I'm so glad I'm not the only one! Over the past few weeks I've had this blog post idea percolating in my head. I wanted to try and take the time to find just the right words but finally realized that was fruitless. In watching Mom's Night Out, a movie ALL mom's can relate to no matter where you are in your journey, I realized we're all pretty much in the same boat. The mom's who look like they have it all together, the moms who admit they are a mess, the moms with clean houses, the ones who live with perpetual mess and clutter, the moms who become moms later in life and those that are young. The mom's of teenagers, tweens, toddlers, and babies; we all have something in common. We're all muddling our way through life, juggling our different balls, hoping and praying we aren't doing any permanent damage. I think there are time when we all worry that we're screwing up our kids, that we aren't doing a good job, and that we're just not doing enough. We aren't spending enough time with our kids, our house isn't clean enough, we aren't earning enough money, we aren't spending enough time with our spouses or enough time together as a family, etc. We read articles on enjoying every moment of our lives, embracing every moment of childhood since it's so fleeting, how to clean our house more effectively and being reminded of those things we probably aren't remembering to clean. Articles that, while probably trying to help, make my worry much worse. It's this worry that spurns us on to do more and to do better and while I don't know about you, it's this worry that often makes me feel overwhelmed and burned out. I know that this worry is also proof of our love and commitment, though. I tend to think if I never worried about how I was doing as a mother or a wife than that's probably because I don't care about my kids or my family. But I do care and I do worry about how my kids are going to turn out or what their future will be like. I really don't think this a job I can afford to fail. Yet, I don't want to feel burned out and stressed out either. I think over the past few years I've found a pretty happy place (mot of the time) and I hope that will continue.
So here's what I think we need to remember. I think the only times we truly fail as moms is when we stop believing in ourselves and stop supporting one another. We use our worries and our fears and compare ourselves to others, sometimes we fall short and feel like failures other times I think we use those comparisons to make ourselves feel better and in the process may end up making another mom feel bad (for example: "Ohh, she didn't breastfeed her baby AT ALL?! I breastfed my baby for the first year, phew! I'm doing better than she did). OK so maybe not all comparisons are quite so snarky or quite so cut and dried but you know what I mean. Comparing ourselves, our kids and our lifestyles is so unhealthy and yet I do think it's part of human nature. Sometimes I don't even notice when I'm doing it until way after the fact! I find that as a homeschooling mom my compulsion to compare has doubled or perhaps even tripled. I compare our lifestyle, our family, each of my individual kids to pretty much every other family and child we meet (in my head though). I'm aware that I compare so much more and I'm trying really hard to stop. For me, teaching and parenting from a point of fear just does not work. Thinking I'm failing doesn't necessarily make me more loving it just makes me more anxious and more on edge.
How do I know when I'm parenting from a point of fear? Well, usually it goes something like this: in my head I'm thinking, "wow, that kid is 8? S/he writes stories? Hm... we need to do more writing" or "look at that family laughing and smiling together, we're over here yelling and one of my kids is in tears... we need to laugh and smile more." Sometimes it's just a quick second and sometimes they're complete strangers! I've gotten better about tuning out some of that; now that we have so much more time to spend together as a family I don't worry about those days or moments where we aren't enjoying each other or making precious memories. I know we have lots of days where we smile, have fun and completely bond. We have lots of great family memories and I see my boys becoming real friends. I do however notice when we're having one of those days and I try to think of ways to change it up; head to a park, ditch schoolwork and get outside, go to a movie, something fun to change our perspectives and remind us why we enjoy homeschooling and I've really got to remember to do that more often.
I have totally failed about tuning out the comparisons of my boys education though. There are times when we're going along doing our daily thing and I can see their growth and progress. I feel elated at all that we've done together and how well they're turning out then a comment, an observation, another homeschoolers blog post; anything can make me start to question it all. Sometimes it's an innocent comment like when my husband reminds me they need to know how to write even if they don't like to (because he too worries about failing our kids), sometimes it's listening to another homeschool mom recount their day and I think wow, we don't do any of that! Sometimes it's my kids and their lack of exhibiting a skill I thought they had down pat. It doesn't always take a whole heck of a lot and then I'm back in my panic mode thinking we've got to do more. I've got to do better and get them caught up (or ahead).
I think more than parenting, homeschooling makes me scared. I'm newer to homeschooling than I am to parenting so I guess that makes sense. And just like there are a million different ways to parent there are a million different ways to homeschool. Articles written about how homeschoolers are advanced to their peers make me think we're doing the right thing but then I often think I must be doing it wrong because I don't think my boys are advanced at all. I hope they are equally good at academics as their peers and fear that they are probably behind but I would be surprised to find that they are ahead. Maybe I'm wrong and it's more of my compulsion to expect more and better of myself, I don't really know. What I do know is that the boys and I really love homeschooling and learning together. I know they are happy, healthy, and learning something new everyday. I know that their curiosity is abound and they have still have a thirst for knowledge. Veteran homeschoolers constantly tell me to relax and not to worry about it; that kids pick up skills fast when they're ready so anything that they might not yet be doing they soon will. They talk from experience and most of them have kids that are already in college and thriving. I love this advice and I know it comes from a place of support. But I'd be lying if I said it always helps (though it is always nice to hear!). The advice helps in part and I am able to think "Ok they know what they're talking about and I need to listen and stop freaking out," but I also can't help but worry that they probably homeschooled their kids differently and I still worry I'm doing it wrong.
When my sister and I met up at Launch a few weeks ago we were talking about the move Mom's Night Out and talking about how much we related to that. We talked about how that all carries over into homeschooling and it was a revelation to me to realize my sister felt the same way! People tell both of us that we're doing a great job, that we make homeschooling look and sound so easy, that we do so much in a day, etc. And yet she fully admitted that she needs to stop reading other homeschooling blogs and comparing her day to theirs! Phew! I'm not the only one! We both confessed that we thought we were just able to make it sound like we do a lot during our day because we know how to put that educational spin on it. I had to laugh when the next day a random stranger posted a picture on Facebook of her family out tubing during the school day and part of her caption read "poor homeschoolers stuck on a boat studying buoyancy, inertia and terminal velocity (when they fell off the tube)." I loved it and thought I would be stealing that line and using that in the future. I guess many of us homeschooling moms know how to put that educational spin on what we're doing. I think part of it that we're on the lookout for educational opportunities and we're more open to the idea that learning takes place everywhere at all time regardless of a teacher, a building, or books. Perhaps, much like parenting, the only way to truly screw it up is to stop caring and to stop trying. Perhaps I need to relax and have more faith in myself and my kids and know that our schooling isn't over. We have no definite date at which we stop learning in our lives and my kids are only a tiny way into their journey. I just need to relax, breathe, and know that I am enough. I do enough. I love enough. And I am right where I am meant to be. And don't worry, I'm sure that you are too! You love enough, you try enough and you're teaching them just like you were meant to even if you can't see it. Funny how we can see it for others though, isn't it?