In case you are new to the blog, I have an almost two year old. My life outside of work consists of baby dolls, playing outside, potty training, and Doc McStuffins. If it isn't sung by either the Wiggles or those weird Gabba characters, I probably don't know it…and that is more than fine by me. That being said, I recently caught a glimpse of the interview Matt Lauer had with Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors (for those of you who also live under rocks, like me). Long story short, he basically asked her if she believed she could be a good CEO and a good parent at the same time. Ouch! Tough question. My knee-jerk reaction, of course, was to go into long “why isn't he asking any of the men in CEO positions that same question” rant in a conversation with my husband, who (of course) totally agreed (or at least was smart enough not to interrupt me).
The reality is the more I really think about the question the more it really makes me think…and think…and think. First off, what does GOOD mean? As a teacher, “good” is one of those overused words we push students to move past because, the truth is, it has really lost most of its true meaning. It is subjective, non-specific, and really doesn't tell me much about anything. So the real question is, what does Matt Lauer really want to know? Is he trying to find out of Ms. Barra feels bad about having to miss out on events in her child's life because of work? I think anyone who works feels that pang of regret at times. Whether you work at the local gas station, the school, or in the big corner office, you cannot be everywhere at once, and the bigger picture must prevail. Money for braces, after-school tutoring, or even enough food for dinner are all factors in making those tough choices. Why would a CEO be any different? Is my presence the indicator of quality? What if I sit on my phone the whole time playing Angry Birds? Still quality?
I may not be a CEO (thank goodness), but do I pride myself on being a “good” teacher? I do! Twenty-something little minds are entrusted to me for 180 days. I better find pride in doing that job well. I diligently read and research the best new methods. I track my data and keep detailed files on each of my students. I apply band-aids and give hugs when scraped knees happen at recess. I email, call, text, and meet with parents (sometimes weekly and over the tiny, seemingly-inconsequential concerns). I plan fun, engaging lessons, and I help my students find their personal interests and passions. Am I perfect? Is my desk empty and my to-do list clear when I leave each day? Nope, but that is teaching, and I truly believe that I make a difference each day.
On the flip-side, I can ask the same thing of myself as a parent. Do I pride myself on being a “good” parent? You better believe it! Unlike those little minds that I get for a mere 180 days, I am responsible for this one for 18+ years. I better have some vested interest, right? I wipe tears, kiss boo-boos, dance like a maniac in celebration of a tiny drip in the potty, make real dinners for fake babies (even organic, at times), read the same book 10 times in a row, and can snuggle like it is nobody's business. I live for the moments when those chubby little arms wrap around me for a big hug and kiss, and I have been known to make strangers look at adorably cute photos of my adorably cute toddler without fathoming I might be slightly biased.
The question becomes one of balance. Where does being a good mom balance with being a good teacher? I refuse to believe I cannot be good at both, but I do believe balance is the key to everything. Some days balance is a work in progress. Other days, the clouds part, the sun shines upon me, and I feel the perfection of knowing I have given both my students and my child everything they needed from me that day. These, of course, are the rare exception, but like finding a four leaf clover on a walk in the park, I stop in those moments to appreciate my good fortune. Even on those perfect days, I crawl into bed focused on tomorrow. Did I pack enough lunch for my little bean? What story should we read tomorrow? What am I going to do about so-and-so who is still struggling to read…or to get enough food to eat? How can I be better tomorrow than I was today? Because even in those rare moments of perfection, there is always room to grow. There are always problems to solve. The reality is, if they have felt special, loved, and cared about today, then I have been more than good at both.
So I close with a thank you to Matt Lauer for asking a slightly discriminatory question because the reality is no matter what we choose to do, we all take on more than one role in our lives. CEO, teacher, employee, mother, daughter, wife…the list goes on and on. There is no perfection in any of these. I may do a bang-up job today…and tomorrow could be just one of those days. That's just life, and we're all doing the best we can with what we have at that moment to be good at it. And just in case today is one of THOSE days for you, you are doing a good job. Keep being awesome because (if nothing else) tomorrow will go better!