One of my veteran homeschooling friends posted this question on Facebook today. It’s a good question, and I’m going to be honest right up front. I don’t have the answer. Still, I think it is a vital question for homeschoolers to ponder, especially in this back-to-school season. We homeschoolers give so much to our families, but we do need to nourish ourselves as well. How can we do that?
My seven year old daughter went to day camp for two weeks this summer – one in June and one in July. The first week I painted my bathroom. The second week, I relaxed. I took my teens to the mall and Barnes and Noble, went with a friend out to eat, went for walks, and read. Mostly, though, I breathed. As I made my way through that week, enjoying every precious moment, I thought about how for most parents, this is reality. Their children leave for 6 hours most weekdays during the school year. Even if they are working, they have the opportunity to talk to other adults. They get to be something other than mom.
I recently read Jennifer Fulwiler’s book, One Beautiful Dream. In it, she talks about nourishing your blue flame – that thing in your life you are passionate about. For me, it’s my faith, writing, and to a lesser extent, art.
So, I get up before everyone else and take time to pray. (I realize there are some stages of life when that is easier than others. Believe me, I’ve had my share of squeezing in prayer whenever I could.) Every Saturday that my husband is home, I also go to early morning Mass. Writing and editing is my work. It allows me to use my brain and earn some money. I work whenever I have the chance, frequently squeezing in a few minutes here and there. It adds up. Art has always been one of my loves. I majored in it college and those years of having the time to dedicate to creativity were some of the happiest in my life. So, I work on quilting on Saturday nights and I make time most days to spend 10 minutes drawing in a sketchbook.
Does this work? Do I feel like a fulfilled human being? Sometimes. Enough to keep me going.
Do you realize what you don’t see on my blue flame list? Parenting, homeschooling, or any domestic duty. I’ve always felt bad about that, looking at other mothers who seem to really enjoy being parents. I look at them and feel like a horrible person. Fulwiler talks about this. For some people, parenting really is their blue flame. They were born to take care of children. I’ve been a parent for over 17 years. I’ve never felt that way. I love my kids with all my heart. I’ve tried my best to raise them well and certainly prayed for God’s help on a daily basis (because they are His children first), but motherhood has never seemed like what I was born to do.
The same thing holds true for homeschooling. One of my friends was made to homeschool. She lives for it, spending her summers eagerly planning for the coming year. Then, there is me. God definitely called me to this life. I resisted for a while, but then He hit me with a metaphorical two by four, saying, “You silly woman, haven’t you gotten the point yet? These children need you to homeschool them.” Therefore, I know I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. I enjoy learning and I prefer homeschooling to sending my kids to school and dealing with that world. But once again, every day is a challenge. Every year, I face the start of school with a sense of impending doom.
Then, the question remains, how do you fill your cup? How do you live this homeschooling life and still retain your sense of personal well-being?
Homeschooling is a life of sacrificial love. (For those of you for whom homeschooling is your blue flame, I’m sure you have other challenges). We can offer up those sacrifices. But still, how do you balance giving so much to your family while still having something for yourself? How do you nourish your spirit so that you then have something to give to your family without feeling resentful? Is it selfish to want to be something other than a homeschooling mom?
I think that these are questions we all need to wrestle with and pray about so that we can figure out our own answers. After all, no two moms have identical situations. We can also acknowledge that those answers can change during different seasons of our lives: life with a newborn or toddler is vastly different than life with older children and teens.
And so, all I can offer to those of you struggling to fill your cup is a sense of understanding. You are not alone. Perhaps the greatest gifts we homeschooling moms can offer each other are prayer and support so that as we travel this road, we know others are there to hold our hands and encourage our own personal dreams.