Alright full disclosure: This post is mostly written for mamas. I'm writing about my experiences with the ups and downs and highs and lows of work and mothering. Second disclosure: It's long. Sorry. ;) Skim down through the background or don't read it at all...haha!
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be two things: MOM & TEACHER. I was (am!) that super nerdy kid in school that was annoyingly excited for Mondays to roll around again, always admired my teachers and went into full-blown withdrawal mode at the beginning of each summer. Each new school year, I had a transition period where I was uncomfortable with my new teacher, his/her new methods, and the environment of the new classroom....and then soon after, discovered all the positives about that new year and new person. Motherhood has proven to be similar. :-) I'm apparently a slow-to warm person.
When heading off to college, I was too conflicted in choosing elementary education or special education, so decided to do both and double majored. I was SO excited to get out there and get started in my own room! My teaching career began straight out of college when I accepted (which was presented to me as) a learning support teacher in a nearby district. Very quickly I learned that I would be teaching emotional support and upon starting, had my classroom moved three times, my aide removed and not replaced, and had very, very minimal support from my administration. I felt like I was barely surviving, and sadly, decided to resign as it was not at all what I'd signed up for. I figured I would day-to-day sub until it was spring and I could apply to other districts. God always knows what's up though, as there was a 3rd grade contracted position that was posted in the district I was most excited about, Mechanicsburg, and I went into those interviews determined to get that job. I loved my new district, loved my classroom, loved my students, loved my principal, loved my co-teacher and colleagues, loved the building...honestly, it was an amazing fresh start and it was exactly where I wanted to be! I felt respected at Mechanicsburg SD and felt like I was making a positive impact on kids. I began working on my masters and we also began talking about starting a family.
It sort of got tricky from there...I was only in my third year of teaching third grade. Then, the opportunity to become an instructional coach opened up in the building, and I wrestled with applying for this position. I was in the midst of completing graduate work, and the idea of having the chance to work with an amazing group of teachers that I already knew and respected was appealing to me. I figured it would be something that would challenge me professionally for a few years and then I could head back into the classroom! I enjoyed coaching, but if I'm honest, I didn't enjoy it as much as teaching. It was a lonely position, and it made me miss my students...a lot. So, in turn, it likely made me want to have a baby more, too. Half way through my first year of coaching, I found out we were expecting Keira! We were over the moon excited, and I did everything I could to maintain my responsibilities and duties while pregnant. Keira was born in Nov of 2011 and I took a 3 month maternity leave. Every day of that leave I loved my time with her, and every day I dreaded returning to work and being away from her. I started to seriously consider staying home, but I was determined to finish out the school year. I had made a promise to Aaron that I would try it, and I wasn't about to go back on my word. A good friend watched Keira for the 3.5 months left in the school year, so that I could try my hand at the working mom gig.
Well guys, I HATED it. I felt like a failure at school and I felt like a failure at home. I felt exhausted all the time, and couldn't blame it on my snoozy newborn who wasn't waking up during the night. I felt like I never had time to just be, and just all in all felt very disjointed trying to maintain a positive attitude at work, and an ounce of sanity at home. Prior to going back after maternity leave, the coaching team learned that two of us would need to head back into the classroom. So that had been rolling around in my brain too upon going back. Aaron and I had lots to consider with the prospect of me changing positions again, along with finding permanent care for Keira. Long story short, I decided I would make the transition back into the classroom and teach 3rd grade again, and find somewhere for Keira to spend her days (our friend was no longer an option for full time). The school year ended, we began seriously looking for daycare options for Keira and came up disappointed every time with the people/places we considered....Then, things changed at school, and I was asked to stay in the position of coaching and coach in two buildings. Since we had previously decided me becoming a full time classroom teacher again would be the best move, I was feeling very, very conflicted at that not being an option anymore. At this point, it was kind of the nudge I needed to know I should just take a step back, and really consider what I was doing. I asked for a year's leave without pay, because we honestly weren't sure what was happening with our family at that point, but I wasn't ready to walk away entirely.
I knew I needed to bring in $$ somehow and was able to find an amazing family to provide care for. That first year home honestly was amazing. It was just Keira and her little friend, and we spent our days singing and playing, and reading books and having fun. The girls were inseparable, and I felt like I had a true purpose and meaning in caring for them. I missed school, yes, but I was in Heaven caring for them both. We found out we were preggers with Lil after Keira's first birthday, and score! I found out I could ask for a second year's leave without pay since this was a new child. I felt like that gave us time to be completely sure that me staying at home was the route I wanted to follow. The second year home was, well, much harder...but more on that for another day. As we reached the end of the second school year home, and we knew we wanted to try for one more baby, I knew I needed to officially resign. It was extremely difficult, because I felt like I was walking away from an amazing position, but at the same time, I was walking towards fully embracing my life as stay-at-home-mama. That third school year home was also (overall) fairly wonderful as I continued to care for Keira and Lily as well as two other kiddos. Teagan was born in April of 2015 and the fourth school year home was a bit of a whirlwind as we decided to move to Mechanicsburg, purchase a foreclosure and sell our home, all while maintaining the daycare kiddos. Currently, we're in the middle of my 5th school year at home and the last one before Keira heads off to kindergarten. It is insane to think we're already there! [End background...see I told you it was long]
So now I've been a stay-at-home mom/daycare provider for as long as a was a teacher. 5 years. I blinked and literally 5 years flew by teaching. And then I blinked again, and another 5 years have flown by with these three babies and the kiddos I've been blessed to care for during the days. I would have thought by this point in time that I would be able to say with complete confidence which way is "better"-- teaching (or working out of the home) or staying at home. Well guess, what?? Much to my dismay this is what I've finally come to..
NEITHER IS BETTER! You can read about 19,273,874 different blogs and opinions about the two online. And everyone and their mother has judgments and feelings about working away from home vs. staying at home. I have some "truths" (for me) on life as a SAHM that I blogged about in a previous post a few years back, but the fact of the matter is: Whether you work, or you stay-at-home, you are first and foremost a mom. Your kids are your life! I don't know anyone, and I do mean anyone...working and stay-at-home mom alike, who doesn't go through mom guilt, struggles, challenges, regrets, the complete and total exhaustion, doubts, questions, etc. We moms are so, so freaking hard on ourselves. And honestly, working-outside-the-home mamas, you are my heroes. I don't know how you do it! I did it for a whopping 3.5 months with one easy-going baby, and I sucked at it! My encouragement to anyone currently questioning staying at home vs. working outside the home is this:
1- Know yourself. Know what you want in terms of goals for yourself, your family, your career, your future. I took a long time to truly own that I resigned from teaching after only 5 years, and that I'm a stay-at-home mom. That's it. While I do provide daycare for a few girls I adore, I'm "just" a mom right now. It's took a long time for me to really feel like that's OK, but I also know myself well enough to know that this won't be what I do forever.
2- Do what works best for YOU (and your family). Who cares what people think? There are sacrifices either way. There are pros and cons either way. *See aforementioned 19,273,874 posts/articles online*. And those pros and cons also change and grow with time..Where there's a will, there's a way. You can honestly make anything work if you put your mind to it. If continuing to work while having your family is what you want, do it!! If you want to try your hand at staying at home, know that you CAN do that too. Do not let anything hold you back from following your heart & finding what will work, even if that may change. Which leads me to number 3...
3- If it's not working for you, find a way to make something else work. I still 100% am committed to being at home with my girls, and want very much to be able to stay home up until Teagan is in kindergarten. But truth be told, this school year I've done more questioning and wondering than ever before in terms of what the heck am I doing, and what the heck should I be doing...and I have been trying to sort through some options that could allow me to still be home, but also allow me to use my degree again. I'm not sure yet what that means for me or for my family...but I'm also just trying to keep my options open.
4- Believe in taking care of yourself first. Yeahhhh, so, I know this is cliche and I am the worst at this. So I don't think I have much room to encourage this in others, but I truly believe it makes all the difference in the world when we first take care of ourselves. Just find an outlet and a way to provide yourself some time that is just yours. Not your job's time, not your kid's (or kids') time...but yours, and yours only!!
5- Stay on the same team. This one is big for me...sometimes I feel like it's an "us vs. them" game....the working moms vs. the moms that stay home. The stuff you read or see online or the experiences you know you've heard about (or have happen to you!) where you feel completely out of place with the "opposite mom". We are all just moms!!!! Last time I checked we're all dealing with the craziness of raising little humans who have never-ended demands and changing emotions. We're all trying to do the best that we can for our families, and we need each other!!!! We need the support of each other to know that we'll be okay.
You're doing a good job. If you're anything like me, you've questioned that a few times this year, or month (or week or day!) But keep on keeping on. You are doing amazing things, no matter where you are! :-)