When I quit my job as a high school teacher five years ago to become a stay-at-home mom, I honestly thought it would be a piece of cake. I had, after all, completed college in a succinct 4 years, and subsequently been in charge of other people’s children for the past 4 years. A newborn/toddler/young child would in no way be as difficult as a room full of hormonal teenagers, or the drama-inclined high school cheerleaders I had coached for 3 of my four years as a teacher. To say I received a wake-up call would be drastically understating matters.
While the joy I derive from being home with my children (I now have two of them, ages 5 and 3), is immensely more gratifying than that I received when my students did well, the frustrations that accompany the joy are also felt more deeply and more personally. When a literature lesson didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped in the classroom, I tweaked it and tried again the next period. If it went poorly the whole day, I shook it off, re-evaluated the next day’s plans and started with a fresh vigor and energy the next day. As a mother, however, I fret over the bad days (let’s face it, we all have them) and feel a profound sense of disappointment when I don’t live up to the mother I think I need to be. I have laid in bed many a night, wondering what moment from our day stood out most vividly in my children’s’ minds, hoping it was the cherished story time or homemade dinner I lovingly prepared for them, and not, perhaps, the frustration that flashed when they didn’t clean their rooms as I expected them too.
It’s an age-old dilemma, not exclusive to me, that stay-at-home moms feel under-appreciated and over-worked. There are days when I desperately miss the feeling of accomplishment I got when I read a research paper one of my students had completed and it was actually (gasp!) good, or the pride I felt when my principal would acknowledge my hard work and student performance. The accolades a stay-at-home mom receive are few and far between; we are, after-all, JUST raising our own children, and we are expected to do that well! Often, I have working moms tell me they don’t know how I do it, and I can honestly say that I feel the same about them. I would be lying, however, if I said there weren’t days that I wouldn’t mind dropping my kids off at daycare (or grandma’s house) and heading to work where I could talk to someone about a book that included chapters instead of hard, bite-proof pages.
The flip-side of all of this, though, is that when I do receive acknowledgement for the job I’m doing, it usually comes in the form of cuddles and kisses, and that is a better reward than any accolade I ever received in the classroom. I saw a former student, not too long ago, and he told me that the school was missing out since I was no longer there, as I had been the ‘best teacher he had ever had.’ I hope, one day, that my children will feel the same way about my abilities and successes as their mother!