The Quarantine Teacher Mom: I See You
Something tells me you need a little pep talk. Let’s do this...You, dear, are Enough. Period. Let me say that again, YOU ARE ENOUGH. I want you to know I see you. I want you to know that I am thinking of you. Yes, you! The quarantined teacher who is also suddenly the homeschool teacher to her own children. Quite the gig you just acquired.
As teachers, we are planners. But we could not have planned for this. We are preparers who, unfortunately, have to prepare for worst-case scenarios. We are prepared to get our students out of a burning building. We are prepared to keep children safe and calm during severe weather. We have practiced hiding children from active shooters, or what we practiced in my classroom: “hiding from the deer that was running loose in our school” because I could never bring myself to tell 30 six-year-olds what we were actually doing piled up in the tiny, dark corner near my desk. I will never forget the back-to-school professional development where we were taught about the awful things terrorists have done in other schools around the world and ways we could react if it were ever US. I sat in my car after that PD and cried, wishing we could have just spent time learning about Math Workshop, teaching reading in small groups, or how to start the school year making connections with our students. We were ”prepared” for everything. Or so I thought. I could have never imagined we would be here--away from our students and trying to figure out how to be teachers and moms during a Global Pandemic.
Two weeks ago schools were closed all over America. Some of you only had a day to lay the groundwork for your students’ new way of living, and some of you didn’t get that time at all. No drill could have prepared you for your new normal. Suddenly everything changed. Your new normal is being Mom to your own children who NEED you RIGHT NOW more than ever. At the same time, you are the teacher to a crew of other children whose families are looking to you for some sort of support...any support. That is a lot of pressure piling up on your shoulders. You can do this.
I know what the last two weeks have been like for you. At night you check in with the news because you avoid it at all costs around your children. Not exactly what you need to be watching before bed. You stay awake thinking about your students. Did Jack have enough to eat today? Who is watching Dominic while his single mom, the ICU nurse, heads to work? Claire has made so much progress, did ANYONE read to her today? Did Janie have a good birthday? Clearly you aren’t sleeping well at night, and there is no time for rest. Your days are busy. There is no daycare for you, no grandma, no sitter, no break.
Everyone keeps saying you have all the time in the world right now, but you are exhausted and overwhelmed. The sink is overflowing with dirty dishes, your pantry is growing bare. The dog just threw up on the carpet and your wet socks just let you know your little dude missed the toilet. Don’t worry, just add those socks to the mountain of laundry over there. Your kids should be reading right now. Instead, they have figured out how to stack couch cushions so they can practice “really cool flips” off the sofa. You pray today won’t be the first time they break a bone. It really isn’t the best time for broken bones. You wonder what you will make for lunch without fresh produce in the house. You consider a smoothie delivery, but do we really want to drink from those cups? How long does the virus last on styrofoam? Do you know? There are emails you need to answer, and you should probably check in with your students. It all feels really overwhelming. IT IS.
The news keeps getting scarier. You are worried about your mom, your grandpa, your 95-year-old neighbor, your husband’s job. You decide to give yourself a little break and you open up Facebook only to find out Suzie Sparkle is nailing it. She is juggling her teaching life, her mom life, her freaking Joanna Gaines life like a rock star, and you are still in your pajamas. You aren’t sure if you brushed your teeth today, AND suddenly it is dinner time.
The negative self-talk starts rolling. Honestly, it has been running through your head all day. Your children just started their second movie of the day. More negative self-talk. Your neighbor, together with her five children, collected 400 rolls of toilet paper for your community. You tell yourself, you should be doing more. Your colleague just emailed you the writing mini-lesson she recorded today and how cool is this…the whole class was there live! Don’t worry, she said you can use her video with your class. More negative self-talk. You have (according to you) officially failed.
You are feeling like you aren’t enough. You aren’t a good enough mom, a good enough teacher, a good enough wife. I know the feeling all too well. Believe it or not, Suzie Sparkle knows those feelings, too. Please get out of your head. You are not failing. This is really hard stuff. So let me tell you again….you are enough.
Can I tell you something else? You do YOU. As this next chapter begins to unfold from the confines of your home, get yourself dressed each morning. Make your bed. Play with your children. Find pockets of your day to fit in their school work. Get outside and then get outside again. Clean out the closet by the front door. The one you swore you would clean over Christmas break. Then clean out another one. Connect with your students in a way that works for you. It might not look like Suzie’s virtual learning experience and guess what? It is okay. Take a pause from everything and check in with your husband. I am sure he has had a crazy day, too. Stare at your middle child’s cute nose for a weird amount of time because you never get a second to memorize your own children’s faces. Read a book. Don’t read a book. Make some Ramen Noodles and eat the dang ice cream. Drink your coffee, and if you have to, drink some more. Breathe. You got this. You, my friend, are enough.
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