Finding The Teacher-Mom Balance

“You wander from room to room

Hunting for the diamond necklace

That is already around your neck.” -Rumi

from Thrive, by Arianna Huffington

I’ve always been a working mom. I guess I should qualify that – I’ve always been a work-outside-the-home mom. Since I was in my thirties before I had both children, I spent several years teaching before they rocked my world…and to be honest, it was a struggle to figure out how I could balance it all.

I loved being a teacher. In my twenties, pre-kids, I poured everything I had into my middle school English classes. It wasn’t that I necessarily felt that teaching was my ‘calling’-I just wanted to do the best job I could. It’s my personality. I devoured teaching-I couldn’t get enough training. I had my eye on reaching the ‘top’ of my profession as quickly as possible. I volunteered to be a ‘team leader’ of teachers, I worked on district committees, and pretty soon I was selected as the department leader and mentor teacher. I was right where I wanted to be.

And then my daughter was born. Naively, I thought I could jump right back in. I thought that after a few months, the title of ‘teacher-mom’ would slip alongside my other accolades, and life would keep chugging along. Of course, that didn’t happen. Balancing a commute, breast-feeding, and separation anxiety created more angst than I could imagine. Life needed to shift, and as life often has a way of doing, I would up exactly where I needed to be.

It wasn’t easy to get there, and residing in that place between ‘teacher’ and ‘mother’ was a constant state of unsteadiness for many years. I felt like I wasn’t doing the best job at either; on days when the teaching went well, I’d have to rush home to assume child care so my husband could go to work. At night, the babies were demanding when it was time to grade papers, and each morning I would wake, bleary eyed and exhausted, wondering how this was ever going to work. The joy was evaporating from both ‘jobs’. Nothing felt right, neither felt fulfilling. The fulcrum teetered back and forth as I searched for the elusive equilibrium I knew I needed.

I wish I could say it was easy, or that there was some sort of formula I read about that, like breadcrumbs along a trail, I could gather along the way to the end of the rainbow. The truth is, it was nothing like that. And sadly, it involved barrels of tears, volumes of journals, and book after parenting book to discover how I could thrive as ‘teacher-mom’. I’m not sure I would ever want to repeat that process, but I can say that the search for the perfect balance led to the discovery of my self.

I learned that it all goes by so quickly…those words of my grandmother certainly ring true as I’m watching my baby grow up and out of the safety of our space. I learned that  boundaries are vital for both teacher and mom; a life in balance is truly a life well lived. I learned that everything I ever wanted really is right within my grasp-all I needed to do was make a choice. Actually, it was quite simple: I  chose a life adorned with the sparkle of my children first-always.

And that has made all the difference.

This post was inspired byThrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington who encourages everyone to sleep their way to the top. Join From Left to Write on May 1 we discuss Thrive. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Looking Forward by Looking Back

I’ve been doing a monumental amount of looking forward by looking back lately. I’m absolutely certain it has to do with this indefinable space of my life right now, were I’m learning to let go of everything I’m comfortable with, everything I’m used to, and being forced to look forward for the magic that is sure to come.L, J and J lake

Something really surprising has happened during this process. Something that has really made me stop and think about motherhood in a new way. Something that has caused me to question what memories I’ve chosen to hang onto, and how I choose to define the new path motherhood is about to lead me on.

Looking back on my first born, I vividly recall the sleepless nights, the insecurities, and the absolute amazement that I would be responsible for this little six-pound creature for the rest of my life. And I also remember the screaming.

She was what I considered a difficult baby. She rarely slept, nursed often, and always wanted to be on the go. She followed everything with her eyes, and struggled mightily to get what she wanted. After a few months of sleep deprivation and the desire to make life just a little bit more bearable, I realized that if instead of trying to set up a nursing schedule, or hoping that the bouncy chair would last long enough for me to get the dishes done-if instead of trying to make her fit my needs, I tried to fit hers, life would, or at least could, find a better rhythm. I discovered that if she looked forward, she was happy and content.L and mom Mike's wedding

It wasn’t until I was flipping through my old photo albums recently that the impact of this change really resonated with me. All she has ever wanted in her life is to look forward. She never liked being confined or fitting into someone else’s dreams. It wasn’t so much a selfish outlook on life; what she was really asserting, from a very young age, is her desire to move through life looking just ahead of where she was at the present moment. She wanted to see it all, not wait for life to pass her by.

In nearly every photo I have of her during her first six months she is smiling, a strong arm securely wrapped around her middle, facing forward, bright blue eyes shining.

L and John forward

In a few months she’ll embark on her first great adult adventure. She’ll have chosen her home for the next four years, her life ready to unfold in front of her. And I can relax a little now; I can exhale the air I’ve been holding for so long. I can trust that this grown up creature will make good choices and will let her wishes be heard. I can release my grip just a bit now, knowing she’s secure enough to go in the right direction alone. And I know she’ll face college just like she’s tackled every other challenge in the last 18 years – facing forward.

This post was inspired by the novel Reasons My Kid Is Crying by Greg Pembroke who captures frustrating yet hilarious parenting moments through perfectly captioned photos of unhappy kids. Join From Left to Write on April 15 we discuss Reasons My Kid Is Crying. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Parenting: Simple, But Not Always Easy

Parenting: Simple, But Not Always Easy

Parenting: Simple, But Not Always Easy

Having a child seems like a simple enough decision. It’s a fulfillment of lifelong dreams for some; others agonize over the decision as if they can predict just exactly how a child will fit into their well-orchestrated lives. As if a child is something like a new couch or a vacation that can be scheduled neatly into our busy days, and we will not only know exactly when it will be delivered but are assured that we will meet all our connections and the hotel room will be ready when we arrive.

I was one of those people, I must admit. I was that woman – a natural born organizer, a teacher used to lesson planning, assessing, and holidays right on schedule. How could a baby be that difficult for someone like me, right? It should be easy if I plan it right.

Even the delivery nurse tried to warm my mom shortly after my firstborn entered the world. “It’s women like her,” she whispered, “that have the most trouble, you know.” Little did I know how true her words would become.

I never thought, really, that when that first little person, and then another, entered my life, I would be so shaken. I never thought about how hard all the transitions would be for me-it just seemed like I should know how to handle it, just as if it was a disruptive student in my class. I could surely lesson plan for this little being to become a part of the fabric of our daily lives, couldn’t I? If I could handle a room of tweenagers, surely a child of my own would be simple.

It turns out, simple is relative. Did my maternal instincts kick in? Absolutely. Did I realize how painfully difficult and gut-wrenching parenting could be? Not in my wildest dreams.

I surely didn’t plan for the abundance of love I would feel for these two beings-a love that would create strength I never knew I had. I didn’t realize that every decision, every plan in life from here forward would involve them. It went way beyond the logistics of car seats and strollers; having children simply altered my perception of life and why we live it. And I most definitely didn’t plan for the heartache I would feel when, eighteen years later, my firstborn is ready to leave.

Simple doesn’t mean easy, that’s for sure. The simple part of parenting, I realized, is watching your child grow and reach and try and be curious about everything life has to offer. Sometimes, though, simple is easier said than done.

This post was inspired by the novel  The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson. At the age of 44, Rosie finds herself suddenly single and pregnant. She tries to hide in her grandmother’s home but meets two men that will change her life forever. Join From Left to Write on April 8 we discuss The Opposite of Maybe. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

The Opposite of Maybe

Enhanced by Zemanta

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Mothers, Rejoice in the Moment

Mothers,

Do you remember the first moment your child came into this world? That moment, that instant when your life changed from you to them? Do you remember that viscous, writhing weight that warmed your chest and filled your eyes with tears? At that precise moment, mothers, you were there. You were present, you were transformed, you were alive, you were powerful.

And then somehow, along the path of motherhood, things changed. The diapers seemed endless. The crying, the writhing, the fussing seemed interminable and left you wondering what had actually happened in that moment when life became less about you and all about them.

The boundless moments of joy, bearing witness to the first smile, rejoicing in the first laugh, documenting the first steps, shriveled under the seemingly insurmountable loss of you – do you look back at photographs, searching the eyes of the woman who had so desperately wanted that child, and wondering where she was that day?

The sticky hand that searched for yours as you skipped along the sidewalk, eyes gazing down in search of treasures, has long since left your grasp. Do you remember that smile, tiny baby teeth  and lips smudged with chocolate? Do you?

Those moments, so seemingly insignificant at the time, harness their power when they’re gone.

The endless “why, Mommy, why?” whispered (or screeched) by your toddler  transforms into silence from your teen. The days when you couldn’t wait to strap them into their car seat and take a deep breath disappear as they back their own car out of the driveway. The evenings when you dreamed of a moment alone to just ‘be’ slip into your dreams as you struggle to stay awake to hear their key in the lock.

Mothers, when you hear your mother say the years go by so fast, believe her. Remember that childhood is fleeting, and motherhood lasts forever. But you need to stay awake. Stay present. Rejoice in the glory of the moment.

This post was inspired by the novel A Well Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker.  Feeling lost and burned out, Julia drops her well paying job at a NYC law firm. After hearing a stranger’s voice in her head, she travels to Burma to find the voice’s story and hopefully herself as well. Join From Left to Write on February 4 we discuss A Well-Tempered Heart. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp

Maybe It’s Just Part of Being A Mom

Blue Sky - Cielo Azul
Blue Sky (Photo credit: dcarrero)

I’m sitting in one of my favorite rooms in the house in the middle of the day on a Friday. It’s quiet here today; I can hear the sounds of my husband’s guitar students quietly picking through chord progressions on the other side of the house. My son, home sick as well, fumbles around in the kitchen. These everyday sounds that I usually miss feel somehow comforting as I reach for another tissue.

I know some people who can just sink into the idea of being sick. They relish the ability to wear yoga pants all day, not have to put on make up, and sweat with excitement at the opportunity to plow through the huge pile of books and magazines on their bedside table.

Sick day at home...at least I have a new book....
Sick day at home…at least I have a new book. #whatareyoureading #awelltemperedheart via mamawolfeto2

I’m envious of those type of people.

I suppose it would make things easier if I lived in the part of the country where the Polar Vortex is in full force. Somehow, downing DayQuil and sipping hot tea would be much more pleasant if the snow was piling up outside and I had a blazing fireplace to lounge in front of. Instead, I’m gazing out the window of my study, watching the birds dart about against the backdrop of azure blue sky, and wishing I was doing just about anything else but sitting here, blowing my nose, and coughing into my elbow.

I despise being sick.

And yes, I know fighting it is the wrong approach. I know I should let it go, just not worry about anything, rest, drink lots of fluids and let myself heal. But that’s not how Type-A people operate. Instead, I ruminate on what’s going on in my classroom with a substitute teacher (I’m sure my students are loving it!), I worry about how my family will adjust our complicated weekend plans, and look around at all the things I should be doing if I’m at home and not working. In other words, I’m probably making myself sicker.

I wish I could just let it go.

I actually think it’s more than just being Type-A. I think, really, it’s about being a mom. For the last 18 years I’ve had to put other people first. I’m not saying that in any sort of martyr-ish fashion; it’s simply been my role as a mother to think first of the needs of my family, then my own. I’m a caretaker, and actually, care-taking is what’s gotten me into this bed in the middle of the day on a sunny Friday afternoon. I don’t feel resentful at all – just a little perplexed at the irony of it all. And it’s funny-when I feel like this, I think first to who can take care of me; it’s not anyone in my immediate household. I think to my own mom, and how she would bring me saltines and 7-Up when I was a little girl, and run a humidifier to help me breathe. How she would cut the crusts off grilled cheese sandwiches, and make sure that I had everything I needed.

I wish she was here right now.

I wonder if she ever got all our germs? I don’t remember her ever being sick. Maybe, just like me, she didn’t mind. Maybe, just like me, she loved taking care of us, and catching a cold now and then was just part of being a mom.

I think I’ll relax on that thought.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusYelp