At a women’s event I got the chance to be a greeter, which gave me the chance to meet many different women from all walks of life. At the doors, I got the chance to hear the lives and stories of many women. One group of women told me they stayed at home with their young children. They shared the joys and woes of being a stay at home parent. It certainly sounded wonderful and challenging at the same time. I had much admiration for them and their love of what they did each day.
Then they asked me about myself and I shared. I shared about my husband, my girls, and about being an educator. One of the women told me about her time as an elementary teacher. After sharing her story, I asked her if she ever missed teaching. Before she could respond, her friend, quickly cut in, touched her friend gently on the shoulder and said, “No, she was meant to be a mother.”
The feeling I felt is what I call the heart drop. I was taken back and thought…
”Wait, I’m meant to be a mother. I am a mother. I am a mother of two children and a third to come in a few months. Just because I am a working parent does not mean I am not the best mother I can be for my own children.”
I wanted to say, “I work hard to stay present with my children, playing with them, loving them, and sharing their hearts the moment I get in the door.”
I wanted to say, “I prayed for years, 3 to be exact, for the privilege to hear those very words from my children’s mouths, mommy.“
But something I also hoped to hear one day was the students in my classroom saying the words, Mrs. Stanton.
I spent many days imagining my very own classroom.
In college, I would walk up the stairs to my classes daily thinking and sometimes saying out loud, “Give it your all today and you’ll have your own class soon.” I made a point to say this because I had to work hard especially in my math classes, prompting a professor to tell me after class, “Don’t let this one class stop you from being who you are supposed to be, if you want to teach, make it happen.”
I imagined I would one day make an impact by making education a better place for children. And now that I have this job I feel grateful, grateful to have the chance to be called an educator, and to have my own classroom.
However, I am also grateful to be called a mother. Staying home on maternity leave this last 9 weeks with my third child has been an amazing gift, time I will never get back, so I have enjoyed every moment of it.
But my heart also misses teaching my students. Going back to teaching will also be a gift. I ‘m supposed to teach, I am supposed to be in the school system, It’s something I feel in my bones, something I just know I am meant to do.
I didn’t tell these things to any of these women that day, to be honest I remained silent, but as we parted ways, I reflected and I questioned.
I reflected that maybe by asking her if she ever missed teaching, I had stirred up some emotions in her just like her comment stirred up emotions in me. Maybe I made her own heart drop by asking, “Do you ever miss it?” and if so I deeply regret asking her that question because it certainly was not my intent. Maybe at times she does miss working outside the home and maybe she does not miss it at all. No matter what she may feel the joys of staying at home for her is worth any missing, as she is empowered by making the choice to be a stay at home parent.
I questioned why does the working parent and the home parent feel at times the need to compete with each other. I have heard it from mothers and I have heard it from fathers. I have heard the argument from both sides, asking which is best, staying at home or working?
Many of times, these questions seem to knock at us:
Who does it best? Who’s doing it right? Who gets the gold star?
And it makes me ask why do we feel we must prove ourselves to each other in the first place, when only we know what is best for our families.
So many parents feel guilty for either door they choose, the choosing to work door or the choosing to stay at home door. I know at times I feel guilty for working and especially for liking going to work each day instead of staying home, but I must learn to leave the guilt at the door I choose.
I can be a mother and an educator, but the important thing I must remember is not to put my work before my family and to make sure my own children get my full attention when I get home, which they deserve.
I believe what needs to happen between the home parent and the working parent is support. We need to listen, embrace, help each other, and most of all give each other Grace. When we give each other support, it helps us know that we are not alone and can do much more than we thought possible.
No matter what door we choose, we can choose to be present in either situation, making the people around us feel noticed and most of all loved. It should always be our end goal to make our loved ones know they matter in our lives whether we are staying at home with them or picking them up after work.
Discovering that there is more than one door in this journey called life is relieving.
So what are we meant to be?
We are meant to be… our best.
Whatever door you choose to go through, make it your very best.
In choosing to be our best, our lives will be more impactful, making a world of difference in the lives of others.
Alana Stanton is a kindergarten and technology specials teacher at Mulberry Elementary in Gwinnett County, Georgia. She has taught several grades over her 14 year career including K-3 literacy special, first grade, second grade, and kindergarten. Alana believes that relationships always come first in the classroom and the classroom should be a place where students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. She currently writes for her blog, More Than A Lesson where she shares the stories of her classroom and her heart.