I felt it first in mid-July. I was watching TV, folding a load of laundry when I saw a Back to School ad. Walmart was starting to rollback school supplies. I felt a surge of excitement! I’ve got to start watching the mail for flyers. I need to find the best prices and start stocking up! I thought. But then it hit me. No, I don’t. I’m not a teacher anymore. Surprisingly, the realization stung a little.
My son was born last July. I have always had a deep desire to stay home with my babies. My husband supported my dream, so last year I did not go back to school. I didn’t miss it. Last year, when the back to school commercials came on, I was sitting in a recliner, snuggling my newborn, reveling in brand-new motherhood. My love of teaching and the excitement of a new school year did not even register on my radar.
In the evenings, when I would have been grading stacks of papers and replying to endless emails, I was desperately trying to soothe a screaming, colicky infant. I was sending up prayers of thanksgiving that I did not have the added stress of teaching on my plate. People would ask if I missed teaching and I felt guilty admitting it. I didn’t. Teaching was just too much. So, when I first felt the twinge of disappointment that I would not be going back to school this year, I stuffed it down and tried to ignore it.
At the end of July, my husband, who is an assistant principal, took me to a back to school gathering for school administrators. We sat with his co-workers, all of whom are administrators married to teachers. We talked all things school. It was fun to be surrounded by people who spoke my language. It felt so good to feel like a professional again. Except, I realized. I’m not. I’m not a teacher anymore.
On our way home that night, I admitted to my husband that I was starting to second-guess my decision to stay home. I struggled to put it into words so I don’t remember exactly what I said. But my random sputtering went something like this. “I miss wearing professional clothes. I miss decorating my classroom. I miss my teacher friends who just ‘got me’. I miss seeing a student overcome a struggle and learn something new. I miss the bond I felt towards my class. I miss feeling smart.”
My whole life I have been a confident achiever with big dreams. I was proud to earn my master’s degree and I was passionate about lifelong learning. I was proud to call myself a teacher and I hoped my passion for learning rubbed off on my students. But now, most of my days are full of diapers and laundry. On hard days, I wonder. Am I wasting my degree? Am I wasting my potential?
Deep down, I know I’m not. I know that being a stay at home mom is an important job. I have a big responsibility to raise a godly little boy. He needs me right now and I need him. Since the moment I found out I was pregnant, I started praying for God to make a way for me to stay home. He did. I have what I prayed for. God blessed me with such a gift. Not a single moment of the time I get to spend with him is a waste. The truth is, my teaching career can wait. It will still be there when I’m done having kids and they all start school. But childhood doesn’t keep.
Today, when I finished changing yet another diaper, my one-year-old son squatted down to scoop the rolled up diaper, waddled into the kitchen and tried to open the trashcan lid by himself. He knew he needed to throw away his diaper and he knew where to put it. I taught him that, I thought. When he wanted a snack later that morning, he walked to the pantry, pointed and said, “Peezzzzz”. Yes, I taught him that, too. After lunch, we sat in the recliner and read books. I pointed to a picture and said, “Dog”. He pointed to it and mimicked the word. Pride lit up his face and he clapped for himself. I taught him that, too!
He’s at a stage where he’s learning every single day and I get a front row seat. I don’t have to miss it. That was my dream. Just because I’m not going back to school this year or anytime soon, doesn’t mean I’m not a teacher anymore. I’m still a teacher. I’m his teacher. His very first teacher. And I don’t want to take that for granted anymore.