August is upon us and school will start shortly. Parents will breathe a long-awaited sigh of relief, students will become reacquainted with the snooze button, and teachers will trudge reluctantly into their classroom, gradebook and red pen (inevitable, ominous foreshadowing of what’s to come) in hand, mourning the long-gone months of freedom and cursing the dreaded month of August. Yes, August.
Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule and in this case, I happen to be one of them. While the prep work leading up to a new school year has its fair share of sucky moments, for the past few weeks I’ve found myself sort of excited about going back to work. Okay, a lot excited. To the point where I actually stepped foot inside my classroom before August. (Nevermind that it was just to turn down my thermostat. Still counts, right?) I’ve been checking my rosters regularly, tweaking my plans accordingly, and eagerly pulling resources from my summer courses into the curriculum. And that excites me.
But shouldn’t I, as a mother, be heartbroken about having to send my daughter back to the sitter? Shouldn’t I feel awful about trading time with her for time with one hundred and fifty other kids? Shouldn’t I feel sad, troubled, bitter, defeated? The lack of these feelings sometimes plagues me with guilt. But only temporarily, because I know something now that I didn’t know last summer.
I am not a bad mom; I am a working mom. I love my kid and I love my work, and I will not apologize for either of those two very important things. I am a better parent when I am working, mentally, emotionally and physically. I believe in quality over quantity and I know that the time I spend with my daughter during the school year is richer, fuller, and much more authentic than the time I spend with her during the summer. I should feel excited to be teaching again because teaching, like parenting, is a part of who I am – a part that I love, respect, and yes, am allowed to enthusiastically anticipate.
Isn’t it a travesty, some parents might say, that she has to do both in order to feel fulfilled? To them I say this: I am a teacher. I am an educator trudging into her classroom in August, red pen in hand, ready to take on the world – or at least a small part of it. But I am also a parent. I welcome August, I celebrate it, I find relief in the change it promises. And I am abundantly thankful to be both.