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 serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.

Comments

  1. Carla says:

    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. Carole says:

    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. Carole says:

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

  5. Renee says:

    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. Jessica says:

    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. sandra says:

    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. Becca says:

    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. Hannah says:

    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. Ariana says:

    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. Lucy says:

    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. christina says:

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

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