learning ways to navigate life transitions as a music teacher

Today on The Anacrusic Podcast, I’m sharing a little life update with all of you!! Yes, I just had my second baby girl, and it has been wonderful, but it’s also been HARD. I’m excited to share with you some of my thoughts about change and how it pertains to us as music teachers. What I’ve noticed, what has been helping, and how I think it can help you navigate your own life transitions as a music teacher!

I had big plans to make this episode happen much, much sooner.  But life. Am I right? It’s been a CRAZY couple of months for me with all the life changes that go along with going from mama of one to mama of two.  Now, if you are not a parent, this episode is still for you! How we handle life transitions, regardless of what those changes are, applies not only to parenthood, but to music teaching as well.  

Anybody who has become a parent, and become a parent again, knows that it’s a tricky thing.  It just changes everything! There’s no other way to explain it. For me, it’s really, really difficult to transition out of what I know as a routine.  Before we had my first daughter, my husband and I were very impulsive in terms of moving and career changes. Having a baby changed all of that! On top of that, there was the stress of becoming a new mom.  I also felt some of my career goals shifting, which is when I got really involved with all things Anacrusic. That’s also when I started teaching part time, so that was a big identity shift all together, too. 

Having baby number two, I felt better prepared mentally because I knew that I was going to be totally out of control. At the same time, it’s still been really, really hard. I not only have my two year old to look after who is on a routine, but I have this itty bitty baby who is on anything but a routine! Trying to navigate life as a mom and a wife and all.of.the.things has been really overwhelming. 

What makes a life transition really hard for me are those three things that I mentioned.  It’s difficult not having a routine, not knowing what to expect, and not having a frame of reference to make some predictions about what’s going to happen.  When going through life transitions as a music teacher, these same challenges can pertain to you, too.  Whether those changes are in your school community, your personal life, or any other situation.

So, here are some of the things that I’ve thought through in terms of what can help. Even though I’m technically still on leave, I’ve been poking in on Facebook groups and I already see a lot of music teachers very frustrated.  This is the time of year where there’s a lot going on for everybody. There’s a lot of performance expectations. There’s just a lot of “stuff” because of the holiday season. The newness of the new school year has worn off, which can lead to feeling stressed out and overwhelmed.  Sometimes that has to do with feeling this loss of control. So I wanted to share some of the things that I’ve found can really help with going through life transitions as a music teacher. 

1. Accept that you are out of control.

This is the first thing that’s really helped me, even though it’s a daily battle.  Once you recognize this, it actually gives you a little bit of control. Accepting that I am out of control helps me to be able to go with the flow. Allow yourself to be flexible and adapt as needed, which as teachers we’re really, really great at doing. 

2. Lower your expectations.

The other thing that has helped me is lowering my expectations. Now, I don’t mean the kids are eating McDonald’s every day, although my husband has brought home the occasional Happy Meal the last couple of weeks. Not gonna lie. Lowering expectations in terms of what can happen for me right now is really, really helpful.

I thought that while I was on maternity leave, I would get SO much accomplished. Ha! I have not been able to do anything! As someone who thrives on having time to be creative and innovative, lowering my expectations in terms of what I can realistically do has been so important. 

As a music teacher, there are times that something is going to come up.  That might be dealing with a new administrator, dealing with a new campus, or dealing with a new team leader.  It doesn’t matter how small of a change it is. If there’s a transition or something new that you’re still trying to figure out, lower your expectations, just a smidge. What I mean by that is not to hold yourself to a lower standard in terms of quality of what you’re doing for the kids, but give yourself some grace. 

3. Find something for yourself to hold on to each day.

The third thing that helps during a big life transition is to find things to hold on to. For me, I still know that my two year old, even if she doesn’t go to sleep, will be happy in her crib every day between 12pm and 1pm.  That usually gives me at least an hour and a half of time to decompress. I also know that if my husband doesn’t have to work late, he will come home, make dinner, and give my oldest a bath. Bless that man. So those are things I can hold on to. Those are like earmarks in my day. 

The other thing that I am making sure to hold on to each day (because if I don’t do it, it throws off my entire day) is to stay up if I have an early feeding with my baby and do something just for me. What that looks like is getting up at 4:30am to feed her, then staying awake at 5am, reading a little bit, doing a little bit of journaling, and either running or doing some sort of workout in the morning and grabbing a shower before the kids get up.

Now, I know right now I’m on leave and I’m not running off to school, but finding something like that, that gives you a little bit of an energy boost, that gives you just a second to yourself, is so important.  Even if it’s listening to a podcast and drinking coffee on your way to work. Maybe it’s just getting out the door ten minutes earlier or leaving school earlier, taking your time getting home to decompress.  Maybe for you it is being able to go through Starbucks every once in a while. It might be making sure that you go to the lounge for at least ten minutes to socialize with people during lunch, if that can re-energize you. Just find a few things each day, no matter how small, that can help you enjoy your day and have something to look forward to. 

4. Enlist someone who has gone before you.

Last but not least, when you don’t feel like you have a routine and you don’t know what to expect, you can enlist someone who has gone before you. Find someone who has gone through a similar experience.  I just so happened to not be the first one of my friends to have a second baby. So I have reached out to my friends, my mama tribe on Instagram, and so many other people that I have gotten a wealth of information from. What’s interesting about it, though, is that the information I’ve gotten has been different from absolutely everybody because everybody’s lived experience is different. 

While all of this different information can be helpful, remember at the end of the day that you still need to follow your own instincts. This is something that I see happen a lot inside of those Facebook groups. People ask, “Hey, what would you do?” Everyone gives a different response based on their own experiences.  So, while I think it’s important to draw on your community and to enlist those who have had a similar experience, you should gather information, but then I think you should let it go. Let.it.go. 

So yes, enlist those who have done things that you are going through, enlist those colleagues who have gone through life transition as a music teacher, enlist those who have gone through tricky times, but also take that information for what it is, and recognize that you are you and operating off of your instinct is the most powerful thing that you can do. Trust those instincts and know that you’re meant to be with the kids in your classroom. Just know that where you are right now is exactly where you’re supposed to be. 

I hope these four takeaways are helpful for you during your times of navigating life transitions as a music teacher. Once again, I’ve had to pivot in my life and think about what my priorities are and where I’m going to put my energy.  It’s important for all of us to give ourselves some grace because in my experience, we as music teachers put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do all the things all the time. Instead, if we can go with the flow, lower our expectations a little bit, have those little earmarks in our day to hold on to, and trust our instincts, I think we’ll be ready to tackle any life transitions as a music teacher that get thrown our way!

Are you a going through some of your own life transitions as a music teacher? I would love to hear from you! Feel free to send me an email or reach out on Instagram if you want to feel some support as a mama, as a music teacher, or as a human. Until next time!

 

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The Anacrusic Podcast is a proud member of the Music Teacher Development Podcast Network. The MuTed network provides support in the form of audio on demand programming designed by and for music educators. You can find more information about our network at mutedpodcasts.com

Anne Mileski Anacruisic

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