can stay home with him and maintain my sanity.  Shouldn’t I be head over heels at the prospect of watching my sweet pea grow this first year?  Many women are.  Why am I not one of them?  What is wrong with me?

It was a brutal introduction to mom guilt.

And just when all of these unvoiced fears and disappointments threatened to take me over, I received a call from my principal, offering me a job…and amazing job.  I panicked.  I cried.  (Seriously, I never cried before I got pregnant, but now…don’t drop your hat around me, I will soon be hysterical!)  Do I want this job?  24 hours ago I was resigned to staying at home.  Do I really want that stress again?  Being a teacher is a 24 hour commitment, and I already have a 24 hour commitment.  Can I get daycare at this short notice?  School was already in session.  Do I even want to put my baby at daycare so young?

But then, while analyzing the situation within an inch of its life, I realized something.  My little spark had come back.  Sure, I was all dewy with baby love and mommy happiness, but my little brand of feisty was gone…and yet…was this it, this little glowing ember?  My principal made a few calls and I made a few calls and within 24 hours we had secured Raylan a spot in daycare.  He starts next week.

I’m so sad I can’t be with my baby.  But I am so happy to be going back to work.

This has made me realize that it takes all kinds of people in the world to make it go round.  And just because I can’t fit myself into a certain mold, doesn’t mean I am less than.  Being a stay at home mom just wasn’t my mold.

I am a mom, first and foremost.  But I am also an educator.  I birthed one baby, but I teach a hundred more.  My ability to educate is very important to me, as is my ability to mother.  And I think I can have both.

For the stay at home moms out there, you’re amazing.  I didn’t have the mental fortitude or emotional strength to do it and I am SO freaking impressed by those who do.

For the working moms out there, you’re amazing.  I hope that our guilt is assuaged by the knowledge that even if we aren’t there all the time, we are doing our personal best for our babies.

Here’s hoping we all manage to keep our wits about us as we navigate this crazy thing called life, no matter where you fall in the mommy line-up.

And here’s to another school year!

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A happy moment

One of my most favorite Langston Hughes’ poems is Theme for English B.  In it, Hughes describes an assignment given to him by an English professor.

 

Go home and write 
a page tonight. 
And let that page come out of you— 
Then, it will be true.”

 

In the poem, he explores race and notes that his written words do not distinguish himself as black.  If one were to read the poem, they would not be able to guess whether a black person or white person had written it.  But, because of his life experiences, his color tends to come through anyways.  Because it’s part of what makes him…well…him.

I love the idea of simply putting pen to paper and writing something that is “true.”  So, I asked my students to do the same.

This was a couple weeks ago and I am just now getting to grading them…I know, I know.  ANYWAYS, as I’m reading them, I can’t help but be impressed.  They came so far in the past year.  They even had a different teacher the first two weeks.  I didn’t take over until week 3.

And then I got to this poem, in particular.  As a teacher, when I’m feeling beaten down and trodden upon by administration, my students remind me the real reason I am here.  This little piece, in particular, gave me hope that I did something right.

 

POEM

English III was to me nothing but a regular class that I’m going to pass, but I got a mean, stuck up teacher.

Then, all of a sudden, I get a better, cool teacher.

She listens and actually talks to her students.

The class actually likes her.

English was nothing but a boring, book-reading class, with the exception of going to sleep.

But when the new teacher came, the class was more open minded and fun.

And I was more into the class and talked in the class a lot.

Mrs. Clawson…Mrs. Claw-Dog was her name.

The End

 

 

Such a small and silly thing, but such a gift.

Ok, I take back the snow days

I LEAPED for joy when I found out we had Tuesday off.

I almost cried when I realized school had been canceled on Wednesday as well.

Two more days of bra-less freedom!

Now, as I sit on my planning period staring at the emails, piles of grading, and basic headaches of catching us up…I have regret.  Surely, that pillow fort could have waited…why oh WHY did I leave these essays at work?

Y’all can have the snow days!  I don’t want them anymore!

The Last Day of Christmas Break…

In case I hadn’t made it clear in this blog at some point in the last few days, I’m a teacher.  English, specifically – 11th and 12th grade currently.  And the day I hoped would never come, has indeed arrived…the last evening of Christmas break.

I have mixed feelings.

One on hand, I have genuinely missed my 190 large children.  A lot.

On the other hand, I have not missed their attitudes…not even a little bit.

I’ve missed my teacher friends and am looking forward to getting back into a more normal routine.

However, I still have a stack of grading that must be accomplished before tomorrow (so of course I decided to spin out a blog post!) and about a billion other things to do before the bell rings tomorrow morning and the kids storm the halls.

Teaching is a world of mixed feelings, especially in the current climate.

BUT, this semester, I’m going to be kinder on myself.  Last semester, I was kinder on the kids.  LET ME EXPLAIN.

Last semester, I accepted work, no matter if it was two months late.  I didn’t care.  Just get it turned in, was my motto.  (Which is even more ridiculous when you consider the fact that I never assigned homework, so it was CLASS work they were turning in late…how does that happen?)  I rarely even took points off for late work.  This resulted in a massive pile of grading that I never caught up with, even now, the night before grades are due.  I stayed up way too late, working on lesson plans and creating activities to engage and differentiate and scaffold and all the other buzz words teachers are supposed to incorporate and live by.  I was patient, too patient.  I didn’t have any patience left by the time I got home to my family.  I worked hard and broke my back and judged myself harshly.  I cared more about my students than they cared about themselves.

Now, I’m not saying I’m about to turn into the hateful bitch from horrible teacher-ville.  But what I am saying, is I’m going to do things much differently this semester.  I’m going to be more stricter about due dates and deadlines.  You either get it in or you don’t.  And if you don’t turn in your work, that’s on you.  I’m going to teach myself to not feel so guilty when my students fail themselves.  And by being more strict on due dates, I simultaneously will be celebrating the ones who turned their work in on time and did what they were supposed to do by rewarding them with the grade they earned, and not rewarding others who decided to not reach the standard.  I will make better use of my time at school and stay an hour or so later, so that when I get home, I have no work to bring home with me.  I will be patient, but I will draw a line.  I will not let my patience be stretched, so that when I get my home, the smallest thing A does makes me snap at him.  I will love them just the same, but I will do it firmly, by holding them accountable for their own work.  I will start assigning homework.  I should not feel compelled to over extend myself and the kids during class for the sake of not assigning homework.  I know most will not do it, but some will, and I will celebrate those victories until the rest get the point.

I guess this whole post could be summed up in one sentence:  I will hold them more accountable for their own actions and feel less guilt about the decisions THEY make.

Now…here’s hoping my new outlook benefits my students, my butter bean growing in my belly, and my family.