9 Teacher Tips for Balancing Work and Family

It’s tough, but possible.

As the winter break comes to a close and many teachers return to school this week, the euphoria of the holiday season subsides, giving way to the remaining months of the school year. So it seems fitting that over on the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE! this week, teacher Rayna brought up the topic of work-life balance. She writes:

“Just wondering for the parents out there: How do you juggle parenting and teaching? I’m having such a hard time.”

The question resonated with many of our community members, including a young first-year teacher who responded: “I want kids in the future, but I’m scared about how I’m going to balance teaching and a family if what I’m experiencing now is any indication.” Here are some suggestions from our teachers:

1. Self-discipline is key.
“I have four kids, ages 8 through 15. Try to be as organized and efficient as possible so you can be with your kids when they’re awake. The juggle is tough, but with discipline, balance is possible.” —Megan N.

“I raised six kids while teaching. They are adults now. My advice is to organize, plan and stick to schedules. Also, two key ingredients to remember always are patience and humor!” —Kellie A.


2. Lean on your resources.
“I could never do it all if I didn’t have the greatest husband in the world. I’m a workaholic, and he’s a major part of things running smoothly at home.” —Sherrie E.

“My three kids and husband are awesome supporters of me. I do have some guilt, but they all assure me that they always feel loved and supported. Teacher-parent guilt happens; just remember at the end of the day which kids in your life mean the most to you.” —Shonda J.

“We made room in our budget for a cleaning lady to come twice a week. Hands down, best decision we ever made.” —Erin F.

3. Keep work at work.
“I’m 37 and have a 2-year-old. I balance work and family by not bringing work home. My son wants all of my attention after school, so I stopped bringing it home altogether, and by doing that, I don’t feel guilty anymore about not getting it done.” —Jennifer M.

“I’m a single mom of a 6-year-old. For me, I have to keep her on a schedule, and I stopped bringing work home. I figured that I give everything I have to other people’s children 10 hours a day. The rest of the time is for my daughter.” —Tamika S.

“I successfully raised one well-mannered, well-rounded son. My secret was this: I did my work at work, and at home I was Mom. Period. I went to work by 7:30 each day, used my lunch and planning period to do work, and left school by 4 p.m. each day. I did not lug bags of papers home to correct, nor did I spend hours creating games and centers. Amazingly, my students still grew and made benchmark progress, and my family didn’t have to suffer. I’m currently in my 15th year of teaching.” —Michele B.

4. Learn from experience.
“My daughter is almost 2. When she was born, I said my priorities would change, and I wasn’t going to spend all of my time at work, but they didn’t until the last few months of this past year. I finally asked myself, why? Why am I spending all of this time and energy at work and leaving none for my family. Now I’m pregnant with my son and not willing to do that again. I’ve started staying late one night each week and spending my preps for the rest of the week gathering materials, making copies and other prep work. It’s been better for my family and for me. Are my lessons as spectacular as they could be? No, but they’re still good. This isn’t my only life, and I don’t want to treat it that way anymore.” —Andrea L.

“After having my second child, I started working harder on balance. I realized how stressed I was, how many Saturday and Sunday nights I had spent working at school rather than being with my kids and husband. These days, I get as much done at school as possible, and if I do have to bring work home, I only do it when my kids are doing homework or are asleep, or if I’m home alone. I go to work really early and stay a little late after school ends. I have started looking at it this way: The math tests will still be there to grade tomorrow, just like the dishes in the sink!” —Stephanie S.

5. Accept that it may be a lifelong struggle.
“I’m sad to say that even in my 20-second year, I have yet to figure out the work-life balance. Since we start some major new initiative pretty much every year, I always feel like I’m scrambling and never feel like I develop an expertise with something new before they totally scrap it for something new the next year. For me, that’s the most difficult part of finding balance. I don’t have children, but I’m single, so all of the household jobs—dishes, cooking, laundry, snow, grass, leaves, groceries—fall on my shoulders. To those single parents out there, I commend you!” —Ann D.

6. Work efficiently.
“I don’t grade every single thing that comes across my desk. I may pick a few key questions and focus on those. I also love Zipgrade; it has saved me a lot of grading time!” —Demanda W.

“Here are some tips I’ve learned. Grade while your students are doing work. Type your lesson plans so they’re easy to reuse year after year. Run centers after a big test and have the teacher group grade their own tests. Then, instantly re-teach whatever they missed. No more bringing home huge folders of tests to grade!” —Jody B.

7. Look on the bright side.
“I have two boys. In my experience, it’s much easier to parent as a teacher than in the private sector. When I had a corporate job, I never knew when I could leave work or when I’d have to work on weekends. I also never could take the four months paid vacation time, so all in all, I can’t think of another safe career where I have this much time with my children. It’s the reason I went into teaching. Thankfully, I love it for the most part.” —Jen M.

8. Work together!
“I’ll do my school work while my kids do their homework, all at the same table. That helps alleviate the guilt.” —Jen S.

9. And finally …
“Hey, nothing wrong with takeout!” —Megan T.