How to Juggle Parenting and Teaching

If you are a teacher and a parent, you know how challenging managing your work at school and your work at home can be. So often we feel like we are doing too much, and there isn’t enough of us to go around. TeacherVision Advisory Board Member and mom, Jessica, shares her tips for juggling parenting and teaching so you can set realistic expectations for yourself and find the joy in both.

Illustration of a teacher with her daughter

You went to school to be a teacher, spending long hours studying, student teaching, and also juggling that college life. But, in the back of your head, you knew you'd want to have a family one day. You push that thought back in your mind because, after all, you're just in college and are excited to start your teaching career.
After graduating, you begin teaching, meet your husband or wife, and then you have a baby. Everything is glorious and exciting until maternity/paternity leave is over, and you have to go back to work. You realize at that moment that you need to juggle two worlds and sometimes feel like you're failing at both. Juggling being a parent and teacher isn't easy, but you are capable of doing both well.

Let yourself feel all the emotions

When I went back to work after having our first son, he was five months old. I lucked out having him in March because I got the rest of the school year off plus summer. I didn't realize just how hard going back to work would be. My love for teaching was intense, but now I had this new little person who needed me as well.
So, I'd sometimes cry on my way to school after dropping him off, and it actually made me feel better. People told me it would get easier, and they were right. If you need to have a good cry now and again, then do it.

You're doing a great job

Say this after me "I'm doing a great job!" Yes, you're a good parent, and yes, you're a good teacher. It's more than possible to do a great job in both worlds.
Will you doubt yourself some days? Of course you will. Don't we all do that in many areas of life? But, when parent guilt creeps up, don't dwell there. Your child is in a safe place and is probably not thinking of you as much as you're thinking of them.
If you need to stay at school a little longer one day, don't beat yourself up about this either. Some days things need to get done, and you know what? You're showing your child that you have such a strong work ethic. In all this though, don't forget to take care of yourself in the process as well. Ask for help when you need it; no one can do it all. 

When parent guilt creeps up, don't dwell there. Your child is in a safe place and is probably not thinking of you as much as you're thinking of them.

Balance your time wisely

Staying organized and on top of your calendar is a huge help in balancing your time. Write down everything so when school or personal conflicts arise, you'll easily be able to look at your calendar and adjust accordingly. These days, there are a plethora of handy calendar apps to help you keep on top of things.
Other effective ways to set yourself up for success are meal planning (again, there are some great apps for that!), laying out clothes the night before, and organizing everything you need Sunday
Of course, you'll have days you need to stay at school late or go in early. But, mark school events, field trips, staff meetings, and other school-wide activities on your calendar apps ahead of time, so you know what nights in the school year you'll need to stay late. If you need to schedule a doctor's appointment, free up an afternoon to take them. Don't forget to schedule time for your mental health, too.
With a good classroom management system in place, your planning time can be used to actually plan lessons instead of planning your next day of trying to discipline students. Remember to have plans in place before going back to school to meet the needs of your students with disabilities, too.

Choose your battles

You are obviously used to dealing with those students at school who make lots of noises, talk out of turn, derail your lessons, and require a lot of extra patience. And you've developed the behavior management skills necessary to deal with those distractions. Well, guess what? Now, you'll deal with the same issues from your own kids.
But, being a teacher has definitely prepared you for being a parent - and vice versa. You've already learned how to pick your battles. You've already learned what to let go of, what you can deal with in a little bit, and what to deal with at that moment.
Things will get stressful, you will feel overwhelmed, and you'll even wonder if you'll be able to actually do this. You most definitely CAN do this. Take a deep breath and know that we're all in this together.

If you're too tired after a long school day to play with your kids, give yourself grace. When you order in dinner for the third night that week, give yourself grace. If your weekly lesson plans didn't get finished, so you have to bring them home, give yourself grace.

Being a parent will make you a better teacher

A lot of teachers say, "my students are my kids," because as you invest your time in them, day in and day out, these students you love so much become family. But, I never realized that being a parent would make me a better teacher until I had my own child. 
Having a child helps you understand the parents' emotions when it comes to their children. You understand their worry, joy, and struggles.
Having a child makes you realize the same hopes and dreams you have for them is exactly what your students' parents feel as well, so it's easier to put yourself in their shoes.

Give yourself grace

On those days you feel like you're failing in every area, not meeting anyone's expectations, and missing your young children a lot, give yourself grace. You're not a superhero (although to your own young children and students, you are), and you can't be perfect at all things.
Remember, you'll learn as you go, will grow as a person, and will balance motherhood and teaching better than you thought you could.
If you're too tired after a long school day to play with your kids, give yourself grace. When you order in dinner for the third night that week, give yourself grace. If your weekly lesson plans didn't get finished, so you have to bring them home, give yourself grace.
You're doing exactly what you were meant to do and are doing a fantastic job.

For more help and support with teacher self-care and wellbeing, visit our Self-Care Resource Hub with practical tools for work/life balance, healthy habits, and stress management - created by experts, instructional coaches, and by teachers just like you.

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