Five things I learned while teaching that have prepped me (a little!) for mothering.

5. Always be prepared.

You know, I was never an organized person in the traditional sense. To be honest, I still am not an organized person in the traditional sense. I am cluttered, with my piling system, and it drives Chad crazy. But I do know where most things are. Teaching made me a little more organized, but in a different way, as well — more like a chess player. I have to plan things out, step after step in my head, and contemplate various outcomes with students. “If this lesson fails, what will the children do then?” “If they don’t learn it this way, what should we do next?” “How do I know if they learned it well enough?”

And now, with Elinor, I have to plan for those conceivable outcomes, as well. “If she doesn’t fall asleep in 20 minutes, we’ll go vacuum. If she wakes up before 10, we’ll go to the store.” The diaper bag is packed. I dress and shower while she’s sleeping. I juggle her on the floor with my yoga poses when I remember to do so. Whenever we go out, I account for diapers, food, toys, change of clothes (in case diapering isn’t enough, you know?), and changes in weather ….

4. Sickness is not allowed.

In teaching, I would often soldier on when sick because I didn’t want the kids to lose out on learning. Really, they rarely learn things when a substitute is around. If you’re lucky enough to know or get a good substitute, awesome, but there are few guarantees for a newish teacher like myself. So, more likely than not, it was more important to just deal with the cold rather than to take a day off. Of course, this is how my cough turned to bronchitis, turned to pneumonia, triggered asthma, so it’s not the healthiest take on life — but it is a reality.

And this is even more true as a mother. I got food poisoning this weekend. Vomiting something awful, putting Elinor on the floor as I rushed to the bathroom to kneel at the altar of porcelain. It was good that Chad was around this weekend, because poor Elinor would have been as miserable as I was if he hadn’t. And I have no idea how I would have taken care of her when I could barely move or keep my head up, much less drink water or eat.

I do have to say that breastfeeding is a crazy-ass thing, because Elinor seems to be getting enough milk and seems to be relatively healthy, despite my descent into non-eating.

3. Prepping for a substitute is an involved and difficult process.

This goes along with “Sickness is not allowed.” More often than not, even if I was feeling crappy and WANTED to stay home, the prepping for a substitute is so involved and thorough that it would dissuade me not to do so. Perhaps part of that is because I retained the vague idea that my kids might actually learn while I was gone, but … maybe not. Anyway, once you have updated attendance rosters, seating charts, helping kids, and lesson plans for every class (with back-ups), you are usually more exhausted than you were before, and it would be almost easier to just GO to school. It would have been easier if my rosters and seating charts didn’t change all the time, or if I didn’t mess with lesson plans so much, but that’s part of teaching.

And then with babies — it’s totally worth it to prep for a babysitter, but it’s still pretty involved. Diapers, food, toys, cleaning the freaking house a little, etc. And taking Elinor to another person’s house is even more involved — bringing a highchair, thinking about a pak n’ play, diapers diapers diapers, bibs and washcloths and food, oh my! It’s still very much worth it, but it takes a lot of thinking and planning. Reference “Always be prepared.”

2. Dignity only goes so far.

My students loved when I made a fool of myself, or embarrassed myself, even if it was obviously on purpose. The day I read them the story about when I peed my pants during volleyball try-outs, they laughed SO hard — and they learned a little in the lesson that followed. And whenever I messed up, which was often, things went much better if I just owned up, apologized, and dealt with it, instead of being stubborn and trying to make things work that wouldn’t work.

This has been a little more difficult to do with Elinor, but still …. Especially when feeding her solids, I have just had to get messy with her, and try to give up when it wasn’t the right time. I’m not good at giving up, though. This also applies to poop and pee, of course. I went to my friend Erin’s house last week and was appalled when I wasn’t sure if the dried goop on my wrist was banana or poop. Just par for the course, I guess.

1. Humor makes everything better.

Nuff said.