The Importance of Putting Family First

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The past two weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster for me. The realization that teachers are currently public enemy number one, with the idea that we are being asked to teach online and in-class students at the same time while providing all of our students the same attention and quality of education, made me do something that I never thought I would do, I resigned. After thirteen years in the classroom, I resigned. 

I have been a high school teacher since 2008. I loved my job, I loved my content, I loved my students, I loved my community, and I loved my co-workers. Yet, with all of those overwhelming feelings of love and fulfillment from my work, there was still a part of me missing. As I go through this post, I want to make a few things clear. First, I am not advocating that all of you clear off your desks, turn in your badges, and walk out on a stable source of income. Especially, if that income is what is providing you and your family healthcare benefits. And definitely do not do it, if that is your only source of income. I am in a bit of a decent situation in that I have a few income streams that I can fall back on during this time. Healthcare, I will have to figure out before mine expires on the 28th of this month.

I am also not advocating that everyone should work from home and be their own bosses because we all know our limitations. Some of you, myself included, thrive in a well-structured environment where we know what is expected of us at all times. Most of us, I would imagine, would prefer to know that every two weeks a predictable paycheck is coming and that we have a pension safety net for retirement. 

With that said, I did a thing. And to be honest, it was sort of on a whim. I spent two weeks agonizing over what I needed to do to be happy and provide the best care that I can give my daughter. I was bumping up against schedules and her school schedule and mine started conflicting majorly as winter progressed. My school no longer allows snow days, they have become virtual days, and her school has had a few two hours delays, so when this happens, I cannot take her. She was missing out because of me, and her education is more important to me than my job. I have the resources to bounce back and find income. She, however, is at a vulnerable age when learning could be something she falls behind on, or worse, decides she hates. And I am not going to let that happen if I can help it.

I have been employed full-time in some aspect since I was 17. The longest I have ever gone without a paycheck from a steady job, was three months and that was when I was 19. I need structure and I need confirmation that everything is stable and consistent. Recently, I have found myself fantasizing more and more about setting my own work hours and doing what I love at my own pace and on my own terms. My holdback has always been whether or not I have the discipline to work for myself. It’s always easier to know where you are supposed to be and when and have someone else hold you accountable. 

I can honestly say that 2020 was an eye-opening year. I have mentioned this multiple times and I hate to dwell, but 2020 was NOT what I thought it would be. I mean I didn’t really have any expectations, but I can assure you if I would have, they would not have been like this. I worked more than I had before because of the structure of remote learning and the concept of concurrent learning. I was too tired to help my daughter with her school work, I couldn’t keep up with laundry, dishes, cleaning, and shopping, and other essential tasks needed to provide a comfortable and happy environment for my daughter. Remember, 2020 was the year that left me as a single mom so, I had lost all motivation and the drive that was always racing through me. I functioned solely on autopilot- failing to process thoughts and feelings. I was fueled primarily by hate and stress, panic, and the feeling of being inadequate. I fell behind on the pacing of my classes, I was cranky and impatient with my daughter, and I was full of anxiety just at the thought of returning back to in-person work, a situation where I was going to be expected to teach half of the class in person, while the other half was online via Zoom. 

I had mentioned earlier that I know my limitations. I know that my attention span is horrible and that I have a racing and chaotic brain that used to be amazing at such higher level multi-tasking, but now I just need a slow-paced work environment that would allow me to retrain my brain to focus and slow down. I intended to spend 2020 working toward my goals of minimalism and simple living, but instead, I was thrown headfirst into total chaos. I figured learning how to scale back on demands and commitments, would help me quiet my brain, but I didn’t get the chance to test that theory. 

I am going to be honest when I submitted my resignation, I did not have a plan. Remember earlier when I said I would never encourage any of you to walk out on a stable income and benefits, and I would especially not advocate anybody do so without a plan. Yet, I did that exact thing, I am telling you all not to do.

Today is my first official day of being unemployed. Even if I could file for unemployment, I would not because this is a decision that I made and I would never take money from individuals in a situation that they could not control. I have thought long and hard over the past few days as to what I am going to do for income for my daughter and me. And while I should be panicked at the loss of everything I have known in my adult life, I am surprisingly calm and, dare I say, optimistic. 

I know what you’re thinking, how can a woman who just quit her job, lost her benefits, and threw herself into the chaos of unstructured time, be calm and optimistic?

I would be lying if I said that I felt the calmness and happiness take hold immediately after I submitted my resignation letter because there were many feelings involved after I hit send and they were not positive ones. I took time, I didn’t make any plans or decisions after my resignation was acknowledged and I sat for two days refusing to confront the consequences of my actions.

Now that I have simmered in my own thoughts, I am ready to announce my plan to you guys. I am now in a place I have never trusted myself enough to go. I have always been too afraid to venture into the world of the unknown. Those of you who know me, know that I have always dabbled in the ideas of side hustles. Some of those ideas were far better than others, but what they all have in common, is I never committed to a single one of them enough to actually profit from them. 

What’s my plan you ask? Simple- 365 days of exploring my abilities and passions to see what my purpose truly is in this life. A year dedicated to me and finding the pieces of myself that I have lost or compromised over the years. My journey will be documented here on my blog, on the Smart Simple and Unscripted podcast, and in a book, I will be releasing next year on my 38th birthday, February 26, 2022. 

I am spending this week developing a plan for my first steps at improving myself both mentally and physically. My first priority is to focus on my health and really listen to what my mind and body need most right now. The one thing that I can admit is that I have ruined my sleep schedule. I allowed weeks of unknown schedules to excuse me to stay up way late into the morning hours and sleep well past noon.  A schedule that I sadly at one point, got my daughter on unintentionally. Since the pandemic started, I have not been able to focus on my weight loss and fitness goals because of trying to balance so many other things. 

As the case with many women in my shoes, as single mothers, we often neglect ourselves first in order to keep our children happy and healthy. I know that we can all agree, we are not capable of giving our children the best we can give them if we are not functioning at our full potential. Lack of sleep, poor nutrition, lack of movement, and of course lack of healthy coping strategies, prevents us from having the patience and energy needed to provide the best care we can for our little ones. So, that is where my focus is at this very moment. 

I cannot wait to share my journey with all of you and hopefully, we can build a supportive community of single or lone mothers.

Published by Stephanie Poling

I am a "lone mother", educator, divorcee, dealing with lone parenting during a pandemic. I just resigned from my full-time teaching position after thirteen years in the classroom. I embrace the lifestyles of minimalism and frugality and am looking forward to moving back to small-town America. Self-care has taken a back burner to all things important to me right now and I am on a 365-day journey of self-discovery. My podcast Smart Single and Unscripted launched recently and I am working on providing the best information I can through my experience with a trauma-filled 2020 to offer hope to single women who are barely hanging on.

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