When Bobby turned two I decided to homeschool. I am a planner and like schedules and order, so our playroom was labeled and resembled a classroom in a daycare center. I picked themes for each month and built lesson plans around each one. We built jungles in the living room and made large masking tape letters in the playroom. In my mind it all had to be perfect to prove to the world that I was doing the right thing for my child. I was so gung ho in those early years! And then I had another baby.
My newest little bundle, Gabe spent nearly a month in the NICU and came home very attached to me. He did not want to even be put down, and I was so happy to have him home that I showered him with attention. I remember as clear as day, about three days after he came home from the hospital, I called my mom crying. I was sure Bobby was going to die because Gabe wouldn't let me put him down. I could not make Bobby lunch and he was going to die. I know, crazy right? But I was physically tired and emotionally drained from dealing with the stress of caring for a new baby who need extra support. My mom said she would be there soon, and about an hour later she showed up with a baby carrier. She put it on me and set Gabe inside it. She said, “Now, Bobby won't die." I could tell she was trying not to laugh, but I was serious.
Another time, I was upset because Gabe needed so much of my time I was not homeschooling as much as I wanted. I called a friend of mine who was homeschooling her five kids. She said, "Jenn, when your kid ends up in counseling as an adult, he is not going to say, “All my problems are because mom did not homeschool me enough when I was five.” We laughed, and all that guilt I was facing just drained away.
My mom and my friend were the only people I let see this side of my mothering. Everyone else saw a happy, put-together homeschool mom. I felt that since I prayed for so long to have children that I had no right to complain about motherhood, but being a good mother has to be the thing that I work hardest at and feel I fail at the most. Every time my sons fight with each other, or say something rude in front of another parent, I just cringe. I feel that I am being looked at under a microscope and that everything needs to be perfect. I also felt that I was looked at differently because of my weight, and that I was lazy for homeschooling my kids. So I planned lots of classes and fieldtrips to show how active we were. I am probably more strict than most—my 11-year-old likes to say we live under a rock—but it is my job to protect my kids from some things and make sure what they are exposed to is age appropriate. I am also very careful about what they eat and will spend extra to make sure they are eating healthy. My kids know what quinoa is and eat it often. We avoid food dyes as much as possible. One day I gave in and let Gabe have a slushie. He hugged me and said, “Thanks for letting me get food dye, mom.” Now, I do all of these things not to show the world I am a good mom, but to actually be a good mom.
At first I did not know many home schooling moms, or even moms that had young children, so I had no basis for comparison. Over the years as my circle of mom-friends has grown, I’ve learned that we all go through these things—all of our children are going to say rude things at one time or another, they’re not going to eat the healthiest food all the time, and sometimes if you look at our family under a microscope you won’t be thrilled with what you see. There’s a reason why there are mom-nicknames like "granola mom," "helicopter mom," “snow-plow mom,” and the like—it’s because we all experience all of these things at one time or another while we’re raising our families.
As I mentioned, adding home schooling to the mixI have home school friends who span the spectrum from unschooling to rigidly scheduled school at home. I fall somewhere in the middle and appreciate what each of my friends brings to the table. We’re able to support each other in our choices, even if they are not choices we would make for our children. I wear this mask with fewer people now, but I have to admit, I still struggle with letting this one go in front of “the world,” or people who really don’t know me. With strangers and acquaintances I still feel the need to be perfect as a mom and teacher. I honestly don't think that I will every truly conquer this mask completely. I’ll feel the pressure to educate and raise Godly, respectful men who can support their families financially and spiritually will be with me until my sons leave my home. I can say that I now give myself more wiggle room. I don't sweat the small stuff. I lead them in love, and I believe the rest will fall into place.
So, where are you trying to be the perfect mom? Are the things you stress over really important, or would looking at the bigger picture help put them in the right perspective? How can we focus more on raising truly honorable, responsible, and educated future citizens? How can we help them make good choices from the heart, instead of worrying so much about how our children appear on the outside? What will help us find joy in our children’s uniqueness, rather than point out where they fall short in comparison to others? And, precious mom, where do we need to give yourself a break and just relax?