It’s an honor to welcome Teresa Wiedrick to the Homeschool Compass today to share an excerpt of her book, Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer. Teresa is a homeschooling mom of 4 who makes her home among the Kootenay Mountains of Canada. She spends her days driving kids to dance classes, choir, curling, youth groups, soccer practice, playdates, and part-time jobs, tending her homestead, writing, staring at impressionist art, and reading like a hungry baby bird. Teresa is passionate about helping dissatisfied, overwhelmed homeschool moms shed what’s not working so they can live authentically, purposefully, and confidently.
Even before homeschooling, I was the kind of mama who tried to bounce a colicky baby on my knee while using the toilet. I was the kind of mama who purchased, and read, heaps of parenting books. Self-care wasn’t a widespread discussion when I began parenting twenty-two years ago. Self-care wasn’t part of the title of any book, and it certainly wasn’t on my daily checklist. Self-care is something I had to learn.
Even before my four children arrived, I wasn’t the kind of person that spent more than a minute walking through the drug store makeup aisle. I determined my lipstick colour in grade twelve. (Still going with that one — it is now known as Sephora’s Rum Punch). I learned to apply makeup watching soap operas in the eighties. (I stopped watching soap operas, but I’m still going with those makeup techniques.)
When I felt my efforts weren’t good enough, I strove toward perfection, instead of accepting my aptitudes, efforts, and weaknesses. When I felt angry, I let my feelings rip (into whoever was nearest), blaming that person for my feeling instead of taking charge of that feeling. When I felt overwhelmed, I whipped myself into unreasonable expectations, and whipped those around me into a frenzy too. Self-care for my physical needs, my emotional needs, and my mental needs weren’t my instinct.
I gradually came to understand I needed to take care of myself so I could continue homeschooling with a happy heart, or a mostly happy heart. When my children were little, self-care meant I aspired to independently use the toilet, and occasionally showering. Ignoring kids banging on the door was challenging. Auspicious days meant showering and prepping food for me, and countless baby latching hours sitting on the couch. Brushing my teeth was a gold star day. I had to save those 80s makeup techniques for the next decade. Now I have so many self-care strategies they could fill a book. (You may be holding it).
If You’re Human, You Need Self-Care
Everyone needs self-care. Just yesterday, my husband, a physician, returned from a shift in emergency, waved hello to my friend and me, and said he was going to the other room to engage in a little self-care. That comment sounded funny coming from his mouth. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him use that phrase, but after spending twelve hours assessing people’s needs, trying to be a peaceful presence in many anxious moments, he needed to decompress.
My husband’s version of self-care is a lot different than mine. He’ll scan Twitter, exercise on the elliptical, lift weights, practice Chariots of Fire on the piano, run our dog up and down the hundred-foot driveway, chainsaw trees on our homestead, or play online chess. Not one of those things would be on my list.
I don’t think there’s a profession out there that doesn’t demand a need for self-care. I don’t claim to think self-care is more necessary for a homeschooling mama than a front-line emergency worker, an airline pilot, a line typist, or a restaurant hostess. Different stressors, different expectations, but if you’re human, you need self-care.
Why Homeschool Moms Need Self-Care
Unique to the homeschooling mama is the continuous stream of her children’s presence. There are moments of pure gratification: watching the kids harmoniously engage, pursuing new interests, jumping hurdles, and being the cute kids we brought into the world.
Do you know what’s also ours? (I know you do.) A predictable, continuous stream of fledgling emotions, sibling bickering, complaining, distraction, and uncertainty in how to parent. I know you all have more to add to the list.
When my oldest was about eleven, I began to feel the creep of homeschool overwhelm. I was tired of the demands. I was tired of my expectations. I was tired of the way we were doing things. I was just tired. I didn’t want to keep homeschooling if I felt miserable. I had to find a way to build boundaries, build into myself, and feed me too. Self-care was a necessity, not an option.
I learned that when you replenish you, you have something to give. When you’re assuming this significant role, your kids need you to take care of you (then they’ll know how to take care of themselves later too). When you take care of yourself, you are living your life fully. When you take care of you, you can enjoy the homeschool job. (Let’s clarify, you’re not going to love your homeschool job all the time. That’s not a thing.) But most of the time, would be ideal. The most important reason to take care of you is to healthfully engage your physical, mental and emotional practices so you can be purposeful and satisfied in your homeschool mama role.
Try as any parent might, we are easily consumed by our oft-repeated uncomfortable emotions. We have our heartstrings tied to our children’s successes and failures, to their struggles and joys, to their disharmony and harmony. When we take care of ourselves, we can respond from a healthy place. We then can distance our children’s fledgling emotions from our egos, our sense of well-being, because quite simply, though they might have arrived through our womb, they are not us. Their choices are theirs. Their struggles are theirs. Their developmental stage is theirs. The unique stamp of personhood and their purpose in the world is theirs. We are not the main character on their stage. We are the main character on our stage.
The desire to hold our children’s challenges as though they are all ours is a constant temptation for the engaged parent. As homeschooling parents, we are most definitely engaged parents! So, we must take care to guard against hovering and helicoptering, co-depending or controlling, which don’t benefit the kids anyway and take way too much from ourselves.
The most powerful things I have learned as a homeschooling mama are to learn what I need, learn who I am and what makes me tick, what I’m interested in, what energizes me, and most definitely, what triggers uncomfortable feelings in me. Triggers of all sorts. Repetitive loud noises when someone is asleep in the house, kids who complain when asked to help bring in groceries, kids not willing to get into the car when we need to get somewhere, or kids who don’t want to practice violin even though they begged to play.
- consistent replenishing so we have something to give
- greater capacity to be present more of the time
- self-understanding of our triggers and learning to respond to them well
- perspective that our challenges are normal
- release from being responsible as homeschool mama all the time
Our goal is to experience an abundant homeschool life, the charmed life. We’ve got places to go, groceries to buy, percentages to explain, shirts to fold, and lessons to plan, so let’s accept that self-care should be on our essential to-do list.
For more homeschool encouragement and practical help from Teresa, be sure to pick up your copy of Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer
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