The Workload is So Heavy, Teachers Struggle to Spend Quality Time With Their Own Kids

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I walked into my home and dropped my teacher bag beside the door.

I wish I could say it would stay there until the morning but that’s not true. I held a toddler in my other arm as I walked through the doorway. I sat him down in the kitchen and turned my attention toward him. He deserved my attention after being separated all day, but I struggled to give it to him. I wanted to be the best version of myself for him like I was at 9 a.m. in my classroom, but it’s hard to match my mid-morning enthusiasm after a long day of teaching.

I yawned through making dinner and helping my older child with homework. I smiled through bath time and bedtime lullabies, my favorite part of the day. As I laid down beside a little boy who couldn’t fall asleep, I tried to rest and soak-in the moment, but the daunting teacher tasks I never got to today are ever-present in the back of my mind. As I walked through my quiet home, I reached for the bag I’d laid carefully by the door. This was my only time of day to focus, truly focus, on grading papers.

Teacher Life is So Demanding, It Takes a Toll on Family Life

I know many think I should complete this task during my planning period, and in a perfect world, I would. However, that time is usually spent rushing to the restroom and the copy room and filling in the lesson plans and meeting with so-and-so’s mom or stuck in another staff meeting. Sometimes I start grading but become interrupted. When all of the children are gone to bed — my at-home kids and my classroom kids — I have time to focus. I focus on the stack of papers to grade and the other stack my son brought home from school. I focus on my miscellaneous housekeeping tasks like bills and the next day’s game plan. On a good night, I pack backpacks and lay out clothes, but most nights I struggle not to fall asleep in my chair.

I think sleep will make me a better teacher and a better mom, but then I don’t get enough done. I think a clean house and classroom will balance my equilibrium, but then other important things fall to the wayside. I think I need to step up my game as a teacher, but then my own kids suffer. I start to feel like I’m being a great parent but at work, my To-Do list remains with nothing crossed off.

Working parenthood is never easy. Parenthood is never easy. Teaching is never easy. Parenting AND teaching simultaneously—it can sometimes feel like it will break you.

Physically—because there are only so many hours in the day and only so much of you to go around.

Mentally—because you’re guilty there isn’t more of you to share.

In teaching, we’re told to do more. We’re given another test to prepare for because surely this one will be the game changer. We’re given another child added to our class of 36. We constantly feel as if we need to do more.

At home, our kids are begging for more—for more attention, for more of our time. We should be able to give it to them without hesitation and without guilt.

Why does my teacher bag keep standing out in the corner of my eye as I’m standing in my kitchen? Why do I feel guilty that I didn’t get it all done today? Why do I feel guilty for pushing it off to tomorrow?

When I’m at school, my kids’ picture catches my eye and I can’t wait to get home, but that often seems like a distant future beyond a mountain of my students’ wellbeing and papers to grade. 

I don’t even climb the mountain half the time. I give up mid-climb and think “forget it” and ignore the work piling up around me and wave “goodbye” to my coworkers at 3:30 p.m. It feels good. I read an extra bedtime story that night and sing silly songs without thoughts of work. Then, the next day, I’m punished for it through an evaluation I wasn’t adequately prepared for and a lesson plan book missing a square of details.

It’s a constant ‘give’ with little ‘take’ and my biggest concern is whether my kids are suffering. Then, I think back to my childhood with two teacher parents. Now, they tell me how conflicted they were over multiple responsibilities and always putting my brother and me first. I don’t remember any of that. I remember parents who cared so deeply.

This issue I face daily isn’t okay. I shouldn’t have to choose my students or my kids simply because the workload is so intense, because it will always be my kids. Summers with them aren’t always enough.

As you struggle to do both, teacher friend, know that you’re not alone. When you juggle so many things, failures become inevitable; but your kids, ALL of your kids, know that you love them.

You’re doing an amazing job.

Teacher Life is So Demanding, It Takes a Toll on Family Life

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Whitney Ballard is a writer and teacher from small town Alabama. She owns the Trains and Tantrums blog, https://trainsandtantrums.blog/. Whitney went from becoming a mom at sixteen to holding a Master’s degree in Education; she writes about her journey, along with daily life, through a Christian lens on her blog. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in the backyard with her husband, two boys, and two dogs.

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