Maybe you’ve had this happen to you. Maybe it’s just me. Well, no, I know it’s not just me, because I’ve heard other women share similar stories.
Here’s how it goes. You and a friend decide to meet up for some coffee. For her, maybe this requires setting up a babysitter, maybe it doesn’t. Either way, she shows up with the vestiges of her day written on her person. You both do. The difference is that you notice as you look down that the toddler has left a jammy mouthprint on the thigh of your yoga pants. You know, the ones you were forced to wear because none of your regular jeans fit and the maternity ones are too baggy. C’est la vie.
The two of you grab your coffee. You feel a little like it’s a life raft you’re grabbing onto rather than a flimsy paper cup. It’s been a hard day. Hard week. Hard month.
Your new curriculum isn’t working out as planned, and there’s been some drama at the homeschooling co-op. The baby is teething–or weaning–or both. You’re hormonal, and you’re not sure if it’s from the possible weaning or the newest pregnancy (which you haven’t announced yet). You wonder if everyone thinks you’re just getting fat.
Anyway, you sit down. Your dear friend (understandably) has a rather concerned crease between her eyebrows as she asks you how you’re doing. So you let it out. How hard it is, how awful you feel. How much you miss your old career, and how easy it seems sometimes to think of shipping the kids off to the local public school for someone else to deal with.
Your friend smiles sympathetically. “I’m so sorry.”
For one split second, you feel validated. You knew you picked her as your friend for a reason. But then she keeps talking, and the moment explodes right in your puffy, bleary-eyed, tear-stained face. “You know, lots of women end up feeling that way. Maybe you should put the kids in school.”
BAM. Like a big bowl of Christmas candy and a slap in the face all at once.
Because part of you does want it, that ease. To stop reinventing the wheel. And part of you knows that you’ve just been egregiously (if unintentionally) insulted. Do you see it? Maybe not.
Let me put it another way. Think for a minute about the last time you sat down with a working friend at the end of a long day. Did she beam at you and say, “I love everything about my job! The rude clients, my overly demanding boss, having to walk around in heels for eight hours a day–it’s amazing! There is absolutely nothing I dislike about what I do all day.”
Maybe. We all have those days where it seems like a dream that we get to live our own lives. But, I’d bet most days that working friend just wants to flop down, throw on some sweats and complain about her aching feet and what a headache her latest case load has been.
If she starts in with these sorts of your complaints, what is your response? Do you immediately suggest she quit her job? No, you don’t. Because you believe that what she’s doing (earning a paycheck among other things) is important.
So, you don’t tell her to quit. You give her some tea and sympathy, and then you encourage her to keep her chin up, keep talking to you if she has trouble getting through it. You tell her you’ll be praying for her.
Why are homemakers/homeschoolers/stay-at-homers/what-have-you so rarely given the same courtesy?
Most women do not become homemakers–and I don’t know a single one who becomes a homeschooler–simply by “falling into it.” You don’t just stumble across this way of life. It’s way too counter-cultural! It takes vision, effort, prayer, and a lot of hard work to even start making it happen. So, when we complain about a legitimately hard spell in this life (and who doesn’t have those in every line of life and work), we’re not looking for you to suggest we quit.
Maybe it’s not your friends who say these things. Maybe it’s a sister, mother, father, mother-in-law, or even your husband. To all those well-meaning loved ones, please don’t. Just…don’t.
When we stay-at-homers open up our hearts to you, we are looking for validation and encouragement, not a brush off. We are venting, just like you. This is not (at least in the vast majority of cases) a release of pent-up hostility toward our lives as stay-home-mothers. We have not been “faking” it for all those other weeks, storing up anger and bitterness for the “oppression” of our situations. We’re just having a hard time right now.
We don’t need you to fix it. We just want you to listen, pray with and for us, tell us to keep our chins up. Like we would do for you.
Please understand: Home-making, home educating, mothering–this is my job, but more than that, it’s my vocation. My calling. My life goal, choice, purpose, and course all rolled into one. Please respect it as such.
When I’m having a rough day, I don’t want someone to tell me to quit my vocation and find a new one. Believe me, I’ve considered other options. I chose this one. I don’t plan on quitting just because the going gets tough. Because what I’m doing produces something far more valuable than a paycheck: people.
Of course, I realize and wholeheartedly agree that children can be and often are “raised right” in a traditional school setting. (Though not always.) Paid employment and public school are perfectly legitimate options. Ones that many families make. Maybe yours. And that’s wonderful. Every mother should have the freedom to make the best choice for her own family without the pressure of societal guilt and judgment.
The best thing for my family is for me to be at home full-time and home educate my children.
To address the common stipulation that usually gets raised at this point: Yes, I am blessed that I don’t have to work to put food on the table. I recognize that. But I am not (to stare the ’90s stereotype in the face) spending my days stretched out on the couch eating bon-bons. (Thanks for that, Peggy Bundy.)
We homeschooling families work hard. We prioritize, and we make sacrifices. They may look different than your work, your priorities, your sacrifices, but that only makes us different, not “less.”
I sacrificed my career for heaven’s sake! And, yes, that was hard. Sometimes I even throw myself a pity party. But when I do, please don’t imply that all my effort and sacrifice have been for nothing by suggesting I throw in the towel. Unless, of course, you do believe that what I have chosen to give my life to is a waste of my efforts and abilities. Then, suggest away. I’ll gather up my battered ego on the way out the door. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be calling you for coffee again.
I won’t, however, turn the tables and suggest when you have a hard day that you quit your job and come home like me.
But if, instead of a “quick fix,” you can offer me some true friendship and real sisterly encouragement, then thank you. I’ll be sure to return the favor the next time we grab lattes.