I don’t read that many blogs religiously, so it’s funny that two of the blogs I keep up with recently wrote about the same topic pretty much on the same day. Being present with your kids and feeling guilty when you’re not. It was interesting to me because it seems to be such a universal issue among vastly different moms and lifestyles. TheGirlWho writes from home and EarthMama farms and if you read the comments, they range from working outside the home moms to stay-at-home moms and everyone in between. We all feel it.
But when did we start or did we always? I really don’t think my mother worried about “being present” for her 4 kids. She just did it. And I know my grandmother with her 6 kids didn’t give a crap if she was present or not. When did we start worrying about this? And has the worrying been another distraction from being present with our kids? Have we become too “meta” about parenting? Or is wanting to be present a good thing?
I guess I thought that this guilty feeling was more of a working outside the home mom feeling because you are with your kids less hours, you feel like every minute has to count. But it seems like from these two posts and the comments that it applies to other moms as well. When did we start feeling guilty for thinking about the dishes or that book we want to read when we’re playing with matchbox cars?
The best moments I have are when I’m not thinking about it but when I’m lost in the tower we’re making or the picture we’re drawing. And sometimes, Z. is lost in his own play and I slip out of the room. Because he doesn’t need me to be present in that moment. In fact, if I was, it would distract him and he would lose what he was doing. So that’s the time I do what I feel like I need to do, like the dishes or knitting. And then I will hear the “A-Mummy?” and then I know it’s time.
Right after I wrote the last post about being mindful, I read this. Totally appropriate don’t you think?
The past two years I’ve been teaching ELA to a group of students with IEPs. I’ve been teaching for almost ten years so many of the books I teach in this class, I’ve taught before. I noticed this year that motherhood has really changed my perspective on this literature and I wonder how much it’s affected my teaching (I hope for the better!)
For example, one of the books, actually a play, is The Miracle Worker by William Gibson. If you haven’t read it, it’s the story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan and how Annie Sullivan taught Helen Keller language (hence the “miracle”). I was in this play in high school and I always found it kind of melodramatic, especially the part of Helen’s mother, Kate. If you watch the movie, you’ll see why. Lots of crying and screaming.
But this year when I taught it, I caught myself feeling so sad for Kate. I was trying to explain to the kids why Kate lost and gained a child at the same time and why she would be grieving for Helen when Helen was still alive. A couple of them got it, most of them looked at me blankly because probably it really wasn’t really the main focus of the play and I was getting a little worked up about it. Still, it was interesting to have the total opposite reaction to this character.
We also read The Giver by Lois Lowry. This is a more science fiction-y novel and in it a baby is in danger of being killed. Even though I had taught the book before and knew the ending, I was so worried for this baby and I kept wanting to rush out and get to my own baby. I don’t know if it’s maternal instinct or guilt or what but it was one of the strongest, most primal, feelings of protectiveness I’ve felt in a long time.
Last week was hell. We had our version of high-stakes testing. In Massachusetts, we call it MCAS. I teach special education so all of my students get accommodations like reference sheets and calculators which can be difficult logistically to manage. Needless to say, I was a little stressed. Plus I have students who even though they’re in middle school have this constant need for attention. Middle school students love to see you sweat so while I’m counting test booklets and rulers and filling out forms, they choose to ask me irrelevant questions or tell me some story about their crazy time after school.
So I go home totally frazzled to my two-year old, my also tired husband and a messy house. I then have my two-year old demanding my attention as well as I’m trying to do all the after school/daycare things like emptying our bags, setting up lunches, figuring out what’s for dinner, you know. He’s in this stage where he climbs all over me, kneeing me in my still painful c-section scar and I’m like enough already, you know? Plus, he only lets me do things like change his diaper, sit with him to watch a movie, put him to bed, etc. which kind of makes my husband drop back when I’m home and sets up a weird, stressful, dynamic between us.
So at the end of last week I sort of lost it. My son wouldn’t go to sleep and I’ll admit I snapped at him a little. I yelled at my husband for “not helping”and was basically a little unreasonable. I looked around online for other blogs about being a mom and a teacher because I feel like it’s a really unique situation. I just didn’t see a lot out there that really talked about what a weird situation it can be. There’s very little down time as a teacher and you’re surrounded by children all day and I have trouble sometimes adjusting to not having any down time when I get home. I want to be with my son as much as possible but I know I need to carve out a little time for myself.
I guess I want this blog to be a support and a sounding board for all those mom/teachers doing the same thing. If anybody is reading this, even if you’re not a teacher but a working mom, I’d love to hear how you handle the balance.