If you have chosen to be a homeschool parent you have taken a momentous step. You looked at the path of least resistance—the choice of just sending your little human off to school—and said “No, thank you.” But just because you chose this life, doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging.
As a homeschool parent, you may have given up your career, even if it was only a job. You have sacrificed various ways you could be spending your time to, instead, give it to your child. This is a beautiful thing for your child. But it can be really hard on you.
If your children are young and still need everything from diaper changes to constant supervision, you have good reason to feel overwhelmed at times. When they are so little they follow you to the bathroom, it can be hard to not lose your mind. You deserve a little bit of time to remember who you are, not just a mom.
But even if your children are not so little, it can be hard to remember who you actually are once you’ve given up so much, especially if you have been doing it for years. You may feel like you are “just a mom” instead of a whole person.
So, here is my advice for self-care as a homeschooling parent.
First, find a hobby to do without your kids. Yes, I know those unschool books told you to be interesting in front of your kids. And that is fine if you can actually do things you like with your kids around. But, if you want to crochet but your child is small and keeps frogging your work (pulling it out, which sounds like rip-it, rip-it), you need to make time and space for yourself.
It is important to realize we don’t all have the same challenges with having or creating hobbies, so I know you may not know what to do about this. But I recommend finding a way to do something away from your kids once a week. For me, for many years, that activity was a knitting and crochet mom group that met up to chat and stitch. I invited other moms I liked, and mentioned they didn’t HAVE to bring a project, and that other projects like embroidery or cross stitch were also welcome. I told my husband I was making Christmas gifts in secret as an excuse for why I could not work on my projects at home. I’m sure I made someone something for Christmas, but it was honestly an excuse.
For you, having a paint and sip class, yoga, or a friend you go for a walk with might fill your need to be a human away from your kids. Try to remember what you liked before you had kids. Were you into photography or writing? Maybe you want to spend some time doing those again, either with a group or on your own. Not everything has to be about your kids.
And yes, when they are old enough, you may share those parts of yourself with them, but you don’t have to. They can also have hobbies you don’t participate in, right? My kids get to do tons of classes and camps I am not going to do, so I can have things they don’t have, too.
Reading for yourself
Right here, right now, I give you permission to read fictional books that have no value to your family. If you used to be a reader, you should allow yourself to enjoy reading again. If you tend to obsess about books and neglect your family when you read, you may need to set yourself some limits, like you only read one book a month or only on Saturdays. I say that because I had to set limits on my reading when my kids were small. I would get lost in a good book, and then emerge from my story to discover what chaos my little angels had created while I read…. it wasn’t ideal.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t deserve to get lost in those fantasy worlds I enjoy. As a homeschool parent, the pressure to read things that will expand your mind or help you be a better teacher is immense. Let go of that pressure. Yes, you may have to read the manual that goes with your math curriculum, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you read this week. Your brain deserves to be fed good stories too.
You can use audiobooks so you can listen while you drive or cook or clean. You can read a novel on your phone while the kids play at the park. Go ahead and enjoy that comic or fan fiction, whatever you prefer. Read them while your kids do their math worksheet or when you are ready to rest at the end of the day and tell them to go use their screens and give you a break.
Yes, I just told you to hand out the iPads for an hour while you go read your paranormal urban romance books, or whatever it is you enjoy. An hour won’t hurt them and may save your sanity.
Find time for Friends
I’ll be honest, I lost my pattern of hanging out with friends during Covid. We had a rhythm and we lost it. But it is important to have adult time with other adults. You need and deserve some social time that you enjoy.
When your kids are little, finding a friend with kids a similar age can mean having “play dates” where your kids play together and you get to chat with another adult. Finding that other mom you click with can be tricky but it is a wonderful thing to choose.
If you have friends but don’t know what to do with them, go ahead and reach out and try to make plans. Invite them over for a game night, a potluck, or a craft night where you all make crafts together. Figure out what you and your friends will enjoy.
Perhaps you need to coordinate a Taco Tuesday-type event where everyone brings food for a big meal to share that has an easy and inexpensive theme. Let everyone bring their kids but send them all out to play or to watch a movie while you talk to the other adults.
Sometimes when we homeschool, we forget that we matter. We forget we need friends, hobbies, and to feed our own brains. Don’t put yourself on the back burner until your children graduate. Take time to feed your own emotional, physical, and mental needs. You and your kids will all be better off for it.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.