Friday, November 8, 2013

You Better Work

This morning I had a breakdown at my desk. Five minutes before the final bell rang, I saw the email asking me to cover a fellow teacher’s class. As I was hooked up to a breast pump.

I panicked, terrified that a group of 9th graders were sitting in a room unsupervised while I sat, the equivalent of a milked bovine, in my classroom with the door locked and the window covered.

I’m thankful that I have a job that affords me a place to pump in privacy. I cannot imagine making this decision to continue to feed my child with my body in a place where people are crammed into small cubicles, the only place of solace a restroom stall which doesn’t have handy access to electrical outlets. Granted, despite my “PLEASE do not disturb” sign, there are still students who take it upon themselves to knock, even pound on the door in the hopes that somehow their vehemence will magically open the door, summon me before them to tell them if there was homework or that YES there is a quiz today.

Since I’ve returned to work, I’ve felt myself pulled in a million directions as I’ve put off students asking to make up quizzes in the mornings and after school, as I’ve re-scheduled or shortened extra help sessions, as I’ve avoided the NINE parent requests for conferences. Because I have to pump. First thing when I arrive. Throughout the duration of my twenty-five minute lunch. Immediately after school before I rush out of the building to get back home to relieve my mother-in-law of what I know is a long day with my three-month-old.

And I feel guilty. Guilty because I have 156 students asking for my attention for eight to nine hours a day. Guilty because I have their parents requesting meetings because their child, for the first time ever, has a B and might not make it till the end of the school year, and I can’t meet before school. I have to pump. And I can’t meet after school. I have to pump and then leave. Guilty because I’m late for a meeting or can’t make a meeting AGAIN. Guilty because I haven’t yet responded to those sixteen emails that required my attention yesterday.  And sometimes hungry as shit because I didn’t have time to eat my lunch because I was making lunch for my child and didn’t make it to the microwave before my fourth period came in.

Then there’s the more significant guilt. Guilt that my child is getting at least two bottles of formula a day because I’m gone for more feedings than I can pump milk. The deeper guilt that I’m not his primary caretaker during the week and the irrational thoughts that he is going to forget me, think that I’m not his mother.

And the problem is that I cannot stop feeling how incredibly WRONG this is. Every morning as I rush out the door, bottles and pump and ac adapter packed and ready for the day, there is an inherent wrongness in leaving him behind, in rushing off to essentially mother other people’s children as they walk on shaky legs toward adult hood. Especially while mine is still learning to hold his head up.

So as I rush around, apologizing incessantly, people get angry, see me as someone not doing her job well enough. I want to scream at them that they don’t understand, that I’m doing the best that I can, that I’m a sleep-deprived, caffeine driven fiend barely hanging on to each hour with the tips of my fingers, but they won’t listen, won’t care.

And it’s this guilt that I can’t settle. How can I look at my superiors, the parents of my students and say no? How can I get by without finding myself reprimanded, reminded that this is part of my JOB, and if I can’t make it work, then I don’t need to work? And more importantly, I feel terrible because, quite frankly, I can’t bring myself to CARE.

Yes, my child is more important. Yes, my decisions regarding how I’m going to care for my child are more important. No, I’m not going to drop what I’m doing for my child in favor of the other million tasks that must be taken care of during the day.

And so I pump and leave as soon as I can. I skip the meetings and avoid unnecessary conferences. There is guilt that shouldn’t be there from a society that doesn’t seem to understand or care that I’ve chosen to continue to breastfeed AND work.

 I’m sad about it. Angry. Frustrated. But I’ll keep doing it. Because this is what I've decided as a mother.

1 comment:

  1. Ok here's my rebuttal.
    I have many years experience in this. For the most of 28 or 29 years, yes YEARS now I too felt guilty. I was a working mother and had a demanding career at the time and I did not have the opportunity nor the option to be a stay at home "Wonder Mom". I was jealous,angry, and guilty. But now looking back I see that the guilt was an unneccesary waste of time and energy. Or maybe it was guilt that forced me to drive and overcome. It made me multi task and time manage. It made me the best I could be given my circumstances.

    Did I breast feed? No, I felt guilty about that too! But I just didn't have the time, and at that time there were no places sectioned off or allowances for breast feeding at work, or in public in general for that matter. I formula fed, and my children all turned out to be happy, healthy and intelligent individuals.

    As far as the caregivers, they ENHANCED my children's lives. They treated them as their own. One taught my oldest son to ride a bike so he could surprise me when I came home from work. They taught them things that I was not able to . They taught them how to tie shoes and how to play with other children. And I continued to work my butt off at work and at home,as I went to soccer games,ballet recitals, school events and held big birthday parties. I read stories at night and tucked them in to bed. I gave them bathtime fun. I packed their book bags and helped with homework. Many times during the year I was a single mom as my husband flew off to serve his country....And I went to bed bone tired many nights for many,many years.
    And looking back I realize.. I WAS the wonder mom after all ! I did do it all! I wore the invisible super mom cape..I just didn't know it at the time.

    The guilt can either hold you back and waste precious time that you could use for something else. Or it can propel you forward and motivate you to be the best you can be. I happen to already know that you are in the baby stages of doing it all. You are on the road to "Wonder Mom".You just need to learn not to sweat the small stuff. Rely on others to help out. Do what you can do... do what YOU feel is important,not what everyone else thinks you should do.Grades, paperwork ,conferences are necessary but can usually wait a few minutes or even a few hours. If they can't understand that, it's sad...they're not looking at the bigger picture, The role model that they have right in front of their eyes.

    So forget the guilt or let it propel you.You need to hold your head up high and be proud of all that you are doing. It's a damn tough struggle but you are on the right track.You are in for the roller coaster ride of your life..Motherhood.You can do it! Put that invisible Wonder Mom cape on and go for a thrill ride, and remember this...your caregivers can never, ever replace you, Your children will always know who their mother is.They know who they bonded with when they took their first breaths of life. They know who is smiling down at them when they are drinking their mother's milk. They know your face as you get up with them in the middle of the night. That is imprinted in their memory forever.They recognize the love. So just sit tight and fasten your seat belt , this roller coaster ride is gonna be a long one ! !!