Dear mummies and daddies…

I’ve blogged a few times about the difficulties I’ve found in balancing my personal and professional life since becoming a mother, but this is a message to all new parents who may be feeling the way I have…

Dear mummies and daddies who are struggling,

You are not alone. You are not failing. You can do this.

These three sentences were ones I desperately needed to hear for over a year, but never heard them.

Some of them were said and some weren’t but either way I never really heard them. The guilt that I was wearing blocked them out. I felt so incredibly guilty about everything: the piles of washing up; the dirty kitchen floor; the unmarked assessments; the poorly planned lessons; not seeing my son enough; not playing with my son enough.

Nothing I did was good enough. I was embarrassed by my continual failures and couldn’t ask for help.

It’s hard being a teacher. It’s hard being a new parent. It’s hard trying to avoid real or perceived mum judgement. And it’s very hard trying to do everything.But it’s ok to struggle. It’s ok to ask for help. It doesn’t make you a failure as a teacher. And, most importantly, it does NOT make you a failure as a parent.

Take a moment and reread that last sentence.

It does NOT make you a failure as a parent.

I’ve been known to describe teaching as “the most wonderful nightmare” in the past. But parenting is the toughest dream-come-true I’ve ever come across. No matter who you are, it’s tough. When you first go back to work it’s tougher. But when you also try to care for countless children and do all the marking and all the admin and all the meetings and all the parents’ evenings and all the…

You get my point.

You have to give yourself a break. I don’t care how organised you are, you cannot do it all. And that’s ok. (No, honestly it really is.) It’s ok if your classes get the stock lesson from the scheme of learning once a fortnight because you don’t have time to customise every lesson for every class any more. It’s ok that you submitted your report data at midday and not 9am that one time as your little one was up all night so you couldn’t mark those last 6 books. And it’s ok if you say no to the “Could you just…” requests because you can’t fit your own job into your life anymore let alone any additional requests.

And it’s also ok if you tell your partner that you need them to watch the baby one Sunday afternoon because you know sacrificing those 3 hours then means you can have an actual Christmas holiday with your family without the marking guilt hovering over your shoulder.

You can do this. You will find a way to make it work for your family.

Don’t get me wrong, mistakes will be made, but remember what we tell our students: mistakes are ok as long as we learn from them and don’t dwell on them.

I’ve just handed my notice in to start a new job just down the road from home (it also happens to be my dream role). Yes I am worried that a two year old will amplify the usual stress of a new job. But as I was being offered the job I started to feel almost euphoric as the guilt I had been carrying lifted. Within moments I found myself relaxed and playing with Oliver in the silly and carefree way I hadn’t done for months. Over the next few days I found I was more patient and much calmer. And I was happier too. I’m not saying that changing jobs is the answer for everyone, but what it made me realise is how harmful the guilt and the blame is. Just how quickly it had invaded my being and, without me realising, it had changed me and my life. And definitely not for the better.

I can’t believe I had been stuck in this vicious cycle for so long.

So, new mummies and daddies, please listen. And I mean truly listen. Let this sink into your soul and start to break the hold of any guilt, any blame and any feelings of failure you may have:

You are not alone. You are not failing. You can do this.

With love, respect and support,

The numpty mummy

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