Listening to the Christian radio station yesterday, a woman called in to tell her story of what God had done in her life. She was a homeschooling mother of six, which immediately caught my attention. She explained that she had recently tried to take her own life. She had left the house, checked into a hotel room, turned off the GPS on her phone and taken an entire bottle of pills. Her husband called every hotel in the area until he found her, barely in time.
Her story had a happy ending, since she was the one calling in to the radio station, but it really made me stop and think. When asked why she tried to kill herself, she said that she just felt that she wasn’t enough. She was being spread too thin.
My first reaction to the story was, “What? Homeschoolers don’t do that! We don’t struggle to the point of being suicidal! We’re supposed to be the super moms who have it all together!”
But even in seeing my own first gut response, I realized the core of the problem. Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be an atmosphere in the homeschooling community that we have it all together. I think part of it comes from the fact that we’re doing something that’s against the norm. We’re constantly feeling like we need to justify our decision to not put our kids in school. In order to show that we made the right decision, we need to come across like everything is going fine. “Yes, we have chosen to be different and homeschool our kids and it’s going great! I told you we did the right thing!”
We’ve been homeschooling for seven years now, and I don’t at all regret the decision, but it certainly hasn’t been easy! There have been some wonderful times and so many things that I’m thankful for. There are also plenty of days that I’m pulling my hair out and want to scream! (And do scream…)
In our homeschool co op, I teach the K4/K5 class. When I’m there, of course, I’m on my best behavior. It would be too embarrassing to lose my temper in front of other moms, no matter how much my own 4 year old is the one misbehaving. A couple of the moms helping out commented on how patient I was and how amazed they were. I had to be honest with them. “Oh, don’t worry, I’m really not. It’s just a show. I’m not like this at home.” We all laughed and they said they do the same thing.
How can we be more real with other homeschoolers? Even with other parents and family members who don’t homeschool? Do we feel a need to constantly prove ourselves and justify our decision to others? Does it keep us from being real and genuine and getting the support and understanding we need?
When we’re honest about our struggles with others, especially those within the homeschooling community, it not only helps us, but it gives them the permission to be honest as well. We all benefit when we realize that we’re not the only ones who lose our tempers, holler at our kids, and get so frustrated that we want to scream. We’re not the only ones who feel stretched too thin and that we’re not enough. We’re not supermoms. When we know we’re not alone, we can gain strength from one another and realize that it’s not just us. What we’re doing is really hard. Totally worth it, but hard. We can pray for each other, keep each other accountable, and share ideas that we’ve found to be helpful.
I have three children, but I imagine that those with larger families might struggle with this even more. You might get the “You guys were nuts to have such a big family and now you’re paying the price for it” sort of attitude if you admit to feeling overwhelmed at times. Am I right? Or maybe the fear of encountering that attitude is there?
How about you? Do you feel free to be honest with other homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers when things aren’t going smoothly?