Today I welcomed new students as they took a tour of our campus. Under their teenage bravado, I could see their fears fizz up like soda bubbles: Will people like me? Will I look stupid? Will I be enough?
Kids may be surprised to learn their teachers-whether newbies or veterans- start the year with those same fears. We all want to be liked. We want to be seen as confident, beautiful, and intelligent. We want to be enough.
These fears are even more pronounced for me this year. This year, I’ll be trying to be a full time teacher while also trying to be a full time mom of two boys under three. Gone are the days when I could stay at work until my car was the last in the parking lot. Sayonara nights of spending hours grading essays between naps on the couch. No more copious notes in the margins read by few kids ever.
After so many years of giving 110% to a job that demands even more, even 95% really felt like failure.
The strange thing is, while I’ve been forced to give a little less, I don’t think my students have gotten less. In fact, they may be getting a little more.
When I reentered the workforce after Fox was born, something had changed. Suddenly, I saw him in all of my students. I realized that everyone had been someone’s baby. All of those mama bears out there seemed a tad less scary and a tad more relatable. It struck me that the fear I felt in leaving my baby with a “stranger” while I was at work wasn’t so different than the fears these parents must have in dropping their kids off at school each day: Will they be happy? Will they be safe? Will they be loved? (and, oh yes, will they learn?). I realized that while test scores, grades, and knowledge were still very important, the way that kids felt about themselves and the people in their lives mattered too.
Much as mothering felt different the second round, teaching after nearly a decade in the profession feels different as well. The confidence and knowledge I have now was hard won. It took years of developing curriculum from scratch, of trying on classroom management strategies until I found one that fit, and of fiddling with pacing and technology and the wording of e-mails. This uphill battle means I’m able to give ‘less’ now because I gave so much for so long.
Ultimately, you can’t be a working mom without fear of doing both jobs poorly. However, when it comes to being a mom or being a career woman, we have to trust that the sum of our experiences, our intelligence, and our genuine desire to do the best job we are capable of doing (though this may vary moment to moment) is ENOUGH.
Do you still feel like you’re getting the job done at work? How do you remind yourself you’re enough?