If nothing else on this blog, I have tried my best to be genuine. It's easy to share the good times, the successes, the advice, and of course, my *good* opinion. It is infinitely harder to share the mistakes, the trials, and yes, even the failures.
It is vulnerable in the particular, squirmy way that few of us enjoy suffering in real life, let alone in the virtual world. But, in this world where, increasingly, the life of a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother seems to be dwindling into the realm of mystery, I feel a sort of responsibility to be honest in this place. So, I have tried to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of my journey, lest I encourage (or discourage) anyone else from walking a similar one with confidence due to sugar-coating on my part about what this crazy roller-coaster looks like (at least in my neck of the woods.)
And the fact is, lately, I've been stumbling.
Suffice it to say I've been through a rough a season where I came to question in my heart what my head has known for years: That my worth lies in being a daughter of God and in following His will for my life. And that perfect will, as far as I've been able to discern over the past decade, has been to lay aside many of my former ambitions, lay them at His feet, and become a full-time wife, mother, and home educator.
Sometimes, it's hard not to listen to the wooing world. To not say, "I can do that and..." To not tell myself I can have it all when, time and again, experience has shown me that cutting corners is not in God's plan for this gift of family He has blessed me with.
For this season, I am being called to focus. Inward, homeward. To quiet my lively soul and learn the peace of a submissive spirit. (If you know me, you're probably laughing at that statement right now. Submission is not my strong suit.) But here's the thing, It's HARD.
Let me repeat that.
Being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom is THE HARDEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE, and if I'm truly honest, there have been days and weeks and months where I have wanted nothing more than to quit. To throw in the towel and go back to life as a work-away artist. To get to eat at least one meal a day where no one throws their food on the floor or rubs peanut butter in their hair or interrupts me for yet another glass of milk just as I'm sitting down again. To find praise and accolades and daily adult conversation. To get a paycheck and to remember what it felt like when the world told me I was "succeeding."
But little by little, gently but firmly, God has shown me that quitting is not the way for me to find peace. Or contentment. Or joy. Because this is where I have been called. Yes, it is hard. Anything truly worth having is. But by sticking with it, I am being formed more and more into the woman I want to be. In many ways, by sticking it out in this topsy-turvy, beautiful, challenging vocation, I am being refined into the woman I once thought I was.
By parenting in this intentional, God-guided manner, I have been challenged to learn lessons I desperately needed but never would have sought. Lessons I tried to ditch at every obstacle. But in finally submitting to be taught, I am slowly becoming better. It is not the vocation for every woman, but it is mine. And the more I yield to it, the more I become.
By surrendering to the challenges of being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother, I am being shaped into the woman I once thought I was.
I always thought of myself as hard-working, positive, gentle, compassionate, kind, and optimistic. It didn't take many weeks of parenting to teach me the opposite: That I am in fact selfish, self-centered, covetous, vain, lazy, and impatient.
I say these things not to demean myself or to have a pity party but to explain that parenting intentionally is hard. It's shown me--and I don't think I'm alone here--that I was never especially virtuous. I was simply comfortable. And in control of my life. Children forced me to realize the truth: that I was never in control. And little by little, God has been wresting that wheel out of my clutched fists.
You may notice that the photos on this page are all of my oldest daughter, Sophia. Maybe it's common, I don't know, but it's certainly the case with me that many of my toughest parenting decisions seem to revolve around my oldest child. She has taught me more than I will likely ever teach her. Thankfully. I am always in need of instruction.
Most recently, I made the difficult decision of putting her into traditional school. A decision that, I feel now, was probably a mistake. Now, let me be clear. I do not think that traditional school is, in itself, a mistake. It's not. I can say firsthand that, the past month or so, it has felt like a lifesaver to this drowning mama. But, there are good reasons why my husband and I chose homeschooling as the best option for our family. And, if I'm honest, I wasn't using our local school as a lifesaver. I was using it as a crutch. To get out of learning another hard lesson. That, sometimes, I need to be humbled and weakened so that my God can be strong.
What I saw as an unending struggle to homeschool was really more about my rebellious attitude and my desire to have some more "me" time. Sure, my attitude was compounded by the fact my husband (who I rely on for much of my support, as both our families live very far away) was working absurdly long hours, seven days a week for much of 2013. Yes, I was in my first trimester of pregnancy, and the morning sickness was the worst and lasted the longest of any of my previous pregnancies. But, really, those are just extenuating circumstances to a deeper problem: Although I have known for years in my head that what I do at home is of infinite worth, I wasn't feeling it this fall. Somehow, that knowledge sidestepped my heart, and I was struggling. The more I ran away from it, the harder it was to pray, and the less I prayed, the harder it became to do anything else until, quite frankly, I couldn't do anything else.
And so, my little girl went off to school.
As I said in a previous post, it's had it's good sides. I am nothing but grateful to the wonderful teachers she's been blessed with, even if there are things about the curriculum or the school as a whole that I'm not wild about. But, it was never the right option for our family. Deep down, I knew that. But I got scared.
Just like every mother I've ever known, I have always wanted to give my children the best. But this fall, I wasn't feeling like the best. I felt pretty crappy, actually. I was worried that I wasn't enough--and would never be enough--to give my children a good life. To help them learn well. I worried that I was hindering their progress and holding them back.
Many people in my life, and the world in general seemed to be patiently condescending to me (at least that's how I perceived it). "You know," they said, "you're making this harder than it has to be. You don't have to reinvent the wheel. Just put the kids in school."
Again, I want to stress that I truly believe there is a time and place and circumstances where an education outside the home is necessary or even preferable to homeschooling. But it was this overwhelming pressure I felt to conform--the same pressure I often feel as a stay-at-home mother in this work-away world--this seething, whispering implication that I was less because I wasn't "doing it all and..."--that drove me to make the decision I did.
And I'm sorry that I gave up so soon. Because, in the broad scheme of things, it really didn't take that long for me to bounce back. A month and a half. The forever I'd feared turned out to be fairly short-lived.
Now, I find myself successfully homeschooling my 4-year-old son, as well as heavily supplementing Sophia's education daily with history, language arts, and science. In fact, the only subjects I've left up to her school are reading (which she has always avidly seen to on her own both in and out of school), handwriting and math. In short, the subjects where I largely can just hand her a workbook while I take care of the baby or help James with his reading.
So, I asked myself, why not bring her home?
It's a question my husband and I want to consider carefully before making *another* rash decision. But it's a decision that holds too much weight for us to simply sit back and say, "Well, it would be kind of awkward. What would the neighbors think? Better leave her in until June."
This post is getting long, and I know I can never explain in one blog post all the thoughts and emotions that have run through me over this topic. Perhaps I'll partition them out and share them in time. But I want to conclude by saying:
If you, dear reader, are a stay-at-home mother or a homeschooling mother, and you worry that this path is too hard, that there is no bend in the road and no light at the end of the tunnel, I want to tell you that I know how you feel. I can't do much to help pull you up except to say that I've been there, and I know that it's better to push through than to quit. Because no matter what the world or your friends or your parents or in-laws tell you, what you are doing matters. Infinitely. Immeasurably. No one can take your place in your children's lives. No one can give them what you can.
You are enough.
Pray for me. I'll pray for you. And together, we'll run this roller-coaster race.