I had a very enlightening discussion today at my day-job with some of my fellow colleagues. We were talking about the difficulties of parenting and nurturing. I am not a parent, but as a teacher, I teach and nurture 150 students every day. Sometimes this comes naturally, but sometimes I have a very hard time opening my heart.
This is hard to say, but I don’t always consider myself the most nurturing of people. As an educator for ten years, and student mentor for fifteen, I have come across some truly dark stories. These situations have pierced my very essence, have made me question humanity, and have generally hardened me over time.
I can’t say I subscribe to the philosophy of the “school of hard knocks,” but I do believe in understanding each circumstance for what it is. I do my best to teach responsibility above all else. I explain that I don’t get angry if a student misses a homework assignment, it’s as simple as receiving a 0, or if it’s turned in late, a reduction in total possible points. I don’t believe in asking permission to use the restroom (especially when I teach 17-18 year-olds), but I expect the student to sign out and return the pass. I try to teach self-management.
This is why it’s sometimes hard for me to nurture. Some of the students of my past could have been on an episode of Law & Order SVU – this is what still brings a rise in me. But when a student evaluation consists of the question: “My teacher will want to see me three years after I graduate,” I have a hard time swallowing that Kool-Aide. What irks me the most is that I am not allowed to say it, or to feel it.
When you’re a mother, you’re always exhausted. I have immense respect for women who are parents and still work full-time because I can’t even begin to fathom how any person can drum up enough love, energy, and spirit to continue to give. Sometimes your own kids irritate you. Sometimes you want to hand them off to a babysitter. Sometimes you just want to go to the bathroom alone. But, as a mother, society has this expectation that every moan, woe, and whine is meant to be accepted with grace, heart, and complete conviction.
I call a bluff on society. No parent wants to be with their kids for every waking moment of every day.
I say it’s not only completely normal to have feelings of annoyance or the need to be alone and away from the people you love, but it needs to be discussed. We need to be able to express and be honest about the hard feelings. Part of what drums up our stress levels is the constant pressure to push down how we truly feel. You have a right to want to be selfish without ever actually being selfish.
A powerful letter from a veteran teacher explains: “We are not here to be popular or please parents, we are here to teach children.” Evaluating how we are as teachers based on the perception that we may or may not want to see students three years after they graduate has absolutely no reflection on who we are as teachers. Expecting a parent to become so completely devoted to her children that she loses herself is an outrage.
It’s perfectly normal to feel like you don’t care because your care-cup is filled. You absolutely need to take time for yourself. Whether that’s taking a relaxing bath, reading a book, taking a Zumba class, or finding a therapist, these are all perfectly normal needs. Even more so, it’s normal to want to talk about these feelings. You do not have to hold in your emotions. Taking care of yourself includes your emotional well-being.
You are not alone!