The course I taught that evening in the Fall of 1981 was called “Principles and Practices of Child Care.”

At that point, we had two children, Andrew and Matthew. And I was teaching every Monday night, at Triton College, in River Grove, Illinois.

It’s Monday again, I remember thinking as I got up that morning. Each week I vowed I’d get all my papers graded over the weekend. But most Mondays dawned, like this one, with half my papers left to grade and my Monday evening’s class lecture yet to finalize. 

I was crazy to think I could teach two college courses this term,I thought. Why do I feel overwhelmed teaching just five semester hours a week?

After a late breakfast, I sat in an easy chair with my two boys on my lap. They watched “Sesame Street’’ and “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” while I dozed off, trying to get enough sleep to last me until I got home from work at 10:30 that night. In the afternoon, while my children napped, I graded the remaining papers and went over my lecture.

Most of my students were studying to work in day-care centers, and few of them had a realistic picture of how stressful working with small children could be. So I’d been preparing a new lecture based on a professional journal article entitled ‘“Playing with Kids All Day’: Job Stress in Early Childhood Education.”

In my lecture notes I’d jotted down a list of job stresses mentioned in the article:

  • an excess of novelty and uncertainty
  • lack of control
  • high expectations
  • no clear guidelines or measures for success
  • frustrations
  • low status and low pay
  • poor accountability
  • ideals versus reality

Reading down the list, it hit me. This list of job stresses in early childhood education might have been my own job description as a mother.

And that night, I began thinking about my role as a mother and the job stresses that went with it. I read every article I could find on job stress and considered how each new insight into work-related stress applied to my work as a mother.

And in 1989, Motherhood Stress, Finding Encouragement in the Ultimate Helping Professionwas published.