Finding Balance Between Being a Teacher and a Parent
Being a teacher is a stressful profession, but being a teacher AND a parent adds another layer of stress. A teacher to-do list is never ending. A parent to-do list is also never ending. You work hard all day to plan, prep, and keep students learning and engaged, but then when you go home, you do the same with your own children. You are physically and emotionally tired, drained, and stressed. You feel like you need to work harder, work longer, work faster. You try to work longer and bring more work home, but you feel like you can’t get it all done. At home you have your own set of daily tasks, so how can it all get done?
Teachers truly are strong. You have to be. You have super powers. How else does one person keep 30 children in one line, answer all 387 questions per hour they seem to ask, and keep them learning and engaged for 7 whole hours? Parents are also super heros. You are raising your children to be responsible, kind and hardworking citizens. To run a family, you essentially have a mini classroom in your household to manage. This takes a lot of patience, organizing, planning, love and time.
You may feel defeated by the endless amount of tasks for you to complete in a day, but use your strengths that both teachers and parents have to help make things a little easier for you. Try some of these tips to help alleviate your workload.
- Set limits. You don’t have to make every lesson Pinterest perfect. The goal is that you keep your students learning and engaged. There is nothing wrong with having spectacular lessons that take all your time to plan and prep. Just keep those special lessons to once in awhile. This doesn’t mean you don’t plan. Having a day with no plans will end with more behavior problems and a stressed out teacher. Prioritize and do what you need at school to feel prepped and ensure your lessons run smoothly.
- Don’t work late. Whether it’s working late at school or at home, you’ll need to turn off your teacher mode, and remember you’re also a parent and want to give your own kids your full attention. Try to set a time you must leave every day from school. This helps you work more efficiently when you know you have a deadline. Obviously there is so much to do and sometimes it’s not possible to get it done in a small amount of time. Plan one day every week (schedule it in with the family and spouse) that you stay late to get as much done as you can. You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish when you know there’s an ending time.
- Plan an early departure one day a week. Sometimes, forcing yourself to work harder, longer, and faster helps when you have a goal in mind. Make it a priority that one day a week no matter what, you drop everything and leave school early. Spend the extra time with your kids. If you have something to look forward to, it will help you prioritize what was important to finish that week. The one day will feel like your reward for the hard work you put in all week. Not only will you enjoy it, but your kids will appreciate it too.
- Try not to bring work home. Utilize every moment at school to get things done. You may need to work through lunches, but try not to do this every day. It’s important to connect and take a break with your colleagues too. Obviously there are times during the year like report cards or parent conferences that take more of your time, so taking work home is okay. Just make sure if you take work home, try to do it when kids are sleeping or at soccer practice. You want to be present and involved with your kids at home.
- It’s okay to say no. There is a lot of pressure to be a part of every committee, run school events, or help out after school. If it’s an option, say “yes” only to things that are important or special to you. Your time at school and home is valuable, so choose wisely to what you add to your plate.
- Utilize Daybreak Lesson Plans. If it’s possible, take a mental health day to have some time to yourself or to catch up at home.
At School and Home:
- Prioritize. A teacher to-do list is never ending. So is your parent to-do list. Keep your lists realistic and simple. Choose your top 3 important tasks for the day. You can always add to your list when you complete the first 3 tasks. If your list is too long, it’ll add to your stress and make you feel like you’re never going to get anything done. Crossing something off your list and completing your list will give you a sense of accomplishment. That feeling goes a long way, even if it’s only for a few items.
- Avoid over scheduling. Be realistic about what activities/events you can attend or plan at school and at home. Don’t plan a big lesson when you know you also have your child’s dance recital that week. Remember that you don’t need to attend every Halloween event in your town with your kids. Just choose the most fun and important events to your family.
- Stay organized. Every teacher has a planner, but don’t forget to look ahead in the school year to make sure there aren’t any big events/time consuming things like report cards happening at the same time as a family event. If there is a conflict, at least you can plan ahead so it’s not a surprise. Use google calendar or something similar with your spouse so you’re on the same page with schedules and events. Have a weekly or monthly calendar displayed at home so everyone can see the events. Color code them for each person in the family. You can post reminders here, and dinner plans for each day. Post-its are your best friend at school and home. Some nights we might not be able to talk to our spouse, or there are lots of items to remember for the next day. Buy bright colors and write a reminder for a family member or even yourself and put it on the bathroom mirror or door to the garage so it will be seen.
- Have patience and breathe. It gets overwhelming at school and at home. When you feel that you’re about to lose it, take some time to walk away and breathe. Breathing and meditation can reduce the tension and stress quickly.
- Plan meals. Plan easy prep meals during the week. Cook on the weekends, freeze, use the crockpot. Also, it’s okay to do take out once in awhile. Always have a back up plan by keeping fast frozen meals in the freezer. Whether it’s a frozen pizza or frozen bag meal, we always have those nights and having that back up meal is essential!
- Prepare ahead. Everything you can prepare ahead of time will help routines go smoothly. Lay out clothes the night before for the kids and for you! Have a few choices for breakfast, pack lunches and snacks the night before, have backpacks ready by the door. If they’re old enough, include your kids in prepping all these items. Having them help will give them ownership and control in their choices, but also teach them responsibility. The parent doesn’t have to do everything for them.
- Hire a cleaning company: even if it’s just once a month. It’ll take one long and unappealing task off your hands to spend more time with your kids.
- Have your children help. Use every moment to spend more time with your kids. Your kids can help with the cooking, the laundry, sweeping the floor, setting the table, etc. Then you can spend the time doing it together, and they’re helping out with the daily tasks!
- Plan one night a week for family night. It can be going out to eat, or popping popcorn and having a movie night at home. If you have more than one child, plan a date with each child once in awhile to give them some one-on-one time.
- Take care of yourself. When you become stressed and tired, you become sick and that makes school and home life even harder.
- Exercise and eat healthy. You’ll feel better and have more energy.
- Take time for yourself. Having kids at school and kids at home can be draining. Organize with your spouse a time each week that you can go exercise, read, or even just run errands without kids.
These tips aren’t magical in the sense that they will make your guilt, stress, and to-do lists go away. In reality, life while being a parent and a teacher is hard, and it will still take a lot of work to stay organized, plan ahead, and take care of yourself too. It’s going to be tiring, and not every day will go perfectly. As much as Facebook may depict your friends having perfect families, they too are in the same boat as you. They have crazy days, annoying days, and exhausting days, but in the end, your own children matter the most and your family is full of love.
Try the tips that work for you and your family. Keep things in perspective, realistic, and set limits. Enjoy every moment with your kids. Accept that your life is different now with kids, and that you’ll have to do things differently, but it’s possible. Listen to your parental and teacher instincts. Remember, teachers and parents are superheros. You are both, so that makes you a super duper hero. Channel that energy and stay positive.