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I am the kind of mama who tried to bounce a crying baby on my knee while using the toilet.
I am the kind of mama who could have made returns on investments, using those investments for all-inclusive vacations, instead of purchasing popular parenting books. Self-care wasn’t a popular discussion when I began parenting eighteen years ago; it wasn’t part of the title of any book, and it certainly wasn’t on my daily checklist. Self-care is something I had to learn. Still learning.
Self-Care for the Homeschool Mom
Nothing presses the need for self-care more than a commitment to spend every day with little children, or medium-aged children, or close-to-grown children.
Even before my four children arrived, I wasn’t the kind of person that spent more than a minute walking through the drug store make-up aisle. My lipstick colour was decided in grade twelve. (Still going with that one). I learned make-up techniques watching soap operas. (Not still going with soap operas, but still going with those techniques.)
When my children were little, I aspired to independent toileting. Now I aspire to so many self-care strategies, they could fill a book. Successful days meant showering and prepping food for myself. Brushing my teeth was a golden star day. Make-up didn’t get applied until the next decade.
Self-care is not just make-up application though. If self-care isn’t just spa visits and lipstick, what is a useful working definition?
Fort Garry Women’s Center says, “Self care is provided by you, and for you. It’s about identifying your own needs, and taking steps to meet them. It’s taking time to do some of the activities that nurture you. Self care is about taking proper care of yourself and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others.”
Homeschooling is demanding.
Homeschooling mamas have a continuous stream of their children. Moments of pure gratification: watching kids harmoniously engage, pursue new interests, jump challenging hurdles, and be the cute kids we birthed into the world. You know what’s also ours? (I know you know…) A continuous stream of fledgling emotions, sibling bickering, complaining, distraction, and our uncertainty parenting. I know y’all have more to add.
My oldest was eleven when I felt the creep of homeschool overwhelm. I was tired of my own expectations, the way we were doing things, I was just tired. I didn’t want to continue homeschooling if I felt miserable. I had to find a way to build into myself and nurture me too.
Self-care is a necessity, not an option.
I have homeschooled for ten years, through baby years, toddler years, adolescent years. You don’t have to tell me that you don’t know how to fit self-care in to your days. I get you girlfriend.
You’re looking to take care of others and you’re not taking care of yourself? Some days you feel like Wonder Woman, understandably, but you still collapse in bed teeth unbrushed, an ounce of chocolate and a Netflix account and wake up bleary headed with your eye on the coffee machine. Self-care is a necessity, not an option.
Twelve Self-Care tips from one Homeschool Mama to another:
Meditate. Find five or ten minutes to sit quietly. Be still. Learn to deep breathe. Observe what is happening in your interior. This is your practice to being present.
Yoga. Where meditation helps me attend to what’s happening in my interior, yoga helps me notice what’s happening in my body. In certain circles, there’s a stigma attached to yoga that keeps people from trying it. Poor yoga, so misunderstood. The powerful anti-inflammatory-like effects that yoga provides is worth the effort.
Treats. A glass of wine prepping dinner on a weekend evening, listening to a cooking show, enlisting kids in food prep with their ‘glass of bubbly Fresca’, is a lovely way to start the weekend. Or a cup of tea with Pinterest for five minutes before the afternoon routine. A roaring fire and a stack of books while kids play Lego at your feet? Assuming you have a fireplace.
Chocolate. A daily dose of really good dark chocolate. (And daily magnesium supplements that can replace chocolate’s benefits). Magnesium is also known to help you sleep better, but chocolate is tastier.
Speaking of supplements. Dr. Daniel Amen, a medical doctor that has researched brain health, shares extensive resources to increase your brain health and your overall well-being. Do a little research to determine your specific brain needs.
Quiet time in the morning. A hot cup of coffee in a nice mug, before anyone talks with you. To imagine your day. To journal your feelings, your goals, your gratitudes, your intentions.
Exercise. Somehow, some way, every day. (Or at least, most days). We need endorphin rushes. (Endorphin rushes that don’t come from children squabbling, or a child falling off the trampoline, or rushing to an extracurricular.) Burn off that tension in a way you like moving your body.
Mentally engaging activities. For me, writing, gardening, reading, nature, classical music and art history, animal care taking. For you, needlepoint, poetry, 1950s deco, clothing design, makeup techniques, travel blogs. Whatever it is, do it every day. 15 minutes. You can do that. (Or five minutes if you have children under five. The kids continue to grow, and your time will continue to grow too).
Friendships. Nurturing friendships enables connection, and satisfies the desire to know and be known. Some friendships are comfort blankets, people you call when you’re struggling. Some friendships are built on common interests. Some friendships are people unlike you, like ‘pseudo travel experiences’; they’re so different, it feels like you get to explore a new land, but less expensive. Diversify your friend portfolio, and create a much more interesting life.
Alone time. Just anywhere where children are not. I know you love them, that’s not the point. You don’t love them less because you don’t want to be with them all the time. (When they’re teenagers and don’t want to be around you all the time, remember that they love you too, even when they don’t want to spend all their waking (or even any waking) moments with you.) You are a separate person, so practice being separate.
Observe yourself in your intense or unpleasant feelings. A powerful tool for understanding ourselves. Why do we feel what we feel? Not judge our feelings as good or bad, but observe our feelings. Accept them. Recognize those uncomfortable feelings pass with the wind. No uncomfortable feeling stays forever, so allow yourself to sit with it. Unlike no other self-care tip I’ve shared, this ‘observing myself’ tip I recommend most. A lifelong self-care project.
The most important reason for self-care.
When you replenish you, you have something to give. Your children need you to take care of yourself. Otherwise, someone else is going to have to take care of you. And that wasn’t your plan.
When you take care of you, you can enjoy the homeschool job, not just perform the job. Enjoying it most of the time. The most important reason to engage in self-care: A healthier and happier you.
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Teresa L. Wiedrick is always eager to share the freedoms of the homeschool lifestyle with the skeptical, the intrigued, or the interested. Ten years ago, she was searching for arguments against homeschooling, and that informed her next decade. Her family began home educating when they moved provinces, and her eldest daughter finished grade two. The schedule free lifestyle enabled their family to many years of part-time travel. Her oldest daughter recently graduated from a local high school. Her 15, 13, and 10-year-old children continue to learn from home and community. (But obviously, they’re not always at home, because they’re also at dance, choir, soccer, curling, chess, theatre, the senior center, part-time jobs, and social events).
A hearty advocate for homeschool mama’s self-care, she really is filling a book with self-care strategies. She encourages you to live your best homeschool life. She can be found online at www.capturingthecharmedlife.com and @twainausten on Instagram and Twitter. She cannot be found on Snap Chat, because she is too old for that.