Emily is a 31-year-old mother of two boys under three. Her first blog post in March 2015 went viral, reaching more than one million people in a few days. Emily is the New Zealand Herald’s parenting columnist, and parenting columnist for the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly. She founded and runs a charity called Ballet is for Everyone that provides free ballet lessons for children from low-income homes and children with disabilities and high health needs. She is a Plunket and Mother’s Network volunteer and an advocate for children’s and women’s rights. Emily’s first book is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. She also runs The Lighthouse events for mothers, and has a popular podcast called Dear Mamas.
To my son’s teacher,
Thank you for noticing. I don’t know how you did it. But you did.
So many children tugging at your pant leg and wrapping themselves around you and parents trying to get your attention and teachers asking you questions and somehow you saw me.
You saw me struggling to get my son’s stupid bag into the stupid cubby hole. You saw me looking up at the ceiling as he began to cry. He didn’t want me to leave but I needed to, I really needed to leave. For so many reasons.
And you saw me quickly spin around to see where the baby had crawled off to. And you saw me in silent prayer. You saw me angrily wipe at my eyes. My cheeks flushed.
I don’t know how you did it – drop off is so chaotic. But at a time when I felt like I was disappearing, you saw me. When I felt like I wasn’t here, you made sure I knew I wasn’t invisible.
Maybe it’s your years of experience working in these home away from homes. Maybe you’ve seen a lot of mothers like me.
Mothers who aren’t coping.
You saw me pick up my baby and sit heavily on the couch. You saw me search for kind words for my three year old. You saw me looking up to hide tears that were threatening to fall again. You saw me breathing deeply. Maybe I was gasping.
And you came to me and smiled and gave me a hug – and it shocked me. I thought I was hiding this. I’d hid it for weeks now. But you saw through my crappy disguise.
And you talked to me.
And you didn’t give me a hollow talk that begins and ends with if there’s anything we can do to help.
You just told me what we were going to do. And I needed that so much.
I needed so much for someone to tell me how to get through this bad spot. This dark and shitty time. I was so tired I felt like I was in quicksand and you saw me and you reached out a hand.
I needed someone who wouldn’t give me an out, who wouldn’t let me straight away dismiss valid concerns with oh I’m fine, it’s nothing.
Thank you for your insistence.
Sometimes, when we are in it – when we’re in that very bad place, even if it’s just a short visit, we can’t see that we’re there. We don’t recognise the surroundings but the day-to-day is so relentless that we can’t see that everything has changed.
So many people don’t have the gift of firstly – being able to see this in others but, secondly – being able to do something about it. It takes courage to reach out. Especially when everyone is already trying to get your attention.
You did something.
And you did it just at the right time. I did need help to get through that period of horrific sleep deprivation. I did need help to acknowledge how over-worked and over-stretched I was. But I wouldn’t have seen it if you hadn’t sat down with me and helped me.
I want you to know now that we are thriving. The breaks you gave us by enrolling our other son and pushing me to give up my guilt and shame and DO SOMETHING worked. Doing something gave us our life back. I slept. Finally. And every minute of sleep brought me back to the real world.
He loved kindergarten, as you knew he would. And we all had time to breathe again.
And we began to cope again. And it was so quick – the light was there and we were at the end of the tunnel. Just like that!
You gave us permission to feel overwhelmed and to do something about it. You gave us permission to acknowledge that sleep deprivation was kind of killing us. And you handed us a solution.
And my gosh we are grateful. Grateful doesn’t even begin to cut it.
So thank you. Again. For noticing what others might not have. How you ever looked upon that crazy scene and somehow zeroed in on me and saw – I’ll never know.
I can see that you view your job as being more than raising children. You’re raising families and you’re making sure nobody falls through the cracks. That no family is swallowed up.
You’re a mother yourself and maybe that’s where your empathy comes from.
Your home is called a Learning Community and I see a lot of learning but it’s not just numbers and letters.
I see confidence being taught not just in children but in adults too. Important life lessons about advocating not just for our children but ourselves as mothers. Learning that we need to look after ourselves too, not just our children.
You taught me a vital lesson and I wasn’t expecting it.
We all have a breaking point. We can all only hope that if we ever reach rock bottom, there’s someone to help us up.
Thank you for helping us.
Thank you for teaching in every sense of the word. For welcoming us into your community and showing such compassion and kindness.
It means more than you’ll ever know, and I know now that I can do the same for another mother. And it brings me great comfort to know you’ve done this for others, and you’ll keep doing it for many more.
Love, the mum who cried at drop-off.
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