For the Back-to-School Teacher Mom

Lauren Pinkstonby Lauren Pinkston: Upwardly Dependent (Walking the Delicate Balance Between Absolute Truth and Overwhelming Grace)


I remember the Christmas of 2012 so well…it was when we finally announced our pregnancy with extended family and friends. Well, and the world.
     There were so many exciting text messages and tight hugs, and I think it was the first time I had ever seen my grandmother cry.
     It was also the first time I started to feel mixed emotions about the future of my work as it meshed with motherhood.
     A friend of mine called to congratulate me, asking all the right questions and sharing her joy with me. Then she made the statement, I just can’t imagine having kids right now…maybe ever. I like my work too much to give it up.
     I sat listening for a moment, but then told her that I didn’t have plans to quit working. I confessed that I loved the life growing inside me deeply, but that I also found a lot of purpose and identity in holding a steady job.
     And as I told her about the ways I felt led to serve in my home and in the workplace, it reminded me that we still haven’t quite come to accept the fact that a woman can do both—and do both well.
     This is the part where I make a disclaimer: If you are a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom), if you have chosen to leave work to spend time with your kids, and you are loving this time of soaking up memories with your littles, I APPLAUD YOU AND SUPPORT THIS. There are many days I want to be like you.
     There is nothing dishonorable about being consistently present for your children and your husband, for working in the home and for loving it there. Many women are writing from your perspective and I think it is a beautiful and needed one!
     This post, however, is for all you mommas who are gearing back up to enter the classroom. You’re doing your best to enjoy a few more play dates while laminating learning centers and scoping out teacher blogs in the wee hours of the morning. This is for you, those who want more than anything to be a SAHM, but the student loan payments are just too high to give up an extra income. And for you, who are secretly excited to spend seven hours a day with somebody else’s crazy kids.
     If you are a teacher, a custodian, an administrator, a paraprofessional, a cafeteria chef, or a professor, AND YOU HAVE YOUR OWN KID(S), I’m sensing your anxiety, sister. The fibers of your heart are being stretched in what feels complete opposite directions. You lay awake at night imagining the faces that will soon fill the desks in your classroom, but you are already mourning the memories that you will be losing with your flesh and blood babies. You question whether or not you are doing the right thing by going back to work. You remember the stress of the job and fear you will bring that stress into your home come August. You read the comments of women like yourself who have just called in their resignation, and you wonder whether you have chosen the greater good.
     Can I just breathe a little life into you now? Can I speak a little truth? Your place of influence does not have to stop with the children who live in your home. Due to moving a gazillion times and then landing in a job overseas, I only experienced the classroom for three years. Now I’m a part-time language student and part-time grad student and part-time blogger/culture navigator. But all it takes is closing my eyes and I can feel the nervous excitement of back-to-school time. You don’t have to close your eyes to feel it. It’s becoming a part of your every day routine. You’re looking at your class list and trying to place each student’s face. You’re cleaning cabinets and organizing libraries and re-reading curriculum. You’re making notes of new systems to initiate and new strategies to try.
     And still, there’s part of you that seems to contradict this nervous excitement. It’s looking into the eyes of your own children and feeling as if you aren’t giving them enough as their mother. It’s the fear of losing their loyalty to a daycare provider or a relative, or even another teacher. I need you to stop those thoughts right this second. Because they are self-imposed and they are not healthy.
     What I do want you to do is to say a prayer of thanksgiving that the Father has counted you worthy to not only serve your biological children, but also the ones you will adopt into your heart this year.
     Take a few moments to reflect on last May. Picture the names and faces of the children you graduated to the next grade. Remember the blessings that flowed from the lips of parents who were so thankful for how well you loved their children. Or maybe think on the students who had no one to support them on the last day of school…the ones who you wanted to take home for the summer.
     If you are still in the throws of diaper duty and damage control like me, let’s face it: Our babies are going to grow up. And soon they will buy pencils and folders and backpacks. And while I still refuse to admit it, they’re going to be sent off to big person school in a few short years.
     And when that happens, I want my kids to be loved by people like YOU. Women who would be ever so honored to spend their days at home, but have chosen to walk into the classroom and love someone else’s kids, too. Don’t be deceived that you are only to find your worth in the children who call you “Mom.”
     I’ve taught in private and public schools, and my friends, they are ALL dark places. Children will be placed into your hands this year {I’m calling them children all the way through college, ok?}. And you have a responsibility.
     Love well the person in front of you. Whether you are choosing to work because you love it or because it’s a financial necessity, when you are at work, be present there. Pray over the names of your students as you write their names on desk labels. Mold their character through discipline, but teach them about grace through your forgiveness. Witness to them each day as you share your life and your faith and your family with them.
     And when you’ve graded the papers and picked up your own children and you walk back into your home, be present there, too. Pray over your own children as you watch them play. Put away your cell phone so there’s no distraction from this sacred time. Invite them to share in your work as you tell them about your own personal mission field. I’m going to say it again. Your realm of influence can be powerful both in your work and in your home. teacher moms It will take much prayer. It will take loads of grace. But don’t ever feed yourself lies that say your mothering is second-class. Don’t you dare believe that the children in your classroom or library or lecture hall need you any less. You are the kind of woman that brings hope to children without. And that little light that you put inside your students is carried home to their families and into their neighborhoods and on into their futures.