Returning to the classroom after a long weekend can be tough. Returning to the classroom after a long-term absence, such as maternity leave, can be stressful for both the teacher and the students. Below I have some tips on making the transition smooth for everyone, especially the babies left at home.
1. Be Patient
At Home: There will be tears. Lots of them. And screaming. And begging for you not to leave. It will rip your heart out and make you question all of your life decisions. It will make you feel like a horrible person. However, it will get easier. A month or so after returning to work the first time around, I was lucky if Seamus would say goodbye to me. Now, after two weeks back from my second maternity leave, Seamus loses it when I leave in the AM. I know it will pass, and I try not to let it get to me.
At school: It will take time to get used to a new routine. Not everything needs to be perfect immediately. Start slow, and give yourself ample time to catch up. My first day back we did getting to know you activities, which the kids enjoyed. The first week was a lot of independent work so I had time to observe and adjust. As I am returning late in the year, I won't mess with their grades too much, as it would be unfair to them for me to come in and tell them that their A in the class really should be a B-. This took a lot of the usual grading pressure off both of us.
2. Let Some Things Slide
At school: I gave my students a wide berth my first week, as I figured out who they were and how best to handle them. I think I am enjoying a little bit of a honeymoon right now, like at the beginning of the year. The students are testing me to see how I will react, and I respond with clear boundaries, but give them a "pass" as they get to know me.
At home: My four-year-old, Seamus, is getting off the hook a ton, as he is having a hard time with me leaving every morning. I try to give him something specific to do for me (can you draw me a picture of a flower while I am gone?) or to look forward to (be ready to go hiking when I get home). Certain things, like tantrums and defiance, I am not making a big deal out of, since I know he is processing big emotions and it must be hard for him.
3. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
At School: If you are the kind of teacher who does prep in the AM, try to rework your day so that doesn't happen. You will feel better arriving to work in the morning if there is nothing to do except teach (especially if you will be emotional from leaving screaming children). If you are a pumping mama, set up everything so all you have to do is sit and pump, especially if you are pumping during a short break. Take some video of your babe crying that you can watch and get that liquid gold flowing.
At home: The night before do lunch prep for you and the kiddos. Pack everything you need, everything they need and have it ready by the door. I also put up a big checklist by the door of all the items I need everyday (it's a lot) so I don't forget anything. Know what you are going to wear, and get your little one to pick their clothes out, too. Seamus refuses to wear anything except pajamas, so I admit that one is tough for us.
4. Fake it 'til you Make it
At Home: Put on a brave face. Let the kids know everything is ok, and you will be home soon. Say yes to the mess for a bit. Leave some socks on the floor. Let the laundry pile up. Focus on relaxing, adjusting and enjoying the time you do get to spend with the family.
At School. Put on a brave face. Of course you are thrilled to be back! It's your favorite place to be! Roll your eyes internally as you say it if you have to. Then focus on the good stuff: great colleagues, eating lunch at a normal pace, using the bathroom alone. Don't create a lot of work for yourself. This is a great time to work on peer reviewing and editing skills.
Most importantly, use your friends! My work friends were so supportive when I returned (April, Kristin, Jocelyn) it made coming back kinda fun. And my mom friends were great to lean on for mom support (Shannon, Meghan, Anna). So thanks guys, for helping me! And the biggest thank you to my husband, for being an amazing dad and taking excellent care of the boys while I'm at work.
How did you survive heading back to work? Comment below!