Back to school can be bittersweet when mom's a teacher

BabyCenter Guest Blogger

posted: July 21, 2017, 5:33 am

By Jamie Lincow

As a school teacher with back-to-school season swiftly approaching, my glimpse into the life of a stay-at-home-mom ebbs away. What I love most about summer is the ability to recharge my batteries. But I also love being available to tend to my kids’ needs at a moment’s notice without having to find coverage at work.

When my middle son had a stomachache the other day at camp, I dropped everything and picked him up within 15 minutes. He was so appreciative and even asked how I was able to get there so quickly. I could never get there in 15 minutes during a workday.

Once we return to work after any type of break, working mothers are always trying to find a balance between the wish to stay home and care for our kids, and the personal longing to succeed in our own individual careers. After I went back to work for the first time as a fledgling mother, I worried about being disconnected from my child. Maybe too much.

That intense need for an emotional connection is a leftover from my own childhood. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, or Domestic Engineer in her words, and she was always available to come to every assembly and activity, drop off forgotten homework or lunch, or pick me up if I felt sick. Having my mom on-call gave me a sense of security while growing up — like there was a safety net to catch me and support me when I was out of the house.

Fast-forward 25 years and now I’m a mom of three young boys. But I’m a working mother. Having a job outside of the house with requirements and responsibilities prevents me from attending every school program and event. Even though I don’t have the same physical availability as my mom once did, I still want my boys to grow and mature with that same level of comfort and sense of security.

So when I returned to work after the birth of my sons, I began looking for little ways to stay emotionally connected with them even though we were physically separated during the day. In the beginning it was simple things, like making their baby food. I took charge of picking the fruit and vegetables, cooking them, storing the finished produce, and deciding what my baby would eat at each meal, even though I wasn’t necessarily the one feeding him. Even though I couldn’t actually be there, I felt I still had partial control over my baby’s well-being.

Each night when I tuck my kids in we discuss tomorrow’s “plan,” going over the schedule for the next day. This gives my kids time to anticipate what’s next. When it’s a school day, we go over their electives, upcoming assessments, and assemblies, or even what I packed for lunch. On the weekend we typically discuss future playdates or sporting events, or which babysitter may be coming over if my husband and I go out. Even though I can’t accompany them throughout each part of their day, I want them to feel loved and supported while they are developing their own independence.

When my oldest reached elementary school age, I began sporadically packing little notes in his lunch box. I have fond memories of my mom’s notes on napkins (which eventually ended up smeared on my face after lunch). Once I wrote to my son “I hope you are having a great day! Go buy yourself an ice cream in the cafeteria.” My kids know they can buy snacks on occasion, so this was the green light for him to treat himself that very afternoon. He ran over to me immediately after walking off the bus, and buried his head in my chest. At first he didn’t say anything, but from that intense hug, I already knew how he felt.

He even brought home the note and the ice cream wrapper to show me what he had picked. I knew that little love note stuck with him all day and he has since asked me to write him a note every day!

I still remember little the gestures of love and support my own mom made, and I’m hoping that I can create the same kind of memories for my sons. Even if I can’t be home with them, it’s little things like this that keep our connection strong — and give us all something nice to remember.

Whether you’re a working mom or stay at home, what rituals do you practice with your kids that come from your childhood?