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How Can You Stand to Be Around Your Kids All Day?

How Can You Stand to Be Around Your Kids All Day?See the title, above.

That is currently the most common homeschooling question I get these days. (And, lest you are wondering, it’s almost always from people who don’t know my children, so it’s not a reflection on them.) This is followed closely in frequency by, “I need me time!” And then the mother (always the mother) cocks her head and wonders why my jaw has dropped to the floor.

It’s never about academics and not even about socialization. It’s about how can I “give up” so much precious scrapbooking and luncheoning time to educate my own kids.

Doing a bit of research for my post about starting a homeschool game club this week, I was taken aback. Again.

While I understand that a parent transitioning from public school to homeschool might be a bit overwhelmed with taking on more responsibility for socializing their children,* reading some current periodicals threw me back on what our culture really does to children, their parents, and the relationship between the two. 

Parents have become accustomed to having “the state” sponsor and manage most of their children’s waking hours and even the thought of  spending all summer long with their own children is enough (apparently) to put many parents over the edge. The idea is commonly accepted. And awful. In disgust I posted on Facebook:

Writing a post for a homeschool blog and doing a little research. Have to tell you I’m kind of appalled at the plethora of articles written to help parents “survive” the summer with their kids at home. (Oh, the burden!)

Have we really collectively forgotten how to take care of our own kids? Augh!

The response to this comment was generally positive. It got a bunch of likes and a slew of positive comments. Two women — both of whom I know to be conscientious, loving mothers — objected. I would like to address their objections specifically. I won’t use their real names unless they tell me otherwise.

Mom #1:

I love summer days with my kids but I am not going to say that there haven’t been days that were very difficult. A better frame of mind is how can I as a parent have self care time and recharge my energy while on a summer schedule. Not everyone homeschools and not everyone has experienced parenting kids who need 24/7 line of sight supervision.

Burden doesn’t have to be a negative word- and some children’s special needs are heavy to bear. We really have no right to judge. In the context you are speaking- yes, feeling burdened by your children’s very presence is not pretty. Parents who feel capable, are resourceful themselves and securely bonded to their children don’t feel those things that offend you. But when real attachment issues exist, its another plane of living and loving and parenting.

This comment, like the one below, makes several good points. But I think those get mixed in with things that might not be accurate in general circumstances and tend to cloud the issue. Again, these are both good moms — easily better than I am. This is about reasoning through a cultural issue.

Self Care

I really, truly don’t think it’s a “better frame of mind” to worry more about “self care time.” I think it’s about child care. Period. We have kids and we determine what is best for them.

Of the hundreds and hundreds of moms I know, only a tiny fraction really don’t indulge in enough “self care time.” Everybody spends time on non-essentials for pleasure or R&R — and no one gets to do it as much as they would like. But almost everyone gets enough to be functional —and even awesome — if they prioritize their parenting.

Also understand that “self care” looks different to everyone. Some possibilities:

  • Getting a manicure and pedicure
  • Reading a novel
  • Commenting on Facebook
  • Pinning billions of items on Pinterest (I know who you are!)
  • Blogging (you know who I am!)
  • Scrapbooking or other crafting
  • Baking
  • Doing volunteer service (yes, this is self care to many)
  • Talking to or meeting with friends
  • Watching TV or movies

Sure, some moms don’t get made up and dressed for the day, but that’s not the same thing as not getting any “self care.” Not all moms value getting made up and dressed for the day and those who do make time for it. (I get made up and dressed every day and  it takes 14 minutes, including shower, hair, full makeup, and clothes. But, no, I’m not a fashion plate. I value it about 14-minutes worth.)

Frankly, I think self care has become an indulgence of  relatively prosperous generations. When people for centuries have lived subsistence lives — and many still do — and are happy and fulfilled, I’m hard pressed to think that we really need a whole lot of “self care” in order to be happy, productive, and positive people and parents. And I’m even harder pressed to think we need more than most of us get. We’ve been lead to believe that we we need to spend all sorts of time fulfilling ourselves instead of doing our duty. And I think that’s backwards.

If you’re the true exception, so be it. Don’t try to convince me. You know your circumstances. Do what you need to do.

I do know a couple of women who have so many responsibilities — actual, real responsibilities (as opposed to choices that make them busy) — that they are required to spend most of their waking hours (and some they should not be awake) trying to complete them. For them this applies. They need a break and to somehow get more “self care.” And this particular mother indicated that she has some special needs children. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, and that would be one.

But in our culture — the culture my statement was aimed at — lack of “self care” is rarely a significant issue.

Don’t Judge

The “how dare you judge me” or “who are you to judge” or “we have no right to judge” has been a pet peeve and hobby horse of mine for years. Because it’s nonsensical for myriad reasons.

  1. In order to chastise someone for being judgmental, you must yourself be judgmental. If you really have a problem with making judgments, start there.
  2. We can’t survive — let alone choose a breakfast cereal — without judging. We judge all day long, out of necessity.
  3. We are scriptural commanded not to judge. In my interpretation (and the only one I think makes sense) that means we can’t make eternal judgment because we aren’t equipped to do so. In other words, I can’t tell you that you’re going to hell and I can’t determine whether someone else is closer or further away from heaven than I am. God is the only one who can (and should) make such judgements.
  4. Good parenting requires judgment of parenting. Without determining what good parenting is as compared to bad parenting, we can’t work toward becoming good parents.

Mom #2:

Ouch. Summer is crazy hard for me, partly because my kids are home. All. The. Time. (Along with a dozen neighborhood kids at any given moment-who I welcome with open arms because I DO want my kids to be here with their friends, but are definitely an additional amount of work.) But also because of the impossibility of having a semblance of a routine. I create one, and really do fairly well to maintain it, but there are just too many seasonal interruptions to make anything feel ”normal” and my family desperately needs a routine to function. I am not a bad mother, I have not forgotten how to parent, but I read those articles and implement some of their ideas! And although I’m making this about me, I’m really just trying to make a point: just because you are an amazing mom who is able to juggle homeschooling among many other responsibilities, please don’t be disgusted by the mothers who are doing the best they can, day in and day out, and who need help ”surviving” the overwhelming task that is motherhood-sometimes in one season more than another.

(And Alison, I look up to you so much as a mother…your approach to parenting your children is something I really admire. I guess I felt compelled to comment because I was a little hurt that you would be so appalled by how much I, and other loving parents, struggle to parent our children cheerfully and proficiently. But I get that you were commenting on society, and our country/government, at large, and I agree with your point.)

This dear mom conflates a couple of issues that cause distress.

First, she’s stressed because her own kids are home all day. This is the problem I’m addressing. The stress comes about because for most people the norm is to have kids gone all day. We are so used to having someone else manage them, that it’s just super uncomfortable — and abnormal — to do it ourselves. I see that as an enormous problem.

Second, she’s stressed because there are “a dozen neighborhood kids” at her house, too. I can understand that stress, but it’s under her control — if she wants it to be. She can set the boundaries she’s comfortable with. The kids can come for a period of time she is comfortable with. After that time all the kids (including her own) can go elsewhere or the other kids can go home and her own kids can be involved with things without all the whirlwind of friends.

During the summer, we keep up pretty much the same schedule we have all year, with changes for camps, vacations, holidays, etc. In other words, my kids do chores and schoolwork most mornings and “hang out” in the afternoon. Nothing says children have to have friends over at the crack of dawn just because it’s summer. You decide.

Third, the summer doesn’t feel “normal” because she hasn’t classified having her children home and the summer seasonal interruptions as being normal. Instead, school is what’s “normal.” It really is that simple. Christmas is a seasonal interruption, too. But I don’t see lots of articles advising frazzled parents on “How to Survive Christmas with Your Children at Home,” do you?

If your family, as hers (and mine), need routine, you can create it and you can manage it. Once you set your own boundaries and incorporate the “seasonal interruptions” in the routine, it becomes “normal.”

Fourth, I’m not an “amazing mom.” And that’s not remotely false modesty. Someday one of my kids is bound to write a tell-all book proving my point. It’s not about being perfect or even awesome. It’s about looking at the things we do and assessing them.

This is just one assessment: how good are we at being around our kids and seeing it as positive and normal.

I do happen to be pretty good at that one, but there are myriad other parenting assessments that I’m lousy at — and working on! It’s a process for all of us.

I would love to hear and discuss particular issues about the difficulty of being with our kids all summer — or all year. Please post in the comments if you have a specific!

* For most parents/kids it’s much simpler to provide quality socialization than to counter the negative socialization and onslaught of peer pressure in any public school. Generally homeschooling reduces the load in that regard. Honest.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Kathleen November 4, 2013, 5:01 pm

    I homeschooled my three kids for a lot of years, as we traveled around the world while my husband worked in various places. I didn’t have a back up system of grandparents, aunts or friends to help me, it was just me. One of my kids had special needs, although not to the same extent as a lot of special needs kids. It was hard. That’s it, just hard. However, I didn’t hate it and I didn’t usually get stressed about it.
    I think that if we want to create routine, which always helps kids, we can do whatever we set our minds and hearts to do. For us, it was breakfast, chores, school and then a few days a week we would go out and explore our surroundings. They were signed up in activities and they had friends. I always liked it better when the friends were at our house because then I knew what was going on.
    We all have to make our choices when it comes to raising our children. Hopefully we strive to do what is best for them to become happy, contributing members of society. People who can stand on their own two feet as adults. We shouldn’t wish away our time with them though. All too soon it is over and we look back and wonder where the time went.
    I will be eternally grateful for the time I was able to spend with my children. There were times when we drove each other crazy, but we had a lot of fun together and we learned a lot from each other. As adults, they are wonderful people and I love to spend time with them now.
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  • Alison Moore Smith November 4, 2013, 5:33 pm

    Kathleen, with three kids in college and the second of the bunch about to get married, I can attest to how fast the time goes.

    Of course, I didn’t believe that when then were little. I think it was when my oldest turned 9 and I realized she was half-way to legal adulthood that I was overcome by the notion of her leaving home. I didn’t feel “half-way done” with her!

    “Don’t they go by in a blink?” (to quote William Parrish.)
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Another Mormon WeddingMy Profile

  • Tiffany W November 5, 2013, 6:25 am

    I really liked this piece. I love school breaks and summer vacation. I love the break from a rigid routine. And I love having flexibility for the kids to play or read or just be lazy. I also love the break from being the homework enforcer. Today we have a day off and it is just so nice. I live in New York, where my family of almost six children (we have a baby on the way) is considered HUGE. People cannot believe that I have so many children, that I remain relatively sane, and that I don’t have help in the form of a nanny or housekeeper. That is because the norm here is for additional household help, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But what happens is that these families don’t ever develop the skills of being with their kids often and how to manage the household work of a family. I often respond to the questions that I grew up in a large family where my mom raised me to be able to take on these responsibilities. I don’t downplay the amount of work and effort, but I do remind people that I find a lot of joy in that work.

  • carnie November 5, 2013, 6:43 am

    What if your kids are brats?

  • Alison Moore Smith November 5, 2013, 7:48 am

    Tiffany, thanks. I can’t even imagine the looks you get with “so many” kids in NY! When I was pregnant with #3 in Boca, I was actually accosted by a senior citizen in the Boca Raton Home Depot who yelled (in front of my two little girls) “How dare you! We should only replace ourselves!”

    As we went along to having four girls (before the two boys), I got one of three responses

    1. “Oh, trying for the boy!”
    2. “Oh! The weddings! The weddings!”
    3. “Just wait until they’re teenagers!”

    Sigh. 🙂

    Oh, and when I’d go out in the mornings to work out (which generally involved me on roller blades, a couple of kids in a double jogger, and the rest on bikes), I was met almost exclusively by nannies. And I got funny looks when I swept my own porch. (Weird!)

    But what happens is that these families don’t ever develop the skills of being with their kids often and how to manage the household work of a family.

    Exactly. I love your positive attitude and response!
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  • Tamsyn November 5, 2013, 8:01 am

    There are plenty of articles addressing Christmas vacation, and even a popular song that addresses it, “And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again…”

    Public school lasts most of the year, it shouldn’t be surprising that this is what feels “normal” to most parents. For me, even if my kids did go to public school, I would still have kids around all day because only one is formally school age, as is the case with many mothers. I don’t know many mothers who despise summer vacation. Most mothers I know embrace it and they have a lot of fun with their kids before having to send them back. I too hear the argument this post addresses, and it’s always from amazing parents that really do love to be with their kids, it’s just not what is “normal” for them. It’s a natural product of public school, and has nothing to do with poor parenting. This post felt uncomfortably judgmental to me, and I’m with my kids 24/7.
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  • Marnie November 5, 2013, 8:21 am

    Of course it’s judgmental, Tamsyn. The article even says so. hahahaha Did you read it?

  • Tamsyn November 5, 2013, 9:32 am

    Of course I read it. I was saying that to me it was uncomfortably judgemental. My question is, who is this article trying to help? I don’t think a parent who reads this will come away feeling more likely to want to homeschool, nor does it make homeschoolers look like welcoming people. If we are going to judge anything, it should be our culture, not the people who are a product of it. If we want there to be change, we need to offer real solutions, and not simply criticism of those who feel differently.
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  • Alison Moore Smith November 5, 2013, 12:07 pm

    Tamsyn, as I said in the piece, calling someone out for being judgmental is just a funny circular thing.

    The piece, as it says in the piece, is “…about reasoning through a cultural issue.” So I address the issue as I see it and address some specific points those from another viewpoint have.

    There are plenty of articles addressing Christmas vacation, and even a popular song that addresses it, “And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again…”

    I’ve seen hundreds of articles with advice on how to survive the summer with kinds HOME. I simply haven’t seen a plethora of those you refer to (although, yes, I’ve heard the song). I doubt they are in remotely the quantity as the summer ones. I think this is true because, as I said above, people think it’s NORMAL to have their kids home at Christmas. They don’t think it’s NORMAL to have them home in general.

    When I search for surviving Christmas, I get mostly results like this:

    • Surviving divorce during the holidays
    • Surviving Christmas after divorce
    • Surviving death during the holidays
    • How to survive your first Christmas after the children have moved away
    • How to survive Christmas alone
    • How to survive the holidays with extended family
    • How to survive travel during the holiday

    All things that are generally unusual or abnormal. There aren’t lots of article about, say, “Surviving Christmas with a Tree” or “Making It Through Christmas With Lights.”

    Public school lasts most of the year, it shouldn’t be surprising that this is what feels “normal” to most parents.

    Actually, it’s a bit less than half of the year but, like I said, yes. That’s the point. Having the kids gone 180 out of 365 days per year has made it normal enough for the kids to be gone, in the care of someone else, that parents can’t fathom how to “survive” with them home. That is sad.

    It’s a natural product of public school, and has nothing to do with poor parenting.

    Two thoughts on this. Yes and no. 🙂

    Yes, I think it is a natural product of public school. And it should give us pause to realize that one of the “natural products” of public school is that people forget how to “survive” with their own kids in their own homes.

    As for poor parenting…I don’t think necessarily reflects poor parenting, but I don’t think it has “nothing” to do with it. If a parent can’t handle being around their own children, is that “good parenting”? If they get so accustomed to having their children gone, that they feel having their kids home is an undue burden — and they don’t RECOGNIZE that that’s a terrible attitude toward being around their kids and the don’t attempt to MODERATE that attitude, is that “good parenting”?

    I’m hoping that we stop seeing this “good heavens the little brats are home, what the #$%&! am I going to do now??!!!” attitude as normal and acceptable.

    Either that, or let’s start writing articles like, “How to Survive Summer With My Stupid Stay-at-Home Mom.”
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  • Alison Moore Smith November 5, 2013, 12:17 pm

    carnie, I’m not sure if you’re just being sarcastic. If not, then what about teaching your kids not to be brats? 🙂
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  • Tiffany W. November 6, 2013, 8:04 am

    It also occurs to me that it is rather ridiculous to assume that any parent is constantly attending to one’s children all day long. (Unless you have a child that has special needs and really does need that level of attention. In that case, just ignore this comment.) When my kids are home for the summer, there are times when we are really busy, interacting with one another but that doesn’t happen the whole day. There are periods where the kids are doing their own things and I’m doing my own things. When I was a kid, we did our chores in the morning and then were free to play the whole day. My mom wasn’t hovering over us. She had things to do and figured we were capable of keeping ourselves entertained. If we started fighting, she sent us outside.

    Even during the summer, I still have time to do things I enjoy, like scrapbooking or reading. If my kids are getting on my nerves and we all need a break, that’s usually when I have everyone take a book and start reading.

    As I understand from my friends who homeschool, you aren’t constantly teaching. There is time for other things and you have more flexibility.
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  • Alison Moore Smith November 7, 2013, 9:04 am

    Tiffany, exactly right.

    When we built this house, we built a lab that is connected to my husband’s office, that is connected to my office. My office is huge — because it’s not just my office. It’s also the homeschool room, the computer room, etc.

    So, when I blog or do tech work on my own sites — in fact, as I’m typing this — my kids are at an adjacent table doing schoolwork. We talk about what they are working on, have discussion, answer questions, and then I turn around and work until they have another question or need to shift activities or something. 🙂

    They’ve done schoolwork in the rec room while I’m on the treadmill. They’ve done it in the kitchen when I’m cooking. They’ve done it in the car when I’m running errands. They’ve done it on the trampoline — because…well…who doesn’t like trampoline school better than desk school?

    And when they are not doing schoolwork, I’m not following them around, either. 🙂
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