Shifting Priorities

Long before I was penning my 2013 resolutions, I read a post by Stacey Shubitz (“Be more than busy. Be productive. Be happy.”) and something about #5 on her list hit a chord: Leave earlier.

Yikes!

When I first started to teach, I remember pulling frequent 12+ hour days around my other work schedule at the hospital. I remember racing from one thing to the next. I felt like I had renewed purpose in life after feeling disoriented for a while after graduating from college because I wasn’t sure yet what I would be when I grew up. Teaching felt like where I fit and I threw myself into it with every ounce of my energy.

Things started to change when I got pregnant and I realized that keeping up with two jobs didn’t really work when I was picking up a third career (motherhood), so I left my post at the hospital and kept crazy hours juggling responsibilities between work and home.

I would resolve at the beginning of every school year and calendar year to come home earlier and find some way to cut back on my working hours so I could enjoy my time at home with my guys a bit more.

This is not to say that I don’t spend time with my guys, but I wanted to make a more concentrated effort to get home so that my husband could go to the gym or so we could attempt to have a regular dinner time or try to clean the house or have game night or get the kid to story time at the library or soccer lessons or…

You get the idea.

But Stacey’s words – “Leaving earlier will keep you from burning out!” – and tweet from a later conversation about this post

stuck with me.

Ironically, it hit me tonight as I was on the phone with my husband with all my bag-lady bags packed up to take home to work away the hours tonight. I had originally planned to stay late and get things done without having to drag all of this stuff home. See, I’d gotten really good about this coming home thing and often I drug bags of stuff home to let them sit near the door or in the car untouched. This week alone I’d taken my son to appointments and to dinner and to the Farm Show and to swim lessons…we’d read books together, played games together, and had long conversations. I’d enjoyed my time with him, but I realized I was preparing to go home, all these heavy bags hanging from me, that I did not want to go home tonight.

SANE PEOPLE MAKE BETTER TEACHERS.

So true.

Seeking that balance is tough. Finding that you need to shift your priorities is tough. But sometimes you need to recognize what it is that YOU need to get by.

And some nights what you need is a late night at school to get things caught up.

Or a work weekend at home at your desk (or possibly in the princess chair) with your work spread out in front of you, headphones in your ears, coffee pitcher and cup at the ready.

It’s not because I’m trying to avoid giving myself what I need – or what my family needs – but because I need that time to do what needs to get done. Feeling short on time and stressed out isn’t going to benefit anyone either.

So I decided to dig my heels in for a late evening.

And that’s when I got a message about Stacey’s latest post.

I think I giggled as I read it because of the absolute irony of it all.

And I think I realized in one quick flash of insight that the most important things are realizing what you need when you need it.

While I waited for some pages to print, I wrote to Stacey what I eventually commented on her blog:

I’m trying not to laugh at the irony of being mentioned in this post tonight. I was at school when it posted – and just got home about an hour and a half ago. Sometimes it goes both ways. It’s about balancing obligations and sometimes it means putting in the time. I spent last three nights w/my son & let things pile up while we spent time together. So I decided tonight I’d cross some things off and this weekend I’ll be holed up in my office in jammy pants with my coffee plugging away. But I have been good about leaving otherwise. Maybe TOO good. :) That’s why I needed to put this time in on work to keep me sane.

I love your post. It makes me think about how we all need to make priorities. And sometimes they shift. Not permanently. Just necessarily. Next Monday we’ll be back to our family routine here and I’ll be a much more sane person after some much needed time to take care of that part of my life, too.

Then I finished up what I needed to do and left for home, but before I did, I looked at my desk and smiled.

2013-01-10_19-56-22_654In the middle of the papers and other things I had piled up before I went home, I saw this:

2013-01-10_19-56-37_818Besides being coffee mugs (which are as much a part of me as anything else), they are advertisements for the roles that keep me at school sometimes. They are both part of my identity and they are sources of pride as often as they are of frustration.

When I got home, I went to settle in and saw the perfect opportunity to show the other side of me in a similar way:

2013-01-10_22-11-58_158Being an avid reader and a mom (and wife) and someone who needs reading glasses tucked everywhere is just as important.

Finding that place where you can get both lives balanced so that you’re not burned out in either place is not easy – but it may be the most important goal to meet because so much depends on it.

 

 

 

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11 thoughts on “Shifting Priorities

  1. I couldn’t agree with this post more. I have been known to tell my family in the past, ” If I don’t stay at school and get it done, nobody else is going to do it for me.” I mean its not like I have an assistant or anything. :) Its gotten easier the past few years because the kids have gotten older, and hubby was working out of state. I do my planning at home since I just can’t concentrate on it at school. Our planning period is 45 minutes this year which makes a world of difference.

    I do wonder how some teachers leave at 3pm everyday carrying nothing home. Must not be a lot of teaching going on during the day. :)

    Shannon
    http://www.irunreadteach.wordpress.com

    • I am blessed to have some help at school – I have an aide and a special education teacher who are in a couple of my classes. Their presence and feedback and reminders save my sanity daily. I have a couple of students who hang out in my room during my prep (and their study hall) who sometimes help me tidy things up and organize stuff if they have time. Still, the planning and grading and other stuff is mine to do. But I’m grateful for the help with everything else.

  2. You are spot on about balance. It’s also a dynamic thing; you may achieve it from time to time, then take stock and realize it’s all asunder again! I suppose, though, it’s actually an ideal, not necessarily a fixed position…

  3. It’s so hard to balance everything. Sometimes I think I don’t spend enough time on school stuff when I’m at home. I want to stay at school later, but I crave the time at home where I can be away from everything for a while. When I really start to feel overwhelmed (needing to catch up at school or at home) I usually use a sick day. I always feel relieved and caught up when I do that.

    • You aren’t kidding about being pulled in both directions at once at the end of the day. I’ll admit that I have used sick days the same way. That day of quiet to sit at home and just power through things does improve your mental health in ways that can’t quite get done any other way.

  4. I love your mugs, Cindy. They represent who you are right now. It’s hard to balance it all. I know how hard it is. There are never enough hours in the day to do it all and be everything we want to be. Sometimes we just have to know when to walk away knowing we’ve done as much as we can and we’ve done our best.

    Enjoy your weekend. (Farm Show again?)

    • Ahhh…the weekend. I took tonight off to relax. It was definitely needed after a long day yesterday and a long weekend to come. No more Farm Show for this crew til next year, but it will be enjoyable. Have a wonderful one yourself!!!

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