Teacher-Mothers: A Balancing Act

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A RAND Corporation survey found that teachers work approximately 53 hours a week—racking up additional hours teaching, grading, and helping students during their “breaks”—much more than the typical 9-5 job. 

Being a full-time teacher is already a demanding job, but raising kids in addition is even harder. From being on constant watch of their curious baby to trying to coo their newborn to sleep at unimaginable nighttime hours, mothers perform an inordinate amount of thankless tasks on a daily basis. This is the teacher-mother reality that many M-A teachers face. They devote every waking hour to not only their children but also to their students—they truly are superheroes!

Nichole Barlow

Spanish teacher Nichole Barlow has a two-year-old daughter. She has managed to find time for herself by listening to podcasts on the drive home from school and exercising with her running stroller. Other time-saving methods for Barlow include meal planning and avoiding clothes that require ironing. She added, “Sometimes I’ll have to get my parents to babysit on the weekends so I can get things done.”

Like Shepard, Barlow has had to adjust to less sleep. “I feel like I don’t have as much energy as I used to,” she said.

Being a mother has also altered Barlow’s perspective on her students. She explained, “I always thought of my students as someone else’s kid. But now, I think of them as someone else’s baby. Sometimes, I think about what my daughter will be like when she’s in high school, and I think about what some of my students were like when they were toddlers, and it gives me more of an appreciation for students.”

Erika Shepard

AVID and Science teacher Erika Shepard has a nine-month-old daughter and recently returned from maternity leave. She described being a mother and a teacher as an “extremely hard balancing act.” 

“Usually there are about 12 things that I’m trying to do at once,” she said. “The minute the bell rings, I have to leave and immediately pick up my daughter from daycare.” 

The District’s maternity leave policy gave Shepard no choice but to use all her sick days when she was on leave. Now, she only has four days left for “family illness” this semester. “I would have rather taken partial pay while I was gone and kept some of my sick days because I would be less worried about my health, and I could take a day off here and there,” she said. If Shepard or her daughter got sick, she would have to pay for her own substitute teacher.

Shepard shared her struggles juggling her teacher responsibilities with the costs of motherhood. For Shepard, giving her students the best education while taking care of a young child has been an adjustment. She said, “Last night, my daughter woke up seven times. I am expected to still function and do my job at the same level as before, even if I am not getting the same amount of sleep as a childless teacher.”

Shepard explained that motherhood comes with decreased flexibility and availability. “I can no longer stay after school to meet with students,” she said. “Everything in my life has to be scheduled in advance, and I am still very limited in how much time I can give my students. I wish I could be available more often, and I don’t want to come across as uncaring or undedicated, but this is just my reality.” 

Being a mother has helped Shepard put things into perspective and allowed her to give meaningful advice to her students. She said, “I’m constantly telling my students that the most important things are health and happiness. Third is school.”

Maribel Maldonado

Spanish teacher Maribel Maldanado has three kids—a ten-year-old, a five-year-old, and a two-year-old.

Due to the grueling hours that being a teacher demands, Maldonado is unable to spend as much time with her own children. She said, “When [my kids] have special assemblies, I can’t attend because I’m here working. If their teachers ask for parent volunteers, I can’t help, and that sucks.”

Being a mother with a busy schedule has also forced Maldonado to make compromises on her teaching. She explained, “Sometimes I wish I had more time to dedicate to a unit. I have this idea of how I want to do something, but I don’t have the time.”

Despite its many struggles, being a teacher-mother has also been fulfilling for Maldanado. “I love teaching and I get to see all of my students’ accomplishments on campus. At home, I love spending time with my kids and seeing how much they’re growing,” she said.

Maria Luisa De Seta

Latin teacher Maria Luisa De Seta has two children—a 14-year-old and a nine-year-old. She shared that teaching can be mentally exhausting, which affects her home life. She said, “As a teacher, you spend your day with younger people and are already tired when you get home, but your kids deserve your full attention.”

Her job also provides insight into her children’s futures, though she is not entirely optimistic. “I know how difficult it is to be a teenager today, and I know the challenges that students are facing. So, as a mother, I’m very scared that my kids will face those same challenges,” she said.

For De Seta, determining priorities is crucial in navigating her hectic schedule. “My family and my kids are my priority, so I try to organize my work around them. This also means that sometimes I have very little time for myself to do things I enjoy,” she said.

De Seta explained that her job is extremely rewarding as she is able to make meaningful connections with teenagers, forming bonds that extend even beyond graduation. She said, “Even with the complications of being a mother and a teacher, I still think it’s an amazing opportunity that I have. It’s worth it to know that I somehow impacted someone’s life and that part of me is out there in the world with the students who remember me.” 

Jolene is a senior at M-A and this is her second year in journalism. She looks forward to writing more opinion pieces about controversial topics this year. In her free time, she enjoys running track and listening to music.

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