It took a forced shut down for me to realize that I’ve been ignoring my body’s cry for attention. I’ve been a mess lately- sleeping less, eating sporadically, stressing over things that won’t matter in the long run and running myself to the ground. It wasn’t until I got strapped off energy and collapsed in my bed, that I got some time to think. Seeing how few of us busy moms get a chance to do this mental exercise, I decided to share my thoughts. We all go through the day thinking, doing and caring for the ones we are responsible for, but usually forget the one that needs it most– ourselves. Unfortunately, unless we take care of ourselves, we are unable to do the best at taking care of others. Every psychologist, sociologist, anthropologist, priest, scholar, teacher, mom, grandmother and trusted adult gives the same advice – take care of yourself, before others. It’s easier said than done; to take care of before taking care of!
While speaking with a group of mothers, I realized it is even more important for homeschooling parents take care of themselves. For a homeschooling parent, who is home 24 /7 with her child or children, giving attention to herself becomes even harder to do. Sometimes as a homeschooler, I get a little envious of my non homeschooling friends who can sit down with a cup of tea or read something for their own enrichment, or pray without a kid on their back or talk on the phone without a million interruptions, all because they have dropped off their little guys in the care of trusted adults. This “oh how I wish” feeling brought back the point as to how important it is for a home educator to discharge and recharge frequently! Home educating is exhausting and we need to take our time away to be able to breathe peacefully, think deeply, work effectively, and connect genuinely with ourselves. We need to discharge and then recharge in order to move forward with being the best!
It’s not the big things that most home educators miss- like the career change, or the loss in income or the feeling of importance or accomplishment with projects gone right. It’s usually the small things that we miss- the ability to go in and grab a coffee without unloading a school bus and taking a field trip into Peet’s! Or bathe in peace and quiet rather than the quick two minute shower with kids asking questions through the door. It’s those little things that help us take care of us and reduce stress that we miss most and I can almost guarantee that as a home educator with multiple little ones, we don’t take that time to rejuvenate.
It’s not that we are never given an opportunity. Sometimes our very understanding husbands will give us a day off and ask us to go soak in the tub while they take our munchkins out to the park, but guess what, those two hours seem like an opportunity not to be missed- cause the fridge needs cleaning, or the closets keep calling or the files need organizing or a million other things we keep putting aside all march to the forefront for attention. And poof! The park day is done, the gang is back: usually hungry, excited and sooner than you expected. Then we run back into our two second shower and cook up a speedy meal and forget about the soak!
As much as we love our little guys and our big guy, we have up learn to love ourself too. It’s very easy to be giving, in fact culturally some of us have grown up with the idea of mom being the martyr. But we owe it to ourselves, our families and most of all our daughters, who learn by example, to take care of our ourselves. Here is a a partial list of things to do to take care of oursves first, because a container can only pour forth what it has and if we don’t refill our containers then we will run dry soon. This reminder is more for myself than others, but may it benefit whoever can use it- home educator or otherwise. Consider this a Mother’s Day gift- from one mother to another.
- Good Grooming- it’s part of our deen and the Sunnah of our beloved to be clean, well groomed and fragrant. We may not see (or smell) ourselves, but we must remember that others do, so lets try to be a pleasing sight to see and not smell like the lunch we just prepared.
- Good Nutrition and Exercise- this is a note to myself first and others after, but watching what and how much we consume is just as important as watching what our kids eat! Finishing up the kids’ leftovers will not reduce waste but add to our own. Even if we spend a few minutes each day stretching, breathing or walking, doing these little actions will help diffuse tension before it starts adding up.
- Good Reading- even if its for a few minutes very night, read some thing and keep up with the world. It’s very easy to start using lower vocabulary and simplistic thought and we have to diligently pick ourselves up or our kids will zoom past and we’ll be the Rip Van Winkles of our time.
- Good Night’s Sleep- most of us don’t have a problem falling asleep, as much as we may staying asleep. Kids, schedules, sleep patterns and illness all mess with a good nights rest, but we have to learn to prioritize that.
- Good Friends- I cannot overemphasize what a good bunch of friends can do. As homeschooling moms we can feel isolated, ignored or just plain judged at times. Having a good circle of friends to bounce ideas off of, get support from, vent to and learn from is an invaluable resource. The circle can be as small as three people or as large as you can support, but let the circle be strengthened by a spiritual connection where everyone is like minded and understands you. Set your ground rules and have multiple different circles if need be, but make sure you have at least one that you can bind yourself with.
- Good Thoughts- oh how we fall into this trap of thoughts! The “what ifs” and the “how’s” have to be tamed. When thoughts run a muck in our minds, we have to take control, just like we would a wild child. All will be well and we have to believe in it and have tawakkal after doing our part.
One thing that got me thinking was not the fact that I had to physically stop what I was doing for a whole day out of exhaustion, but how the rest of the people around me kept going on. It brought to my attention that whether or not I am here or able, life will move on and I’ll have spent my life being a harried mess. Another thought that grabbed me by surprise was the one person soaking up my every action, word and feeling was my daughter, for whom I must leave behind the legacy of a mom who was happy, healthy and hospitable. I had to stop and restart, and I hope my lesson will be learned by others without the hassle of having to go through it themselves. May Allah grant us all the strength and wisdom to do just that. Ameen