Besides being a mother to my two-month-old son Thomas, I am also a fourth grade teacher. I absolutely love teaching, and it is the job I always dreamed of having since I was in the first grade. I love working with children and teaching 9 and 10 year olds is an exciting, unpredictable adventure everyday. As I have been enjoying my time off on maternity leave with Thomas, I have realized how being a teacher has prepared me in so many ways for being a first-time mother. There are so many similarities between taking care of my “school kids” and taking care of Thomas. Even though fourth graders are way more capable of doing tasks independently and learn more complex things than a newborn (glad I don’t have to worry about Thomas memorizing his multiplication facts yet haha), the ways in which kids operate and function are surprisingly very similar. Taking care of a newborn is very demanding, but I am thankful that my four years of teaching have helped prepare me for this wonderful yet tough adventure of motherhood.
Here are some of the similarities I have found so far:
Feeling Special and Loved
When my students walk in the door in the morning, I love to see their smiling faces. They get so excited to see me, and I always want to make them feel loved and special in return. I always make sure I call students up one at a time to my desk to turn in any homework or notes from home, but I also use this time to look them in the eyes and ask them specific questions about their lives. Maybe this is about a sports game they had the night before or just a simple how are you doing today. I have learned that just these few minutes of special one-on-one attention makes a child feel so loved because they know that I genuinely care. Even though my son is only two months old I try and do the same thing with him. I always start off my mornings with him singing songs, smiling, talking to and laughing with him. I always make sure to put my phone down, as hard as it can be sometimes, and give Thomas my undivided attention. No matter the age, all kids just want you to give them attention and truly listen and interact with them. They want you to be 100% there and not just you giving them a head nod and a “yeah that’s great” response. I have learned that each of these days are precious gifts that you will never get back, so I want to make sure I do as much as I can to make not only Thomas but also my school kids feel loved and cared for.
As a teacher, I am required to have lesson plans prepared each day. While it is nice to have a game plan for what is going to happen during the day, I have also learned how to go with the flow and have flexibility. Since becoming a new mom, I have learned that this is also true with parenting. I can have the best laid out plan for the day, and then one thing happens such as a blow out diaper and suddenly I am late for an appointment. I have learned you can’t beat yourself up over something going not as planned and sometimes that interruption/change in schedule can lead to an even greater adventure. Sometimes while teaching, my students take my lessons in directions I hadn’t even thought of and end up becoming a more powerful teaching moment than I could have ever thought of on my own. As hard as it may be sometimes, especially for someone like me who is pretty OCD about certain things, I have learned to embrace the spontaneity of unplanned events occurring as well as letting go of control and perfection. For example, no student is going to have perfect handwriting or draw the perfect picture, and I can’t force students to live up to my ideas of perfection. I have to meet the students where they are at and love them all the same. Over time I have come to appreciate my students’ different quirks, and I know, as Thomas grows older, the same will be true for him. I also am aware that I am going to have to let the little things go like him not picking out the “perfect” pumpkin for our family’s porch or coloring outside of the lines on a picture. Children no matter what age cannot always feel like what they do is not right and must be corrected. Even if it doesn’t live up to our standards or Pinterest, it doesn’t mean it’s not perfectly fine J
Working with kids is no easy task. Every child is different and learns and operates in his or her own way and timing. As a teacher it can be frustrating at times that one student can quickly grasp and understand a math concept while it takes another student a couple of days or even weeks. It may feel like I am teaching the same thing over and over but I have learned to have patience and work with that student to get on his or her level and try and find a way for them to grasp the concept. The same can be true for raising children. For example, children reach milestones at different times, and it can be very easy to lose patience and become frustrated that your child is not accomplishing something as fast as another child. However, that is not going to help make anything better. You must meet your child where he or she is at and work with him or her in a calm and supportive manner. I have learned in these past two months that Thomas picks up on when I am stressed or agitated versus when I am calm and happy. As hard as it is, I must remind myself to have more patience every day. My being upset or frustrated is not going to make Thomas’ crying go away. I have to work with him in a calm and patient way until I can figure out and fix what is bothering him.
As a teacher, from the minute the first student walks in my door until the last student is picked up in the afternoon, I am “on.” To lead a class effectively, I have to be ready and prepared at all times for anything. I never know when a student is going to burst into tears over something someone said to them on the playground or shout for joy because they just got an A on a test for the first time. This is also true for being a mother. There are constant decisions and choices to be made throughout the day as well as ensuring that our kids are safe, nurtured, and happy. We do all of this while also taking care of ourselves, doing chores, cooking, and running errands. I see why mothers are professionals at the job of multitasking. As a mother I have found that rarely anymore do I just get “me” time. Before becoming a mother, I could just leave school in the afternoon and relax. I was able to turn my mind off and just unwind. However, now I am constantly “on.” As mothers we are there for our kids 24/7. For my two-month old, I am his world. He looks to me to meet all of his needs and be his support system. I have to think about when is Thomas going to eat, when/how am I going to run this errand to Target, am I doing enough developmental activities with him, is he gaining enough weight, why is he crying. This is one reason why I love Fit4Mom because I am able to get some “me” time in while doing something I love, building relationships with other moms, and spending time with my son.
Overall, I have found that taking care of a newborn is surprisingly very similar to taking care of fourth graders just in different capacities. Every day is a day for learning and growing as well as showing and sharing love. Kids no matter the age want to feel supported and cared for and look up to us as mothers for this reassurance and nourishment. I know that being a teacher has greatly helped me as a mother, but I now have realized that being a mom is going to help make me an even better teacher in the classroom.