Give Me a Break!

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom

The homeschooling lifestyle isn’t sustainable when you’re doing it on your own. Yet many of us attempt to do so.

That concerned me when I began considering this path years ago. I already had two sons only seven months apart in age, and a daughter with special needs would join our family soon via another adoption.

Traditional school seemed like the natural, “normal” thing to do–and it seemed possible, compared to being with the kids 24/7. I always try to think positively, but I just wasn’t sure if I could do it. It didn’t seem like a long-term solution.

Yet in my heart I knew homeschooling was for us. So I began to read and study the opinions of other home educating authors. Many of them, women I deeply respect, expressed that homeschooling is a chance to die to ourselves as mothers. A chance to choose a lifestyle of service over comfort. As a Christian, I could appreciate their point.

At the same time, on weary days, it didn’t appear like I was of use to anyone. A mom with burnout is never a pleasant or joyful mom, no matter what facade she presents. Most of us vacillate between the mountaintops and valleys, visiting seasons of both in our attempt to cultivate an intentional life.

Then last year I happened across A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. I found my guilt lifting as I read her words:

So many times over my years as a mother, I had felt tired, overwhelmed, and worn out. So often I felt I couldn’t get any personal space to think, what with the continual onslaught of “Mommy! Mommy!” coming from the children, or the work I hadn’t finished staring me in the face.

I needed quiet time alone.

We need to do what we can…because our psychological and emotional health is essential to the fulfillment of our vocation. We can’t give to others what we don’t have. We can’t minister fully to our families when our eyes are turned inward to pain.” (pages 68 & 59)

I’m not kidding when I say that after reading these words, I sat with the page open, staring for at least 20 minutes. Could it really be that the way I felt made sense, wasn’t selfish?

I do believe I am called to a life of service; that’s exactly why I must care for myself–so I am best equipped to serve.

I am still a homeschooling mother of three young kids, now ages 7, 6.5, and 6. I’m also a blogger who writes 10-15 hours a week. I now have a weekly sitter who comes for a few hours during the morning.

I use those hours to write and run an occasional errand. But I don’t use that time solely for work. I also use it to rest, read, think in peace, and dream.

Look for other ways to give yourself a break even if you can’t currently afford household help. Trade afternoons with a friend. Make sure your children have a rest time in the afternoon, no matter what their ages. Author Holly Pierlot arranged with her husband to take every other Saturday “off” to get the break she needed.

We all have unique situations, unique stresses, unique seasons. We all have a love for our family, which often led us to homeschooling in the first place.

Don’t feel guilty about putting yourself back on the map. It makes the world a better place for everyone you love.

How do you care for yourself? Has there ever been a time when you failed to?

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. I’ve made two big commitments to myself – to get more rest and take one night off a week. As you can tell, the former I’m still working on but the latter has seen great success. One night a week, my husband gets home and I walk right out. I usually go to the movies or visit our cousins or just go sit at a bookstore. It’s peaceful, quiet time for me. It’s precious time with my thoughts. It has done wonders. I highly recommend it!
    Carla’s latest post: Blogging With Intention

  2. Loved your post. I often feel this way. My dear husband works on the North Slope in Alaska 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off. With 3 kids I can get so stressed out, from everything that needs to be done, and never having personal space. I loved the idea of having a sitter come over for a few hours. I need to do that. Thanks.
    Christal Houghtelling’s latest post: T-Ball

  3. I wholeheartedly agree! This is something I have known I need for a long time – something I am finally admitting that I haven’t doing. I appreciate that you mentioned some schools of thought which emphasize the “high calling” of motherhood and “dying” to yourself.

    In recent weeks I’ve been saying to myself, “It is a MYTH that you can do it all!” And if anyone looks like she is doing it all? I tell myself “there is just no way.”

    So instead of letting the pressures build until the steam is coming out my ears, I’m going to try to add little ways into my days and weeks which take care of me. Here are a few of my ideas: read a good book, paint my nails, wear perfume (Pacifica), take more baths, go to bed early, start running again. I’m definitely in need of more – so keep the comments coming!

  4. “…haven’t been doing.”
    Carole’s latest post: project-simplify didnt happen

  5. It’s much easier to make time to care for myself with older children (8, 10 & 11).

    When they were younger I napped several times/week during their rest time and also used their afternoon rests (mandatory in our home) to read and do hobbies I enjoyed. The internet was not as prevalent in my life than as now. I’m not sure how I would have managed if it was.

  6. I finally made myself get up early (like one of those good Christian homeschooling moms)(ha!) this morning, just for this reason.
    Jessica’s latest post: Stereotypes- y’all

  7. We’ve stumbled into a routine where I read aloud to the kids during their lunch for an hour to an hour and a half. It started when they were babies to try to encourage them to eat longer and now they demand I read! Then they are good to give me and hour or so afterwards to do my things. They are almost five and this has worked well for about a year or so. They stopped taking naps shortly after turning 2, so it has been hard to find time to myself.

  8. We took two weeks spring break – even though I felt I “should” keep going. I enjoyed having time to do some fun things with my kids. Now I feel refreshed and ready to start again, and I think my kids do too!
    sandra’s latest post: Spring Break

  9. This post is timely for me. As a home schooler of a kindergartener, and a three year old, I have felt that overwhelming feeling more than I would like to admit.
    I also have spent much of February and March sick because of “burning the candle at both ends.” Last year, upon your recommndation, I also read Holly Pierlot, and found inspiration and practical advice in it. I have come to the acceptance that my blog will have to be on the back burner for awhile…
    Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith’s latest post: I am the Light of the World

  10. I try to work hard during the day around the house, homeschooling, in my studio etc. and then set a really firm “off the clock” time at night once the boys are in bed. If something didn’t happen that day it must wait til tomorrow unless it’s absolutely critical- and rarely is laundry or the dishes or other chores critical! That time in the evenings is reserved for time with my husband, crafting, reading and other pursuits that help me feel refreshed during the day.

    Getting up early helps too, but I’ve fallen out of that habit since the time change, and I need to get back to it. Starting the day with time to myself made for smoother days- soooo worth it!
    Erin @ Mama in Progress’s latest post: Spring Birds- Part II

  11. I love this post! You’re exactly right when you say that a burned out mother has nothing to give to anyone — herself included.

    Since I began my weight-loss journey, 15 months ago, that has become my way of taking care of myself. I take time to workout every day before we start school. It’s amazing how a 3-mile run (which I’d never even dreamed I could do) can clear your mind and energize your soul.
    Kris @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers’s latest post: Homeschool Showcase 69

  12. Amen, Jamie! As I ask myself (and as others ask) how I plan to homeschool and write the amount I do, the only answer I can find that’s logical is, “I need help.” There’s no way I can do all this without some sort of regular mother’s helper and/or house helper. Possibly both.

    This issue needs to be much more publicly applauded, especially in the pro blogger and/or homeschooling community. There’s almost no other way to make it work.
    Tsh @ Simple Mom’s latest post: Project- Simplify- Hot Spot 5 Revealed

  13. I am strict about my bed time. I lights out with my girls at 8:30pm, and it’s very hard some nights, but it means 2-4 hours to myself in the quiet morning. Having those hours makes all the difference in the world.
    Becca’s latest post: The Homeschool Mothers Journal

  14. Jamie, when I get to the point (which I have, several times) of being within a hair’s breadth of getting in my car, driving to the airport, walking, and purchasing a ticket to just ANYWHERE ELSE … I know I’m overdue for a break, and haven’t nurtured myself adequately along the way.

    This past fall, I trained for a half marathon. I had never been a runner before, never run anything but a 5K — ONCE, halfway through my training. If you’d told me a year ago I’d run a half marathon in February 2011, I’d have fallen over laughing. But I needed a goal that had nothing to do with my three children, and was almost completely within my control (which, as we know, children are not). It was the best thing I did for myself. I trained with a group and a strict schedule. Saturday mornings were MY time, and I often got home just as the family was finishing breakfast. I hope I inspired them as well!
    Hannah’s latest post: Multitude Monday XVII- No Fair

  15. The last sentence of that amazing quote hit me the hardest:
    “We can’t minister fully to our families when our eyes are turned inward to pain.”

    I have never needed a post like this one as much as I do right now. Thanks 🙂

  16. What a joy to see someone reference Holly’s book! My Bible study group read her book three times! It has been so valuable to me! It’s been a few years now since I’ve read it and I’m thinking it might be time again!

  17. i am so happy i stumbled on to this blog.
    christina’s latest post: happy

  18. It just feels like there is no time to take care of myself. I have been experiencing exactly what you discribed, But it feels like to do ANYTHING for myself at all, there would have to be at least 2 more days of the week. I really enjoy reading your posts! Thank you for being such a blessing and encouragement. God bless you.

  19. This was encouraging to read! I’m homeschooling an 11, 9, and 6 year old, (one with special needs), and this is our 4th year homeschooling. I’ve noticed that every March I experience a bit of burn out. This year I decided that it was time to make some changes. After thinking about the fact that schools have janitors, I convinced my (cheap) self that hiring someone to clean the house once a week would be an investment! And I’ve been overjoyed with the result. It’s taken a lot of mental pressure off of me. When I see a toilet that needs cleaning, or that the kitchen needs sweeping, I’m able to take a deep breath and know it will get done this week, instead of feeling like its another pressing need to add to my already long list of tasks. It really has been an investment in a more sane & happy mom/wife! 😜

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