We are pleased to have Claire Mueller on the blog today sharing her story of trying to find a balance between her responsibilities as a mom and her responsibilities at work.
Something’s Gotta Give
I had a baby three and a half weeks ago. Flinging her head side to side, she searches for her mommy, her lifeline. She screams for me, but I’m a slave to this breast pump. I bend over to put in her paci that promptly pops out of her mouth just as my invaluable milk drips to the floor. I feel like getting a syringe to salvage it but my dog gets to it first. Then, he moves on, so graciously, to pick up my baby’s paci. I’m not going to chase him this time. He really needs my attention, but so do too many others.
While we were on maternity leave, one of my fellow English teachers visited with her newborn to meet mine. Her new world meets my new world. I began venting to her about how impossible it is to get anything done except take care of the baby. Feed, burp, change diapers, “play,” pump, wash bottle, repeat. I asked her how she thought her classes were doing while she was gone. “Oh, I haven’t even checked my school email. If they need me, they have my number.” She had been gone for eight weeks. EIGHT WEEKS. Somehow, she is able to compartmentalize, but I can’t.
My job never takes a break. I’m rarely caught up on feedback or grading.
I’m always scrambling to change plans according to students’ needs. I can’t seem to ever live in the moment because those three-week-old papers burn a hole in my school bag as they sit and wait for this baby phase to be over.
This phase will never be over. I am forever a mommy now. How can I be her lifeline if I’m pulled 111 other directions? I always feel that I’m doing a disservice to kids if I don’t work harder than them. I need to get those papers out. I’ll make it happen. I always make it happen. I have to make it happen to cut through this guilt and to be the best for everyone. But something has to give.
It is so problematic for teachers to feel such obligation and responsibility to the point that they need to alter their lives or sacrifice their families, all the while gaining little respect and much criticism. Now, my daughter is almost six months old, and I recently decided to take a talented/gifted position at the high school instead of teaching English full time. The only thing I know is teaching and worrying and planning and grading. I absolutely love it, but again, something had to give.
As I finish up my last school year as an English teacher and pack up my classroom to move down the hall, I am able to physically see how far I have come. I am proud of my accomplishments, and I have many more to make in my career. Of course when my daughter was weeks old, I felt overwhelmed and pulled in too many different directions. That feeling is real; it’s justified. Although many teachers have taught (and graded) seven classes while being mommies, I am content with not wanting to. I can now be 100% at school and 100% at home. So really, nothing had to give at all.
Claire Mueller is from West Des Moines, Iowa. She has an undergraduate degree in Secondary English Education from the University of Iowa. Shortly after graduating, she moved to Muscatine for an English position at the high school thinking she would only live there for a couple of years and move back to West Des Moines. Instead she ended up meeting her husband at the high school where he is a counselor and head football coach. They were married in 2014 and their daughter, Emery, was born October of 2015. She is a first time mom and full time teacher of talented and gifted students at the high school. In the fall, she will be completing her masters in English Education from the University of Northern Iowa.
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