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.