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I am quietly awoken by the voice of my 4-year-old around 7:20 AM.
“Good morning, Mom! It’s time for morning cuddles!”
He climbs into bed next to me, inhabiting the spot vacated an hour earlier by his daddy, and I cover him up with the blankets. He asks me questions like “Where does toilet water go on boats and ships?” and pretends we are tugboats. When there is a lull in the imaginative engines of his little brain, he turns to me and says, “Let’s look at our memories.”
I roll over to grab my phone off the nightstand. I open Facebook to show him videos and pictures of years gone by. This is the latest addition to our morning routine.
While watching a few videos, I notice his body squirming a bit more and more and send him to the bathroom to relieve himself, albeit too late. I run him a bath, go make coffee, and climb back into bed. I’m joined a few minutes later by his older brother.
Ezra is calmer and less wiggly than usual, so I relish the time instead of jumping up to get him his meds. I pull him close and kiss his no-longer-squishy cheeks. I stroke his forehead and his hair and tell him how much I love him. The sillies start to kick in. He climbs on top of me and hugs me tight, declaring, “You’re despicabled!! YOU HAVE TO ESCAPE!”
Rather than resorting to the tickles I usually use to escape his “despicable” grasp, I wrap my arms around him and squeeze.
I am reminded of the words of a recent viral Facebook post about self-care:
“True self-care is…making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.”
Because in this moment, I don’t want to escape. I want to breathe in this moment and remember it forever.
Homeschooling has transformed me. I keep using that word because it’s the only word adequate enough to describe this change.
When I was a public school mom toting my kids hither-and-yon and soaking up my 3-6 hours of alone time during the day, I looked at homeschoolers with a disdain borne out of misunderstanding. Especially my fellow-introvert moms. I didn’t understand how they could be around their kids allllllll dayyyyyyy lonnggggg without losing their ever-lovin’ minds.
As it was, I ALWAYS felt like I needed to escape. And any alone time I got never felt like enough.
I was always exhausted and always overwhelmed.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Because when people ask me, “How are you doing?” I find that my standard answer hasn’t changed. I’m still exhausted.
But this exhaustion is SO very different.
I didn’t realize that the last few years I was exhausted and…
Exhausted and guilty.
This is NOT in any way to say that if you are not a homeschooling mom, you have anything to feel guilty about.
But I felt guilty all the time.
Guilty that we were always late for school, preschool, and end-of-day pickup
Guilty that we overslept again
Guilty that I didn’t pack lunches and lay out clothes the night before
Guilty that Ezra was out of clean uniform clothes again
Guilty that we didn’t do homework
Guilty that I wasn’t volunteering more
Guilty that I didn’t really want to pick them up at the end of the day
Guilty when they gave me the bad reports…again
Guilty that my boys were the hitters and the yellers
Guilty that I was “that mom” of “those boys”
Guilty about the lunch food that got thrown away every day because they couldn’t focus to eat
Guilty about all the money we were spending on their therapeutic programs
Guilty that I always wanted to escape
Guilty that I didn’t really want to be around my kids
Exhausted and worried.
Worried that no matter how much we tried, it was never enough
Worried that the meds weren’t right
Worried that because he got his meds earlier or later he would have a bad day
Worried about what the staff thought of me and my late arrivals and my disheveled appearance
Worried about what the other parents thought of me
Worried that he was falling behind academically
Worried that I was going to get another call from the school social worker about my kid needing a “threat assessment”
Worried that it was always going to be this hard
I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. The guilt, the worry, the exhaustion of constantly checking the clock to estimate just how late we were going to be (again), the managing schedules and pickup times to keep the trains running smoothly…it wore me down in ways I didn’t realize.
I would collapse on the couch after preschool dropoff feeling like I had run a marathon, then start counting the 2 1/2 hours until I had to do it all again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
As a homeschooling mama, I’m exhausted. But I’m exhausted and happy. Exhausted and satisfied.
I’m always going to worry about my kids and find something to feel guilty about, because that’s the unfortunate reality of being a perfectionistic mother.
But the list of things I worry about and feel guilty about is a LOT smaller.
Because if he wakes up at 6AM, I can give him his meds without worrying about an early crash at school…and just adjust our schedule accordingly.
Because if he pulls an all-nighter, I can let him sleep until 9 the next day.
Because I know when he will be engaged and when he will be unlikely to complete school work due to lack of focus.
Because the earliest we have to be anywhere is 10AM, making it much easier to be on time.
Because if we have no clean clothes, we can stay in pajamas all day.
Because I know that even on days it feels like we have gotten nothing done, learning has still happened.
Because when you slow down and don’t have to rush, you have time to breathe and cherish the good moments more easily.
Because I pour my heart and soul into these little beings all day long. So when it comes to the end of the day, even if it’s been a frustrating day where I’ve wanted to pull my hair out, I lay my head on my pillow and rest easy because I know I did right by them.
Homeschooling is loud and messy and cluttered and chaotic and overwhelming and frustrating and LOUD. But it’s also beautiful and rewarding and heartwarming and, dare I say, even peaceful sometimes.
I still treasure my alone time, and I still seek out snippets to be away from my kids.
That desperate need to escape my kids is just gone.