The Balancing Act: Teaching and Family

If I could have a nickel for every time someone has made the comment to me “Oh, you’re a teacher.  That must be the perfect job for a mom!,” I would be a millionaire. Unfortunately, when my girls were younger, I typically only felt like a “good mom” two months out of the year. Summer was that blissful time of the year when I could rejuvenate myself, take classes to better my professional practice, and dedicate my time to my family. The other ten months of the year, however, my family took a back seat to my job.

This post is not going to be the traditional “We are overworked and underpaid.”  Everyone in teaching knows that it is going to be a labor of love and not without sacrifice.  Rather, I want to spend some time giving advice to younger teachers regarding life balance.  These are words of wisdom I wish someone had shared with me when I started teaching over twenty years ago.  Teaching will never be a 40 hour a week profession, but we can put some things in place to make it not so life consuming.  I wish I could say that I always do these things myself. I do not!  I have however tried to be mindful of each of these in the hopes that I will get better at my life balance each year.

My Nuggets of Wisdom:

  1.  Plan out a schedule and stick to it!  You will never get it all done, so don’t try. Look at your family calendar and figure out when is the best time to get your work done.  Can you have a family study time each night where you all sit at the kitchen table and work for an hour? Are you an early morning riser that can squeeze in an hour before school each morning? Can your husband/wife take the kids every Saturday morning while you head to school to knock out your work for the week?  Once you have your time set aside each week for extra work, do everything in your power to stick to it.  Remember that each extra hour you give to your classroom you are taking away from your family.

  2.  If you have to choose between kids, always choose your own!  This one is a hard one. We see our own children as blessed.  They have parents who love them, food to eat, and support at home.  That is not always the case with the students we grow to love in our classrooms.  Unfortunately, I have seen several children of my colleagues over the years turn to drugs and engage in other harmful behaviors.  Even children in the best of homes need attention.  Your primary responsibility is to your own children.  If your students have an evening performance, bring your own children to watch.  If you have parent/teacher conferences one night that takes you away from your children, carve out extra time for them from your weekly schedule (see Wisdom #1).  Let your kids see you set up pictures of them in your classroom and share with them the stories you tell your students about them.  They need to know that they are the most important people in the world to you.

  3. Take time for your significant other/spouse!  I love this post by Tom Eggebrecht where he writes “If You Can Read This, Thank the Husband of a Teacher.”  It is not easy being the spouse of a teacher.  Often times they need to pitch in more (especially at the end of each quarter when grade cards are due!)  It is important to let your other half know how important they are to you.  Carve out time just for them when making your schedule (see Wisdom #1).  Remember, that God willing, they will be the one by your side when your teaching days are over, and your children are gone.

  4. Take time for yourself!  If you think #2 and #3 are hard, this one is going to be a killer!  You will be no good to anyone of you are not good to yourself.  Schedule “Me Time” each week.  Whether it is exercise, an out of the way trip to Starbucks before school each Friday, or sitting out on the deck with a good book, you need this time during the school year to carry you through until those blissful days of summer are back again.

Here is to a better life balance, friends!

I’m sure our readers have other words of wisdom to share.  Please post your thoughts below.  

13 thoughts on “The Balancing Act: Teaching and Family

  1. I think #2 is so important and yet so difficult. In my district, we get dinged on our APPR for not spending enough of our own time outside of school, at school events. Teachers are asked to give so much of themselves and their time. It’s very much a tightrope, often with ourselves and our families lost in the balance.

    • Lisa,
      I can so relate to your comment. I vividly remember the time my four girls came to me crying and saying how I cared more about my students than I did about them. I am hopeful that the pendulum will begin to swing back and districts will begin to recognize that having teachers with better life balance equates to having better teachers.

  2. My poor kids have a teacher for a mom and a farmer for a dad! Both of our schedules are tough, but we make it work. Time for myself seems out of reach at this point, especially now that I am taking classes on top of everything else. Someday I will get some me time back…I hope anyway!

    • Tara,
      You will get me time back. I long for the days of my little ones running around. Especially with grad school, there will always be too much to do and not enough time to do it. Try to be good to yourself (even if it is only for 15 minutes a day)…you deserve it!

  3. Ladies, excellent reminders! My husband is a principal and I teach, so our four children (the two older have left us for university) live their lives on campus. It is hard for them and, often, also for us. The struggle for balance is real.

    • Two educators certainly make for additional challenges. My parents were both teachers, so I can relate from the kid end. (:

  4. Great post – and so relevant to us since we are balancing work, school, and parenting right now. I often end up doing the work all Saturday morning routine – but too often that has ended up being 8 hours on a Saturday and still work to do Sunday.

    • Yes, Megan…Grad school adds even an additional layer onto the responsibilities. I know that for the past two years I have been putting in 70-80 hours a week with two classes and teaching. At least that is a short term struggle (: Keep plugging away!

  5. This is always something I struggle with. The balance is tough to find. My wife is also a teacher. She is better at doing this and I need to follow her lead. I have made better adjustments to choosing family over teaching in the past five years as I used to do more for kids at my school then my own. Thanks for this great post.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. I do think that some teachers are naturally better at time management than I am. They just have the unique gift of squeezing out every spare moment and utilizing them to their fullest. It sounds like your wife may be one of these teachers which I admire. Good for you for working towards a better work/family balance. I’m sure your children love having more of their dad time.

  6. Such a good post! I always need a reminder of this. I finally realized this past year that I was tired of spending time with my family by “looking over the laptop.” It was time to put it down and set time aside!

    • We have all been there! Good for you for recognizing the need and making adjustments for your family.

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