Dear Homeschooling Mama
by Sylvia Miller
I see you. I see you sitting across the room, nursing a baby while managing a toddler and answering a math question for an older child. I see you when I read your post on the forum, wondering how you’ll get everything done. I see you when you come to our support group and fret about curriculum choices and money. What I know is: You. Are. Tired. Not just tired from one night’s bad sleep, but tired from being touched all the time and being “mama”ed every waking moment. Tired from re-learning algebra or phonics. Tired from multitasking to an absurd level. Tired from stretching one salary or working part-time for money while working full-time at home for free. Tired from giving and giving and giving.
This is what I want to say to you: Take care of yourself, please. I love that you homeschool. I really, really want you to homeschool. But even more than that I want you to come out of homeschooling more than a husk. You run the risk of doing it all “right” to the point of losing yourself in the doing.
You, oh mama (who actually has a name other than “MAMA!” screeched at crystal-shattering tones), you were born a unique creation, with passions and gifts. God gave them to you. Those gifts didn’t go away when you became a mother, nor did they stop when you started homeschooling. But when you are tired, so very tired, often those things get put away so the limited energy can last.
Don’t misunderstand me: sacrificing for your children is noble and good. What I worry for you is that you have built a system where everyone gets life but you. Mamas burn out. They put their kids in school. They say things like, “homeschooling didn’t work for us.” Sometimes that is true. But sometimes, perhaps for you, caring for your own heart too, can prevent that burnout.
How can you care for yourself?
First off, admit what you are doing is hard. It is—FOR REAL. Sure, we all know the alleged super mom with 14 children who makes her own bread and everyone speaks Latin at the dinner table. Guess what? It’s hard for her too. We all need more time, more energy, and more patience at some point. Minimizing what you are going through doesn’t make it any easier. Parenting is not for the faint of heart.
Next is a scary step. Allow yourself to dream.
What do you want? What do you need? What do you love? If you had free time, what would you do? Are you an introvert who longs for quiet space or an extrovert who wishes for relationship?
Asking these questions is risky because they can wake up parts of you that you put to sleep. Wishing for something you don’t know how to get can be painful. Be brave. God put it in you, it is a treasure worth finding. If you keep answering, “I don’t know what I want,” ask God to show you, to give you vision, to help you find those dreams again. Turn off the practical voice that gives you all the reasons you can’t and imagine what you would do if you could. Knowing what you want, you wish, and you need is a powerful thing.
If you thought the last step was scary, this one might send you over the edge.
It is time to ask for help.
You don’t get any extra points in heaven for white-knuckling your way through life by yourself. If you have a spouse, God has given you a teammate who is there to protect your heart. Yes, he goes to work and is tired too. Guess what? It doesn’t get him off the hook. Ask him for what you need. You might have to modify your expectations on how he solves the problem, but give him the dignity of loving you how it looks for him. If he sent you out to the library to read for two hours and fed everyone ice cream for dinner, you got your two hours and the kids are still alive. It’s a win!
Beyond your husband, take the risk of letting your needs be known to others. God set us up in community, as messy and imperfect as it is. Who can help you keep your heart alive? Can you swap with another mom for time? Can you use the gym’s daycare? Can you hire an older homeschool kid to be with your children during the day for awhile? Can you find a Bible study that is homeschool friendly? Finding the time might seem daunting and it probably will be complicated, but it is worth it.
Mama, I know it is hard. I know because I am you. I write this at 11:00 p.m. on a Sunday night when I should be sleeping—because I love to write. I’ll be tired tomorrow, but I’ll also be a little more me, a little more centered, a little more in touch with the God who created me because of this time. So please, in the midst of it all: paint, sing, write, serve, create, read, laugh, meditate, explore, dance—find the thing that makes you a little more you.