If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play! If she would only have courage to let everything go when life becomes too tense, and just take a day, or half a day, out in the fields, or with a favourite book, or in a picture gallery looking long and well at just two or three pictures, or in bed, without the children, life would go on far more happily. Charlotte Mason.
Charlotte Mason has been one of my long time mentors and her writings have been instrumental in shaping the way I have chosen to educate not only my children but also myself. While much of her writing is focused on education philosophy and the practical aspects of educating children, she places regular reminders in her books about the home educating mother’s need to value themselves and their need to continue learning and growing as people also. She encourages us to take the time to invest in ourselves, to nourish our souls and simply ‘go out and play’.
The job definition of a homeschooling mum (which I’m yet to find) must surely include, ‘much selfless giving and contribution to her family’. That is just part and parcel of what we do. To be a great mum, wife, teacher, chef, cheerleader, councilor, advisor….. (the list is endless), we need to be able to give out at all hours of the day and night. To do this effectively we can’t be running on empty ourselves. It is much more efficient to be giving from an overflowing level. Picture a jug half full, pour some out and it is nearly empty. What about a jug nearly full? It still becomes empty very quickly as soon as you start giving out. What about a jug that is overflowing with a continuous supply coming into it? It can keep giving and giving while remaining full itself.
The challenge for us is to find that continual supply of soul refueling for our lives. In the quote above, Charlotte suggests we take a day or half a day off-duty taking part in an activity that restores our soul. This is wonderful and when these times of solitude come, it’s a time to drink deep and immerse ourselves in the replenishing available to us. But this isn’t always practical or possible and it’s important to realize that ‘me-time’ can happen in the midst of daily life – while living alongside your kids. It’s a choice to value yourself as a person, to keep growing yourself and acknowledge your needs in any given season.
In the past couple weeks I have had the opportunity to talk in depth with several different ladies discussing their homeschooling journeys. What I noticed was each lady found talking about her family and homeschooling easy but it was challenging to share about herself – what makes her unique, what she loves to do and what makes her soul come alive. How easy it is to push our needs to the back burner in the busyness of family life and end up running out emotionally, physically or spiritually.
How the mother cares for herself is being modeled to the rest of the family, we need to live by example. It’s a good thing to let you children know that you can’t be running around and giving out all the time and that it’s ok to step back and relax yourself. You can’t work yourself into the ground and wither away, sometimes you may need to talk with your family and make them aware of your needs and work out a solution that suits your family at the moment – it may be as simple as a cup of tea of an evening while the children do the dishes. Maybe it is reading a few pages of a challenging book in the afternoon quiet time, taking on a challenge to learn something new or working on a hobby or project for yourself on a regular basis. Continuing to grow and learn ourselves is a beneficial thing to model to our children even if it may require a discipline and new habits.
Our perspective of self care needs to change in different seasons as well. Ask yourself, what is manageable for me right now? What are my expectations and are they too high and unachievable for my family right now?
Mums can fall into the trap of feeling guilty when they take time for themselves. They may carve out the time they need but then feel guilty the whole time. But even worse, we compound this guilt in each other. Let’s not fall into the habit of criticizing other mums, but instead be determined to build up the community around us and be each other’s support and cheerleader. Let’s choose to build our friendships, encourage each other and celebrate when our friend can take a day off to ‘go out and play’.
‘Going out to play’ doesn’t always mean you have to be alone, instead you can find ways to fill your needs in the midst of family life. Friendships and community with other women can be a lifeline of support. Maybe you can trade children for an afternoon or meet at the park and chat while the children play. Even a bbq with friends or camping trip can be a bonus time of refreshment as the children are content in a new environment and you can relax and enjoy the adult interaction. Often all it requires is a mental shift rather than any extra time. Simply stopping our racing brains to enjoy a moment of quiet in the sunshine as the children play, stopping at a lookout for five minutes on the way home, or enjoying a coffee with a friend and a heartfelt conversation while the children battle in a nerf war around you. Maybe for you it’s the early morning quiet time that refuels you or taking a walk around the block with your children during morning break.
Don’t underestimate the difference we can make to other mums by being brave enough to show kindness and compassion while supporting them as they need it. A simple kind word or hug can be huge to a mum who is struggling. Just asking, ‘how are you really going?’ or meeting at the park with a coffee can make a difference for them and it also builds this connected community of encouragement between mothers.
Let’s choose to lead by example and as Charlotte suggests, do for ourselves what we so often tell our children and simply ‘go out and play’ – whatever that may look like for you in your current season of family life.
We encourage mums in a geographical area to gather together and build relationship and support with each other. If you meet monthly you may find these reflective questions helpful to guide your discussion.
Feel free to share your thoughts here in the comment section
Corinna is a homeschool graduate who is now sharing this homeschooling lifestyle with her own four children aged 6 – 14. She enjoys the ability to live creatively while sharing all the aspects of life with her family. Encouraging other Mums to value the role of motherhood is one of Corinna’s great joys.