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Teacher Mom Confessions

Let’s Just Face It: We All Suck

no-more-supermomIs this too bold? We all suck as moms! Do you know how I know this? Because I feel like I am hanging onto life by only my pinky fingernail most of the time.

I look around and see all these women who dress beautifully, have gorgeous hair and perfect makeup, toting around their three toddlers all dressed in Gymboree and Baby Gap. And then there are the impecable mature ladies whose children are all grown up and they are still making five course dinners for their husbands every night and their baseboards are perfectly dusted.

A few years ago, one of those moms who I had always viewed as “having it all together” looked at me and said, “I don’t know how you do it! You just seem to have it all together!” What in the what???? I live my life so I know first hand that the last thing I have is “it all together!”

I am 97% convinced that 93.4% of what we do as mothers is to help alleviate our mom guilt! We somehow think if we can do one thing really awesome that other moms will see, it makes up for every other sucky thing we do to mess up our children’s lives.

I have three school age children and I teach 3rd grade. I have spent years trying to trick my children into not realizing I work. If they believe that, I have some ocean front property in Wyoming to sell them. I overdo everything trying to keep up the appearance that I am supermom. And if you believe that I’m a supermom, I have even more ocean front property just for you.

Case in point… Last year, my daughter had a role in her high school musical.  Apparently, there is some kind of tradition at her school that parents provide meals for students in the musical during the two weeks before the show so they can stay longer to rehearse. One of the moms, who must have a lot of time on her hands, organized all the meals and called all the other moms to ask them to bring food. Because my daughter was a freshman, I was new to this tradition. I was asked to bring cookies for their dinner one night.

“Can I bring cookies on November 12? Sure! I’d love to!”

“Four dozen? Absolutely! No problem!”

That’s what I said out loud. What I didn’t say, but that was going through my head was, “Dammit! I just volunteered to bring four dozen cookies to rehearsal on the second night of parent/teacher conferences! How do I get myself into these things?”

I’ll tell you how. Because I would rather stay up ’til midnight making homemade cookies and then scheduling my conferences around delivering homemade cookies to the high school than to admit that I am not supermom and I can’t do it all!

So the time came. I had a choice. I could buy a couple packages of Oreos and admit that I am no supermom. Or I could come home from night one of parent/teacher conferences and stay up ’til midnight to make my seriously killer homemade chocolate chip cookies. I’m not above bragging… if I wasn’t a teacher, I would probably be a famous chocolate chip cookie baker. Was there really a choice here? Oreos are for wimps! Killer chocolate chip cookies are for my kids!

The next day, I went over to the high school with a full platter of four dozen of the most beautiful, best-tasting chocolate chip cookies you’ve ever seen! My conferences had gone a little longer than I’d planned, so I was about 20 mintues late delivering my cookies. I pictured kids swarming me when they saw the offering I’d so lovingly (and let’s face it…vainly) created. I envisioned teenage eyes rolling in the backs of their heads when they tasted the best chocolate chip cookies they had ever been priveleged to eat.

As I walked into the choir room where dinner was being held, I saw it… a table chock full of cookies, some homemade, most not. Packages upon packages of Oreos all empty! I realized that teenagers can snarf down a meal in 6 minutes and 30 seconds flat, and my being twenty minutes late meant that I got there 13 mintues and 30 seconds after everyone had finished. My heart sank as I realized that probably no one was going to eat my perfect ratio of chocolate chips to dough. I also discovered that if given a choice between the world’s best chocolate chip cookie and an Oreo, a teenager will choose an Oreo 8 times out of 10. I placed my platter on the table, found my daughter and asked her to bring home the empty tray home when rehearsal was over, and went back to finish my conferences.

Three hours later when my daughter came home, she was carrying a tray full of 3 ½ dozen chocolate chip cookies. I may or may not have eaten two dozen cookies all by myself that night. Don’t judge. I’d just been through two days of parent/teacher conferences which is pretty much a teacher’s semi-annual exhaustion, and I’d spent hours the night before making a product that can’t even compete with the Oreo… damnit! Now I want Oreos!!!

An Open Letter to the PTO Mom Who Shunned Me

The word Guilt written with a pencil on white paper. An eraser from a pencil is starting to erase the word guilt.

If you can name a way to be a crappy mother, I’ve probably done it. It started before my kids were even born. I’m convinced that if God wanted me to be in pain during labor he wouldn’t have invented the epidural.

I never co-slept or carried my baby in a sling. I used disposable diapers. I bottle fed. Hey could I help it if my boobs don’t work? I fed my babies inorganic store bought baby food, fed my youngest peanut butter at 10 months, and let all my kids eat sugar before their 1st birthday. I watched as they ate dirt and told them lies about how the ice cream truck only plays music when they are out of ice cream.

But probably the worst thing I ever did as a mother, was go back to teaching school when my oldest daughter went to kindergarten. I wanted to stay home with my kids, I really did. But it was while I was searching around in the couch cushions for loose change so I could have $1.50 to buy celery for a church function, that I realized that one educator’s salary wasn’t cutting it for my family. If anything can bring on the mom guilt, it’s not the realization that you are going to need to hire a babysitter. It’s not even the realization that you might miss a class play. The thing that really gives you the most guilt about being a working mother is the stay-at-home mothers who let you know you suck.

Picture this…It was my first day back to work after five years staying home with my kids. Because my principal was a mother as well, and a generally awesome lady, she gave me permission to take an hour off to register my daughter for kindergarten. When I went into the school as a brand new, guilt-ridden first time kindergarten mom, I was surprised to see a zillion tables set up full of mom volunteers trying to get other moms to volunteer. It’s kind of like a yearly contest of seeing who can be the superest of super star volunteer moms. Not to be outdone by all the stay-at-home moms that I completely envied, I quickly went over to the table where two of my neighbors were looking for PTO volunteers. I thought, ‘Hey, I know I’m busy and I work full time, but I can do it all. I can teach and totally rock the PTO!’ so I wrote my name on their paper.

My first neighbor who I will politely call Bambi to protect the not-so-innocent, looked at me and said, “Oh, you can’t be on the PTO committee, you are a working mom!” Surely, in my guilt-muddled state, I heard her wrong! “I think there are probably some things I could do,” I said. “I could make phone calls, or send treats. I think I could help out.” My second neighbor, I’ll call her, Candy, said, “No, we have our meetings during the day while you’re at work. I think you better not be part of the PTO,” and she crossed out my name. SHE CROSSED OUT MY NAME!

I sat there stunned! That was the first time in my life I realized that sometimes we as mothers put other mothers down to make ourselves feel better. I’m pretty sure if I could have lived inside her head right then, I would have heard this internal dialogue, “I totally think it’s unfair that I have to look through my couch cushions to find $1.50 so I can take carrots to a church function to go with your celery when you get to go to work every day and don’t have to worry about such things. So to make up for my suckiness, I’m going to say something mean.”

There were things I could have said and maybe should have said, but I didn’t. If I had said those things it would have really been me silently saying. “It is so unfair that I have to go back to work when really I’d rather be home with my kids going through the cushions in my couch trying to find $1.50, so I’m going to say something mean back to cover up my suckiness.” I held the tears until I got in my car. Then I cried all the way back to work.

This year…13 years after my oldest went to kindergarten, and my neighbors told me I couldn’t join the PTO, I finally got over it! I have spent too many years having mom guilt over being a working mom. I have spent enough time resenting it and wishing I had the luxury of staying home. But this year I walked into the school on a summer day, long before I was on the clock, to begin preparing my classroom for 20 third graders who I would soon come to love as my own children, and I felt a rush of joy. I felt like I was home. I was so happy to be at school and I finally came to know that this is where I belong!

Oh, I still have a hard time getting celery to church functions. Now it’s just because it’s hard to find time to get to the store, get dinner on the table and make it to church on time…I’m a working mom. My own kids love me, 125 third graders love me, my husband loves me, and that’s enough for anyone!

7 Things Your Child’s Teacher Wishes She Could Tell You

vintage-teacher1.  No More Lotion.

For the love of all things Christmas! I have 5,000 mini Bath and Body Works lotions in my bottom drawer! I don’t expect gifts, but if you’re going to send one with your child, send chocolate, Dr. Pepper, or something they made at home.

I’m always way jealous of the guy teachers. While I have a desk full of bath gel at Christmas time, Mr. Pratt has a desk full of treats and movie tickets.

2. Don’t believe everything you hear. And I won’t either.

It never fails. I get my class list and hear, “Oh, you have ‘Gavin?’ You better watch out!” It goes in one ear and out the other. If I had listened to all the horror stories, I would have never given some of my favorite students a chance. On the flip side, if you hear how mean your child’s teacher is, give her a chance! She might end up being the best teacher for your child.

3. Oral Hygiene= Happy Teacher

Maybe the really little kids still have “baby breath” but believe me your 4th grader has a major case of dragon breath! I want to get down on their level but most kids just haven’t developed their space bubble yet. And Sophia’s breath just popped mine wide open! A quick brush before you send them out the door is appreciated!

4. …And Other Smells

I know essential oils are all the rage right now but, without fail, there is always the kid that smells like a mixture of 15 different oils. My nostril hairs are burning before we’ve even said the Pledge of Allegiance! Could you tone it down a drop or two?

5. Fair Does Not Mean Equal

The other day I bought my daughter expensive ballet shoes. If fair meant equal, I would have bought ballet shoes for my two sons as well. What in the heck would they do with ballet shoes? Fair means each child gets what they need when they need it.  Life is also not fair. If it was, horses would be riding on your back half the time. My classroom isn’t always going to be “fair.” If you’re giving your kid everything they ask for at home it’s making my job a lot harder. We are trying to teach your children how to handle success and failures, how to be adaptable, get over disappointments and handle wins with grace. It would help us out a lot if you were a good example of these attributes at home.

6. Tell Us Things!

When I said fair does not mean equal I meant it. I might not get after Hudson quite as harshly if I know his parents are getting a divorce and his big brother just left for college. Things at home affect the way children behave at school. If we have a heads up, we can help them have a better day at school.

7. Tomorrow is always a new day!

This is the best advice I ever learned during my first year of teaching from a woman nearing her last year of teaching. It doesn’t matter if Maddie had a bad day and threw a tantrum, poured glue in her hair and refused to pick up a pencil. When the day is over, it is over. Tomorrow is a new day with new possibilities and yesterday is forgotten. Please give me the same courtesy. If I had to get after your daughter for peeking at someone else’s spelling paper during a test, that doesn’t mean I hate her or that I will still be mad at her the next day. Please let it go. I did.

P.S. Your kids’ aren’t fooling anyone when they eat their boogers hidden behind their hand.

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