For the past week, I have been back in the classroom, facilitating a graduate-level course for teachers of grades k to 8. Our focus has been managing a writing and reading classroom, and we have emphasized the use of a workshop model with elementary and middle school students. I have enjoyed the topic, the interaction with like-minded peers, and the opportunity to shake up my routine. Also, in the process, I made some discoveries.
First, and happily, I realized that I am exactly where I want and need to be—a stay-at-home-mom, making child-rearing my career.
As much as I enjoyed my week, and appreciate what the participants do in their classrooms each school year, there isn’t any part of me that thinks I should be back in the classroom right now instead of home with my girls. As I meet more and more women who have gone back to the classroom after having children, it is clear that my choice is not the best for everyone. But seeing myself in that role this past week has shown me that it’s the best for me.
It was eye-opening to come home after a full day of work, and then have only the hours of 4:30 to 7 pm with the girls. True, it made me throw myself into full “play mode” to make the most of the brief time not taken up by dinner, baths, and bedtime routine, but I was exhausted at the same time, and quickly felt spread a little thin.
True, I was able to keep up with a few loads of laundry and getting dinner on the table, but I recognized how challenging it would be to maintain that schedule week after week, and how everything felt just a hair short of under control.
I won’t say that I got a new-found respect for working mothers, because there has never been a time when I haven’t looked in awe at what they manage to juggle. I will say that it confirmed my own preferences and priorities, even if it means living on $60,000 or so less a year.
Second, I learned how amazingly adaptable my kids (and children, in general) are.
When I did this last year, I came home on Monday afternoon and Katy (who was two at the time) would barely look at me, and seemed almost angry that I had left her for the day. By Tuesday afternoon, both girls happily moved from playing with the babysitter to playing with me, no hard feelings and no harm done.
This year, Bayla (age two herself) cried when the babysitter left on Thursday because she wanted her to stay for one more round of hide and seek, and Katy kept calling me by the babysitter’s name all afternoon on Friday.
Then today, everything is back to “normal.” Bayla is telling me, “Mommy, I like ya’!” and there are no references to the fact I was gone all week. Our babysitter gave me a tremendous gift by being someone they could enjoy best of all when my only choice was to leave them with her! I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Third, it was re-affirmed to me that I am extremely adaptable, perhaps to the point of being fickle.
Like my kids, whatever I am doing becomes exactly what I want to do. Back when I was teaching in the public schools, it played out something like this: “I want to teach middle school. Oh, you only have a spot for me at the high school? I’m a high school teacher; I couldn’t imagine teaching middle school again.” “I want to teach English. Oh, you have a spot for me in the social studies department? I’m a history teacher; I couldn’t imagine teaching English!” “I would never teach an AP class. Oh, you need an AP European history teacher? I couldn’t imagine not teaching this AP class!” And on and on it goes.
It serves me well; after all, it keeps me happy with whatever spot I am put in. But it strikes me as a little fickle! Now, I’ve been away from my art journaling and my blogging for a week, and I’m a little creaky about getting back into it. It’s easy to put it aside, and hard to pick it back up again.
I DID wake up today with a clear need to pick up my ultra-fine Sharpie and a notebook to draw a Zentangle design that wouldn’t leave me alone as I lay in bed this morning. I take that as a good sign that with a little time and focus in the next few days, I’ll be back to my old art journaling and blogging self by week’s end!