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The hardest decision I've ever made: Becoming a stay-at-home-mom

Sunday, May 3, 2015

From as early as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher. And I've also wanted to be a mom. These have perhaps been two of the biggest accomplishments in my life. 

My entire formal education prepared me for teaching. I was blessed to know early on what I wanted to do, so while others were struggling in high school and early college to figure it out, I was already on my path. I focused on English, knowing that this is what I wanted to teach. I declared my major before I ever started at Saint Mary's. And I obtained my master's so that I could continue to teach the journalism classes I loved so much. 

I know people think being a high school teacher is hard, but I am absolutely unequivocally in love with teaching. There is nothing better than seeing students grow and change. I love watching students get a new concept or make improvements in their writing. I love having scholarly discussions with students about Gatsby and Huck Finn and the motivations behind a character's actions. I love getting to know my students and seeing them as more than just bodies in desks but as real people with hopes and dreams and fears and ambitions. I love keeping in touch with students who have graduated, who have gone on to wonderful things, who have followed paths they never imagined they would be on. 

So when I found out I was pregnant, I started asking myself what I would do after Henry's arrival. Dan and I are lucky to be in a position where I don't have to work, but that almost made the decision harder, because I really had to listen to my heart. Did I want to work? Did I want to stay home? 

This decision is one I have wrestled with daily since my maternity leave started. Could I be the teacher I wanted, the one who dedicated evenings and weekends to grading 50 research papers at a time, the one who edited newspaper pages with text so tiny I had to squint until I got a headache, and still be the mom I wanted to be? Could I be the mom I wanted, the one who had energy and enthusiasm to teach and play with her child after spending every work day teaching other children? Could I possibly give 100% to both my career and my baby? 

And ultimately I decided that as much as I would want to, I know I couldn't. I couldn't give Henry all the attention I wanted to in the three hours I would get to spend with him on weekdays. I couldn't give my students the attention I wanted to after sleep deprived nights or staying up too late to try to effectively edit their papers. I want to be superwoman, but I don't know if I can be. 

It legitimately breaks my heart to step away from teaching for another year, as I will take the 2015-2016 school year off as maternity leave. I think about not seeing my students and my coworkers every day, and that makes me sad. I think about not having those conversations and all of the events I'm going to miss, and it makes me want to cry (and I have, often). I love teaching. I have loved every day of teaching, even the hardest and worst days, for the last ten years.  And I don't anticipate missing teaching any less as the next year goes on. 

But as I watch my son sleepily rock in his swing (smile on his face, even), I can't imagine being somewhere else next year. I have to be with him. I just have to. 

I honestly thought I'd feel better once I made a decision. But instead I feel like an insanely large piece of me is no longer a piece of me. Teaching is who I am. It's part of my identity. Who am I if I'm not a teacher? 

I'm a mother. I'm Henry's mommy. And he deserves for me to take advantage of our situation and spend as much time with him that I can. 

And so, I've officially decided to extend my maternity leave another school year. It breaks my heart to think of the students and the discussions I will miss, but I'm thrilled to know I can do so many fun things with Henry. As my sweet department head reminded me, "You have 35 more years to be a teacher. You have right now to be Henry's mom." So, so true. 

I'm Henry's mommy. 

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