This is, undoubtedly, one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written. I have cried a river in the last week while we were making this decision.
I am completely, utterly and totally committed to homeschooling my children. But I am also completely, utterly and totally burnt out. My health is getting worse, not better, thanks to a crazy schedule and work load. My family is concerned for my health, and rightly so. I’ve been working from 60 up to 90 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, for several years to keep us afloat through unemployment and some really tough economic times. And that’s on top of cooking, cleaning, laundry and schoolwork.
Homeschooling is a full time job. Keeping up with a house, cooking all the meals and doing the laundry is a full-time job. And on top of that, I actually work a full-time job with ample amounts of overtime, sometimes double time. I have 3.5-4 full time jobs. And I’m the only child of two disabled parents. My plate is overflowing.
Is it any wonder I’m not healing? Is it any wonder I’m getting worse? Stress can prevent you from healing and can even make you worse. That’s where I’m at right now.
For the first time, my children will be attending a small, private school this Fall. We’re going to take a break for a year and give me some time and space to slow down, heal and get back on my feet. At the end of next year, we’ll decide if we need to continue or bring them back home.
This has been a really hard decision to come to, and I’ve already had some homeschooling moms tell me I’m copping out or that I’d regret the decision. Other people have implied I’m not really dedicated to homeschooling. Some have implied I don’t love my children enough or that I’m not sacrificing enough. Funny enough, few of them have ever dealt with an extended illness or having no choice but to work if you want to keep your family fed, sheltered and clothed, much less both at once. I thought the mommy wars were bad, but truth be told, the schooling wars seem much more judgmental.
For as much as I love my children, the point of parenting isn’t to stick to dogma at all costs but instead of flex with the needs of both the individuals and the family. I am not so attached to homeschooling that I will continue it to the detriment of every person in my family.
My entire social network in real life is comprised of stay-at-home, homeschooling moms. And out of all of them, only two have shown support. Sometimes silence is golden, but sometimes it is also deafening. The judgement is brutal and I’ll full admit I find it hurtful. These women see how much I struggle with my own health, yet they condemn me for trying to do what is necessary to get better so I can parent and school my children as they do.
Sacrifice Now or Sacrifice Later
The fact is, most sick moms aren’t able to really parent the way they want to. When you’re sick, your children get less of you than they otherwise would, even in the best of circumstances. By choosing this route, I can be more available to them because my time and attention isn’t focused on their education, but instead recovering my health so I can parent as they need me to when they are with me.
I look at it like this- it’s better for my kids to have a mom who can homeschool them in the following years than it is to have a mom that is too ill to continue. A mom that isn’t there for them, isn’t around, maybe isn’t alive to see them graduate doesn’t benefit my children. Is a dead mom or a living mom that can’t participate in their lives better than a year or even multiple years at a school? Is one more year in homeschool better than having to enroll them somewhere for the rest of their education because I have permanently damaged my health?
For a long time, I bought into the idea that a mother should sacrifice everything for her children. Now I realize that sacrificing your health is taking something from your children because you’re stealing your present and your future with them. When you’re sick now, you can’t parent how you want and you might not necessarily be able to meet all of your children’s needs. When you don’t work to improve your health, you’re stealing your future together- your future with your children AND your future with your spouse. I want to see my children graduate, be able to attend my children’s weddings and hold my grandbabies. I had my great-grndmother until I was 24, I still have my grandmother now at 36 and it is a tremendous blessing.
I don’t want to teach my children that sacrificing myself for short-term gain but long-term loss is ok or that it’s ok to use someone at their own expense. We should value life in both the long-term AND the short-term. I don’t believe that some people are more valuable than others and that some are expendable. A women’s worth isn’t in her ability to rear and educate children, although when you’re in the trenches of motherhood, it’s easy to loose sight of that. Sacrificing myself to the point it effects my health is a form of selfishness and it can not continue. There are times and situations where sacrifice is acceptable, and there are times where it is not. For their long-term good and for mine, things have to change.
We have to keep in mind that one day our children will leave home. They will go out into the world to form families of their own. And at that point, you will be left with your partner to continue life and move on as a childless couple, once again. Childbearing and child raising is only one part, albiet it a very important part, of a life for both people in a marriage. My ultimate purpose isn’t to be a mother, it’s to be a child of God and a spouse to my husband. When he kids are gone, he and I will still be together. Life is a long journey and I want to have the strength to live it both now and in the future.
So for now, the landscape is changing. The plan is to have some time to rest while they are at school and re-arrange my working hours so I only do my job while they are at school. My goal is by Fall to only be working 25-30 hours a week, while they are at school, and to not need to work at all while they are at home. Then when they get home in the afternoons, I’ll be present for them. Once they’re in bed, I can go to bed, too.
It will be a bit of a challenge but we will figure out how to make it work for one year. Then we’ll re-evaluate and decide if we need to continue or return to homeschooling. But no matter where their education goes from here, I know I have given them a childhood full of exploration and taught them a love for learning. They’re both self-motivated learners, and they will go far.