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Mother teaching daughter at home

On Being Teachers as Parents

Meet Melissa and Arienne, two teachers who are also moms. The pandemic has forced them to teach from home while caring for their own children. Studies show the impact on mothers and working women have been tremendous during this past year. Listen to this honest conversation where they tackle how they juggled between being a mother and teacher day in and day out.

Arienne Rusgal: Remote teaching is pretty hilarious. 

Melissa Benedicto: I agree.

Arienne: The things that you say now, “Turn on your camera, right?” “Mute please.”  

Aliw Pablo: Meet Melissa and Arienne, two teachers who are also moms.

Melissa: Please don’t bring your iPad to the bathroom. Don’t share too much information when you come back from the bathroom, please.

Aliw: They both were forced to adapt to the drastic changes the pandemic brought at work and at home. Studies show that women in general have taken the hardest hit during this pandemic, many having to leave the workforce due to the overwhelming pressure of juggling it all — working and being a mom. So today, we’ll talk to Melissa each with three children of their own and how they’ve managed to thrive during a very difficult time when the lines between being a teacher and a mom at home are often blurred.

I’m Aliw Pablo. Welcome to Making Changes, a podcast about two people on the path to change but are in different stages in their journeys.

(Show Open)

On today’s episode, Melissa and Arienne open up about the challenges of wearing two hats at home during this pandemic. Melissa has three children, two teenagers and an 11-year-old while Arienne asks Melissa for advice on teaching remotely while caring for three kids under the age of 3 at home.

Melissa talks about how after 15 years of teaching, the challenges of a virtual classroom made her think about possibly changing her career but she’ll tell us what it was that made her stay. We’ll be flies on the wall as these two moms talk openly about what they learned about themselves and the changes they’ve had to make in perspective as educators and as moms. And they’ll tell us about the big part that God played in their lives during this uncertain time. Let’s listen in.

Melissa: What’s up fellow mom?

Arienne: I’m so glad to talk to you because let me tell you, it is so hard to be a mom and a teacher right now. And just being able to talk to you is just giving me already a sense of relief here.

Melissa: You know, being able to talk to adults, sometimes is relaxing and therapeutic.

Arienne: Yes. I just kind of wanted to get your thoughts and some advice on some stuff, just because, you know, especially with a pandemic, and having three kids under three and trying to teach from home and trying to teach online while they’re crying downstairs and just trying to do it all. It just hasn’t been easy. Like, I just feel like I can’t do it all. I don’t know how to be that super mom. I mean, what do you do?

Melissa: Other than cry in the corner on a daily basis. I kid, but just realizing that you… Just knowing that you can’t do it all, you know.  Just unloading and allowing other people to help you. It took a long time for me to like, not need people. And I’m not saying I don’t need people right now.  But that’s what family is for.  Just know that it doesn’t fall on you. And we share the load. What grades do you teach again, Arienne?

Arienne: I teach a four or five combo. but it’s pretty much from 8:00 to 12:30 in the morning. But I mean, trying to teach a combo in the classroom is already tough, let alone a combo on the screen. So there’s that added pressure too.  And what do you teach again, Melissa?

Melissa: I teach Special Ed. And it’s from kindergarten all the way through eighth grade. So multiple combo classes. A ton of different personalities and perspectives from the spectrum. So, it’s difficult to do everything online, which is why I was grateful when we opened up our school. And we started with our Special Ed students, because they were the most in need of in-person support.

Arienne: Right? You can’t give that same kind of… I don’t know, you just can’t really give that same kind of love and attention when they’re tiles on your monitor.

Melissa: Yes, especially when you’re meeting them for the first time Arienne these are kiddos you saw, the first day of your teaching online so…

Arienne: What was this distance? like physical distance and just emotional distance? I know you’re back in person but what was the hardest part for you teaching remotely?

Melissa:  Chasing my students, because they come from low socio-economic backgrounds. And so if they’re not showing up on zoom, I’m finding ways to have to reach out…which is why having them in person physically having the bus go pick them up, and bringing them to school that was the connection that my students had. And so when that started, I was obviously back in person, but my own children were virtual, still. So that created a challenge, because, you know, I’m teaching in my classroom, and then I leave my kids behind. Yeah, and they’re older, they’re older. But, you know, trusting that they’re going to be okay, that you did what you needed to do to make sure that they were provided for that was also something that was a struggle.

Arienne: My room, our bedroom has kind of become my classroom. There are some perks right? I get to make them breakfast, I get to be with them at breakfast, and  I can take my breaks and go downstairs and see them and just check to see how they’re doing. If, you know, worst case scenario, if you know everyone’s crazy and everyone’s crying, then I can bring someone into the bedroom and throw on, you know, some some movie and they can just sit and chill out and and watch while I’m teaching but,… you know, trying to be a mommy and teacher at the legit exact same time, it’s so hard. You know that you are these things like 24-7 no matter what, but when they’re mushed together, literally in the exact same room, it’s so hard to differentiate between the two. But remote teaching is pretty hilarious.

Melissa:  I agree.

Arienne: The things that you have to say now, that you never would have said in the classroom? “Turn on your camera, right?” “Mute, please.” Like what else do you do? What else have you said?

Melissa:  I’ve said, “please don’t bring your iPad to the bathroom. And if you do, turn off your camera and mute,” you know.  “Don’t share too much information when you come back from the bathroom, please.”

Arienne: You know, there is so much to do but I got to be IT. But with the virtual class, you’re IT all day, every day. And you’re like, “I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you.”  And you’re telling him, go, “Go to the 3 dots at the bottom, press that says “yes” everyday. But I think you know, one of the things that kind of kept me going during a class meeting, there was one kid who was saying,  “I appreciate you because you have a ton of kids, but you still teach us.” It really does warm my heart and it helps me feel a lot better, that even though I’m teaching in front of a screen, that they could still feel that I care. 

Melissa: Virtual for me was just the most difficult. As it progressed, it just was so depressing. Because I, you know, we didn’t do student teaching through zoom, and this is not what I signed up for you know, I said that a lot. And as much as… give me the most difficult student and the most difficult class any day over, over virtual. And so it was during this pandemic that I really after, like 15 years of teaching, I thought, maybe I should do something else. Maybe I should change careers, because this is not what I trained for. And it was one of the realizations, like you said, those comments that our students say that all they need is connection. If that’s the only connection I have with my students, then I’ll do that, even though it’s difficult, but I have thought about changing careers. 

Arienne: And I think that’s, the harder part too, is because the lines are so blurred. Right now, I can’t. I don’t have a schedule. Whatever happens with the kids, like, if someone’s in a bad mood, like there goes that schedule. But you know, 1, 2, 3 am is kind of the time that I’ve been finding to lesson plan, to get my slides ready for the day after because now we can’t teach without slides, right? How did you survive? I know you were in the classroom when your kids were young? How do you get from being a mom of babies, and still be the kind of teacher that you expect yourself to be? How do you do both? 

Melissa:  Juggle. Yeah, it was, you know, when you’re in it, I’m sure 10 years from now, you’ll be like, how did I do that? Because I’m at that point because I’m like, Oh, I hear Arianne. Wow, I was…I was that. How did I do it? That’s what I’m thinking of when you’re talking about these things. Because it is, you’re in the moment. You do what you need to do, right?  Quick story about when I first started going back to the classroom, and my kids are big. They are…. I have a 11-year old, a 12-year old, and sophomore in high school. So she’s 15. One day, I came home, and they looked like someone had been crying, right? And then I knew something had happened but they didn’t want to tell me. And so finally, I talked to my oldest and I was like, why are you guys so quiet? Why are you not telling me something? And I kid you not. It took all of me not to just feel like the worst mom in the world. But she was like, you come home so tired. We don’t want to bother you with this extra thing. And I’m like, but It’s okay. And I took a step back. And I was like, I need to watch my face, what  I say.  You know what made me realize  — wow, I’ve got great kids that know, right, that they can kind of empathize and try not to become a bother even though I need them to tell me these things. But I’m like, wow, you know, this, all this like teaching, right? It shows, it does show up.  And like when they become older, and they, you know, they’re out of diapers, and you’re finally done with breastfeeding your last one, you’ll take a step back and be like, wow, these are awesome kids.

Arienne: As hard as it is, like, I would not trade these years. For, anything, you know. I remember, like, talking with my husband, and you know, we were wondering, like, what are we going to do about childcare? Like, if both of us have to work, what are we going to do? What are we going to do? And then, boom, the pandemic hit. Everyone had to work from home. And there was like, this answer, right? I mean, it’s so… it’s such a hard time to live in. But it’s, I don’t know, I feel like it’s kind of brought a lot of families closer. 

Melissa:  Yeah. You hit it on the nail– families closer because you wouldn’t have thought this was the solution to your no childcare issue but this has brought your family closer. I am virtual all day on Wednesdays. And my son cooks for us. Wednesdays, yeah. We don’t ask. He just figures out what, you know what’s to be made and he cooks for his siblings and me because …

Arienne: I cannot wait for that. But how are you able to hold on to your offices [in the Church]  and still, have your kids and teach and do the whole thing?

Melissa:  Well, it’s, it always is, like what you put first. And you know, what I realized, as my kids are now like, in their teenage years, it’s what they see that counts, right? So I want them to grow up knowing that wholeheartedly, I perform my duty as choir member, because I love it. It’s something we took oath for. Right? We took an oath for and know that we are going to fulfill it wholeheartedly and them seeing that, even though they see that I’m tired, right, even though they see that I come home, allows them to realize that they can do the same thing. And so that pushes me not only for the love of my duty, but for the love of my children as well, because I want them to continue to be officers as well. Not because mom is pushing them. But because they love it too.

Arienne: Performing is almost like a form of self care, I think. And listening to you about what our kids see. Like I know our kids are pretty young to the point that they will have pretty few memories of right now. But I do remember to like my mom when she had my little brother she went back to the choir right? Right away. And so it was no question in my mind, about coming back to the choir after having our oldest, after having our second, I think I went back two weeks, two weeks after having my first one because we were prepping for a special worship service. And I had to make sure that the choir was ready. So my mom being a choir leader, too, like she totally understood, so she would take him and then we would go to choir practice. And then it was two months after my second one, and even then I remember like, just itching, itching, to go back. But a lot of it really is self care and like, I feel renewed and I feel strengthened and everything when I get to go and like teach the choir and listen to the hymns and all of that kind of stuff. I almost feel like when I get to go to choir practice, when I get to serve God on my own without any interruption, that I come back a better mom. Or I hope I come back a better mom.  You know,  it’s so much better than like, going to go get your pedicure and coming back, right. I mean, that feels good already, like getting your hair, your nails done and coming back home to the kids. But yeah, there’s like no other feeling. Maybe it’s just because I feel like a load is lifted. So that when you come back home to the kiddos, they need you to be strong. You’ve been strengthened, I guess.

Melissa:  I completely understand. That’s definitely one of the reasons why I continue. And I know that now as you know, mother of teenage children is that they, they see mom, and you know, I nowperform with my eldest daughter in the adult choir who loves it, and who cannot wait to come back to the chapel, and put on her choir robe and sing in the choir loft. And I know that that’s not something that I pushed for her to do. It’s the love that she has for it. And so, you know, it’s therapeutic but also so much blessings. 

Arienne: That’s what I want from my kids too like, I want them to see us performing, you know, day in and day out and realizing that the reason we have what we have is because we dedicate so much time to God and our duties. 

Melissa:  Yes, so Arienne what did you learn the most about yourself as a mom through all this through all this crazy pandemic?  

Arienne: The biggest thing that I learned is you can’t do it all. And it’s okay. That I have to allow myself some grace. I know that like you know, postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety is real because I feel like I live it, especially right now after having the third one, I didn’t really feel it too much before. But … and it’s been hard, it’s been a challenge to get out of that mental state of “I’m not doing enough.” But you know, hearing you, talking with friends, praying and praying and praying and praying is little by little reminding me, you know, that you don’t have to do it all. What’s the biggest change that you had to make during this time?

Melissa:  I’d have to say I know that God is always with my family, and blessed my family. But during this pandemic, I didn’t know how much it would take out of my mental capacity. Because I was like, at a point when I thought I can’t, I can’t do this. I can’t handle it. I’m right here. He found a way to like, take away the load somehow. And allow me to just…okay, I think I can do this. As moms we are pretty resilient. We say this about students all the time. Oh, you know, they’ll bounce back. They’re resilient. But as educators, as moms, we’re resilient ourselves. And I know this because of this pandemic. I’ve done things that I didn’t think I could do. So that’s that’s the biggest, biggest change. 

Arienne: Thank you so much for your advice. And for just, you know, talking me through I think I’ve had a lot of “aha” from this conversation. 

Melissa:  Me too. It’s always great to grow together. 

Arienne: Yes. 

Melissa:  Through conversation. So thanks. thank you so much.

Aliw:  Hey, moms, Melissa, Arienne.. Thanks so much, you guys. Thank you so much for doing this. And, you know, first, I have to say I, there are frontline workers and there are  essential workers. And teachers — We don’t give you guys enough credit. You really are in the front lines. And you really are essential, like  on so many levels. And you’re right, I think, I forgot which one of you said it that you go from one job to the other. Do you feel like you’re mothering consistently because you’re also mothering other people’s children when you’re at work? What do you think, Melissa?

Melissa:  Yes, I agree that the mothering has no boundaries. So I cross the threshold of my classroom, I’m mothering. I cross the threshold of like, my home, I’m a mother. So, you’re constantly teaching and showing and caring for and whether it’s my own children, or others, it’s what we were put here to do. It’s been a challenge this pandemic, however, God has shown us that we are resilient.

Aliw: Resilient, indeed.  Arianne, you mentioned that once you became a mom and like you said it was prayers and prayers upon prayers answered and this is really what you’ve always wanted. Do you see yourself being able to have enough energy to keep teaching in the future like with because you’re really in the thick of it all? 

Arienne: I do wonder that all the time, whether I’m going to have enough energy, I mean, my own three are exhausting to say the least. They are exhausting already, let alone having to go in with a class of 33, another class of 33. I love kids and I knew I wanted to be a teacher since I was 14. Just like being in the choir is part of my identity. I feel like teaching is part of my identity. And I want my kids no matter what they decide to do in life, well, most things anyway,  I want them to follow their passions as well so that when they are older, they would love whatever it is that God gifts them with. And I feel that if I stopped teaching, then I would show them that it’s kind of okay to give up your passion, too. And I want to be that role model for my own kiddos that no matter how hard it is to do what you love, you should still do what you love because God gave you those gifts of whatever it is — I guess, in this case of teaching, of showing, of molding and that kind of deal —  for a reason. 

Aliw: No matter how tiring it is and no matter how tired you are, right, as moms, what is the difference when you do something you love?

Arienne: I think there’s a huge difference between doing something that you love versus doing something just for the sake of a paycheck. But we go a little bit above and beyond when you love something. I mean, it’s the same thing with the Church, right? We’re there all hours of the day or all hours of the night and you come home and you’re exhausted but feel full, right? You feel satisfied and uplifted because you are doing something that you love.

Aliw: Your students are so blessed to have you both as teachers, because just listening to you both we can tell just how much you truly love what you do as teachers, but also how much  you really do care for your students. And of course, your babies at home. So thank you guys, thank you so much. And I hope you get some sleep, Arianne. And, Melissa, I hope you get through the teenage years. And you will. And thank you so much for sharing your stories and your heart with us. 

Arienne & Melissa: Thank You.

Aliw: Thanks Arianne and Melissa. Now, if you found value in what you heard today, share it with a friend, a fellow mom or a teacher that you know could probably use this right now.  Stay up to date with new episodes of Making Changes with these different platforms  — Apple, Google podcasts, or subscribe to the INC Media podcasts on Spotify or you can download the INC Media app.  You can see the faces behind the voices by following our Making Changes podcast Instagram account.  Thanks for listening to Making Changes and may your change uplift you!