Saturday, November 30, 2013

In which it turns out that I am not, in fact, Superwoman

I've gotten the "Superwoman" or "Supermom" compliment from several people in the past few months, and of course, it is nice to hear.  But compliment me on it no longer, for I no longer can wear that mantle.
It's now been officially announced to those in the school community where I work that I am no longer teaching there. I voluntarily resigned this week, as I was no longer able to perform my duties to the high level to which I hold myself as a teacher.  I guess I couldn't hack it as a full-time teacher (although to be fair, being a teacher at my school means designing your own curriculum for all of your classes, not working from a purchased curriculum, and I had 4+ classes to create) AND a mom of a 3.5 year old, 1.5 year old, and 1 month old AND a wife AND a functional human being.
The last part is not a joke.  During my week back every day I came a little bit more unglued.  My forty minute commutes turned into cry sessions.  I could keep it together while the kids were in the room but when they left my eyes welled up.  I was avoiding my coworkers, not wanting them to see me in this state.  By Friday I couldn't even keep the tears back from the kids.  I started crying in front of my 8th graders, much to their confusion and (for some) distress.  I knew that I couldn't keep going, but I wanted to push myself to at least finish the calendar year.  I made my intentions known to my principal.  She suggested taking some more time off, but if I took any more unpaid leave (since all leave is unpaid besides one's allotted sick days) my paychecks would no longer be enough to pay for childcare...and if my husband has to work extra to support my job, there's something not right about that.  The only solutions were to stop or keep going.
I'm no stranger to pushing through the pain.  I endured a natural childbirth, for one thing.  I made it through a rather grueling--although ultimately rewarding and fruitful--two year teaching apprenticeship.  I have worked either full or part time for the past four years even though I've wanted to be a stay at home mom.  I've walked through some pretty dark places with some close to me as they wrestled with illness.  I know what it is to suck it up and "just do it."
So why did I, after only a few days, call it quits?  Isn't that kind of weak to throw in the towel so soon? Believe me, I've been wrestling with that fear.  I'd call it a nagging voice in the back of my head but it is far too strident to be a nag.  It's condemning me, shaming me, mocking me for even trying to work full time.  It's calling me a failure and a let-down.  It's telling me that everyone at my school is mad at me and hates me, even though I've been invited to still come to the annual Christmas party.  It wants me to isolate and be ashamed of myself.
But, just for today, I will choose not to listen to it.  I called it quits because I realized that I was NOT capable of doing all of the things I was trying to do.  I was plunging into despair and even having thoughts of harming myself.  My OB-GYN diagnosed postpartum depression.  Baby blues usually clear up after three weeks postpartum, and my big troubles were just starting at five and six weeks postpartum.  I am getting help.  I'm taking medication and have appointments made to see a psychiatrist and a counselor.  Part of me doesn't want to admit that, but you know what?  I need to admit that I am human and not Superwoman.  I am fallible, breakable, and can't always be impressively Teflon tough.  Humans get ill, even mentally.  It's not anyone's fault.  It is what it is.  My mother-in-law called to remind me today that my middle name is Grace and I need to give myself grace and mercy and take it a day a time, and that is true.  I need to accept God's grace.  I was prepared to spend months being miserable if that was what I was called to do (see my previous post).  But after seeing my own frailty in the days that followed that post made me realize that God was not calling me to bear that particular cross.  My cross to bear now is to accept that some people will not be happy with me for the decision I've made, and to live with that.  Not really a terrible cross to bear, all things considered, but for a people-pleaser like me it is rather tough.
Anyway, I wanted to get this all out in the open now that it is official.  Thanks to all who have been supportive so far.  It means so much to hear from people, especially some of my coworkers, that they believe I'm doing the right thing and wish me well.  Several moms have told me that they made the same decision when they had young ones and have never regretted it.  Teaching will not go away, nor will my ability to teach; I can always go back to it.  But I guess you can all find someone new to congratulate on being Superwoman now, because it is not me!

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