As I type this (on a Wednesday morning), I’m home in my yoga pants drinking warm(ish) coffee watching my sweet, sick girl sleep. While there is absolutely nowhere I’d rather be, as a teacher, these days are few and far between from September thru May, and they always come at a cost.
One of my Facebook friends posted this status on Tuesday, and I thought it summed things up pretty perfectly:
In fact, Nora was sicker yesterday, but my grades were due at school so (after a rough night of stuffy noses, coughing, and no more than four hours of sleep for either of us), I sucked it up, poured a GIANT mug of coffee, gave our babysitter a million instructions, thanked her for loving my kids and being the one to cuddle them when they needed it, and went to work. I felt guilty all day.
To be home today, I spent a few hours yesterday re-working my schedule/plans at school, securing and prepping for a sub, posting announcements for my students, etc., and I still feel guilty. Guilty that my co-workers will have to pick up my slack while I’m out. Guilty that my students won’t have the most meaningful class time today. Guilty that I’m using my only sick day right now (thanks to maternity leave last spring) and it will be a headache if she is sicker later. The list goes on…
Teacher or not, I bet many of you know that guilt.
But this post isn’t about guilt…
It actually reminded me of an email I got a while back from a friend/blog reader who is a mom of three young kids and considering a teaching career. She wrote:
I’ve been toying with entering into a career-switcher program that will earn me my teaching certificate (for teaching high school). I’ve wanted to do this for a while, but the timing wasn’t right… Now, it feels like this plan might finally be able to take shape, so I wanted to ask you: Is there anything you wished you knew before you started teaching? I realize this is a huge question, I’m just trying to wrap my head around how we’d make it work. I’m assuming there is much work that is done outside the classroom, on your own time. Do you still find you are able to do what you need to do for your family and for you?
I know these are loaded questions! I know it will be challenging… but I know it is something that I will love to do. I know there are challenging aspects – administration, parents, etc. – But no job is perfect. I think, at the end of the day, I will love it more than not.
I love these questions, and I have thought about them SO much in the last few months. I think a lot of people (not this particular friend) think that teaching is an “easy” or “perfect” job for moms; and, while I don’t disagree that there are a lot of family-friendly aspects of this career path and that it works well for MANY moms, I don’t think it is as simple as choosing a job that is “convenient.” Trust me, the cons will outweigh the pros if that is your incentive. What stands out to me most about this friend’s email is the idea that teaching is something she would love to do. I think you guys know how much I love my job, and I think that is SO key. That is what makes teaching and parenting work together. (So friend, you’d do great!)
But, for logic’s sake, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of teaching for moms (based on my admittedly limited experience and humble opinions):
Pros of Teaching for Moms:
- Hours are convenient for daycare/school. Most teachers are “on the clock” from 7 or 8AM to 2 or 3PM, plus they have snow days, holidays, and summers off – mostly – in line with your own kids’ school calendars.
- You are familiar with the education system and the lives of kids/teenagers/etc. (I guess this could go either way, but I think of this as a positive. It will – hopefully – make me a better school-mom and parent as my kids grow up and enter the system themselves.)
- There are lots of other parents in teaching, so you generally feel understood and supported. I’ve always had the privilege of working with great colleagues and administration that make balancing my role as mom and teacher easier and will work with me when things do come up that take me away from the classroom, etc. (From what I understand about other professions in the corporate world, this isn’t always the case.)
- It’s easy to see a great cause for the work you are doing and, subsequently, for your kids to understand (and benefit) from that. Even on the days I feel bad about leaving my own kids, I feel good about the role I am playing in the lives of others and grateful that other moms and dads have trusted me with them. Also, since Sam goes to (pre)school and has a teacher himself, he really does get where I am and why I’m not with him every day. Just this morning, when I told him I was staying home with Nora, he said “but who will take care of your students?” 😉
- People generally respect your decision to teach because of the above points, so you don’t usually encounter a lot of trolls in the “working mom” debate.
- If you teach high school, you get to hang out with cool teenagers, have deep and intelligent conversation, and learn something every.single.day.
Cons of Teaching for Moms:
- Your day-to-day schedule is not all that flexible. It takes a lot of work to plan for a substitute so you can be home with a sick child, go on a field trip, etc., and you can almost never just “run out” for a quick doctor’s appointment or school assembly.
- Your mornings are early (see above); and, if you happen to be running late (because the baby always needs to eat five minutes before you walk out the door), you will meet 26 faces when you arrive.
- Unlike some other jobs, teachers don’t get a real “lunch break” that could be used for meeting friends, running errands, etc.
- You WILL have to do work outside of school – planning, grading, attending events, etc. (This gets slightly better the longer you have been in the classroom; but, I’d estimate that I spend about 8-10 hours a week doing school work outside of my regular work hours, and this is my 9th year teaching.)
- You are “on” for seven hours when you are with kids (I often equate teaching to acting – or at least what I think acting would be like), people say your name and need your “help” all.day.long, so it is physically exhausting and sometimes hard to come home and have to be “on” for your own kids too. I almost always need another cup of coffee (or a fifteen minute power nap) to get me from 4PM to bedtime.
- Teaching is also an emotionally exhausting job. I genuinely care about every one of my students. In addition to my two biological kids, I consider all 75 of my school kids mine too. I spend a lot of my time and mental energy outside of school thinking about and worrying about my students, and that can be taxing.
- Sometimes people think of you as “just” a teacher and don’t understand/value your time as a “working mom” as they would if, say, you had a more “high profile” job. For example, expecting you to still be on every committee, volunteer for things, do ten million things in the summers, etc.
I’m sure there are lots more of each, but that’s what I’ve come up with for now…
To summarize: I don’t think there is anything wrong with being attracted to a job that gives you two months off every year, has snow days, and “ends” at 3PM. Those are all GREAT perks, but they won’t be enough to sustain you on this career path… If you love kids, want to invest in their lives and their futures, believe in the power of education, and care about your subject matter, you will be happy as a teacher and find a way to make it work with your family priorities, schedule, etc. You WILL have to make sacrifices, but they will be worth it; and, I believe you will all (you, your husband, your kids, and your students) be better.
So, fellow teacher-moms, do you agree? What would you add to my pro/con list?
Have a great day!
P.S. Other related posts: 20 Things to Know Before Your First Year Teaching High School, 3 Tips for Surviving the Teacher Workload & Staying Sane, Should You Keep Teaching After You Start a Family: Two Different Perspectives, and On Choosing to Be a Working Mom
AND…. If you’re already a teacher and about to become a mom, you don’t want to miss my FREE eCourse on preparing for maternity leave! Sign up by clicking the image below and instantly gain access to my Big Maternity Leave Checklist for Teachers too!!!