Category Archives: Giving up Your Career for Your Kids

My Experience With Working and Homeschooling

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.

Maybe if…

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

Closing

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.

Terri

Photo attribution:  Sonarpulse. origenal:Huji [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I Hate You

Frankly, my kids are killing me.  I don’t get it.  Why do the stories from seasoned parents come with smiles, jokes, and rolled eyes?  That’s dishonest.  Kid stories should come with rants, cursing, shrieking, sobs, and tears.  And what’s up with this?– “Oh, you’re so lucky you’re homeschooling.  You’ll avoid so many issues.”  Pft.  We can compare spec sheets if you want.  I think we’d find that despite different outward impressions, we’re working with the same vexatious operating system.

The Tricky Language

I have four daughters, two who are definitely “tweening” it.  One darling, “betwixted” daughter declared two days ago that I just have to learn the love language of “I hate you”.  (And quickly– before one of us ends up back at Granny’s house seventeen hours away.)

It’s quite a tricky language, fraught with peril.  I responded, “Anything for you, girl.” And I got right on that.  I typed out a little cheat sheet for myself of what I consider the most common phrases, showed it to my oldest daughter, and said, “Hey!  What do you think?”

I earned an A+ in my new language!  Now, I just have to practice, but with the ample opportunities, I’m sure I’ll be an expert before the day’s up.

Language Confinement

They say that certain languages are better for communicating certain ideas.  For example, medical science is usually communicated in English due to the specificity of the English language and  its words.  I don’t know, but all of my medical doctor friends from abroad tell me they studied medicine in English.  Amazing feat, eh?

I propose that tweens are dealing with language confinement.  Their language, which my daughter calls the hate language, just doesn’t have enough words and concepts to communicate effectively to us.  I can’t tell you how many times my girls have said to me when I ask them to describe how they’re feeling in a tense moment, “But I don’t know what I’m feeling!”

My girls honestly can’t express what they’re feeling.  Ugh. Trust me.  I’ve tried the active listening technique, and I sat there for over 30 minutes in silence waiting for a response.  (You have no idea how hard that was for me.)  The girls just don’t know what it is they’re feeling.  So what do they do?  They resort to their simple language of hate.  This hate language is clearly more limited in its abilities to express emotions.

Hate Language Phrases

I’ve translated some hate language phrases I hear in my house.  Sometimes a phrase might mean something slightly different, depending on the situation and daughter (see–it’s an inexact language!), but you’ll get the idea.  Stop!  Don’t bristle!  Interpret!

“I hate you.”   (Because I love you so much I don’t know how to separate myself from you.)

“It’s your fault.”  (I feel bad when I mess up but I’m so glad you try to protect me and help me and do something for me.)

“Katherine’s family is better.  (Because I want a cell phone with Snapchat and a Facebook account and to keep my phone in my room at night.)

“I hate my sister.”  (Am I okay?  I don’t feel special.  Does anyone love me for me?  I am an individual, not just a piece of this family unit.)

“Why are we always the first ones to have to leave?”  (I’m so glad you bring me to fun get-togethers.)

“You always take her side.”  (I feel so insecure.  Maybe I did pick this fight.  But I did it because for some reason I feel yucky inside and I want everyone to feel yucky–yet I want to be loved like a baby.  Why does my head feel so crazy inside, Mom?  What’s happening to me?  I can’t control how I feel anymore.)

“I need clothes.  I need camp.”  (I’m afraid I don’t fit in.  I feel so awkward.  I’m afraid I’m being left out.)

“I need you.”  (See me as a person, mom.  Make me feel special like you used to.)

Will We Laugh Too?

Ah.  Sigh.  (Big sigh.)  From poop to vomit to picking noses to the language of hate.  We parents are in it deep.  Is it funny?  I suppose looking back, when things turn out okay in the end, we’ll be able to laugh like those seasoned parents.  But seriously, I’ve seen things not turn out okay before. So although I don’t plan to stew and think I’m the controller of my kids’ destiny—which I do not believe–I’m learning that there are things I can help with as a parent and things I cannot help with.  I’m not a psychiatrist, and I’m not trained in psychology.  So please don’t use anything I write as professional advice.

But if something I write or wrote helps you not bristle and to communicate better with your tween, I am happy.  (It’s SO easy to retort to their hate language with our own hate language.) And if you know of something that helped YOU to not bristle and helped you communicate better with your tween, it’s NOT nice to NOT share.  PLEASE!  THROW ME THE ROPE!  🙂

The next post will be 12 tips on raising tweens.

You’re an awesome parent.  Don’t bristle, and let it shine.  Use your words.

Terri

Is that Massachusetts?

You don’t need to know your states to be a medical doctor.

“Are you ready for your states identification test?” I challenged my homeschooled daughter.

“Kind of. . . sometimes I forget the little states,” she bashfully replied.

Ha!  So do I!  And how to spell them too!  You don’t need to know your states to get through medical school.  I know.  Not where Masachusetts is.  (No.  Massachusetts.)  Not that, although this week I learned that too.  But I know that you can get through medical school not knowing which one’s New Hampshire and which one’s Vermont.  Even if you’ve been there.

Knowledge gaps exist.  When I started homeschooling seven years ago, I told myself I would remedy those gaps.  My children would not have the gaps I had coming out of school. Everything I wanted to learn and didn’t, I would pour onto them.  Beautifully, life smashes your nose up, puts dark hair where it doesn’t belong, and creates a new face for you.

THEN, you’re CoverGirl material.

A Mothering Question

Today I asked myself a question as I was unloading the dishwasher.  Strangely, I never thought to ask myself this question before today.

Would I want myself for a mother?

Why?  Why not?

I’m off to think on this some more.  I don’t think I’ll ask my kids this question.  I’ll just chew on it myself.  Have an absolutely beautiful day, from this moment forward.

Terri

Do I Regret Quitting My Job to Homeschool?

Yesterday I went for my first “getting-up-in-years” mammogram.  (Everything was normal.)  But at the front desk, the checker-inner asked me, “Are you still a [slight, almost imperceptible pause] stay-at-home housewife?”

I could see she struggled a little bit knowing how to politely ask that question in such a way that it sounded, I don’t know, you know, nice and non-judgmental.  I wonder if the term selection is very, very mildly reminiscent of choosing the appropriate word for “black” colored-skin.  We want to choose a word that isn’t “loaded.”

I smiled graciously and said, “Yes.  That doesn’t entirely describe it, but I am.”

About four years ago I was asked that same question while checking in for a doctor’s appointment, and I squirmed and writhed so badly inside I thought my Medusa snakes would crawl out the top of my head.  (No.  I am NOT a stay-at-home housewife, I am a DOCTOR.  You know.  Just like the person I’m about to see…)  Yesterday, I didn’t even notice any Medusa snakes.  Nice, baby.  You’re doing great!

I do not regret quitting my job to homeschool.  I’m typing fast today, so I’m just going to list some thoughts in no particular order.  I’m letting the editor (that’s me) have the morning off.

I like my kids.  I honestly like who they are.  I like challenging them to grow as people in their world.  I like challenging them to express themselves and their gifts.  I love hearing their thoughts, and as they get older, it is even more and more fun.  They’ve learned things I don’t know and get to tell me about them.  They’ve grown into their sense of humor and make me laugh; each one has a different kind.

I love sharing.  I have lots of things I want my kids to learn before they leave my house.  How to cook.  How to fold towels.  Who Lucy Ricardo is.  Who Jean Valjean is.  What their mom thinks about marriage and friendship.  I have so many things I want them to know.  So many things in my head and heart I want to share with them.  This is my chance.  MY chance.

I love to learn.  Although with the toddler (18 months), I’m not learning alongside them as much as before, I still enjoy catching some Spanish, Latin, poetry, history and grammar skills.

This is it.  They aren’t growing smaller.  They’re growing older.  I want them to have the peace and security of our home and love.

But what about me?  This IS a hard part.  I am NOT my children.  My children WILL leave, and when they do, I do not want a shell of me.  I want ME.  So, right now, it IS hard to cultivate me.  I do feel selfish for carving out time to read and write.  (That’s what I like to do so much.)  I do feel like a babysitter a lot of times right now, chasing the toddler around and cleaning up the kitchen floor about six times a day.  THAT is hard.  (I’ve never liked babysitting.  Believe it or not, I’m not a kid-person.  I just like people.  To me, kids are people.)  I am giving up a lot of myself to do this, but I cannot even explain to you how I am growing.  When I recognize these feelings and emotions, I don’t sit on them and stew.  That would be so bad for me, my husband, and my kids.  Oh, no!  I go read what I can.   Find others who have been in this situation and what their perspective is.  Library books, Googling the topic, reading blogs, finding books on Amazon, and talking with other moms gives me so much insight to myself.  I never miss an opportunity to use uncomfortable emotions to GROW myself.

My husband rocks my world.  The house is my office.  My husband gets that, and he totally respects how I run our house and homeschool.  (Don’t think he ALWAYS thinks I do things right.  We have plenty of discussion on differing viewpoints.  I don’t always win.  We compromise together.)  He loves me and adores me, and I can feel that.  He is 100% part of this mission, and he makes that very clear to the girls and me.  We’ve learned to speak each other’s love language and we both make our marriage one of the “toppest” priorities ever.  With his love, support, and respect, I feel valued and legitimate.  I have to admit, without this exceptionally stable, supportive relationship, I think I would have trouble homeschooling.  (I also must mention, it was VERY difficult to transition to my husband supporting us 100% financially.  There were a lot of “what-ifs” in my mind, and being completely “dependent” on one person disturbed me greatly.  Even now, I make sure that if something should happen ever, I am ready to get back in the ball-game.)  I think working on a marriage is maybe THE most important gift parents can give children.  I’m still mulling that idea.

I’ve found an expressive outlet to pursue that I really, truly enjoy.  Discovering my joy in reading scientific literature, summarizing it, and my joy in just writing in general has given me an identity and outlet outside of my kids and husband.  The challenge, however, once I identified that, was/is finding time to do it and letting my guilt about it go.  That’s still a work in progress.

Learning to tread water.  Sometimes, especially when the environment becomes out of my control, I get in a hurry.  I want to rush on.  I want to do SOMETHING–but I simply can’t.  These are treading water times.  A friend presented me with this image of treading water.  She describes it as an important waiting time.  A time where the Powers That Be are tying up loose ends in other people’s lives so you can do what you’re supposed to do in yours.  So you just have to sit tight in this boring time–this time where you wonder what’s supposed to happen next.  Just tread water till it’s time to swim.  I’ve found when it comes time to swim and stop treading, I know it!

Finding ways to produce order.  Do you get a sense that I’m very much an orderly, controlling person?  Yes, I am.  A tidy house is important to me.  A well-run homeschool is important to me.  There are times when this all eludes my household, but I try to work with my kids, myself, and my hubby to find a rhythm and system we can honestly use to provide this needed security.  Sometimes we have to try several techniques before we land on one that works.  And then, a year later, that may not work anymore and we have to regroup.

I like who I am.  I like who you are.  I’ve become much more accepting of who I am.    I’ve become much more aware of my own insecurities and the insecurities in other people.  I’ve become aware of when I’m doing things for me versus doing them for some kind of show I think I’m in.  I don’t have anything to prove.  I’m simply here to learn to love, share, enjoy, and give, while also learning to preserve my own inner strength and core and draw it closer to God.

I will close now.  Mostly, we love homeschooling.  However, staying home all day, every day with the kids can grow tiresome; one sometimes starts “looking outside” the situation for what they’re missing.  Society’s disrespect for child-raisers and children can weigh heavy on a homeschooling parent’s heart, especially one who “fell” from a place of power and control and respect in the workplace.  Explore your heart.  Take on your deep thoughts, beliefs, and opinions.  Find out where you really stand, then move forward in peace.

Have an absolutely wonderful Thursday.

Terri

Bad Pancake Days

PancakesYou can usually tell what kind of day it’s going to be by your response to the breakfast pancakes.  I can remember watching my sister flip pancakes for the first time and how irritated she got.  Sometimes, it’s just not as easy as it looks.  The first pancake is usually sacrificed to heat and oil calibration.  It’s so ugly, nobody will eat the first one.  Then, on a good day, you get the temperature adjusted or add a little more oil, and you’re good-to-golden-pancakes go.  But some days, none of those blasted pancakes want to do anything right.  They fold and they burn.  You step away from the kitchen for a moment (or ten), and they’re scorched.  Toasted.  These are bad days; you can always see it coming.  The whole rest of the day is usually just trash.  All because of those stupid pancakes.  So much easier when everybody just eats bananas for breakfast.  Why do kids think they need pancakes?  Why?  They’re not even that healthy for you.

Today, I was having a bad pancake morning.  The kind where you wham your spatula into every single pancake in the pan to help it along on its destructive journey.  Wham.  Wham.  My first two pancakes wouldn’t flip and I was about to wham them.  Then, an unseen force held my arm in high swing: “Turn this day around.”  Hmmm.  Can I?  I stopped.  I critically analyzed the situation and decided to do three very logical, productive things:

  1.  Turn up the heat a little.
  2.  Make sure there was oil distributed where I poured pancake batter.
  3.  Get a bigger spatula.

Beautiful golden pancakes that my daughters adored all the way to the last bit of batter.

I’m busy.  I don’t want to make pancakes.  My heart isn’t in it. 

The pancakes know it, and they mirror that and self-destruct.  I’ve decided–those darn pancakes are simply an early day self-reflection of my attitude.  If I can turn my attitude around and analyze the situation early, my day will go a whole lot better.

Is there too much heat?  Too much stress.  Too much going on.  Maybe I need to turn it down.

Is there not enough heat?  Maybe I’m lackluster.  I’ve blowing things off that need me.  Maybe I need to get on the ball and throw myself into a situation.

Am I rushing in to flip too fast?  I’m too impatient.  Thinking I can hurry things along which just shouldn’t be hurried.  I need to back off, killer.

Am I filling up the time with other stuff, not flipping thus in time, and burning the pancakes?  I don’t seriously know why I think I can shower and make pancakes at the same time.  Why do I?  Why do I think I can take on so many things and then get frustrated when my family seems to implode?

Am I making them too big?  Sometimes, the stairway and mantle Christmas decorations need to be kept in the storage box for the year.  Or the tomatoes need to not be canned.  There are simply times to scale projects down.

Do I need more oil?  Sometimes, a little down-time and pampering are needed.  A little self-TLC (not THC).  If I don’t take care of myself, I won’t be caring for others.  And everybody needs me in their problems–you know, right?–ha!– so I’d better take care of myself!

Do I need less oil?  Sometimes I can drown in self-pity and self-entitlement.  Oh, me.  Oh, my.  Why-oh-why?  Probably days I can let that go.  Pancakes don’t do well with too much oil drowning them, and neither do I.

It’s not the pancakes.  It’s me. 

Slow down.  Speed up.  Lube life up a little more or a little less.  Turn up the heat.  Turn down the heat.  Stay focused on the pancakes and life will be golden.

Did you know that making pancakes could be such a challenging and thought-stimulating production?  This stay-at-home gig is better than a paid college course in psychology.  I never do know why colleges charge so much per credit hour.

What activity in your daily life is trying to tell you something?

What mundane activity in your life commonly reflects your inner mood?  Have any?  Care to share?

Terri