The unfortunate truth: I was underpaid, overworked, and was expected to put my baby aside. My family and friends would say I am a perfectionist. I have always loved school and graduated from UC Santa Cruz with honors. I have always been dedicated to any job I have and willing to learn new skills at home to be the best at what I do. I love working. I love to have large amounts of responsibility and I am damn good at managing them.
The best part about teaching was seeing the impact I had on my students and their families. Any passionate teacher will tell you the same thing. I loved seeing my students’ personalities and academics progress through the year. At the end of each year I felt so accomplished just as they did. As a teacher, the work never ends at school. It is done at home between dinner with the family until the late hours of the night. The only hobby I had left was sleeping. People always like to point out that teachers get the summer off. We do. It wasn’t enough and did not suffice as adequate work-life balance. Then I had a baby. My very own student. The most important student that I will ever have.
I went back to teaching once maternity leave ended. I am a nursing mother so the challenges quickly presented themselves. I stayed strong but noticed my usual dedication and perfectionism were taking a hit. I started to ask myself: If I can’t do quality work here, why am I staying? Besides this, I literally could not afford to live off the money I was making anymore. I was expected to work at home in this situation. I decided I needed to do what was best for my family.
As a Buddhist, it was an internal struggle and battle when deciding to leave. I truly believe I obtained some bad karma for leaving my students at the end of the year. I thought about how selfish it was for me to want to leave but then I thought about how selfless I am now that I’m a mother. The reason I stopped doing the hours of work at home was because I could not live with myself if I knew I pushed my baby aside to do work at home instead. I chose her.
I learned this from my students. The students I have had that struggled most in school were those that had parents who were too busy for them. The parents would tell me this and so would their child. I asked myself if I wanted to be this type of parent. I chose my baby.
I would never take back the three years I taught first grade. To all you teachers out there: my hat goes off to you because you are doing it and I couldn’t. All teachers have a special place in my heart. Will I live to see the day when school systems are redesigned for the benefit of teachers and students? I do hope so.
Written by Stephanie Briggs