'We are drowning, we are struggling, but we are here': a post by Mother, educator Rosita Mallo
It is 10:03 p.m. on a Tuesday evening, and while I should be in bed making sure I am well enough to go back to work tomorrow after being sick for the last three days, I am up. My 6-year-old daughter is asleep in her room, and my 3-year-old son...well...he is currently practicing parkour off of my bed.
There was a time in my career when I would get to work by 6 a.m. and not leave until 6 or 7 p.m. I, of course, was not married, had no kids and felt like I had to prove myself worthy enough. I remember seeing my counterparts show up to work right at the contractual time, and leave at the last bell. I used to think to myself that it was because I was new to the profession and things would get easier as the years went on.
This school year marks 16 years in education for me, and it has been, by far, the hardest year of my career. While that is true for most educators this year, as a mom, a woman of color and a wife, this year is exhausting to say the least. Gone are the days of coming in early and staying late at work, but the need to outperform myself is still at the core of who I am. That drive is stitched into the fabric that makes up DSST as well as our community and country. The harder you work and the more hours you put in, the more you are celebrated and the more accolades you receive. But for educators who are mothers, that seems unsustainable.
The pandemic completely decimated whatever sense of normalcy we had. We suddenly found ourselves with no childcare and having to work and help our students navigate online learning. The number of times I forgot to mute myself as I scolded my kids for not paying attention to their meeting while I myself was in a meeting is, embarrassingly, too many to count. Somehow, we survived and were asked to return to work while still not having childcare for our kids. Two-parent households had to switch up work schedules and divvy up responsibilities, while single-parent households tried to receive accommodations to work from home or scramble to find some form of childcare. As the months have progressed, that reality has not changed for moms, particularly those in education.
For many mothers in education, the reality is what has been described above is our reality, and yet, we still cook dinner, do the laundry and make sure our kids are ready for the next day. If we have a spouse or partner, we listen to their day and ensure their peace of mind. We juggle all that while also being tasked with involvement in the culture of our schools, the phone call home for our troubled students and having to take on more and more tasks. Several of us are the “other mothers” of so many, not ourselves. As leaders in our buildings, we are responsible for all the things, and are reminded daily that “we can do this,” but we can’t. We are drowning, we are struggling, but we are here.
Recently our CEO, Bill Kurtz, emailed the network and announced that we will be having a Wellness Day on Nov. 1. Yay! This is a welcomed development. However, for us moms, it will most likely be a day we use to get caught up on the things we normally cannot do while at work: cook, clean, grade, plan, organize and get caught up.
My push is for all of us to take off our capes for that day and evening. We need our mental health day. This is where our spouses, partners and family members can step in. On Nov. 1, should the opportunity to do one of the things below arise, give mother educators the break they deserve:
- Prepare dinner for the family.
- Take the kids out of the house and let us rest (or sleep).
- Plan a day out for just the two of you.
- Offer to watch the kids at home so we can go out for a couple hours on our own.
- Plan a fun family outing.
- Take the kids out while we prepare dinner.
- Give us time to vent, and really hear us.
- Tell us how much you love and appreciate us.
I will be piloting a Mother Educator affinity group in the coming months so that mothers in education can come together and share our experiences and provide some support in how we navigate the duality of our spaces at school and at home.
Please take your cape off on Nov. 1 as we observe a mental health day we all desperately need.