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To our dear, amazing, untiring, loving, powerful teachers,

You are our heroes.

And I don't know how you do it.

I, mother of three, can barely handle my trio day-to-day. And yet you not only manage to watch several dozen students in your classroom Monday-through-Friday, but you also are able to impart knowledge, share life lessons and give tips on how to effectively zip their pants after going to the potty.

I don't know how you do it, and how you make it look so easy. And I know it is anything but easy.

You are a miracle worker. I can hardly get my one child to put his jacket on before school, but you magically get 22 kids to get coats, gloves and hats on in time to line up for recess. I don't know how you do it.

You are overworked and underpaid—and yet you still email me within moments of my message arriving in your inbox to assure my mama heart that things will be okay. I don't know how you do it.

You are hopeful, optimistic and brave, helping to mold our fledgling children into competent adults—and yet have to practice active school shooter drills while using euphemisms to tell the children what's going on. I can barely speak—or think—when I imagine the drills you have to practice. I don't know how you do it.

You pour what seems like boundless energy into your classroom every day. I get tired just thinking about your job—and yet you greet my child each morning with a smile on your face while I grumble my way through the drop off line. I had 13 kids over my house for a 2 hour birthday party and I needed a full 48 hours to recover. I don't know how you do it.

You find tricks to teach my child his letters, or how to tie his shoes, or put an academic puzzle together for my child. They are challenges and lessons that have long evaded me—but you seem to know just the method to help my little one break through. I don't know how you do it.

You deal with heartaches small and large. You witness familys' biggest tragedies—and basic struggles—to feed, clothe, and care for children. You witness life and death through your classroom. You find these vulnerable kids and devote yourself to being their advocate and improving their lives. Your heart must break, but there's no time to wallow. You have work to do, and you do it with a sense of purpose that we find inspiring. I don't know how you do it.

You come up with the most creative ideas for teaching lessons. You are a one-person Pinterest project machine. You bring an enthusiasm to learning that I find inspiring. I once tried to do a Pinterest project with my kids but halfway through we all gave up and I ended up with fingers dyed with green food coloring—for a month. I don't know how you do it.

You face changing government mandates. First you're graded on test scores, then for year-over-year improvements, then for the latest academic fad to enter your classroom. You just want to give children the life-changing, child-led education you know they deserve, but the top-down goalposts keep moving. And yet you face your students with a smile and suppress any resentment you must feel. I don't know how you do it.

Your classroom is a ray of academic sunshine. Your bulletin boards are on point. Even though literally dozens of frenetic children move (okay, spin, hop, bounce, run, trip, push + shove) their way through your classroom each day, each time I visit it looks like a super-organized, color-coded temple to the gods of learning. Meanwhile my children are able to destroy my entire house in 3 minutes with a chocolate chip cookie, an Elmo Coloring book and a few Legos. I don't know how you do it.

You have that "teacher voice." You hear the din of little voices in your sleep. I once volunteered in your classroom for 30 minutes of story time and had a headache for hours. Your vocal control is impressive. And how on earth do you not get laryngitis every. single. day? I don't know how you do it.

You try to advocate for each and every child. You blow me away with your observations about my kid during our parent-teacher conference. You notice things in weeks that I've picked up over the course of years. And then you replicate this kind of care for every single child in your class. You are nimble and thoughtful. I don't know how you do it.

You get a summer off. A single season. In my book, you deserve a year. You get 10 weeks to rest, recover, plan and prepare for the next academic year. And even though you know just how tough the job is, you show up in September fully committed to transforming the lives of a new set of children. Your motivation is admirable. I don't know how you do it.

You are relentless. You are inspiring. You are shaping an empathetic, open-minded and diverse generation. You make our lives as parents so much better. And even though we worry about our kids when we're apart, our hearts smile knowing that you've got them—and how well.

I don't know how you do it. But I know I am so, so grateful that you do.

Love,

Mama

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When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

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