On Mothering and Decision-Making and Feeling Inside-Out

Yesterday was supposed to be a day of rest but my fretful mind would not have it. I think that if scientists could determine a way to harness the wheel-spinning ferocity of every mother’s over-thinking mind and turn it into an alternative fuel source, we could stop drilling for oil tomorrow. 

Sometimes being a mother feels like walking around inside-out. I try to stuff my wildly-feeling heart and messy insides safely and politely back where they belong but instead I’m like the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, anxious and undone, stuffing spilling out at the seams. 


This season of rest and simplicity, this season that I named “The Year of Being Knit” has in many ways felt like the exact opposite. I’m wondering if I should rename it “The Year of Being Undone.” Sometimes we have to become completely unraveled before we can properly be reassembled. 

Sending my kids to school has been the best thing for them and a much-needed sabbatical for me. But that’s not to say it’s been easy. While totally unrelated situations may have been the catalyst to send them to school, now I can’t help but wonder if these very unrelated things forced a decision that I wouldn’t have submitted to otherwise: school

Though this school-year has yet to finish and the next one looms far off on the other side of summer, you know how these things go. It’s only spring but we have to make decisions and commitments for next fall. Technically we don’t have to decide until the day before school starts but a summer of limbo isn’t fair to my kids. 

I’m simply not ready to commit. My dreamy ideals of living and learning at home, of classical education and a slower-paced life, of keeping them just a bit protected for just a bit longer from the harsh realities of this world…these ideals beat mightily inside this unraveling mama’s heart.

But then there is the real. And when I’m not knee-deep in it, I quickly forget the importance of knowing thyself. I am not laid back. I’m wired to need time alone or I fall to pieces. The day-in and day-out of my real looked nothing like my ideal. I get that it will never be perfect, that it’s okay to have messy days where every single one of us has cried for one reason or another. But I will be perfectly honest with you: the unhappy, let’s-just-survive days were far outnumbering the this-isn’t-so-bad days. 

None of us were thriving at home. Especially me. And whether you’re southern or not, you’ve heard the old adage: If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. 

We’re four months in and I am still tired but less weary. I cry a lot but it feels good and necessary. I haven’t figured out how to manage my days well but through trial and error, I’m learning. I haven’t fully come to terms with anything but I’m progressing toward acceptance and that’s better than standing still.

As for the kids, they’re just fine. I’d venture to say they’re actually great. Sometimes my daughter has more homework than I deem necessary. She’s had stressful, unhappy moments…but fewer than she did at home. I’ve learned that my kids are more responsible, more independent, and far more adaptable and resilient than I gave them credit for. And I wouldn’t have known any of this had I not sent them to school. They love their friends and their teachers. They love daily learning in community and from instructors who are passionate about their subjects. I was completely unprepared for the ways in which they would embrace the culture of school.

And all of their “success” has made our decisions for next year so much more difficult. Well, it’s made my decision more difficult. That probably sounds crazy. Why fix what’s not broken? 

Because all of this is not what I’d planned. It’s not what I’d envisioned for any of us. Truly, it feels like the death of a dream {dramatic though that may sound.} The final decisions haven’t been made and the pendulum may yet swing back the other direction. That’s one of the pitfalls of blogging. You sometimes have to eat your words. But I’d rather be authentic and honest in my wrestling and indecision. I’m not the first mama to be in this place and I certainly won’t be the last.

We all want what’s best for these little and not-so-little ones that look to us every single day for love and sustenance. Our children are living and breathing pieces of us who walk around in a world that will hurt them and disappoint them. And when that happens? We hurt so badly we feel we might break in two. We want them to be prepared and protected and it’s an overwhelming responsibility. For so many reasons, the ways and the places in which we educate them can determine the trajectory of their lives. This is what brings me to my knees. And to the box of Kleenex. 

A week ago I was in a particularly weepy place over my daughter and what to do about next year. She’ll be in middle school and I’m simply not ready for any of this. I told my husband that he just needed to listen, that my heart was heavy and that I didn’t feel I could bear my own emotional state alone. He waited quietly as I poured out my fears and failure. And then I said, Now it’s your turn. I desperately need to know your thoughts and I need you to lead me through all of this. 

He is a man that measures his words carefully and for this I am grateful. 

She needs you to be her mother. For the rest of your life, that’s what she’ll need from you. Other people can teach her, but only you can be her mother. When you were her teacher, it was getting in the way of you being her mother. It just wasn’t working. She’s doing great in school. There are no red flags. This is the direction I’m leaning. 


I wept with both relief and grief. Relief because I need to know that it really is this simple. She needs me to be her mother. That’s it. Grief because I wish I was cut out to be both. And maybe in time I will be…but not now. Accepting who I am versus who I want to be is one of the greatest battles I fight. It’s so easy to be persuaded by others who are doing their thing {that you wish was your thing} and doing it well. I’m fooled into thinking that if I can just muster up enough patience and discipline and know-how, I can do the “thing” too.

Accepting that we are all created and called differently sounds good and easy. But it doesn’t feel good or easy at the moment. Reckoning the real with the ideal is a slow, soulful, solitary surrender. 

If it was up to my daughter, she would boldly begin middle school tomorrow, skipping excitedly down the hallway with her new, monogrammed, aqua-colored L.L. Bean backpack {not that she’s already picked it out or anything.} As for me, I wish I could turn back the clock and skip the other direction toward the simpler {though sleepless} days of diapers and breastfeeding. 

Maybe that’s the bittersweet irony of motherhood. Our kids want to speed up the clock and we want to make it stand still. Right now it feels like the kids are winning. 

I find myself leaning hard into my husband’s counsel. Sometimes it’s the simplest of truths that sustain us during seasons of surrender: Only you can be their mother. 

And for now, this is enough. 

Comments

  1. says

    You are amazing and I love reading your posts. I would also like to pass them to someone else who I think is a lot like you…but to put pressure on her to read something ELSE, just might not be appreciated. So, I pray for you and for her. Would also love to walk and talk with you sometime. I received some advice years ago that just might be reassuring to you. Call me sometime and we can talk while folding laundry.

  2. Jenny says

    Yet again, this was what I needed–just to know you and I are on the same sea, some days barely treading water when it feels like we should be sailing. Not that I want you to feel like this, but you know what I mean. Julianne starts K4 in the fall. Because of a profound speech delay, she may go to public K4 (where she’s already being served an hour a week). This is not what I want–I want her at home. But, she needs to be around kids and in situations where she has to talk; and while a church preschool seems to me to be the next best thing to mama, it just doesn’t seem that’s what is working out. Then there’s Livie. She has one more year in a public school we’ve had no major problems with (and her teacher next year will be a cousin of yours and practically one of mine.) A year to worry and plan and change my mind and worry some more–homeschool or (I can’t even imagine it)middle school? Thanks for letting me share–now, let’s pray for each other!

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  3. says

    Thanks, sis! I very much relate to feeling the tension of mother/teacher, but couldn’t articulate it like you (as usual). I, too, am wrestling with next year, and though I only have one with whose schooling to decide for now, it still feels heavy. May Jesus’ Spirit guide us both and thank Lance on my behalf for his perspective. Love you so much! Em

  4. says

    I know your struggle, and I have grieved much over the loss of our homeschooling days too. But I also rest on the wise words of my husband, who sounds just like yours. It’s hard, but I love how you stress knowing yourself. I did not know myself when we started this homeschooling journey, but I’m slowly getting to know better who I am and what I need. My kids need a mom, that’s all there is too.

    Grace to you on this road, I know it’s tough. But I know God will reveal his grace to you abundantly as you walk his path. He knows just where he wants us as moms, even if it’s not what we ever imagined.

  5. says

    Well, this is where I enter and say, “Hey, dear one, I didn’t homeschool you and look how great you turned out!!!”

    And then, that’s where you enter and say, “Yes, and look at all the struggles I’m having.”

    And I say, “Struggle all you want . . . you still turned out great!”

    And I was, and am, your mother. That’s what God made me to be.

    LYF

    • says

      Oh I agree with mom. YOU turned out just great, no matter how messy you feel. Go Mom!!!
      Sometimes the control of homeschooling is overwhelming. The letting go is hard. But just being mom is so important.
      It seems to be where God is leading me too.
      I love you
      julie

  6. says

    Oh Dear One, Mom’s comments are spot on! Meaning, they’ve brought me to tears, again! She is so wise.
    I’m praising God for The Man’s well-timed words. I’m reminded that I need to remember that, too. “Only you can be their mother”. Each family is so unique. Each child has different needs. You WILL find what’s best for this season in the lives of your children.
    Keep running to Him, the founder and perfecter of all things.
    I love you!

  7. says

    Gosh, you are so blessed to have such a wise husband and such a wise mom!! They love you, they know you, they want the best for you…and your kids. It’s okay to simply accept their wise counsel. No need to beat yourself up or wish for something ideal. Just submit and be happy.

    Being a homeschooling mom myself, I’m thinking that somewhere in your brain your equate sending the kids to school with failure on your part and that is so not true! We are all different and God has unique plans for all of us. There isn’t one right way to educate. It’s a tremendous victory that you are smart enough to realize who you are and what you really need to thrive. And do you think it’s a coincidence that you’re kids are thriving in school even as you take time to revive yourself?

    I’ve always said I’m a much better mom when I have time away from my kids! And it’s okay to be that way. I’d rather take time or delegate their education and be a wonderful mother than to be with them every moment and be a tyrant, which is what I’d be if I didn’t get time away! 😉

    Scooper, I have one in college and one headed there in a little over a year. This weekend we went on college visits. Even though I’ve homeschooled all along, I felt that twinge of, “Maybe I should have sent them to school” when I met a lot of other students who had way more opportunities than mine did in certain areas. But I reckon it to this: You and I and a lot of other moms seem to think that whatever we are NOT doing at the moment is the ideal way to go. We forget that every choice has both good and bad.

    My personal opinion is that intact relationships with our kids (for life) are far more important than the type of education that we choose.

    This isn’t a pass/fail, my sweet friend.

    Besides, if your mom is right and your kids turn out anything like you, that would be a major success!! xxoo

  8. says

    P.S. Just so you know, I found homeschooling middle and high school to be far less fun than the younger grades. Somehow stuff like making a volcano out of modeling clay just doesn’t interest them so much anymore. 😉

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  9. says

    Scooper,

    I have been so interested in how your “sabbatical” from homeschooling has been going.

    There are so many nuggets of insight in your post I can’t highlight them all. You do so well at expressing your heart on this issue.

    I feel the back and forth in your post. The tug of wanting to hold onto your dream of homeschooling against your need for time for you/what’s best for them.

    I first visited your site last month and was so intrigued. The reasons for your choice to put your kids in school mirrored our reasons for bringing ours back home!

    There is no right answer. All you can do is love your family. You have a wonderful husband. You have beautiful children. Only your family can decide what’s best for your family. I usually find that His peace comes with the right choice.

    I remember when we put them back in school a couple of years ago. I sobbed. They did fine. Great in fact. But when we brought them back home, they did fine, too. Great, in fact! Showed me how flexible children are.

    The mother is the heart of the home. If you aren’t okay, then your family will feel it, Scooper.

    There is no line in the sand on this. You can send them to school and pull them out anytime you feel it’s right. We did that with our son – pulled him out mid-year. And he did GREAT.

    The number one thing kids need? To be loved.

    Bringing our kids at home this year has been a good choice for us. I’ve changed my perspective on homeschooling. They appreciate the freedom they have being at home. I chose to teach differently this year. I posted on why this was our best year ever at home. (That said… this morning was so frustrating! I’ll post about that soon, I think.)

    I make time to spend alone; I need that just like you do. My kids are older than yours (11 and 12) and I am able to leave them at home for several hours at a time and know they will be okay.

    My daughter would be starting middle school this year if she were not at home. It can be such a tough age. She still plays with her toy horses because she doesn’t feel the daily pressure from her peers to focus on boys and makeup and clothes. For that I am thankful. I think she’s usually given an earful about the goings-on at the public schools from her swim team buddies!

    Scooper, there is no right choice. There is just choosing. Sometimes it’s “rock, paper, scissors”.

    Children with parents who care so deeply about them will NEVER lack. You are a wonderful mother. Have fun this summer. Don’t think too hard about it. I believe you and your husband will know what to do when the time comes. That’s how God works with our family.

    I agree with Bonita’s response. I think she is so full of wisdom. (We’re using her writing curriculum right now.)

    God bless you. I love your honesty and vulnerability. You are a very special woman.

    Love,
    Laura

  10. says

    Gosh, Scooper.

    So I’m supposed to be the mom who has lots of extra time on her hands because her two older kids are now sort of out of the nest and her youngest is, after all, in high school.

    Yeah, well.

    I tell myself often that if I were just more organized or less easily distracted I could get more done in a day. Like making it here more often and never missing one of your posts, never having to go back and read three at a time. But I just done get it done. Just like I couldn’t get it done when I was trying to homeschool two little boys and be a mother to a toddler and a daughter to a dying mother. I couldn’t do it–not the way I wanted to do it, not the way it SHOULD BE DONE.

    I’ll be honest and say that many times I’ve regretted stopping homeschooling. And my husband has regretted it, because the path we chose for educating our kids was a much more expensive path. Except for one lovely semester when our kids went to the neighborhood public school (after which we moved!), we’ve sent our kids to private school. And it’s cost so much money. It’s been hard. It’s been a source of stress. But it’s mostly been good. And I’ve mostly been free to be the boys’ mom. I’m honest enough to say that I haven’t really done that good a job, but my boys are wonderful. They’re smart and well-liked and have great senses of humor (I admit I’m proud of that!). And I’m sane.

    Bless you. I don’t know exactly how you feel, but I know enough of it to know that it’s hard. But you are most definitely sane. And you are being knit together into a beautiful creation–as are your children.

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