A couple of weeks ago, I was grading some papers in the English department office when a colleague came in and said, “Do you ever sleep?” I looked at her quizzically, so she continued, “You wear a lot of hats… That’s how teachers burnout and quit.” At the time, I just kind of laughed and agreed, but later I got to thinking about it.
She’s not wrong on either count; the National Center for Education Statistics found that 17% of teachers leave the profession within the first four years, some probably due to burnout and lack of support. I know some of my working mom colleagues often feel the pressure and guilt of not being enough in the classroom or at home … I also do wear a lot of hats: I’m a teacher, a speech and debate coach, the head building representative for the education association, a wife, and a mother of an active two year old and a busy 5-year-old kindergartner.
And on top of my busy schedule, my husband is also a teacher and the head girls cross country coach, as well as the head girls track coach. Oh, and we both joined the PTA to try to be involved in our child’s school as much as our time allows, and our kindergartner is in sports, adding his own practices and games to our schedule … Despite all of our busyness, to answer the question my colleague asked: yes, I do sleep. If I don’t, everyone will pay for my lack of sleep! But the reality is, yes, my husband and I are both busy often, but we love what we do. At least most of the time. I know we aren’t alone; working parents or stay at home parents are busy all in our own ways, and we all wear different hats. How do we all manage, while staying sane (usually anyway)?
1) Plan, plan plan!
Every teacher out there will tell you that they have their curriculum planned out, at least roughly, for the entire year, and then more detailed each week by week and day by day, while also trying to be flexible for the unexpected. Planning and scheduling is how our work life and home life goes; the busier our schedules got in the last couple years, the more important it was that we put everything on a calendar. We personally use the Cozi app to schedule our lives because it’s a shared calendar with color-coding for each member, but I know the Google Calendar or Apple calendar works well for people on their phone, and others still rely on a calendar on the wall at home or a planner in the purse. Do what works for you, but put all practices, games, appointments in the calendar so no one is surprised! Everyone just has to be on the same page getting things down, and it might take some time to get everyone in that habit, but having everything planned and scheduled at least helps keep the insanity down.
2) Use time wisely-most of the time!
Let’s all be honest-we each have our time wasters: scrolling through Facebook a few times a day (me!), or watching re-runs of Gilmore Girls while we wait for the Netflix revival (me!), or getting sucked into terrible reality tv shows, like The Bachelor (me!)… okay, so I waste some time. Every day. But even within that time wasting, I’m usually doing something else productive, such as grading papers or paying bills. And other times during the day, I multitask when I can, like the other day when I was making phone calls to parents, I was also writing letters while I waited for someone or the machine to pick up. I try to keep work and home life separate, at least until bedtime for the boys, so I usually stay at school until the last minute that I can pick up my boys. But some days, I just let myself do pretty much nothing or get that sleep in early, because sometimes that is how my time is best spent. It’s important to just take a break at times too.
3) Establish priorities and let some stuff go (including the guilt)!
I have no problem admitting I’m no housekeeper (and I can just hear my husband saying, “no kidding”), so having some dishes in the sink or a pile of laundry to do doesn’t really bother me; it’s simply not a priority for me, so I let it go. I am also lucky to have a husband who will take care of household chores! Figure out what you can let go sometimes. Mothers especially seem to want to be everything to everyone all the time, and at the same time never feel like enough, because sometimes work and family obligations conflict. There will be times you need to say no at work, and there will have to be times where you say no to your family, and that’s okay! Don’t beat yourself up over it, because you are enough, and I know everyone in your life thinks so! I loved the message of this “Performance Review” to show working mothers that they are enough as an employee and as a mom (grab a tissue).
4) Find Your Village
Hopefully you are lucky enough like me to have a village nearby through a supportive spouse, family members and close friends who can help you when things just get too hectic and you need a sitter, or need to talk or even just give yourself some “me time” to rejuvenate. Find a good daycare or school that you feel is very capable of giving your child what they need. Take advantage of local moms groups to find women who understand what you are going through, so you can laugh or cry together. Find the people who can help you stay sane through the craziness.
We all wear our own hats. We’re all busy scheduling our lives to fit everything in. We all need to take it easy on ourselves so we don’t burn out in our lives. And get some sleep!