Saturday, April 25, 2015

12 Things No One Told You About Parenthood - The Teacher's Edition

Liam - one week old

Liam - five months old
I have been a mother for five months now, and my life has changed in so many ways. I was warned about so many things, most of which have indeed happened. I never knew I could operate on so little sleep. I didn't shower regularly for a little while. I have been covered in baby bodily fluids at various times. Netflix streaming was a lifesaver. I stare into the contents of my son's diaper as intently as a mystic gazes into tea leaves. I never knew I could love someone I've known for such a short time the way I love my little boy.

I do wish someone had warned me about postpartum hair loss... I've been learning all about that one the hard way.

Anyway, as a perpetual researcher and experience-seeker, I think I was pretty well prepared for the complete disruption to my personal life that the arrival of my son brought... at least as prepared as one can be for something that is a complete game-changer.

What no one told me about parenthood, though, was how it would seriously affect me as a teacher. So, if there are any teachers out there who are expecting a new member of the family, I'd like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the things I have learned as a first time mom/teacher.

You will have to work really hard at making yourself look presentable for work until you get back into the swing of things. I had an emergency c-section that was followed six weeks later by gallbladder removal surgery. I lived in pajama pants and tank tops for two months. My boobs were frequently hanging out in those early days, and my little guy was a happy spitter so I perpetually smelled like baby vomit. The idea of looking professional upon returning to work was daunting to say the least. It took a long time to get back into the habit of wearing grown up clothes and brushing my hair.

You will need double the time to get out the door that you used to need. I’m very fortunate in that my sister comes to my house in the mornings and stays with my son all day. I’m spoiled, actually. But even though I don’t have to get Liam ready for the day and take him somewhere, it still takes double the time to get out the door. Feeding the baby, changing him in the morning, getting all of my pump parts together, making sure bottles are ready for the day, wiping the spit up off of my outfit… these things take time.

When you return from leave you basically have to start at square one. I was vaguely prepared for this. For my own comfort, I decided to ease back into the classroom routine and basically treated the first few days like they were the first few days of school all over again. I didn't realize my students would need this as much as I did. Even though I feel like my maternity leave sub and I were in sync in a lot of ways and she was totally awesome with the kids, it was very unsettling for my students to switch teachers in November and switch back at the end of January. It took a little while to reestablish some of the classroom basics.

Your students will become very attached to your little one. I think this is especially true if you already have a really good relationship with your students, although there were students I had not seen for a couple of years who were suddenly stopping by to see pictures of my offspring. I don’t usually volunteer updates on my son because I’ve always tried to avoid oversharing and I know some kids just don’t really care, but so many students ask about him on a regular basis. Any time my son experiences some kind of an achievement (He slept five consecutive hours! He farted like a trucker! He held his bottle by himself! He crapped out of his diaper and up his back!), there are students who take personal pride in this.

You will be asked regularly about your little one and you’ll run out of responses. Guys, I am SO BAD at small talk. Seriously, it is painfully difficult. I love it so much when my coworkers ask how Liam is doing, but I know I say the exact. same. thing. every time. Typical conversation goes like this:
     Sweet/considerate/polite coworker: “Hey! How’s the baby?”
     Me: (inwardly groans like Tina Belcher) “He’s gooooood. Ummm… yeah. He’s good. He’s… umm… growing.”
     Coworker: “Oh yes, they grow so fast.”
     Me: “Yeah…” *shuffles feet… backs slowly away*
     End conversation.
I need to work on my baby small talk. I’m really bad at this.

If you thought you didn't have “down time” at work before… well, you ain't seen nothing yet. This is ESPECIALLY true (from my limited experience anyway) if you are a breastfeeding mother. Pumping has become my own little Hell. The first week back the struggle was real, kids. Pumping was an uncomfortable experience and I was so stressed out by it that I wasn't really able to express a lot of milk. Then, when the milk would finally start to flow, I had to concentrate on thinking about the baby or the milk would stop. I’d eke out a meager few ounces and then I’d have to pack everything up before the bell. This has gotten much better, and I’m even able to multitask a little bit now (as in I can eat a snack because ain’t nobody got time to eat lunch and I can maybe answer a few emails) but any time I was ever in my classroom without students is now dedicated to pumping as much milk as possible to feed the ravenous beast that is my five month old. Admittedly, every day goes really, really fast now, but that’s because I’m constantly running. It’s exhausting.

You will rock the baby… even when he isn't there. I stand in front of my students and I rock the baby who isn't there. You would think I've got a baby in my arms swaddled in an invisibility cloak by the way I sway back and forth all day long. I never did this before my child entered the world. If I start feeling particularly anxious while at work (for any and all non-baby-related reasons) I start bouncing on the balls of my feet, because Liam finds bouncing to be very soothing when he’s upset. The kids have gotten used to it… mostly.

Congratulations! Your memory is now shit. Maybe it's sleep deprivation. Maybe it's hormones. Maybe it's new parent trauma. Whatever the case, you will not be able to remember shit. Ever. You'll have to look back at your lesson plans to remember what you did just yesterday.

MRW a student asks what we did in class yesterday.

You’ll revisit your lesson plans to cut some of the fluff in the hopes that will allow you a little more time with your little one at home. If you've read some of my previous posts, you know that I’m all about quality of assignments over quantity. I've never really been the nightly homework type. But that doesn't mean I haven’t been scouring my lesson plans, trying to figure out ways to trim a little fluff here and there to ensure just a little more quality time at home with my baby.

Your love for your students will change in a drastic way. Maybe this is due to my hormones still trying to level out, but my heart aches extra nowadays for my students who are hurting. I always felt sorry for kids who had it tough at home before, but now it’s just outright painful to hear their stories. I gave a student half of my lunch yesterday after she confided in me she hadn't eaten in three days because her mom had been wasted or asleep for the last several days and hadn't bothered to give the school lunch money. Normally, I’d be all, “Damn, that really sucks. Sorry kid. Have a granola bar.” This incident made me ugly cry on my way home from work and when I rocked my baby to sleep, I kept telling him over and over again that I would never ever ever do that to him. Before, my students were my crazy teenage students. Now I see them as someone’s kid.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, your tolerance for stupid will plummet. Again, maybe it's because I'm sleep deprived. Or maybe because I'm constantly starving from trying to feed myself and the life-sucker that is my sweet little boy. Whatever the reason, my tolerance for bullshit has dropped considerably. Some days I have to work really hard to keep my filter in check.

Your personal life will collide with your work life. I've always worked hard at keeping my personal life and my work life kind of separate. I always had this “leave your personal life baggage at the door” type of philosophy about going to work. Prior to Liam, I would go to work, switch into “Mrs. Richardson” mode, and I was in that mode until I got in my vehicle (at whatever ungodly hour that was) to go home. Now, I never fully switch out of “Liam’s Mommy” mode. I text my sister throughout the day for updates, look at his pictures, and call home before starting drama practice. I've also had to cancel a practice or two because my little guy was having a really rough day at home. “Liam’s Mommy” mode appears to be very permanent.

Hopefully this has provided you with a little insight if you're a first-time parent/teacher, or maybe it's been a bit of a throwback for you veterans. By the way, veteran parent/teachers... I salute you. I worship you. I admire you so very much. You are walking, talking proof that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it isn't a train.

You're also proof my hair will probably grow back.