I get asked that question more than you’d think: “I can’t imagine homeschooling three kids. I can’t imagine homeschooling ONE. How do you do it?!” I honestly chuckle to myself, because when I think of all the stay at home moms (or dads!) in the world…I probably have it easier than just about anyone. I have arguably the three most incredible kids a parent could ask for. (My husband isn’t half bad either.) If you know me, you know I’m not one to blow smoke. They get on my nerves every now and again – sure. They can be total pains in the ass at times. (They got that from James.) But they put up with me, and I think they even kind of like me. So all in all, who can complain?
They’re independent, but they also enjoy spending time with us. They’re sassy and occasionally defiant, but they know when I’m not in the mood for back talk. They struggle to complete daily chores, but they have no problem jumping in to help when we have a big task to accomplish together. And when I’m having a rough or busy day, they offer to make my lunch and bring me coffee. Or chocolate. They’d bring me wine too, but I have to draw the line somewhere. They’re polite with strangers, and they act (mostly) civilized in public. And after spending three weeks in a two bedroom apartment, they haven’t killed each other yet. Just this morning, they were making fun of the new Justin Bieber song together. Their too-loud-for-an-apartment-building giggles made me grin from ear to ear. I adore how much they like each other. When they aren’t fighting, that is. But mostly, I love how they seem to express a perfect mixture of insightfulness, curiosity, and compassion.
So although I’ve talked often and in-depth about how the homemaker gig isn’t really my thing, I have to tell you – spending 98% of my waking hours with these three tiny humans is not hard. In fact, I can’t imagine not having this experience.
Are you wondering why am I writing this seemingly pointless post? Well, I’ll tell you. I’m reminding myself of all the reasons I chose this life. With James going back to a normal job, it’s easy to start panicking. In Hawai’i, we had a lot of family time. A LOT of it. And here, it will be different. It’ll just be me and the kids most of the time. And the last time we had a regular schedule like this, I struggled quite a bit. I began to lose myself. I began to feel like my only job in life was to be a mom and wife. And although you know I think that’s incredibly important, it can’t be everything for me. I still have to pursue other avenues or I’ll go crazy.
So I’m reminding myself that my children are no longer soul-sucking toddlers. (No offense to all you toddlers reading this post.) They don’t require my every minute, and they are such a joy to be around. I genuinely like them, and I can have so much fun in their presence. (I also genuinely like that they know how to scatter when I need my alone time.) Before you roll your eyes at either my perspective of the past or my glamorization of the present, you have to remember that ten years ago, I was miserable. I was lost, hopeless, and severely depressed. I am none of those things now. I’m able to separate myself, and I also know that my roles work together. I don’t have to rebel against laundry and cooking dinner, because doing those things doesn’t mean they’re all I am. They mean we need clean clothes and food to eat. (I draw the line at doing dishes though.)
I can pursue my own passions while still being the mom I want to be. I can watch my children develop and hopefully guide them to be the people they’re meant to be based on my own experiences. Through all of my fears about homeschooling, it’s working. For the most part, they’re secure in themselves, they (usually) grasp how fortunate they are in relation to many other children in the world, and they have a desire to learn. That is all I ever wanted. And it’s taken me 12 years as a parent, but I feel secure in my ability to be their mom. I also feel secure in my ability to be myself. And regardless of my current title, the two are not mutually exclusive.
I am also trying to remember that I’m in a unique and fortunate position. I’ve been struggling with the idea that I’ve waited too late in life to begin a career. Once I finish my degree, what will I do then? I’m too old to be an intern. I’m too old to be in an entry-level position somewhere. But James reminded me recently that I couldn’t be more wrong. As the kids get older, I’ll have more freedom with my time. And because our family doesn’t depend on my income, I do have the ability to be an intern. Age is irrelevant. If that gets my foot in the door with whatever career I choose, I have that freedom. How many people can say that? And to be quite frank, James would move mountains to make our life fit around my dream job if some fantastic opportunity popped up. He would quit his job, move across the country, take on the homeschooling responsibilities himself…whatever he had to do. That man just likes to see me happy.
So yes, it will seem in some ways that I’m taking a step back. With James working more hours, I’ll need to be more of a homemaker than I’d prefer. It doesn’t make sense to wait until he gets home at 7 or 8 to start making dinner. He wouldn’t mind – he’s never minded taking on an equal (or greater…) share of the household responsibilities. But I think maybe I’d rather spend our time together doing fun things. Like sitting on the couch side by side playing on our iPads.
At the root of it all, I need to remember to value myself. The past couple of years, I’ve gotten it in my head that because my job as a mom is so easy, I’m not doing enough. Because I’m not the wife who irons her husband’s clothes, keeps a tidy house, or has a hot meal ready each night, I’m not valuable. I’ve been racking my brain for ways to make money because I thought that without that, I was worthless. No one told me this. No one put me down for spending “my husband’s” money, least of all the guy who’s earning it. It’s just part of being a human, I guess? It’s part of being an independent human. I’ve been with my husband for over half of my life, but I am still and forever will be my own person. I still need to be important and valuable in my own right.
So when it came to my passions, I thought they had no value if I wasn’t moving forward in a financial way. And it began to consume me. Instead of choosing to do things out of joy, I began only doing them as a means to an end. And I don’t need to live that way. In fact, I was doing a disservice to myself and my marriage. James does value me. He doesn’t think that my job as a mom is easy just because we have good children. In fact, he knows that he doesn’t have to stress about the parenting side of things because I take on the lion’s share of that job. Because it is still a job, even if its rewards aren’t monetary. (They’re much bigger than that.)
I mean, c’mon….look at these three. How can you not enjoy the hell out of your time with them?
The big difference between today and back then is that I now realize I’m in control of my own joy. I get to wake up every day and fill my hours with happiness, love, and passion. I can appreciate my time with my kids while also being excited about my future career goals. Life isn’t paused because I’m a stay at home mom. I’m always moving forward, even (and sometimes especially) when it doesn’t feel that way. My kids are old enough now that I can pursue my own passions while helping them find theirs. And what better gift can I give them than embodying all that it means to be a happy adult?! Because dammit, life IS fun. Or at least, it can be when we pour our heart into it.
So instead of “How do I do it?”, I’m asking myself, “How WILL I do it?” And the answer is that I will do it with love. And joy. And patience.