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As teachers who are also mothers, the roles we hold are often even more than the “dual roles” of teacher and parent. It is difficult for most teachers with kids to strike the right balance, but when we think about the many roles mothers play, it is even more of a struggle to maintain a work-life balance. As we celebrate Mother’s Day, I find myself reflecting on how often the varied roles mothers play are overlooked, undervalued, and misunderstood.

These different types of motherhood mirror each other in certain ways. Each requires finding a balance. Mothers who hold these multiple roles must figure out how to prioritize and give the necessary time to one without neglecting the other. Each role holds vastly different responsibilities, and yet are all equally essential.

Mother Figure to My Many Students

In the article titled “My High School Theater Teacher Is Like a Mother to Me,” Christine Mulhearne, style director of O, The Oprah Magazine, talked about her favorite teacher: “Over the years, she helped with more than just theater. She became my confidant, my therapist, and a second mom.”

As teacher-moms, we often tap into all of these roles and so much more. Being a mother undoubtedly influences how I embrace my role as a “teacher-mom”. We embrace our inner motherly instincts and learn how to laugh with, listen to, and love on our student-children with all the qualities we embody as Teacher Bears. We learn to make sure to be a trusted confidant without compromising our responsibilities as mandated reporters. We listen with non-judgmental ears, but make sure to recognize when we need outside help from trained therapists or counselors. We take on these roles as “second moms,” but make sure that our students understand that they also have real moms or other mother-figures in their lives, who, like all moms, only want what’s best for their children. I, too, want what is best for my students, in the same way I would want what is best for my own son.

Daughter to My Mother

I am blessed to have both of my parents in my life. They have reached their eighties and still have reasonably good health. That being said, I belong to what many call the “sandwich generation.” We are defined as “a generation of people, typically in their thirties or forties, responsible for bringing up their own children and for the care of their aging parents.” I would not dare call my mother elderly, but nonetheless I hold a responsibility to act as a dutiful daughter to parents in their “golden years.” If that means that I have to check in with my parents daily, then I do my best to make time to do so. If that means cooking a meal every few weeks, even when I am tired beyond belief, then to the kitchen I go. And if that means that I have to make my mom’s Mother’s Day special before I think about how to celebrate my own, then that is a sacrifice I make. Life has a way of getting in the way of these lofty goals, but I do my best to honor my commitments as a daughter. Being a teacher does not always leave me with the time or energy needed to give my mother what she deserves. I am so thankful that my parents understand the demands of being a teacher, and that they have always supported me in my educational career.

Mother to My Son

“Mother is the first and best teacher to the child” – Revathi Sankaran

Being a good mother to my son is my number one job. And being a mother to a child with special needs is a special calling. I am so thankful that God trusted me with the care of my son. I am fortunate that my role as an educator has taught me how to navigate between the roles of a parent and a teacher. I have had incredible examples that have shown me how to take off my teacher hat and put on my mother hat when it is necessary to unleash the “mama bear” mentality. 

Researching and learning more about the rights of students with special needs, and how often they are denied by this broken educational system, has fueled my advocacy for my son’s educational needs even more. Raising my son has also equipped me to better advocate for my students and further increased the empathy for my students with special needs.

Ultimately, I cannot be a dedicated mother figure to my students if I do not make sure that my own son is getting all that he needs. I must make sure that my son is happy, safe and loved first, then I can give my attention and devotion to anyone and everyone else. In order to be the “best teacher” to my own child, I have to be willing to lay aside all else to ensure that he is learning, growing and thriving. I am his mother first.

All Types of Mothers Deserve More Support

Perhaps the saddest reality of trying to navigate these varied responsibilities is that society expects mothers to be able to fulfill all of these roles with equal time and dedication, but doesn’t offer the support needed to give each the attention each deserves. Mothers are indeed Superwomen, even when we don’t feel like it.

What can society do to let them know how much they need mothers? We can let them know that we truly see all they do. We should show our appreciation to mothers by acknowledging their sacrifices and offering more than just kind words on a Sunday once a year.  

In the words of Tupac Amaru Shakur,

“And there’s no way I can pay you back

But my plan is to show you that I understand

You are appreciated” (Dear Mama, 1995)

Let’s show all of the mothers out there that we appreciate them by giving them more than cards, gifts, or tributes on social media. Let’s give them what they so justly deserve: love, honor and respect all year long.

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Michele Lamons-Raiford is a hearing American Sign Language (ASL) and English teacher at Pinole Valley...

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