Amanda and I taught high school together 7 years ago, and it has been a joy watching her as a mother, especially the delight she has in working alongside mothering. I wanted her to share in this series about working and motherhood because I have gotten to hear her thoughts on this from the beginning, in a career similar to my own. Teaching and academia can be trying with little children, but they ultimately offer a freedom of time spent with family that many other professions don’t allow. I’m Amanda, married to Ben, mom to two loud little ladies, Emerson (4) and Evangeline (almost 2).
I have the most ideal work situation in the entire world, and its matchless qualities are not lost on me. I’m a part-time high school teacher. I teach morning classes five days a week at a classical Christian school that I LOVE. My girls attend morning Mother’s Day Out at the school, so there is just one destination on my commute. (Our youngest has a babysitter on days when her class does not meet, but she will go to “school” five days a week next year.)
When I was pregnant with my oldest, I was really sure that I wanted to return to work after the baby was born, but I was anxious about what that would mean for our family. I’d never had my very own baby before, and the I was very aware that I was stepping into unfamiliar territory. We decided that I would ask my principal to reduce my classes to a part-time load, and she agreed. Since my baby was due in November and we had planned to move the following May, I would essentially have one semester to try balancing a career and motherhood. It worked out nicely, and after we moved, I was able to get a similar position at the school where I’m currently teaching.
I consider my circumstances to be nearly perfect. I absolutely love my job and my students, and my co-workers are some of my dearest friends. My commute to work is incredibly efficient since there is only one destination. I drop my children off and then go up a flight of stairs to teach in the high school wing of the building. My children’s teachers are my colleagues, and they are brilliant educators who love my girls very well. I don’t have to coordinate childcare often since we are all on the same school calendar-when my kids are out of school, I am off work. In general, we have weekends, most holidays, and summers together.
However, every situation has its challenges. Our days start early, and we are on a pretty strict schedule so that everyone is adequately rested. Teaching is a job that follows you home, and some class prep work and grading happens in the early morning hours or late at night. I spend an hour or two on the weekends prepping lunches, laying out clothes, and getting ready for the week. And like any other parent, I (sometimes) miss my children when we’re not together. These are relatively minuscule difficulties, but they do make life a bit more complicated.
For us, however, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. My job is a source of joy for me-I truly love being with my students and colleagues. Additionally, some minor limitations on my time with my children help me to appreciate them more. I’m a better mom when I’m not actively momming 24/7.
We’ve seen the benefits of having our children regularly cared for by other adults. They are learning that there are consistent values among their caregivers, even if we differ in our caregiving styles. They practice social skills with their peers, learn to advocate for themselves, and do all kinds of crafts I wouldn’t do with them, because this mom doesn’t craft. 🙂 But the best part of having them is school is watching them develop independence and confidence. My girls have a space where they are known for who they are, not for who their mom or dad is. In those short hours away from me, they are discovering their personalities, strengths, and gifts. As much as I love these years with littles, my ultimate goal is to raise them for release, and it helps to see them taking tiny steps toward self-reliance.
There are all kinds of ways to be a good parent, and we don’t cast judgement on parents who make decisions that are different from ours. But we are very thankful that we have such a clear vision for how to structure our work/life balance, and for a work situation that accommodates our family so well. And, of course, we are especially grateful for the little people who complete our team.