For two years I worked as a physician (as a hospitalist, if you know what that is) and homeschooled. It was a crazy time of life for me, and I didn’t like the chaos. Some of my best friends with kids say that working keeps them sane. Or that it makes them better parents. I kind of wondered at first what was wrong with me. Why wasn’t I a happy and working mom? Or a happy working and homeschooling mom? Was I somehow weak or flawed? Was I just not capable of being a modern woman?
Nah. I know I’m as capable as the next man or woman. But I didn’t want to do it. Homeschooling, “mommy-ing,” and working concomitantly didn’t make my heart happy. It didn’t add to my life. I don’t like frazzle. I don’t like chronic chaos. I don’t like being spread thin. And, notably, I could not make the transfer from work to kids. In some ways, I feel more “man” in this regard than my husband (who is what I call “all guy”), who can walk in the door and be fully vested in us, granting hugs all around.
Not me! Me? Point me to the nearest man cave! After a 12 hour day of work back in the day, I was like, “I’d prefer it if I didn’t see anyone until the Queen (me) has bathed, fully supped, checked her written correspondence, and then, perhaps then, she’ll grant kisses on chubby little hands on their way to bed.”
WHOA! Who wants that woman for a mom? WHO wants to be that woman? Not me! I didn’t like that me! I’m a good, kind, loving, and compassionate mom, and I needed to create the environment that allowed the real mommy-me to shine.
So when people ask me, “Can you work and homeschool?” My answer is, “Of course you can! I don’t want to, but you sure can!” I thought I’d share myself as a case-study for those exploring this question for themselves. Perchance, by seeing some of yourself–or NOT seeing yourself–in me, you’ll be better prepared to answer the question with awareness of yourself.
Yes, this helps…
First let’s look at the properties of my life that allowed me to feel comfortable homeschooling and working for a while:
- An exceptionally supportive husband
- Very flexible hours
- Kind co-workers
- Only homeschooling one child at first, who was in her early years (kindergarten through about second grade)
- I kept the curriculum basic and felt 90% free to adapt it to how she learned (which wasn’t how I wanted her to learn…).
- Living in a warm climate which allowed lots of outdoor time
- Good friends already in place for my kids to hang out with on weekends and evenings (These friends went to school and were not homeschooled.)
- A strong homeschool co-op for activities as we wanted them and where we could (and did!) meet new friends when I wasn’t working
- I sent one younger sibling to a wonderful morning pre-school which she loved, leaving just the baby who still napped, so we could homeschool during morning nap time on my days off.
- My daughter was young enough to cooperate with some weekend and evening work if we didn’t get things done.
- My female doctor friends from medical school encouraging me to follow my heart
Mmm. That doesn’t sound pleasant…
Now let’s look at the other side which really began limiting a positive homeschooling and life experience:
- I was tired all the time and very forgetful. I physically felt bad and wondered what was wrong with me.
- The part of me that needs alone time to recover was battered, raped, and abused.
- Work called more and I could give less. I felt guilty because my co-workers were good people who worked too much themselves, and here I was telling them “no.”
- My kids needed me more and I felt guilty.
- My husband wanted me and he was last on the list.
- Physical messes in my home affect me greatly and with me gone working, there were more physical messes.
- The schoolwork started requiring more time and effort.
- It just didn’t feel like there was time for the refrigerator to break, the air conditioning to need fixed, fleas to get in the house, doctor’s appointments, sick days—-in general, no time for life to happen.
- Schoolwork didn’t happen well without me there to guide it or push it along. (I had a recalcitrant student who has now blossomed incredibly.) A sitter or grandparent just didn’t have the same effect as mom.
- I had a toddler. Toddlers are very demanding.
- I had a nursing baby.
- I was perpetually irritable.
Why do I need this?
When working and homeschooling became more than I wanted to piggyback, then I stopped and looked at WHY I wanted to work:
- I had loans to pay off.
- Because I had put SO much effort into getting where I was at! Twelve years of my life and tons of delayed gratification!
- I liked being a hospitalist doctor a lot. Taking care of hospitalized, acutely ill patients is usually very rewarding.
- Work offered rhythm, constancy, and community. When I walked into the hospital, I knew exactly what to expect. (Yes, each day and patient was different! But the rhythm of the system was the same.)
- It worked a whole different part of my brain than child rearing and housework, and that felt good. Kind of like a back rub for the brain!
- To provide a sense of equality with my husband in our household. (I’m a wee-bit competitive.)
- I felt respected and well-liked.
- I felt it was a service still being asked of me by my God.
- I didn’t want to be “just” a stay-at-home mom.
I often sit around, just for fun, and wonder what would have allowed me to homeschool and work. I think maybe I could have done both if:
- I had immediate family living in the same town
- Someone else would have been as good as I was at getting my daughter to do her work
- If external chaos didn’t faze me so strongly
- If my life situation necessitated it
- My husband had a knack for teaching young children
- The kids weren’t so young
- I could have lowered expectations in all areas of my life
- Monkeys flew and unicorns swam
Many people find my little spot here when they are searching about homeschooling and quitting work. I liked working as a medical doctor, but once I had kids, the same overachieving, perfectionist, benevolent tendencies that allowed me to succeed in medicine are the exact same traits that demanded me to achieve success my way in motherhood. I wish I could have it all: work, kids, homeschooling, a happy me, a happy marriage, exercise, three real-food-meals a day, friends, a clean and tidy house, sleep, a well-decorated house, church, a new kitchen, a dog, a blog, flying monkeys and swimming unicorns.
But I can’t. For me, I decided I didn’t need professional satisfaction or resting on laurels. I did need to keep learning and sharing (so I study and write little articles for this blog on alternative health). I needed to know I could work if necessary or desired (so I keep my licenses up). I needed to know that I was providing safety, security, and a strong psychological, emotional, educational, and spiritual core for my kids (and me!!!!). I needed to have time to foster a relationship with my husband. I needed some semblance of order.
No matter what—I don’t need aeronautical primates or aquatic, horned equines that just don’t exist.
Good luck to you! It’s a “live, studio audience,” so feel free to ask questions or leave comments on your experience.
Photo attribution: Sonarpulse. origenal:Huji [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons