November 6, 2009

Working Mom Blues

     It's getting difficult to be a working mom.  Of course, I'm not just realizing that two and a half months after returning from my second maternity leave.  It was hard from day one.  But the now my job is getting unpleasant.  Those hours I spend away from my family are not very enjoyable.  This is new. 
     I have always enjoyed my work in special education, especially the seven years I have spent as a middle school teacher.  Certainly I've enjoyed some days more than others, some classes more than the rest and some supervisory duties more than the lunchroom.  But for the most part, work has not felt like a chore.  If I had to leave my children for the day, at least I looked forward to spending that time in the classroom with students.  I remember walking to work one day and realizing how fortunate I was to have a fulfilling job outside the home.  It made separating from Henry a bit easier.
     That was two years ago.  Something has changed.  I can't quite get my edge back.  The individual needs of the middle schoolers are overwhelming me.  I can't seem to capture the students' interest, garner their respect or even keep their attention longer than three minutes.  My lessons aren't exciting or thought-provoking and my instruction isn't helping anyone.  We are all frustrated in room 211.
     On my desk, amidst the strewn papers, blank lesson plan pages, errant sticky notes and lists of unwritten IEPs, I have this quote from one of Alexander McCall Smith's novels.

You simpy could not help everybody; but you could at least help those who came into your life.  That principle allowed you to deal with the suffering you saw.  That was your suffering.  Other people would have to deal with the suffering that they, in their turn, came across.

     Each day I return to the classroom and try to fix what's broken.  That must be a sign I haven't quite given up.  I can't--there are children depending on me.


  1. How were you able to post that at 9:34...anyway...I'm home sick. I know what you mean. It's hard to go to work. I'm doing okay this year but Chad's definitely anti-school lately. I feel bad for him. I don't know what to tell him, I mean, it's not like he can just stop teaching. At least not without a plan. I like the idea of looking for and recognizing the small things. There are kids there for you to teach, hopefully you can reach them but you can't always reach them all.

  2. (Actually I wrote the post late night Thurs but had to check accuracy of the quote on my desk Fri. I'm glad I took the time out of my evening routine to write it--I felt a little better afterwards, just for venting)

    What subject/age does Chad teach?

  3. In special education, the triumphs are small and difficult to detect. Regular ed teachers can point to jumps in test scores and post bulletin boards of praiseworthy student projects. For a sped teacher, keeping a kid in school may make a huge life difference in years hence, but it is nothing we can measure and boast about. Getting a parent to agree to services, writing paperwork that won't get the district sued is huge--but we do it in snatched moments of computer time. Meanwhile, those very real intensive care kids are there needing our help, and we are sometimes their last best hope. Remember that famous feminist line about Ginger Rogers doing every dance step that Fred Astaine did--but she did it backwards in high heels.

  4. I am so glad that you wrote this post! I have always loved my job as a special educator, and have especially enjoyed the unique challenges of my middle school students. However, since becoming a mom to the Twincredible Twosome, I am amazed at the change in my focus, my perspective, my drive. I just don't have that intensity anymore....and I am sad about it. Years ago, I was actually selected as a finalist for our state's Teacher of the Year. I was one of those over-the-top super dedicated teachers who was always coming up with the newest and latest and greatest ways to reach my students. Now, I am always one of the first ones out the door to get home to my own kiddos. It's not good, but it's the reality of being a single mom of twin boys with special needs, who also works full time outside of the home. I wish I could find a better balance. Thanks for writing this post.