Before I was a mother, I was a teacher. Technically, before I was a wife, I was a teacher too. For the last 7 years a huge part of my life has been my career. I spent 3 of those years and a large sum of money earning my Master’s degree in the field of education. I devoted most of my waking thoughts and sometimes my dreams to teaching. I used to resent it when people would say things like, “Wow, you’re a special education teacher, that takes a special person.” I wondered if they were mocking me. Now I realize that the sentiment I once resented is actually true. I learned this after spending years around other teachers. I realized that yeah, it’s true, it takes a person with a lot more patience than most of the human population can muster– and sadly, quite a few other teachers too. So I’m far from perfect as a teacher. I make mistakes, I worry about them. I go home and lay awake at night and think of ways to fix my methods. I have been told that’s what makes me good at what I do. I feel connected to my job and my students. I feel a sense of duty to give them the best I’ve got. I feel a sense of devotion to the Lord for guiding me to teaching. It’s not something I could ever just give up.
So next year when I’m not a teacher anymore I have to wonder a little bit about what will happen.
Oh it will start the same. Friday is the last day of school and I’ll finish cleaning up my classroom and spend a good 4-5 hours working on files and paperwork. Then I’ll tackle the remaining to-dos on my seven page list. And I’ll pack up my stuff and I’ll go home. I’ll spend the summer taking Andrew to swimming lessons, and gymnastics, and art class, and violin. I’ll keep on tutoring my very favorite student of all time and life will seem pretty normal.
Until August that is.
When I should be hitting up the stores for the best deal on bulk school supplies I’ll instead be buying school supplies for just one, my own one. When the first day of school rolls around I’ll be sitting at home, or I don’t know, maybe having a baby since past precedent suggests my kids like to come at the least opportune times . But I won’t be in the classroom. And as freeing and exciting as that feels, it’s also quite scary. Who am I if I’m not a mom wife and teacher? What does it mean to be a mom and a wife? I know people resent the term “just” a mom as much as I once resented the other phrase but I can’t help but seeing it that way. Is this what I want? Yes. I know that it is. After all, it’s only a year and I will get to put my children first. I will get to put my husband first. I will get to truly become good at being a wife and mother, something I’ve felt that despite my best intentions always fell short because I had to balance it with a career. But I am not satisfied to “only” do what’s easy and please don’t hate me my fellow SAHMs but being a working mom is ridiculously difficult, and crap I only have one child! I know plenty of people who have MORE than one and they are running all over the place to soccer practice and whatnot. Yes, it’s harder than staying home in many many different ways. (Not trying to start anything here but think about ALL the things that have to get done during the course of the week. Now remove 40+ hours and try to still get it all done.) What will it feel like to pour all my efforts into my 1 (WOW 2) children? What about the other 20 back at school? Am I letting them down? Have I BEEN letting my own child down? I’ve never been satisfied unless I’m splitting at the seams with stuff on my plate. In high school it was 3 sports and 2 musical ensembles plus being an officer in a club or two. After college it was working 80 hours a week in 2 jobs. When I had a newborn I was also taking graduate classes and then working full time along with it. I’m a glutton for punishment. I don’t know life any other way. I don’t know, maybe it will be a lot harder than I think. But I get a taste of SAHMamma-hood every summer and I don’t really think so. Maybe having 2 will be overwhelmingly difficult. I don’t know.
So these are some of the things I’ve been thinking about the past couple months since I made the decision to stay home. My students still don’t quite understand that I’m not coming back right away. They ask me about the things we’ll do next year (I teach the same kids for 2 years before they move on). It breaks my heart to slide around the true answer. But it melts my heart to tell Andrew I’ll be home for him, that I’LL be the one who he spends his days with now. That I’ll take him to school and pick him up; that I’ll go on field trips with HIM and not 20 others. That I’ll make real dinners for my family instead of whatever is fastest and easiest. That I’ll finally stay on top of the laundry and not drown in piles of clean but unfolded clothes.
I want to grow a garden, and decorate our new house, and try new recipes, and find the creative soul who once resided in my body, who has been shoved aside for lack of time, lack of energy and lack of patience that gets all used up during the school day. I have a vision of the person I want to be. I’ve just never given her a chance to make her way out… at least not for a really long time. And I’m sure that 22 year old and this 30 year old are pretty different people.
So who am I right now? I’m still a teacher, after all that never stops and let’s face it, my kids will never get away from it. I’ll be here teaching Andrew to read, and to speak using grammatically correct sentences, and to write his name and alphabet. I’ll teach our little newbie his/her (it’s a secret!) first words and watch his/her first steps and all the firsts many of which I missed before. Maybe I’m a little afraid of how easy it just may be to forget everything about the career and fall head over heels in love with being “just” a mom. Maybe I’ll discover more about myself than I ever thought possible on this year long journey.
In the mean time, I’m hanging up my career woman hat. I’m pulling out my flip flops, my sunscreen and my mamma bag filled with stickers and bubbles and an extra pair of Buzz Lightyear underwear. I’m packing up a cooler and I’m taking my son on a picnic. Because that’s something moms do and for the first time in my life, that’s what I am. No more, no less.