I have just read an article by @thosethatcan that advocates You can be a great teacher and a great parent. A year ago I would have argued wholeheartedly that she was wrong. Off work with stress and depression from my role of part time head of department in a secondary school, the combination of parent and teacher seemed to have sent me to breaking point.
After going back to work when my youngest child was 8 months old and also having a 3 year old; it wasn’t long before I was off work with stress. Juggling the work load and the extreme student expectations that leadership had, brought me to breaking point.
Depression returned. Self-harm hit me again with ferocity. Suicidal thoughts became reality. 6 months off work. Teaching truly seemed incompatible with parenthood.
Eventually I returned to work. Still very poorly but feeling like I needed to earn money to keep my family afloat. I didn’t think teaching and parenting was a long term option. It had made me seriously ill.
One year on and my thoughts have changed. I have returned to the same job. I haven’t had a day off with stress or depression in a year. I have managed to find a balance between my two loves being a parent and a teacher.
How have I done it?
- I have hold tight to the promise I made myself. My first priority are my own children. I want to enjoy them whilst they are young. Be with them. Treasure them. I don’t allow work to get in the way of that.
- My expectations of myself are lower. I’m not a perfectionist. I will try my hardest whilst at work. I plan good lessons, I interact with the students and I try to inspire them. However I have learnt to accept some things can’t get done. I have to say no more. I still believe I’m a great teacher without all the extra stuff.
- I care less about what others think. One of the things that made me so ill was the expectations of leadership for mine and student performance. Now my attitude has changed. I am content with the belief that I am doing the best I can for the students. My lesson observations are always outstanding. The students enjoy my lessons and want to learn. If I don’t pass these arbitrary targets set for my performance management then what’s the worst that’s going to happen? I know I’m a good teacher and I can’t do anymore or I will be ill again.
- At one time progression in my career was so important. Now nearly aged 35 I have been head of department of a core subject for ten years. I have come to terms with new goals. Right now career progression is not on the cards as I don’t have the time or the inclination. My children are my priority. This doesn’t mean you can’t be a parent and progress your career. It is just for me I have found out balance and wellness comes with being content in what you have.
- Rest! What you say parent and teacher when does that happen? I now make it happen. An occasional nap when my 2year old naps on my days off. Watching tv in the evenings instead of working all night. Tiredness makes me stressed and pushes the depression I suffer with out of control.
Now I am at the point where I am most of the time being a great teacher and a great parent. I have the balance right for me. I’m lucky my husband is a teacher too and he gets the stresses and the strains. We also have amazing holiday times when we are all together as a family.
I’m so glad I have found a way to manage. I love teaching and being a parent is my greatest achievement and brings the most joy. You can do both if you work out a way that works for you.