"You wander from room to room
Hunting for the diamond necklace
That is already around your neck."
-Rumi, as quoted in Thrive by Arianna Huffington
I've always been a working mom. I guess I should qualify that: I've always been a work-outside-the-home mom. Since I was in my thirties before I had both children, I spent several years teaching before they rocked my world... and to be honest, it was a struggle to figure out how I could balance it all.
I loved being a teacher. In my twenties, pre-kids, I poured everything I had into my middle school English classes. It wasn't that I necessarily felt that teaching was my "calling"; I just wanted to do the best job I could. It's my personality. I devoured teaching and couldn't get enough training. I had my eye on reaching the top of my profession as quickly as possible. I volunteered to be a team leader of teachers, I worked on district committees and pretty soon, I was selected as the department leader and mentor teacher. I was right where I wanted to be.
And then my daughter was born. Naively, I thought I could jump right back in. I thought that after a few months, the title of 'teacher-mom' would slip alongside my other accolades, and life would keep chugging along. Of course, that didn't happen. Balancing a commute, breastfeeding and separation anxiety created more angst than I could imagine. Life needed to shift, and as life often has a way of doing, I would up exactly where I needed to be.
It wasn't easy to get there, and residing in that place between 'teacher' and 'mother' was a constant state of unsteadiness for many years. I felt like I wasn't doing the best job at either; on days when the teaching went well, I'd have to rush home to assume child care so my husband could go to work. At night, the babies were demanding when it was time to grade papers, and each morning I would wake, bleary eyed and exhausted, wondering how this was ever going to work. The joy was evaporating from both 'jobs'. Nothing felt right, neither felt fulfilling. The fulcrum teetered back and forth as I searched for the elusive equilibrium I knew I needed.
I wish I could say it was easy, or that there was some sort of formula I read about that, like breadcrumbs along a trail, I could gather along the way to the end of the rainbow. The truth is, it was nothing like that. And sadly, it involved barrels of tears, volumes of journals, and book after parenting book to discover how I could thrive as 'teacher-mom.' I'm not sure I would ever want to repeat that process, but I can say that the search for the perfect balance led to the discovery of my self.
I learned that it all goes by so quickly... those words of my grandmother certainly ring true as I'm watching my baby grow up and out of the safety of our space. I learned that boundaries are vital for both teacher and mom; a life in balance is truly a life well lived. I learned that everything I ever wanted really is right within my grasp-all I needed to do was make a choice. Actually, it was quite simple: I chose a life adorned with the sparkle of my children first-always.
And that has made all the difference.