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
Just curious- when you were working as a Hospitalist what schedule were you on?? 7 on/7 off?? Continue to love your posts!!
Hi, Jessica—Nope. I did work 12 hour shifts (which, after finishing up my admits and then changing over, took more than 12 hours), but I never (I don’t think.) worked more than three shifts per week. And as each year and month passed, it seemed to go from 3 to 2 to 1 shift per week! My group was exceptionally busy and so they took whatever they could get from me. When they hired me, they knew I wouldn’t do overnights and I only wanted 2-3 shifts per week.
In my experience, physicians are the masters of “delayed gratification” (who else could make it through med school?). One day your children will be grown and you might want to “go back to work” (however, I know for a fact that “stay at home moms” work harder now than anyone). When our kids were little an elderly woman told my wife, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the nation.” I can’t disagree.
I’d say “masters of ‘delayed gratification.'” Must explain why I still don’t have a new kitchen. (Smirk.)
I might one day want to go back to work. I’ve learned so much that would really round out my practice, really supplementing people’s lives. But, I might get run out of town trying to practice with some of the stuff! Although some of what I learned about five years ago is making it mainstream (like FODMAPS, gut bacteria, gluten sensitivity, saturated fat not being evil), but it’s a drop in the bucket when people keep abusing their minds and bodies.
Good quote from the elderly woman.
Terri– My kids are grown, finished college and on their own now. I would not have traded my homeschooling years for anything!! (There were days I just wished they could “get on the bus” with the rest of the neighborhood kids, but those were passing moments.) I told people that I did not “give up” my career as a nurse, but that I changed careers when I got married and had kids. Sure, financially it would have been a lot better but at what price? We learned to do without and survived. For a time, I worked at crisis counseling. Then all the other pressures to do more outside my home began to take over. Seems when we are viewed as just a SAHM the world thinks all our time is free. I had to learn to say, “No!” and to keep my priorities and my sanity and health. Thanks for your transparency and encouragement.
Good Morning, Mary! I hope all is well with you! Yes, I’ve had a few passing “get on the bus moments!” And once or twice, a “I’m going back to work! Nobody appreciates me.” lapse. (Haha! Grin!)
That is a good way to put it about not “giving up” your career. One professional woman said to me when she learned I was a medical doctor who quit working to homeschool, “That must have felt like such a sacrifice!” Her words didn’t sit well for me, actually been wanting to eventually write a post on it. I think it’s because like you say, I didn’t “give it up” but I chose to “change careers.”
Good reminder that when we take on one thing, usually other things start tagging along, pulling us. Doesn’t go well with being present to nurture my kids’ learning. I love what you say about priorities, sanity, and health. I see SO many mothers in their 50s and 60s who don’t have their sanity and health. I’m mindfully aware of that! It’s in my face every day. It’s ALL around us! So DON’T TELL ME that women can do it all. I’ve committed to myself to not follow that pattern. Not in a way that says, “It’s wrong.” But in a way that says, “Terri, how you feeling girl? Does this feel right? Things going well?” Then regrouping as needed!
Thanks, Mary. Eat right for life. For the good things that you want to perpetuate and share!
Thanks for your post. I found it interesting to read and reflect on it. I too am a mother of three small children, and a doctor (though I don’t home school my children). I have found similar struggles in the doctor/mother balance. At one point I felt too frazzled by work, exhausted by a baby getting up often in the night, and like I wasn’t a “good” doctor or mother, a very hard place to be. Now I am grateful to work part time, I enjoy being home with my kids some days, exploring where the day takes us, cooking healthy meals, picking up the messes, and having more energy for bedtime routines. Thanks for inspiring and sharing part of your journey.
Dear Ann: I’m glad you commented. Thank you! It sounds like you’ve found a satisfying balance. Kudos! It was hard at first to see others attempting to work, raise kids, be involved in life in general, while feeling myself grow more and more conflicted trying to do the same. This piece of you says, “You can do that…” (And you know you could.) The other piece of you says, “I’m not willing to pay the price…” (And you know your principles won’t let you.)
Best wishes for you and your family, your patients, your life! May they shine and abound in joy, laughter, love!
Thanks for reading!
Hey! I thought of you the other day. I have been listening to this awesome podcast called A Quirky Journey and one Ep was about allergies and intolerances and leaky gut and the Dr they were interviewing was talking about how he had to unlearn a lot of his medical training and relearn how to be an investigator. He was saying how the scientific approach is really important to him and he is always looking for research to help with his area of medicine. Made me think of you! I think you would totally enjoy this podcast and especially this episode of you are so inclined. Hope you are all keeping well xx
Yeeesssss! That describes it perfectly, my mindset the last five years! What’s his name? Do you remember? Have the link?
Hope your life is fulfilling right now (and always!)–
His name is Dr Igor Tabrizian. I don’t have a link as I get my podcasts via the app on my iPhone but the Podcast is called A Quirky Journey and it is episode no 47 – The Science behind Allergies.
Here is the link I found when Googling A Quirky Journey
I hadn’t looked at your blog for a while, and happened to link to it today. I think the podcast EmilyMaine is referring to is the second one on the list.
Yes, yes yes! I’m with you 100% on your thinking here. Many women in medicine have approached me for advice over the past year, and I’m cautious to emphasize with them that the answer is really up to them, to who they are, to what’s most important to them. . . to what they can live with. There’s no blanket approach that suits everyone. God doesn’t give us all the same calling!
Colleagues urged me to work part time while I tackled homeschooling. I would have loved to, as I loved my job, but I’m an “all or nothing” kind of person who stinks at delegating. Even in part-time work, my patients would have occupied my thoughts full time. Right now, I know I’m called to homeschool the kids full time. One day, I’ll follow a call elsewhere. It’s all about seasons in life.
“God doesn’t give us all the same calling!”
No, He sure doesn’t! Moving into our comfort with our own calling and letting go of attachments to what may be another’s calling is such a very valuable lesson.
“…But I’m an ‘all or nothing’ kind of person who stinks at delegating…”
Check. Ditto here.
“…All about seasons in life.”
Absolutely! (But did I mention, God, that I like one better than another… ha!)
Take care! I left your last name on the comment, Dr. Katie Butler, because I know you have a book coming out!!!! (I usually edit out last names unless I know someone is published or similar sorts.) Super yay! Super exciting! But let me know if you’d like your last name edited out of comments. I sure can do. (And remove this little snippet with your name too.)
Hi Terri, last name is fine! 🙂 Thanks for checking though.
I was absolutely amazed at the sacrifice you made for the sake of your children. I assure you made the right choice as money is NOT everything in this world!
No. And maybe they’ll be able to afford ME a good retirement home with their good education. (Wink. Kidding.) I looked at your site. Fun! Good job! I enjoy homeschooling my kids. They get a good education. Have time to do more fun things. Learn to sew. Speak Spanish. Rub my back. (Joke.) It has been worth what I gave up professionally to see them mature in a healthy manner.
You take care!
This is such a great post! I stayed home and home schooled my daughter through the preschool years. Then when she was ready to start kindergarten, I got this fantastic teaching job at an awesome school in Cambodia where she could go and have a wonderful teacher that I worked with closely. So I felt good about doing that since I could be close by and see her frequently throughout the day, and even have some influence over how the class was conducted. It wasn’t sufficiently intellectually stimulating for her, but it was a pleasant, nurturing environment and my husband and I could do cool science experiments and other stuff with her at home to supplement. But, as in your case, when I got home from a day of teaching kids almost as young as her, I didn’t feel like being a mom right away. I need some alone time to recharge before I can deal with a kid again. I felt like I was being pulled in too many directions to really do a good job in any of my roles. So when the school started to go in a direction I didn’t like so much, either for teaching or for my daughter, I put in my notice. Now we’re getting back into home schooling and it feels good to be able to give her the kind of intellectual stimulation that she wants. And besides just because we are interested in multiple careers, doesn’t necessarily mean we should do them all at the same time. You might be able to be a fire fighter, a ballerina, and a doctor when you grow up, but maybe just at different points in your life, not all at once! Thanks for the thoughtful discussion of this issue. It goes unrecognized far too often.
“And besides just because we are interested in multiple careers, doesn’t necessarily mean we should do them all at the same time.”
Exactly! I’m so much more aware now of the ability to ebb and flow with the [many] skills I’ve acquired in life.
Thanks so much for sharing a piece of your story! Children are so important. I love to think of them being thoughtfully nurtured. I wish you all the best, for you and your daughter and your husband!