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Guilt: Morning Minutes, March 4, 2016

I have a confession. Yesterday, I donned an unfamiliar hat, earning a new moniker: Selfish Syrie.  Let me explain.  My son Finn has been sick all week, and because we think he’s old enough and because neither Mrs. Syrie nor I could “afford to be away from school this week because we had too much to do” he stayed home alone.  And while he certainly was fine alone–he is our mature, sensible one–alone becomes lonely, and yesterday, Finn had had enough.  In our family, when enough becomes enough, we sometimes have to implement the “I-just-need-a-good-cry” option.  Faced with the reality of mom and dad not getting home until after 7:00 PM because of parent-teacher conferences, Finn invoked the good-cry option, and for me enough had become enough, and I skipped conferences and came home to be with my son. And though I know I made the right choice, I am bothered by how guilty I felt then and still feel now, wondering if my rationalization for my decision was real or convenient.

Beyond Finns’ need, I convinced myself that my choice was okay because, I didn’t feel well either (sickness tends to make the rounds in a family), I was at the high school the night before until 7:30 for freshmen parent night, and not many parents would probably show up anyway, so I could just email the ones who did. Thus, having won myself over, I taped a note and sign-up sheet to my classroom door and went home.  But as the evening wore on and I looked at the clock wondering how many parents I had missed and how my colleagues were fairing, I began to wonder if I shouldn’t have toughed it out, if I shouldn’t have made Finn tough it out.  And still now I am wondering, but then, as I replay my lazy evening on the couch with Finn watching TV, I am more assured that I was in the right place last night.

But of course this will no doubt ebb when I get to school this morning and confront the list of missed parents.  Ah, the life of a teacher, the act of balancing our professional and personal lives, which I’m not suggesting is completely different from other professions, for all have to find balance. But teaching is perhaps a little unique because our profession is so personal, for if it were not, I am not sure that I would be wrestling with this right now.  Fortunately, I am surrounded by an incredible group of colleagues who help me keep my priorities straight, colleagues who tell me to go home, colleagues who understand  and live the daily dilemma of choosing between our kids and our kids.  Sometimes, we have to be selfish and choose our kids.  I just wish we didn’t have to suffer the guilty side effects.

Happy week’s end, all.


2 Replies to “Guilt: Morning Minutes, March 4, 2016”

  • Why is that teachers feel guilty when we take care of our own? Other professions don’t have that compunction. Is it because we care more about what we do? I always worry about my students when I’m not there.

  • Good morning, Syrie… And I hope today is a good morning. I think you’re right that we teachers have a harder time making peace with this work-family balance because we are people-centered people. So I’ll just add one more layer that might help with the guilt: you *were* teaching last night. Those parents who stopped by got some great affirmation from a dedicated professional that sometimes it’s appropriate to miss work for family needs. Their students, who learn from you every day, saw you put your first priority first, which empower them to do the same someday — with less guilt than you’re feeling now. And Finn learned that he comes first. Because he does.

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