I recently had a conversation with a woman I haven't seen in a while. She asked me all about home schooling and "how is that going?"
We'd just finished having a discussion about her two youngest children and how she's struggling, as all mothers with small children do from time to time. She's exhausted and frustrated and so when she turned the tables on me and asked how things were going with us, I felt like a real shmuck answering the truth because the truth is that we've never been happier and it felt like I'd be rubbing that in her face if I said so.
And so here is where I made a horrible mistake. I lied. I told her that it was "mostly okay. I still have my struggles."
Those things are true but I lied by omission because the truth is, homeschooling is one of the best things that has ever happened to my family. It's brought a level of happiness, loveliness and peace that I never imagined possible for us.
Sure, there are challenges but 98.5% of the time it rocks and I'm tired of skirting around this. I often don't tell the truth when asked because when I have, I've had people say things like, "Just because I don't homeschool doesn't mean that I'm not a good mother."
Of course it doesn't.
It's amazing how saying, "I'm loving homeschooling" can be misinterpreted to mean,"you don't homeschool your children therefore you suck at all things mother related." I have one mother who every.single.time she sees me she gives me a list of reasons why she doesn't homeschool...totally unsolicited reasons. Like, we're talking about the crazy Toronto mayor and she's like, " for real, he's a wack job and also, just so you know, I don't homeschool because my husband would never go for it."
Um...okay!? I've figured out that she doesn't say this for my benefit, after all...I'm not even asking her about it. I don't even bring up the subject. But this is an issue for her and I have to be sensitive to that. Also, if someone is telling me their struggles about their kids I feel like I need to mute things a bit because if I let my true emotions come out I would be all, "my kids and I are wonderful! Unicorns fly over our house every single day and leave trails of rainbows that we frolic under daily."
And so knowing that this can be a hot button issue for people, I avoid it in person. But here I can say whatever I want and I don't have to worry about hurting someone's feelings (at least not face to face) or feeling guilty that right now things are going awesome so I can say it and I can say it loudly...I FREAKING LOVE HAVING MY KIDS HOME! WE ARE HAVING THE BEST TIME EVAH!
I once had me some small kids who nearly drove me to drink. Did I ever tell you about the time that I ran away from home because I just couldn't take it anymore? Like, Hal got home from work at 7pm and all three kids were screaming and going totally nut job and I handed him one baby and then two and then picked up my purse, walked out the door, got into my car and drove to the nearest hotel where I checked in and did nothing but bathe and sleep for the next twelve hours.
I ran away from home because if I hadn't I might have completely lost it. So I get it. I honestly do. We are all at different stages.
I could have never homeschooled them when they were very young because I would have surely strangled one of them. I have friends who homeschool four kids under the age of 8. They are super heroes. It was so bad for me when the kids were young that sometimes I wondered if I should have ever had them at all and I doubted my mothering skills every day. I trudged through the daily work load and barely (like with the skin on my teeth) survived and I'd just about figured that I was the biggest failure that motherhood had ever seen and then something magical happened.
My kids grew up a little bit and they loosened their death grip long enough for me to take a deep breath. Each day got better and the hard work started to pay off, little by little. I became more of the mom I wanted to be. Suddenly there was more laughing than yelling. There was more loving than fighting. There was more rest. I'm not sure if this happened because they grew up or because I did.
And then somewhere in the middle of the chaos I started to feel much more comfortable in my mothering skin. I remember after having my first child, I had a discussion with another first time mom and she said, "I've never been happier in my life." This made me want to cry because I'd never been so miserable. I wish I could tell my younger self, "don't worry...you'll get there."
It took many years and many tears. And while I always loved my children, I'm not so sure I liked them so much. In Maya Angelou's book "Mom And Me And Mom" she talks about her mother being the worst mother a young child could have. But her mother redeemed herself because she turned out to be the best mother a young adult could ever have. This is me. I wasn't the best mother to babies and toddlers but darned if I'm not an amazing mother to school-aged children.
All I know is that right now, I'm having the time of my life with my kids. I spend nearly every second of the day with them and still can't get enough and I need to be honest about this. Perhaps the reason I find this so amazing is that when they were younger, I would literally count down the hours and minutes to when I could get away from them. I was honest when I was hanging on by a thread. That time sucked. But here's the flip side and I need to stop feeling guilty for it, stop toning it down so that others won't think I'm bragging or insinuating. I'm not. I'm just happy and if you love me, you'll be happy that I'm happy.
I didn't always like being a mom but now I do and so I'm going to shout that out as loud as I can. Right now is awesome. Thank God for this time. This is what that mother was talking about when she said she'd never been happier. I feel like the best mom in the world and I want to savor it.
Today the kids and I played games and laughed until we nearly peed our pants. Today we went on an a secret agent adventure through India. Today we read books under warm blankets. Today we drank hot cocoa. Today was glorious and I look forward to tomorrow.
I don't think I'd ever have found this happiness had I not been willing to take a shot and live my life in a way that veered from the crowd. But I'm starting to realize that so much of what made me unhappy was not motherhood at all, it was the expectations that the world put out there and I heaped upon myself. It was a never-ending race to keep up with everything and everyone else that drove me crazy. I did what everyone else did; sent the kids to school, ran them to umpteen events, volunteered at school, did homework, dressed the part, played the part and faked the part.
I needed to feel like I was keeping up so that I could feel like I was doing a good enough job and when I couldn't keep up, that's when I felt horrible and also when I felt most out of control. The world is a cruel place for mothers, it gives us an unreachable standard that is not a one size fit's all.
So mothers, I encourage you to carve out your own standard of happiness for you and your family. It may be homeschool it may not be. It may be something you come up with all on your own. It may not look at all like your sister's or your friend's or your neighbor's. It may look exactly opposite and they may snicker and you will undoubtedly question yourself but also, when nobody is looking, you will have so much happiness in your heart that you won't know what to do with it. It will seep out of every pore and you'll feel like you won the lottery. You made your own happiness because you dared to live differently than everyone else. You found your own size and it fits perfectly.