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Tips For Solving the Parent Educator Dilemma

Before I was a mom, my approach to teaching was different. As a matter of fact, teaching was literally my life, but that was a LONG time ago.

Most of my days were spent at school, finding new ways to engage kids and learn my craft. My nights were spent researching how to be a better teacher.

Committed to really growing as an educator, I devoted myself to knowing as much as possible in my content area.

Then I got married, had a son and my time was no longer my own.

Lack of sleep and home commitments made teaching more challenging. Still completely engaged in my role as a teacher and adviser at school,  the struggle to find time for my infant son became guilt-producing. I'd cry my way to school after leaving him in the morning and use the drive to refocus my energy once at work.

Just because I became a mom, didn't mean I was ready to abandon my first love, teaching.

A few years passed and my first marriage wasn't meant to be and school became my sanctuary again. Back and forth between the mom of one and facilitator to 150; teaching made me feel good and safe when life at home was complicated.

No one will ever complain that teaching is easy, but when your personal life seems to be crumbling, the structure of school can be comforting and it was.

And this made me feel even guiltier.

My son was getting older and I was trying to repave my career and life in a positive way. Eager to give to both my passion for my job and the unconditional love to my child I found myself exhausted mentally and physically.

Here are some things I've learned over the last few years as a single mom and a teacher (FYI: I'm not always good at taking my own advice): 

  • Family should always come first 

  • Be present with whichever situation you are in. At work, be focused on work. At home, be focused on home.

  • There will be moments at school that will require a lot of your attention, but you can't allow it to become more than temporary. If at all possible, try to work the necessity around when your children are sleeping or if you're divorced when it isn't your custody time.

  • When special events happen for your children, make it a point to go whenever you can. I love to do the read-aloud days or writing celebrations, musical concerts, or field days whenever it doesn't conflict too badly with important days at school.

  • Set time aside every day to disconnect and be with family without technology

  • Set clear boundaries that are transparent at home and work

  • Involve family in school wherever possible so you can share what's important with everyone. There are few things better than watching my son interact with my students. He loves coming to school with me.

  • Be honest about what you need with who you are around.

Have you ever seen the scene in Mr. Holland's Opus where his son Cole yells at him and tells him he loves his students more than he loves him? I cry every time because my biggest fear is that my son will feel that way; I'm embarrassed to admit there are probably moments where he does feel this way, but I try to limit them. 

Being a parent who is an educator requires a fair amount of balance that takes practice. After almost 15 years, I'm still not very good at it. I struggle with being the best at what I do at work and being the best mom and often I feel like I'm not anywhere close at either.

What's your best tip for balancing parenting and teaching? Please share

This post originally ran in July 2015 on my Education Week Teacher blog

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