Saturday, September 27, 2014

Working Moms: Is Balance Possible?

With the feminist movement in the 1970s, women were told they could have it all -- career, husband, home, family – so that's what they did. They found careers and put their children in daycare. The family had more money because of the two incomes. They could buy more possessions, have a better house and provide a better, or at least a more materialistic, life for their children.

Did anyone consider that having it all would cause so much stress?

My mom and dad both worked an 8-to-5 job. I remember my mom rushing in after work and cooking dinner, doing laundry, packing lunches for the next day, etc. -- all the jobs that were considered women's work. My mom’s job didn't end when she got home. That's when the real work started.

I always knew I would work and not be a Stay at Home Mom (SaHM). After all, I went to college so I could get a good job to provide for my future. My kids would go to daycare, and I'd make it all work. 

And I did make it work, but oh my, it was hard to wear so many hats.

When I saw this Facebook status of a colleague, I was reminded of what it was like when I had young children and a full-time job:  

I need a few more hours in each day. Don't have enough time to work unless I get there at 5am! Aaaaaaahhhh! Or the house doesn't get swept...or papers don't get graded...arrangements don't get written (lord knows those things can't happen in the presence of a 1 and 3 old)....I pride myself on bring organized and managing my time, but something is about to have to give. ‪#‎stressed ‪#‎idotoomuch

I, too, never felt that I gave my best at either work or home. We women who work outside the home have bifurcated (one of my husband's favorite words) minds. We can't be at work without worrying about what is going to happen when we get home (laundry, dinner, cleaning, kids' homework, kids' extracurricular events, kids' everything), and we can't be at home without worrying about what's going to happen at work (lesson plans, scheduling, grading, etc.) the next day. It's like our brain never shuts off. Ugh!

As a working mom of young children, my house was never spotless even though I'd spend weekends scrubbing. The dirty clothes were washed but never put away, instead landing on the dining room table or bed. Once during a visit, my mom commented that my children’s feet were dirty and they had not even been outside. I was somewhat embarrassed but told her that if she’d just put on their shoes, no one would notice. My children took a bath every night and wore clean clothes each day. A little dirt on their feet wouldn't kill them.

This week, I heard on NPR that more women are choosing to give up careers to stay at home with their children. Several factors contribute to this increase -- the rising cost of daycare, unemployment rate of women, or the family’s income is below the poverty level.

Are these women who chose to be SaHMs happy? I’m sure they experience days when they wouldn’t trade it for anything and other days when they would trade in their children for a little time alone or with another adult. I have always gotten enough of being a SaHM during my summers off to know that I couldn’t handle it for longer.

Sometimes, my younger colleagues who are trying to balance a career they love with their family and home come to the wise old woman (me) for advice. I can only tell them balance never happens; the struggle never gets better, only different. The kids grow older and can help with household chores. The longer you work at a job, the more accustomed you get to rolling with problems. In essence, you just accept living in a somewhat messy home or you schedule a classroom activity that allows you to grade papers.

I’m not male-bashing here; I know there are many husbands/partners who handle a great deal of the housework and childcare. My husband does 90% of the cooking, and we all appreciate him.

If you are female and work, have a family, and don’t have a daily maid/cook, I don’t believe you can ever achieve balance. At least, I never have. If you have the secret, please let me know.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Who is Your Role Model?

Because of various recent events in the news, I have been thinking about role models. 

When my daughter was about 7 or 8, she wanted to be like Britney Spears. Britney was in her cute Disney phase then, wearing her hair in pigtails and singing nice little pop songs. 

Then she grew up, started wearing slutty clothes and singing sexually suggestive songs, generally went a little crazy, and my daughter didn't really identify with her anymore. For that, I'm grateful.

When my granddaughter was about 6 or 7, she wanted to be like Miley Cyrus. Miley was in her cute Hannah Montana phase then, singing nice little pop songs and starring in a Disney TV show with her dad. 

Then Miley did a 180 and started wearing pot-leaf costumes and sticking her tongue out. My granddaughter thought Miley was kind of gross and didn't want to be like her anymore. For that, I'm extremely grateful.

I don't remember having celebrity role models when I was their age unless Nancy Drew could be considered a celebrity. Our TV had only 3 channels, we had to drive 40 miles to a movie theater, and I only saw a computer on the TV show Lost in Space. There was no social media; therefore, my role models were real people I knew. Obviously, several of my role models were teachers who inspired me to become one of them. 

What did they do that made me want to be a teacher? They showed me that they could discipline without being mean and that they seemed to truly love being around children and sharing what they knew. They had something that made them special, as though they were somewhat above the everyday people of our town. Everyone admired teachers, so I knew in 2nd grade that I wanted to be one.  Teachers knew how to behave in public so as not to draw negative attention to their profession. They knew children respected them, so I became one of them.

I live in Tallahassee, Florida, a huge college football town. My alma mater, Florida State University, is the present national champion and seems to be headed toward a great season again this year. 

Locally, kids and adults wear all kinds of garnet and gold apparel, and one big seller is the FSU football jersey #5.  That number is worn by the quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. 

Jameis has had his troubles off the field (accused sexual assault, petit theft of crab legs), but he has many supporters who chalk this behavior up to his being so young. When you are talented and are winning games, fans tend to overlook such actions. 

Recently, FSU students witnessed Jameis shouting lewd and vulgar remarks about sex and women while standing on a table in the middle of the student union building. News Report about Jameis Winston

His punishment for this action was suspension from a really important football game against Clemson. 

Is Jameis a role model? I'd say yes, whether he wants to be or not. Is he a good one? I'd say no. 

Former NBA player Charles Barkley got a lot of negative publicity in 1993 when he said, "I'm not a role model ... Just because I dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids." But fellow NBA player Karl Malone said to Barkley, "I don't think it's your decision to make. We don't choose to be role models, we are chosen. Our only choice is whether to be a good role model or a bad one."

I have worked hard to guard the reputation of my profession. I'm bothered when I hear of teachers breaking the law, sexting students, or behaving in a way that might bring negative attention to my chosen career. I don't know if I have been any child's role model, but I tried to act as though I were.

I hope Jameis isn't majoring in education.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Domestic Abuse: The Sick but Secure Cycle

I don't watch the news every day. Sometimes, events have to be in the news for a few days before I take notice. For example, ISIS --  at first I thought it was something to do with the Egyptian goddess. 

One event that has been in the news for a couple of months is the NFL and Ray Rice’s domestic abuse case. I watched the first video of Rice dragging his unconscious now-wife out of the elevator which made me sick. This week, I watched the newest video of the event that occurred inside the elevator which made me even sicker. If you didn't see the newest clip, here's a link:  Ray Rice Beating His Wife Video

I don't know of any man or woman, no matter the race or nationality, who can say that it's ok for Rice to treat any other human being this way. He's just a jerk and now, an unemployed jerk.

Yesterday, I saw his wife's response to these recent events on Instagram.

She, like most women in an abusive relationship, defends him and their marriage. She, like most women in an abusive relationship, thinks she loves this man. She, like most women in an abusive relationship, thinks she has to stay in this relationship because of the child and to save the marriage.

I'd like to say that she’s wrong and foolish and that I'd never be in a relationship like that, but I can't. I was in one of them for a long, long time. My abuser destroyed many of my personal possessions during his drunken fits, tormented me in front of my children, caused me to flee my house in the middle of the night, and generally made all of us walk on those proverbial eggshells. And I did just what Janay Rice is doing  -- forgive and forget, turn the other cheek (literally for Janay), say how wonderful your abuser is, etc. 

How do we women get in situations like this? Now that I'm away from it, I can see my mistakes, but I had to get the "stinkin' thinkin'" (AA term) out of my head. I had to let go of the idea that he or the situation would change and that I had any control of anything. I had to let go of that good Christian's belief of forgiving not seven times, but up to seventy times seven, as Jesus said. Mostly, though, I had to find MY voice, not HIS voice that kept going through my head. I had to figure out for myself that I was the only one I could control. I had to realize that I didn't have to be alone because I had tons of friends who would help and support me.   

Was I scared of breaking away? Sure. I was comfortable in the routine of abuse/make up. I knew what to expect, so I was secure. When I left, I didn't know what I wanted in life or in a relationship, but I sure as hell knew what I didn't want. I was done with being told I was wrong, that I was not a good person, that I was fat and ugly, that I was a terrible mom, and on and on. 

Since then, I use every opportunity I can to show my daughter and granddaughter, as well as all of my female students, examples of a good relationship. I teach books about abusive relationships and have very frank and open discussions in class. In essence, I preach about finding your voice and using it for your safety, your future, your life.

As terrible as this Rice event is, good has resulted. Many women have come forward about the abuse they experienced. They are sharing their stories, especially via social media, to help other women gather strength and leave their abuser. Tweets at  #WhyIStayed allowed women to explain their reasons for staying in the trap of abuse and to encourage others to get out. Many more women are reporting domestic abuse to authorities since seeing the Rice video. 

Tonight, I had to watch the beginning of the Baltimore Ravens football game because it interrupted Jeopardy -- one more reason not to like football. I should have been shocked by the women wearing Ray Rice's #27 jerseys. How can women support this man who beat his daughter’s mother and then dragged her unconscious body out of an elevator and into a hallway? It’s because they have no idea how it feels to be abused. On the other hand, it’s because they are just mindless and misinformed. (Note: My husband said I shouldn't use the words stupid and ignorant to describe them, so I "niced the words up" with euphemisms.)

I sound like an angry woman, and I am. I'm angry that men who claim to love these women treat them that way and that women allow themselves to be treated this way. I'm angry at myself for staying in it so long and exposing my children to it; however, I and my children are also extremely lucky. We are out of that sick but secure cycle of abuse. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

That One Kid Who May Drive Me to Drink!

We just finished the third week of school, and the teachers and students are already tired of the routine/rat race. In many ways, this year is going to be a LONG one.

My schedule for my last year of teaching is great: 3 dual-enrolled English composition classes and 2 classes of general senior English. I have taught the subjects before, and I kind of know what I'm doing. Also, not being in charge of the yearbook is a huge stress reliever. I thought I was going to be able to coast this year without having any problems.

As usual, something/someone threw a wrench in the wheel. Many of these problems are shared by all the rest of the faculty and staff (lack of working technology, angry parents, crowded classrooms), but some are mine alone to bear. I'm really fortunate to teach at a wonderful old school with fantastic faculty and truly remarkable students. I genuinely love most of my days there, and I know that I'll miss everything when I retire next year; however, I've got to get through this year first.

I have some really well-behaved, smart kids. The majority of them have a plan for their future and want to graduate in May so they can get started on being an adult. A few, however, have not matured past age 14, but I can usually handle these kids. These immature ones are most often boys who are just trying to get attention. After they get their role established as the comic in the room, we move on.

Sometimes the girls have drama or emotional issues involving friends or boyfriends, and frankly, I ignore it. I know they are in pain, but the cynical part of me realizes that their pain is short lived because of their age. I usually refer them to guidance.

Throughout my 34 years teaching, I haven't had many really bad/evil kids with whom I couldn't establish a working relationship. When I notice these kids, I always try to find out what's going on with them by asking other teachers, by looking at the cumulative folder or by simply talking to the students to establish rapport.

This year, my last year, I have this one kid who makes me think that my days will not be pleasant during  that class period. She is rude, disrespectful and just generally nasty. My husband describes people like her as being full of puss. She has no filter, so everything she thinks, she says, and that statement is usually followed by an eye roll with a tongue click and a flip of her hair.

Personally, I look at this child and can't understand how she's gotten this far without a huge school discipline file or physical scars. She must have had a lot of negative reinforcement to have such an attitude. The event that sent me over the edge was her saying that I was wrong in my observation of something that happened in my classroom -- like I was old and didn't know what was going on.

Ok, I'm old, but I still know what goes on most of the time in my classroom. I still have eyes on everything/everyone and can still hear whispers. I’m not in an old-age fog, yet.

Yesterday, I decided that this child is my challenge for the year. I started by asking her former teachers about behavior patterns and contacting administration to have a conference with both of us. I decided that I WILL get through to this child; I may be public education's last attempt at saving society from her wrath. I’m determined!

I’ll handle her the way I do most people who are nasty: kill them with kindness. My mother’s saying of “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” will be my mantra. I may have to double my meds, pray for patience before that class and start drinking every afternoon, but I will do it. Wish me luck!

Whenever I get down about teaching or students, I like to find funny quotes or cartoons that relate to the teaching profession -- the ones that make me say AMEN! Here are some that my fellow teachers will understand.