Day 23: 5 Ways to Take Care of Yourself During a Difficult Season of School & Life

31 days final big button

Yesterday I wrote about the bossy-ness of difficult days and how a string of them can lead us to doubt, despair, and rash decisions.

Today I offer practical tips toward taking care of yourself as your persevere along your educational path during draining seasons. Maybe you’re adjusting to life with a recently diagnosed learning disability. Or you’re mired in the negativity and angst known as middle school. Perhaps you’re teaching multiple ages at home with a baby in tow or dealing with personal crisis as your manage your kids’ education.

Real life happens. And it’s important to take care of ourselves when our “normal” veers off onto a path that’s much more wearisome.

Do not confuse this with advice to “stay the course no matter what.” My own story doesn’t testify to that approach. But I did have days turned weeks of tough days as a homeschool mom and I experience them now as a public school mom too. That’s because there’s no perfect, problem-free way of doing school. Each approach has its vulnerabilities and every family throws its own variables into the mix.

While each day brings its own stress, there are times when it feels like we can’t get a break. I’m talking about those times. As I wrote yesterday,

Sometimes just one of these stressors hangs around day after day after day. And other times it’s a perfect storm of all the bad things, all at once. Negativity can wrap itself around you until you’re swaddled in a blanket of doubt and failure. You imagine that no one else is flailing and failing like you are.

Whether your kids do school at home or in a private or public school, here are ideas for sustainability during draining times.

1. Fight for rest.

Some of you are laughing already. Marian, you’ve got to be kidding me. There is no room for rest in my life, sister. You don’t know my circumstances. You’re right. I don’t. But I do know that there are ways to lighten your load. Takeout for dinner. Getting a babysitter so you can have a nap or have a Venti cup of reassurance from Starbucks. {Extra whip. Full fat.} Getting help with the housework — from your spouse, from your kids, from a professional. Or all of the above. {Yes please.}

2. Lower your standards.

It’s hard, but you may have to let go of certain expectations for a season. You can choose grace and rest or resentment and anxiety. Sometimes this means allowing your kids more screen time than you “should” for the sake of your own mental health and ability to care for them. It might mean choosing to be okay with undone laundry, a messy house, and convenience foods. Perhaps it means you stop obsessing about their grades and performance, especially if it’s only causing you stress. Always it means real prioritization and acceptance. Which brings us to the next point.

3. Prioritize. Prioritize. And repeat.

Every season won’t be like this one, whether it’s a 5-week window or a 5-year window. There are certain non-negotiables, though the world around you screams that everything is important and also that you’re indispensable. It’s not and you’re not. You are finite. Your years with your kids in this stage is not forever. Your life doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

Put all of this together and what do you have? The permission and courage to say no and to ruthlessly prune the extras in your life that are only adding to your stress. It might mean you let go of their music lessons or sport for a time. You may disappoint your kids, yourself, and others by saying no for now. {Not forever.} Just last week I did this and it hurt a little. It’s not easy in the short-run, but it’s fruitful in the long-run.

4. Find perspective.

A wise friend who understands. Your spouse. Prayer and time alone. A counselor. An episode of Hoarders.

Left to ourselves, we’ll suffocate under the load and subjectivity of a draining season. We’ll imagine we’re the only ones struggling in this way. We’ll sink into a pit of shame and discouragement. Let truth and community pull you out and pour you a cup of coffee instead.

Mlo & CJ

A couple of years ago I was in the trenches of exhaustion and emotional recovery. I had a weekly date with a wise and older friend and she poured life-giving Gospel truth into my soul week after week. It was a means of grace, one that kept me out of the pit and moving forward.

5. Compensate.

This is really an umbrella for all the other points. If it looks like things may remain difficult for an extended time, adjust your life accordingly. I can’t say what that will look like for you but we can’t run on adrenaline forever. We’re not machines, we’re people. And we need to care for ourselves and our primary relationships in ways that are wise and gentle.

You might think this is too complicated and indulgent. But I’m not talking about days at the spa or hiring a cook and a nanny. {Full disclosure: I long for all of the above.} I’m talking about real-life ways that we can make it through tough times with intention, strength, and realistic expectations. It’s possible. But you have to start thinking outside the box of your own idealism. If this feels impossible, enlist your spouse, a counselor, or a close and honest friend — people who will tell you the truth and have your best interests in mind.

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Friday and Saturday we’ll talk about a complicated subject : Switching educational paths. How do we know when it’s a valid consideration?

What are some ways you’ve learned to compensate and care for yourself and your family during difficult seasons?

For all the posts in this 31-day series, go here.

I’m linking up with The Nester and her tribe of 31 Dayers.

Don’t want to miss a post in the series? You can subscribe and have each post delivered right to your inbox. As always, you may unsubscribe any time you like. {I promise not to sell your address to pirates, aliens, spammers, or The Gap.}

 

Day 7. Embracing Your Actual Self. {Not Your Ideal Self.}

31 days final big button

I first took the Meyers Briggs personality test when I was 25 years old. I tested as an extrovert, but just barely. When I took the same test several years later, I tested as an introvert. Every time I’ve taken it since it’s the same thing: INFJ. Though our personalities are prone to subtle change over time, I know without a doubt that I was never an actual extrovert. I simply wanted to be. I wanted to identify as a “people-person.” Therefore I provided the answers that I desired to be true about me, even though they weren’t actually true.

Perhaps it sounds like I intentionally lied. I didn’t. “Denial” is probably a better way of putting it. I simply hadn’t grown up enough to put on the lenses of acceptance yet. I was still trying to live up to the expectations and ideals that I wanted to be true for me.

Though I’d grown up enough to recognize the denial and idealism that guided my personality test answers, I still had a long way to go before I realized how this same wrongful thinking affected motherhood and the educational model I wanted for our kids.

I can still easily recall the visions I had for our homeschool. Visions of meaningful interaction all day long. Visions of delightful teaching opportunities throughout the day. We’ll learn about fractions when we cook!  We’ll do math at the grocery store!

playmobil guy

Ironically, it was the constant interaction that took years off my life. It was the ridiculous expectation that kept me trying to be someone I wasn’t even though it was killing me. I got to the point where I did not even attempt to go to the grocery store with all of my kids, let alone do math with them while we shopped. This introverted homeschool mom was desperate for a break from the tiny humans who were never at a shortage for words.

Husband: Sooo….we’re having graham crackers for dinner?

Me: Yes. Eating an actual meal required taking our children to Walmart. So I chose a supper of crackers. For the win.

We were years into homeschooling before I began to reconcile the real with the ideal. Things would have been so much easier if I’d worked with my personality instead of fighting against it.

We remain open to any educational alternative that one or all of our children may need down the road. But if public school ceases to be an okay option for someone and I homeschool again, I’ll do it differently. We’ll choose a way that puts less of the teaching burden on me. I’ll get paid in currency that matters. Marriage, wholeness, and mental health will be priorities.

Virtually all of our decisions about education revolve around the children — what’s “best” for them. But I submit that if the parent is excessively taxed and stressed, it’s not the best option, no matter how great it may be for the kids. This is true whether our kids are in public, private, or home-school.

I realize that being a mom is sacrificial by nature. We serve and sacrifice and surrender and then we get up the next day and do it all over again. It’s part of the job description and we’re fueled by a love that’s buried deep within our parental DNA. But rest and balance still matter. We live like they’re negotiable but eventually, we’ll have to pay the debt.

During my post-homeschool season of intentional rest, I wrote these words:

Self-care may look a bit different for each of us but when it’s really a necessary and life-saving endeavor, maybe we should think of it as stewardship instead of selfishness. 

When you’re too off-balance for too long, when a good thing ceases to be a feasible thing, perhaps it’s time to acknowledge your real self and accept your real limits. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. And it certainly doesn’t mean you don’t measure up to the mom who seems to be rocking the very thing you can’t get together. It simply means you’re unique. And so is your family. It also means you’re human.

Be honest about your life, your season, your limits, and your God-given personality. They’re far more important variables than you may think.

But first, take off that tattered superhero cape and go take a nap.

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What about you? Do you find yourself fighting against your personality and your limits instead of embracing them as part of the equation? 

For all the posts in this 31-day series, go here. And to read the other posts I’ve written on topic of schooling, you can go here and find them all in one place.

I’m linking up with The Nester and her tribe of 31 Dayers.

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Don’t want to miss a post in the series? You can subscribe and have each post delivered right to your inbox. As always, you may unsubscribe any time you like. I promise not to sell your address to pirates, aliens, spammers, or The Gap.

 

The Entire “Being Cool About School” Series, All in One Place


To pin the image above {and the series}, just hover over the picture and you’ll see the Pinterest logo. You can also use the social media share buttons at the bottom of the post.

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I’m taking a little break from writing over the next few days in order to rest and to allow readers to get caught up on the series. 

There are ten posts in all and I have them listed below. I’m going to try and put the series logo image in the right sidebar at some point over the next few days. I’d love for these posts to serve as a resource for those who stress and struggle and overthink the way I did {and still do} over this whole thing of doing school. 

I’d also love to know your personal thoughts about school decisions. 

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Do you think that having more choices makes the decision more difficult?

Does our American consumer mentality influence our approach because we are looking for the “perfect” school product? 

Is this a decision that you have personally struggled with?

Have you employed a variety of school options for your own kids?

Do you have strong feelings, one way or another, about how to educate your children?

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Whatever your thoughts, concerns, or questions, I’d love to hear them. Truly, I welcome all feedback.

Writing this series has taught me so much. Learning from others may provide some ideas and insight as I consider developing the “project” a bit more in the future and writing some additional posts here and there.

Thanks a million for all of the support, feedback, and community you all provide. 

Have a great weekend, friends!


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Being Cool About School {a series}:
Finding Grace and Freedom for Ourselves & Others in Our Family’s Educational Choices



Post 1: “So are you still glad you switched your kids from homeschool to public school?”

What is this series about? Who’s it for? What on earth motivated you to write it? 

The backstory and early years of this educational journey.

Our transition from homeschooling to public school

This is not a post espousing all the virtues of homeschooling. Rather, it’s a look at how we can appreciate and learn from the gifts and the challenges of our homeschooling experience.





What happens when our ideals become idols? How 
do fear, pride, and idealism infiltrate our decisions about how to educate our children, and how can we guard against it?

What inspires true community when we’re doing school in a variety of ways? How can we approach others with grace and freedom? {And why should we?}