Year One: What I learned about mothering, working, and co-parenting

It’s been quite a long time since my last post. Since November, I’ve returned to work as an instructional coach, done work in Denver as a math consultant for 10 days–using both of my school vacations, traveled to attend the NCTM Annual Conference as well as a few teacher workshops. During the school year, I started working with a colleague who joined the coaching team this year (yay!), found myself working on being more direct, and crying a few times when the work-life balance seemed to get the best of me.

This isn’t even touching on all the learning and loving I’ve done as a still new mom and wife. So before I start (hopefully) blogging about the current events in my life as a mom and educator, here are a few things I’ve learned in Year One as a full-time working-outside-the-home new mom:

Leaving our children while we work is harder on us than it is them. While it makes my heart hurt whenever my daughter cries as I leave for the day, I notice that the crying always stops before I close the kitchen door behind me. Some have called it “mommy-guilt”, but for me it’s a genuine wish to be there with her each day–not wanting to miss the majority of her awake hours each day and miss seeing her explore and excite in her ever-expanding world. I am lucky that for rolling over, my husband caught it on his iPhone and she started walking on a Saturday:)

Having a supportive community at work is HUGE. I am lucky enough to work at a school where even the co-directors are new parents. One of the other instructional coaches and I were pregnant together and still love to drop by each other’s offices for updates on our little ones. Another colleague with whom I’m good friends, had her twins two months after Louisa was born and returned to work a few months after me. It was cathartic to share with her some of the ups and downs of returning to work, and share with her the mom-envy we sometimes had of our stay-at-home husbands. I’m not saying non-new-parents aren’t supportive, but that it helps tremendously to have others to talk with who understand my intense desire to talk about my daughter’s sleeping and eating habits.

Being a parent does change my perspective (a bit) on classrooms and teaching. I used to HATE when people would tell me that my not being a parent put me at a disadvantage as a teacher. I would still never say that to one of my colleagues, because I still think I did some of my best teaching and learning way before I even thought of becoming a parent. However, I do think being a parent has added a new dimension to how I view classrooms and instruction. I really notice whether the children in a classroom are valued and loved as people first, if they are seen and heard. I watch how teachers interact with and talk about their students and imagine my daughter in their care for thirty-plus hours a week. I find myself pulling my Teaching Children to Care off the shelf more and more frequently (and will be pulling it out again to reread as a parent)–thank you Ruth Sidney Charney!

Just like the students in our classrooms, each of us as mothers is different. My sister and best friend are both pregnant right now (and mothers already to some pretty adorable boys) and my dear friend and sister-in-law just gave birth to her beautiful son two weeks ago. I cherish each of my phone calls, texting “conversations”, and visits with them, as they help me cope with all of the uncertainty and celebrate all of the milestones of the past 13 months. But, we each have our own stories, our own struggles and what makes me cry, makes one of them laugh, what is important to me is irrelevant to them…and that’s okay. These differences are what are helping me learn and grow as a mother and friend.

Co-parenting is amazing and amazingly hard. I’m saying it here: parenting with my husband (whom I adore) is difficult. I want him to do things my way, to spend his days with her while I’m at work the way I dream of spending my days with her. But he doesn’t dream of his days like I do and so we get annoyed with each other and get resentful when the other offers suggestions on how to feed her or what to feed her or how to wrangle her into a clean diaper. I secretly, or maybe not quite so secretly, enjoy that she is a mama’s girl right now and flaps her arms up and down in joy whenever I enter the room and cries and clings to the gate at the top of our stairs each morning that I leave. But, I adore watching her climb over to him in our bed after I bring her in from her morning nap and she pushes her little face in his neck and kisses his face; I can’t get enough of it.

I love being a mom. Before we had Louisa, before I was pregnant, I was a workaholic who loved her job. I went to conferences, read piles of professional books, harbored secret “crushes” on my teacher idols, worked 10-12 hour days and then went home to write and respond to emails and read more. I took on extra work with committees, started consulting and loved it all. Don’t get me wrong, I still crave learning and love being a part of an amazing school where I am constantly challenged, and (as I sit on a flight to Denver headed to do some work with math teachers) I love working in other schools with some of the smartest teacher leaders with whom I’ve ever worked. But, if I could give it all up for just a little while, I might, might just be tempted to spend my days and weeks only as Louisa’s mom and Chris’s wife.

I’ve also learned that my free time is often taken up with household chores or relaxing with some brainless tv show, and it’s clearly hard to keep up with a blog. But, I’ve been inspired by some amazing women and men who really do seem to find time to “do it all” and I’m going to try to be more dedicated to writing and reflecting as I start Year Two…

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