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  • Writer's pictureolivershearman

Balancing Teaching and Parenthood: The Tightrope Walk

Teaching is a profession that demands not just intellectual engagement but emotional investment. For those educators who are also parents, such as myself, the juggling act between meeting the needs of their students and those of their own children can feel like walking a tightrope... without a net.

We teachers are, by our very nature, nurturers. We don't just impart knowledge; we play a pivotal role in shaping young minds. When the final school bell rings, we swap our educator hats for parental ones, often with no break at all. Here lies the first challenge: the switch from being fully present for their students to offering the same level of attention and care at home. The transition can be as demanding as it is challenging especially with no gap at all for ourselves.

As educators, we pour our hearts into our work. We rejoice in our students' achievements and feel the sting of their struggles. This emotional labour doesn't end at school; it often accompanies us home, where we continue to plan, grade, and prepare for the days ahead. I have lost track of the number of times a 'teaching thought' has been spinning in the back of my mind while I am supposedly relaxing at home. For parent-teachers, this means navigating our children's needs, homework, and emotional ups and downs (especially for young children), all while managing our own workload. The balance is precarious, and the fear of dropping the ball is ever-present. It adds pressure to our outlook and difficulties.

For traveling teachers and those without the support of nearby family - again, such as myself, childcare becomes an essential component of their daily lives. The cost, however, can be prohibitively high, consuming a significant portion of our salary. This financial strain adds another layer of complexity to the balancing act, forcing many of us to weigh the benefits of their profession against the practicalities of providing for our families.

The challenge intensifies when illness enters the equation. Schools can be hotbeds for colds and flu, and we are often on the front lines, exposed to whatever bug is making the rounds. When a teacher or their child falls ill, the delicate balance we have worked so hard to maintain can come crashing down. Sick days, for both us and our children, aren't just a matter of recovery; they're a disruption to the carefully constructed equilibrium of our dual roles.

Every day, teacher-parents face a series of choices: grading papers or playing with their children; attending a school event or a family dinner. The guilt of prioritizing one set of needs over the other can be a heavy burden. The reality is that there's often no right answer, only the best choice in the moment. This constant prioritization can take a toll, leading many to question our ability to be both a good teacher and a good parent.

While the challenges are significant, they're not insurmountable. Solutions can come from various quarters:

  • Supportive Communities: Building networks of support among fellow teachers and parents can offer a lifeline. These communities can provide practical help, such as shared childcare, and emotional support. Boy do we need them and others can be such a blessing to help us and help them.

  • Flexible Working Arrangements: Schools that recognize the demands placed on teacher-parents and offer flexible working arrangements can make a world of difference. This might include options for telecommuting, flexible scheduling, or even job-sharing. While not all locations I have worked at were able to accommodate, supportive work environments can be a lifeline in times of day-care flu.

  • Prioritizing Self-Care: Amid the hustle, it's vital for teacher-parents to carve out time for self-care. This isn't selfish; it's essential. A well-rested, emotionally balanced teacher is more effective in the classroom and at home. I find that without my personal time, I tend to be a lesser teacher and parent, so I make sure to keep a balance for myself.

The balance between being a teacher and a parent is a continuous journey, fraught with challenges but also filled with moments of joy and fulfilment. Recognizing the struggle, seeking support, and striving for balance are steps on the path to navigating this complex landscape. The role of educator and parent may be demanding, but it's also incredibly rewarding, offering the chance to shape the future, both at home and in the classroom. I hope that we can do a great job of being both when and where we are needed, both now and in the future.

Thanks for reading

Cheers and stay curious

Oliver - The Teaching Astrophysicist

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