This is real life…
“Stop making me crazy and do what you need to do please.”
“Don’t tell me what to do Miss!”
“I’m not fighting with you. “ (Yet, here we are arguing). “I’m not your mother and I refuse to be yelled at like I am.”
“I know you are not my mother. But Miss I don’t want to do this.” How dare he refuse my awesome assignment?!
“Do you know how much effort I have put into this? How long making this took me? That I see YOU more during the day than I do my OWN son.” I’m reaching my breaking point, pulling at straws, I can’t lose this one. A genuine hurt stops my rage as I utter the last phrase; the student ceases waging war against my assignment.
“I see you more than my own mom too.” We’ve come to an understanding. This power struggle last year started the term of endearment dubbed upon me by my students: Mama Miller. I served as a substitute mother for 120 8th graders. I felt deep confliction—sometimes I parented my students better than my own child. And in return my students gave me something I did not anticipate. I cannot articulate exactly the gift…just that I am forever changed by the relationships developed.
A hardship for working mothers that plagues us is the realization substitute caregivers spend more quality time with our child than we do. I work two jobs, constantly seek a third, and in the midst of laundry, dishes and dinner I feel lost in the webs of parenting. I give less of myself to playing trains and farm. Bath time? A mere formality. Lullabies? Exhausting after ten minutes of rocking. But each day when I roll in exhausted and bags hang under my eyes someone applauds me for somehow managing it.
I don’t know why I love the exhaustion other than how much I love being my baby’s mama. Even on days when I don’t love being my baby’s mama. I tear up when a student tells me “that’s what’s up” when I speak about my devotion to parenting. Real life is I get a few precious hours with my toddler daily. I get weekends trying to emulate someone else’s routine for him. Real life is…knowing I work to provide, knowing I’m missing out, and accepting that for now it’s ok.
Once I overheard a student at my former school speaking about his mother. He told his peers how much he loved her and the immense gratitude he feels. I hugged him and started sobbing. He asked, “Why are you crying Miss?”
“Because Eduardo, I hope with all my heart baby H says the same thing about me someday.”
“He will Miss. I know he will. And Miss, we feel the same way about you now. You’re a good mama, Miller. To all of us. ”
Real life is… I’m a good mama.