Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.

Stephen Covey

I am the first to credit my job as an early childhood educator and as a mom to this smart and sassy mini-me as being mutually beneficial to one another most of the time. Often though, when I tell people that I oversee the chaos of 25 to 30 five and six-year-olds — I teach kindergarten — I am asked, “How do you manage to balance that so well with being a single mom?” The short answer to that question is … ”Oh, Ummm … I DON’T!” Well, at least not every day.

Any working parent (which basically means ALL PARENTS) will tell you that most days it feels like we’re holding the balance of our household, work-life, and mental health all together with a couple of bobby pins and some scotch tape. It’s fragile, requires a lot of outer support and inner grace, and is constantly in ebb and flow.

Working Mom Guilt Is Real, But This Situation Is Temporary

This part of the school year I feel a particular twinge of working mom guilt because establishing your classroom setup, culture, relationships, and curriculum, particularly in the first few months, is very demanding of your time, focus, and energy. Unfortunately, that means by 5:00 pm, I’m running on fumes with homework still to be done (both mine and hers), household needs to be met, and a little one who just wants and deserves mommy’s attention. This temporary time, out of the entire year, can however be an opportunity for growth. I establish new routines, and work on time management, while my daughter can practice independent play, household responsibility, and think up things we can do when we have extra time on the weekends.

It’s no secret that another piece of this puzzle for me is living with heightened anxiety and depression. Needless to say, I struggle mostly with giving myself grace and setting mortal expectations for me to accomplish. I am very “Type A” and Capricorn. I am supposed to be this “Super Mom” and “Super Teacher” while staying “super sane,” right?! Wrong!

Some days we’re thriving and it’s amazing, but most days these days, we should be proud even if we’re managing to survive!

I know that train of thought is irrational and flawed and will drive me nowhere fast but off the rails, especially while trying to do it all in heels and a cape in the times of COVID and hurricane season, but I also know I’m not alone in these feelings. I remind myself daily that this too shall pass, but it’s ok to admit in the midst of it all, it is no less A LOT! I’m just here to tell you, that you are not alone! Some days we’re thriving and it’s amazing, but most days these days, we should be proud even if we’re managing to survive!

Maintaining balance is all a part of life — and when you’re a parent, it can really feel like each day is a new day at the circus. We walk a tight rope, juggle full plates, tame the wild, and jump through hoops attempting to get it all done. Keep in mind that in the pursuit of it all, it is impossible not to fall … just get back up and work to steady again.

Here are a few things to reflect on if you too struggle with giving yourself parental grace:

  • It’s OK to NOT Be OK. Recognize when you’re feeling off centered and do what is needed to reset.
  • It’s Even More OK to Ask for Help. Everyone will survive if somethings wait until tomorrow, but remember there’s a reason that it takes a village!
  • Even the Pinterest Mom Isn’t Perfect. Anybody can post their best days; don’t let the internet fool you.
  • You’re Only Human. You have needs and limitations and it’s important to model being kind to yourself for the little ones watching.
  • Something You Did Today MATTERED to Someone Else. Hopefully it also brought peace, joy, passion, and or happiness to you too!

Melissa Bagneris is a kindergarten teacher in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana where she is an active member of the school-wide positive behavior initiative system. She earned her bachelor’s degree and state certification in early childhood education from the University of Louisiana and was voted 2020 Teacher of the Year at Washington Elementary STEM School.


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