Lots of blogs, podcasts, and conversations over coffee talk about homeschool mom self-care. We know it’s important, but rarely is it a priority. I’m the worst. I spent years of my life researching the effects of chronic-stinkin’-stress, and how it LITERALLY rewires parts of the brain and changes behavior, and yet, I fall prey to chronic stress as much as everyone else. Although, I’m getting better.
I want to talk about 2017, and what it taught me…
Normally, I’m a planner. I’m a list-maker and checker-offer (apparently, I make-up words, too). But, 2017 was totally the year that was NOT planned.
Would you believe that I had no plan or goal at the beginning of 2017 to write a book? I didn’t plan to head to Virginia twice to see family; I didn’t plan to lose a huge account in our business; I didn’t make any new homeschooling plans; and I didn’t plan to buy another dilapidated home to rehab. I could go on….
But guys, those are really BIG parts of our life! And they were some of the best things that happened (yes, even losing a huge account turned out to be perfect in its own way)!
As I looked back, I saw all our progress, and I started wondering how we came so far in a year without any plans, resolutions, or goals. I realized that all the good things came from something that I did in 2017 quite inadvertently. I didn’t plan these things either…
You see, in 2017, I felt like I was at a crossroads. Coming out of the survival phase of parenting/working, left me feeling all turned around and disconnected. I didn’t have it in me to set a bunch of ambitious goals, or make serious plans. So instead…
I committed to myself.
I didn’t even mean to commit to myself. The commitments organically arose from what my heart needed most. I knew I needed some time to get myself all put together again after the trauma that is pregnancy, childbirth, and babies (x4). Children are more lovable than anything else in the whole world, but let’s all agree that they totally hijack your life.
You see, I simply cannot put self-care on my calendar. I complain about not having the time, the money, the energy, or the friends to make it happen. I don’t make excuses for anything else that truly needs to happen – I get it done – except that. What the what?!?
Now, I’m going to tell you what DID work. It has become a cliche of sorts to talk about “making space” in life, or prioritizing homeschool mom self-care, so let me tell you the tangible commitments I made, and how they FINALLY became a consistent pat of my life.
The fact is, “homeschool mom self-care” sounds indulgent, and optional. Instead, I spent 2017 focused on being the best version of myself I can be. I knew that a better me meant a better mom, a better wife, a better business-owner, a better teacher, and better days. I wanted to be better, not just take care of myself better. I was motivated to take care of those around me, not motivated to take care of myself.
I managed to accomplish “self-care” when it was a productivity tool, a self-improvement method, and a home-management must-have. For me, it is NOT self-care, it is preparation for my jobs.
- I needed to be sane for my children (all. day. long.).
- I needed to simplify how much my brain was constantly carrying around.
- I needed to be more productive in our school and business.
- I needed my heart to be free to commit to new challenges.
- I needed to make each day easier for everyone around me, and increase what I could accomplish.
- I needed help being the best version of myself.
Here is my #1 trick for homeschool mom self-care:
I NEVER called it “self-care.” My accidental homeschool mom self-care ended up looking like this:
I walked almost every day.
I listened to podcasts, or music. Sometimes I wrote notes in a pocket-sized notebook as I walked. Sometimes I prayed silently. Sometimes I walked the stroller in loops around the baseball field during games, walked while my children ran, or walked them to the playground. Sometimes it was a walk to the coffee shop to work. I even walked in the rain. The point is, I made it happen, and I did what it took to enjoy it. I wasn’t consciously committing to “me time,” I just knew that walking helped me clear my thoughts, lift my spirits, and calm myself. Nonetheless, by committing to my sense of peace, I ended up accidentally committing to “me time” almost every day.
Really, it was how I stayed sane for my kids and husband.
I tried to write every day.
Usually while walking, I thought of something, so when I got home, I wrote it down. Other times I wrote in a journal at night or in the morning. I was coming out of survival mode, and desperately wanting to clear my thoughts. I committed to a moment of peace and self-refection.
Really, it was how I kept from carrying too much in my brain and feeling overwhelmed or scattered.
I decluttered our space and my energy use.
I have always been very deliberate with my time, and very conscientious about our priorities, but I had spent 8 years(!) in parenting/working survival mode. My last pregnancy was incredibly difficult, and I was essentially useless for a very long time. Life had become a jumbled mess (to me). I committed to assessing and simplifying.
Really, it was a way to give my family and my business my best energy and attention.
I carried so much guilt about the time I spent existing in survival mode. I felt so defeated for being physically helpless for so long. I apologized to my husband for “botching it all up.” Luckily, he thought I was being too hard on myself, and forgave me – but I needed to say it, and I needed to hear his response (even though deep down I knew what he would probably say), because I needed to move on. I committed to moving on past whatever *I thought* had failed in the past.
Really, it was a way to free-up myself emotionally for new challenges.
I examined my strengths.
I was determined to stop making life harder than it had to be. I realized that every time I worked against my weaknesses instead of focusing on my strengths, I was making life so much harder than God intended. I spent a lot of time in thought and prayer about my strengths. I even texted some people I love most to ask what they thought my strengths were. Sometimes homeschool mom self-care can come just from accepting the beautiful, strong people we are, and focusing on using that! I committed to move forward working with my strengths (and finding shortcuts around my shortcomings).
Really, it was a way to make life easier and more productive for myself and those around me.
I spent time in my faith.
I read daily Scripture readings. It didn’t take long. It was super-easy. It was so impactful. I committed to being who I was meant to be.
Really, it helped me be the person I wanted to be for all of my obligations and opportunities that may come our way.
As a result, 2017 was successful, and productive. But this wasn’t “self-care” to me!
You see… being the best version of myself is so much better than “self-care.” It’s so much more than “filling a cup” that gets poured out over and over again. Taking this time changed who I am. And that, in turn, changed what I did, and what we have. It wasn’t self-indulgent at all.
Some people like the “fill your cup” analogy. I’m going to be brutally honest here just in case there is someone else struggling to “fill their cup.” Too many moms think that the analogy goes something like this: a mom gives everything to her kids until she can’t take it any more (pours out her cup), and then she escapes long enough to regain her sanity (fills her cup). And THEN she does it all over again! Continually depleting myself and recovering over and over sounds downright miserable.
In order for “homeschool mom self-care” to happen for me, I have to see it more as improving myself, NOT depleting myself and recovering over and over again. Ultimately, I want to be the best mom I can possibly be (and wife, and teacher, and business owner). And THAT is much more motivating than a cycle of giving it all until I have to escape.
And while mothering does include some hiding and escaping (with caffeine and/or chocolate), and plenty of self-sacrifice, I am not a fan of hamster-wheel scenarios. Instead of filling, pouring, and repeating, I prefer to approach life by building-up myself, my marriage, and my spouse at the same time as I build-up my children.
I am preparing myself for my jobs.
Mother Theresa is known to have spent 5 hours every day in prayer or meditation – spread throughout the day. She spent 7 1/2 hours on work for the poor. She spent about 5 3/4 hours on meals, personal care, clean-up and rest. The rest of her 24 hours was spent sleeping. This is the schedule she prescribed for the Missionaries of Charity. Why the specific schedule?
There is a Missionaries of Charity convent very near to our home, and we try to visit them with donations frequently with our children. The Sisters there once explained to me that Saint Theresa of Calcutta believed that the nuns needed all that time for prayer and rest IN ORDER to do the hard work that God would put before them that day. Her schedule was literally focused on her work, and preparing herself to do that work.
If I had planned 2017, and then all those big unpredictable things were heaped in my lap, it would have thrown a wrench into the year and felt like a disaster. Instead, I prepared myself for 2017, and so we were able to turn sudden opportunities into something great.
I cannot control or predict what will happen in the next year, but I can prepare myself to be at my best for whatever is in store.
Can you start to call homeschool mom self-care “preparing yourself to do the hard (sometimes unpredictable) work in front of you?” Really, that is what it is. What I’m talking about here, that so often gets lumped into a category of “self-care,” is not refilling a depleted cup, indulging in a relaxing moment, recovering, or escaping.
I’m talking about instituting routines that are designed to prepare you for your jobs. I’m talking about being proactive, not reactive.
While self-care is internally directed, preparing yourself for your work is focused externally.
So, as I head into 2018, I am NOT making any New Year’s Resolutions. I am NOT prioritizing self-care. I am looking forward to another spectacular and exciting year! 2018 will be another year in which I don’t have it all planned, but I am prepared for whatever hard work comes my way!
If you’ve struggled with prioritizing self-care in the past, can I encourage you to think more specifically about:
- What will help you feel sane?
- What will help you feel connected?
- What will help you be a better mom? A better spouse? A better teacher? A better human being?
- What will free your heart?
- What are your strengths?
- What will equip you to do your work?
>You might also like Why & How to Identify Homeschool Values
What did you learn in the past year? What will you bring with you into the New Year? Are you good at prioritizing self-care? Join in the conversation below…
If you’re planning to make 2018 your most valuable and least stressful year yet, I’d like to help. I wrote a step-by-step guide for creating a values-based homeschool for any age.
Wishing you all the simple things this year,