Work Life Balance

       After 2 years, I am blogging again! We are at our last 7 months in Madagascar, and we have been enjoying this tour so far. It is such a beautiful country with so much promise, but there are a lot of frustrating things too. We can't have everything, but we have a small but solid community of friends who support each other, and with some money-saving, we are able to "escape" into a more developed environment from time to time. We were pleasantly surprised at how much "comfort" we can find here - from gourmet restaurants, to good finds in the grocery stores, beautifully made handicrafts that remind me of the ingenuity of Filipinos, reliability (most of the time) of domestic help, and affordability of otherwise "luxurious" services such as the salon and massages. The kids love their school, and I am happy I was given the opportunity to teach again, after so many years of staying home with the kids. This gratefulness to be back into teaching again, made me so excited and focused that I might have missed some opportunities to be kind to myself.

An afternoon in our favorite playground, Ambohimanga

An afternoon in our favorite playground, Ambohimanga

        From the beginning of the school year until about 3 weeks ago, I have been staying at school past 5pm to work on lesson plans, check on student work, and prepare materials for the next day. I would come home before dinner time exhausted and cranky, to be honest, then rushing the kids after dinner to brush their teeth, so we can "read" together. Most of the time, the kids would opt to read by themselves, so I would still sit with them, checking papers or responding to parent's emails. After a 10 hour day, when the kids are finally asleep, I would still work from 9pm to about midnight - watching Netflix or something, but still working. It seemed that the work load was not getting fewer, but I just HAD to do things school related.

My 3rd grade classroom

My 3rd grade classroom

       A month ago, my family and I went to South Africa for one of the most memorable vacations I've had in my life. Nina and I went running one morning by the beach, and had some hot chocolate at a cafe. On our way back to our house, Nina held my hand and said, "Mommy, I finally know the secrets to a good life". Surprised, I turned to her and said, "Educate me!". She answered confidently in one breath, "Eat well, exercise regularly, work hard, and take vacations. Life is all about balance". I chuckled at the thought that most adults haven't even figured life out, but my 6 year old has. I squeezed her hand and thought to myself, "I may have to find the balance when I get back to Madagascar!"

nina and mommy.jpg

       After that vacation, I thought about the hours I've spent doing school work at home, when I should be enjoying my time with my family. Planning periods, though never adequate, are meant to be used for planning, and for checking papers, and for doing all the other things school related. I am fortunate to be in a school where a lot of resources are readily available, and I have a great team of teachers and mentors that I can seek help when needed. I realized I should wise up and really work when I should work, and relax when I should relax. Now why did I only realize that after 20+ years of working in education?!? A lot of my friends who know me from way back will remember how I would stay till midnight in Ayala Avenue to "finish" work.  I thought it was a way to get ahead, to look good for my boss, and to show people how committed I was. I honestly looked down on people who just didn't "do the extra mile" or people who left exactly at 5pm. Now that I am 38, I take that all back. I realized that for me, it is wiser to work your hardest when you're at work, leave work when you're supposed to, enjoy yourself and do things that you enjoy. 

    It's been hard to adjust to it. At times I would still catch myself bringing home a batch of papers to check, but then I am determined to consciously live a balanced life, and I've been seeing a lot of changes in my mood, in the clarity of my head when I am actually teaching, and I've been happy to go home, have a cup of tea and read a book or play Rock Band with my children. I really suggest that you try it too and not let your life be buried into work. For my friends who go home in the wee hours of the night, missing family events or not having time to sit and eat dinner, think of ways that you can ease some burden, adjust your work expectations and actually decide to do it. I am thankful for friends and colleagues who have shown me the way through their example to achieve this balance and though occasionally I may have to work more, I am quite pleased with this transformation. 

    See!?! It's a Friday afternoon and I left school at 3:45! Everyone had an afternoon snack, I watched Kevin practice his drums, watched Nina do some cartwheels, and now I have some time to write while listening to classical music. Now, on to making some dinner and a movie night with my family. I hope you find that balance too!