Get a Life, Mom!


I had a friend over the other day that asked about my hobbies. My oldest (who always has one ear on any adult conversation) piped in and said, “She loves folding laundry. She has this hobby of piling up the laundry on the couch and just folding it all night. She does it all the time.”

Laundry?! My friend and I had a good laugh at my sons perception of my “special interests”. But his comment got me thinking. Since becoming a mother of many I had pretty much given up trying to find time for personal interests. I figured I would get back to my hobbies one day when the kids were at school. I hadn’t accounted for the fact that we would homeschool and the kids would NEVER leave!

Thinking I could kill two birds with one stone, I made “homeschooling” my hobby. Then I wouldn’t have to find more time (or become frustrated when there was no time) for more personal hobbies. In my moments of discretionary time I researched curriculum, created lesson plans, and scrolled through educational ideas on Pinterest. This seemed like a good enough outlet, until... I was getting short tempered and losing patience with my kids. I wistfully fantasized about the school bus taking some of my kids along for the ride. I got grumpy easily and felt resentful of my husband's many hobbies. I got tired of our curriculum choices and began second guessing my ability to homeschool in the first place. I started sliding into the depression funk. In short, I got burned out.

After a good chat with a family therapist I learned that “homeschool research” (and laundry folding) didn’t cut it as a rejuvenating hobby for this girl. I was sent home with a prescription to take a least fifteen selfish minutes a day. It could be anything- a hot bath, reading a book, going for a jog, rocking in the closet... whatever. But it had to serve only me.  The therapist warned that although it wasn't selfish, that it would FEEL selfish at first- and that's how I would know I was getting some proper "me" time.

Taking time for myself should’ve been easy after that. I had a doctor’s note and everything! But mom is a popular person in a homeschool house and I couldn’t believe how tricky it was to orchestrate a moment to myself. I felt guilty about ditching my husband with the kids when he got home from a long day at work or church. I hated how the house fell apart when I did get away. And, honestly, I was also a little worried that if I got a taste of freedom I would never want to come back. Attempts at locking myself away during the day were futile. (My two year old picked the lock on the bathroom!) So I settled on a few minutes each night after the kids were asleep. Instead of finishing up chores and dropping into my nightly coma like I used to, I let the dishes wait and took some “me minutes” instead.

It is true that eople can always find time for the things that are most important to them. It was time for me to put myself a little higher on the priority list. I have been very pleased with the results of taking better care of myself and I highly recommend my fellow homeschool moms do the same. You and your entire family will benefit from your efforts.

Now, if you are like me and need further convincing that its okay to "look out for numero uno" sometimes, here is some justification I have collected to help drop the guilt.

One of my all time heroes, Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley gave the following counsel to a grand-daughter heading to college that, I think, applies to homeschool moms as well: "Study something . . . so you have interesting things to think about while you do your ironing." This works! Having personal interests elevates the mind amidst the mundane.

Sister Hinckley also said this: “Develop some intellectual curiosity. If you have it, you will never be bored. If you haven't, cultivate it, hold fast to it. Never let it go. To the intellectually curious, the world will always be full of magic, full of wonder. You will be interesting to your friends, to your spouse, and a joy to your children. You will be alive to all the wonderful possibilities of this world.” Modeling enthusiasm for learning is one of the most valuable lessons we could teach our children.

An overwhelming number of the homeschool moms I know are self-sacrificing to a fault. This must be a common problem for followers of Christ as evidenced by the counsel in the following scriptures:

Mosiah 4:27, And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

Doctrine and Covenants 10:4, Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you to translate; but be diligent unto the end.

Exodus 18:18, Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.

My first time on an airplane I was astonished that, in case of emergency, adults were told to secure their own oxygen masks first before helping a child. I thought this seemed selfish. But now I understand, the adult can’t help anyone if he/she has passed out from lack of oxygen. Likewise, moms need to take care of themselves. They are not nearly as useful to their children if they have burned out, passed out, or checked out.

Someone who understands what a homeschool mom goes through more than anyone demonstrated what to do when everyone demands your attention all the time. Having begun his ministry, the Savior had been teaching and healing the multitudes, feeding thousands. People were even breaking through roofs to see him! An exhausting time to be sure. In Mark 4:38 we learn the Savior had his disciples sail a ways off from the shore where he had been preaching and he slept. We also need sleep.

The Savior taught by example in Mark 1:35-37.  “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” This was at a time when his disciples said, “All men seek thee”. His time was in high demand, but he took care to nourish his soul before beginning the day.

I have been thinking about the parable of the ten virgins. That one always bothered me because it seemed so harsh that the wise virgins couldn’t share. Wasn’t the Savior always teaching that through service and sacrifice we would find joy? Why then wouldn’t the virgins be blessed for donating their oil? That’s the way the story should have gone, shouldn’t it? But that’s not how Christ told it. If we are to be among the wise that endure until the bridegroom comes we must care for ourselves. 

Sometimes I mistakenly think I can do it all. God will magnify our abilities when we are doing his work to be sure, but, alas, we are not superhuman. We are mortal, and mortal laws apply. We must take care of ourselves to be of use in our Father’s work.

So, moms, take your 15 minutes a day. (At least!) Nourish your spirit. Nourish your body. Nourish your mind. THEN you can nourish your family without going insane. As I am sure Smokey the Bear’s homeschooling mother would say, “Only, YOU can prevent burn-out!” ;) Sacrifice responsibly, my friends, and homeschool on!

------------------------------------ Jana is a mother of five who has recently rekindled an old flame with some of her hobbies. She loves reading, writing, design, science, exercising, good food and dancing when no one is looking. She loves having the opportunity to learn alongside her kids and hopes she can maintain her sanity long enough to do it for a very very long time. --------------------------------

Originally Posted on Latter Day Homeschooling