I know your dedication to young learners and the teaching profession is steadfast and I admire that about you. We've talked about this before, but would you share with me and others (that may need to hear your words of wisdom), how you have managed to keep these two areas blanced throughout your career as an educator? I struggle with this daily and often carry guilt in one area or the other? Please reassure me that I am not crazy!!!
All my admiration,
You’re not crazy, Elizabeth. There is nothing more difficult than trying to be all things to all people. Balance, for me, like for most moms that work, came over time. I learned that you CAN have it all, you just can't have it all at the same time! These are some of the things that worked for me along the way. I share them in hopes that they might be helpful to someone else…
1. I have always considered my life at school as my own personal mission field. I believe that God put me on this Earth to be a teacher, to minister to those around me including my peers, the children and their families. I really do believe that I am doing God’s work every day and that colleagues, children and parents that come into my life come by Divine appointment (usually because of lessons I need to learn instead of lessons that I need to teach!), so I have never resented the time that school takes. I feel a deep moral obligation to do this part of my life right. My life goal has always been to make a difference and most of time, I believe that teaching allows me to do that. My advice: Think about why you teach, what it really means to you - and find the joy in it.
2. I am very organized so I usually have a good idea of what needs to be done. I am a very good manager of time. I usually have a list (that used to be in my head but lately I have to write it down!) of “things to do.” Some of the things are for school and some are for home. When the kids were little, I tried to include them in my “to do” list – even if it was something for school, but mostly I always kept the “to do” list accessible. When the kids were out or occupied, I would work on the “to do” list, knowing that I couldn’t get too absorbed (which is the key) because I needed to be available to them as soon as they were “back.” Children, especially, have to know that they come first. My advice: Always have an on-going plan for getting things done. Never put off until tomorrow what could be done today.
3. I have always known when things were just “too much.” Most of you know that after Courtney was born I stayed home for a year, went back to work for a year and just couldn’t juggle it all. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything well. I have always felt God’s hand in the personal part of my life. He gave me a family for a reason and He has very high expectations! Being a teacher, a wife and the mother of two was just too much for me at that time in my life. Even though some people have called me driven, and I personally thought that staying home was the end to any kind of “career” aspirations I might have had (how could I have known all that would happen to me AFTER I came back to work!) I was able to make the decision to stay home very easily. I stayed home until Courtney went to Kindergarten. Although we hadn’t prepared for me not to work, and things were extremely tight, I have NEVER regretted that decision, because it gave me peace. My advice: Don’t get overwhelmed with your life. It will rob your happiness. Know when enough is enough and always know what the greater priority is in your life.
4. I am a morning person. I get up early so when the kids were little my husband and I worked out a compromise. I got up before the kids got out of bed and left for school. I did all my planning before school at school (it’s so quiet and you get so-o-o much done!) and was ready to leave when school was out so I could be home for the kids. Jimmy coached so he was not available in the afternoon and early evening. He did all of the breakfast, dressing, getting to school and I did all of the being there after school, dinner prep, homework, afternoon activities. It gave each of us individual time with the kids and also gave each of us guilt-free time to do what we needed to do for work. My advice: Work with your support system so that you have time to do what you need to do (I love Karen Morris’ suggestion in an earlier post of one night a week at school, which is the same idea).
5. Decide what’s really important to you and get rid of the stuff that you’re doing just because somebody else thinks you should. For instance, Secret Santa was one of those activities that I had to let go. I LOVE Secret Santa but one year I realized that I spent as much time stressing over Secret Santa gifts as I did buying presents for my own children. Secret Santa was just too much for me. Now I go and enjoy the breakfast and don’t feel one bit guilty about not participating because I know it was the right decision for me. I could give you dozens of examples. My advice: Be intentional about what you choose to do. Align your time and passion with your belief system. Free yourself from guilt.
I wish I could say that I have it all figured out and that I never get stressed any more. That’s not true, but I do know to listen to my heart. When I feel overwhelmed, I know that something is out of balance, and that’s my internal signal to really think about what’s going on in my life and to straighten things out before things get too far out of balance. Often it means trusting my relationships, being honest with myself, and asking for help.
I have a special place in my heart for young mothers. You have the whole world open to you if you can use the energy and wisdom of your age and yet still see life through the eyes of your child. You are preparing our next generation of children to take their place in our world, not only in your homes, but in your classrooms. This time in your life is your legacy…
With great expectations, dayle