Sunday, January 6, 2013
Come Monday morning, our beautiful two week vacation for the Christmas and New Year's holidays will be over and I will drop Natalie off at day-care and return to school. Being a working mother is always a tightrope walk; trying to balance a long day of work full of responsibility with nurturing, parenting and loving a child into adulthood.....sometimes when you're absolutely wiped and devoid of any spare patience.
These are a few personal "rules" that I have institued into my own life in order to find some sort of workable balance that allows me to invest myself into the education of my students at school without neglecting my biggest responsibility - love Natalie and being her mother.
Just a disclaimer - this works for ME as a teacher whose contract hours during a non-coaching season are from 8:15 until 4:15 but during that time in the day I am very scheduled with no real room for running errands or going to appointments. Since I've never been in the corporate world, I can't specifically say how these would work on that level, but hopefully you will all be able to find something useful nonetheless.
1. When you're at work....do your work and when at home....BE at home. It all goes back to what our teacher's told us during school - use your time wisely. Do work at work so that when you get home, the computer can stay closed and you can spend time playing babies, trains and puzzles. But for me it's more than just not bringing home tests to grade or creating lesson plans at 10:00 during Jon Stewart - it's the emotional aspect. It's allowing a nasty email from a parent to weigh on my heart and mind which ultimately affects my mood and behavior at home with Natalie. When we are together, Natalie deserves my loving attention and does not need to bear the brunt of my bad day at work - something that has nothing to do with her.
2. If possible, set a time limit and stick to it. Even before I had a husband and child, I set this rule for myself - 5:00 was my usual deadline, with 5:30 if I had more papers or tests to grade. I found that I worked more efficiently and productively if I imposed a time limit on myself by which I HAD to have a particular set of tasks completed. It also helped me feel less overwhelmed by a large work load and instead with a time constraint I was able to focus and prioritize on what needed my immediate attention and what could be left until the next day. Working repeatedly long hours wreaks havoc on your energy and psyche....and NO lesson plan or ungraded assignment is worth risking my mental health.
3. Plan ahead. On Sundays Craig and I plan out our week - we sit down with the menu board and my planner and figure out what nights we will be home and what our commitments look like. By doing this, I'm able to look forward and see when I will have to leave work early for a doctor's appointment or right at 4:25 to make it to Craig's basketball game on time. This way I can more effectively manage my time at work and know when I need to have certain items prepared due to time constraints later in the week. Sometimes parents get a bad rap at work because of the idea that we have to shirk duties due to an after school sports game or a sick child. My thought process is that if I'm going to cut out early from work on one day, I better be making up for it some other time so that I am still being a functioning, competent and productive employee.
4. Designate a Family Night and make it a priority. Sometimes between our school schedule, my personal volleyball league, Craig's select basketball practices and other social activities, our weekly calendar gets pretty jam-packed to the point where we haven't really talked until our heads hit the pillows. Since MOST weeks our games and such are consistently on the same days, we are able to designate one certain evening as our Family Night. Most of the time we don't do anything special - I cook a good meal, the television stays off for the most part and we sit up in the playroom and play babies, blocks, Legos, read books and pretty much whatever else Natalie wants us to do. Even if you can't ensure that it's going to be the SAME night every week, try to pick one night a week where the outside world disappears and the only thing that matters are the people in your home.
5. Be flexible and enjoy the moment. I'm definitely a person who revels in a schedule. Bedtime with Natalie starts around 8:00 and involves jammies, putting her babies to bed, reading a book with Craig and then being rocked for about ten minutes before being placed in her crib. And believe me....there are certainly days when we are counting down the minutes until we can kick off her bedtime routine just because it's been THAT kind of day. But then there are the evenings when she is delightful and neither Craig nor myself are quite ready to put her to bed when 8:00 rolls around. So we let her stay up a little later and enjoy her presence, forgetting the time and schedule.
Working and being a mother is always going to be tricky. There will be sacrifice and there will be some sort of guilt. But it can be done....and the family unit can thrive.