Sunday, February 20, 2011

Preventing Meltdowns

This week a younger homeschooling mom called me in tears, feeling overwhelmed by the competing demands of homeschooling, the needs of her children, the needs of her husband, and the demands being placed on her at her part time job.  Notice that nowhere in the discussion did she even begin to consider her own needs....which had lead to her complete meltdown! 

Nowadays, I know that there are many reasons that can lead a mother to believe she needs to get out there and make money.  Some of these are genuine, like when a husband has lost his job and she needs to temporarily get out there and help out while he is looking for new employment.  Some are absolutely necessary, as might be the case with a single mom who is the only provider for the family.  However, sometimes, an adjustment in lifestyle might be the answer, so that her income is no longer required.  A lot of homeschooling families do this already, pinching pennies, buying bread at day-old stores, using coupons, etc.  This is all commendable, but in order to really be able to live on one income, bigger changes might be selling a large house and going to live in something more modest, or perhaps trying to make it with only one car.

Everybody has to make decisions like this on their own, because each family is different.  All I can share is my own experience.  Our family did its level best over the years to live within my husband's income.  Even now, I drive an older car I inherited from my mom, and we live in a house that many people would consider unacceptable...of course, others in third world countries would do anything for the luxury we enjoy within our four walls!  When I did do things to make some extra money, it was always something under my own control...things like teaching Lamaze classes as an independent contractor, starting my own dba to teach outside classes, switching to a non-profit corporation (with me still in control) when we grew too large.  Even today, I'm still an independent contractor working as an appraiser.

My point is simple, even though I feel like I'm beating around the bush a little...When a mom is considering employment outside the home, first consider if there is a way to make it unnecessary by cutting back.  Second, if a mom absolutely has to work, try to find some way to do it without having a "boss" other than yourself.  The reason is simple...women already have enough bosses without adding one more!  A woman is already accountable to God, to her husband, to her children, and to herself.  In addition, she may feel accountable (perhaps unnecessarily) to others outside the immediate family, like her parents, her in-laws, her friends, her homeschooling colleagues, or the evaluators in her school district.  It's no wonder we break down sometimes!  Adding in accountability to one more person, especially a boss at an outside job, might just be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Somewhere, somehow, homeschooling moms (and other moms, too!) have to stop and make some time for themselves.  Without having the time to re-center and re-energize, we have nothing left to give those who are depending on us everyday.   This is not selfish!  It is absolutely necessary for the family to function smoothly.  This includes things like eating right, exercising, getting fresh air every day, and finding time to learn things that you want to learn.  When you are planning activities for the year, throw yourself into the mix.  Also, remember that if every child in the family is "in balance", with just the right number of activities, and you add them all up and drive them there, you will be the one out of balance!  Don't feel like you need to spend every day doing things outside of the home in order to provide enough enrichment....spend some of your time "homeschooling"  actually being at home!  (And not necessarily hunched over schoolbooks, either!)  I feel like I'm preaching, but I get too many phone calls like this.  It shouldn't be this difficult to find the right mix.  Homeschooling can really be a relaxed, joyful experience.  If it isn't, figure out what needs to change in order to get that feeling back....Life is too short to spend it having meltdowns.

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