Category Archives: Giving up Your Career for Your Kids

For a Mother Who Finds Mothering is Taking a Toll on Her Health

Mothers don’t have time for self. They don’t have time to chew (their food). They don’t have time for exercising. They don’t have time for God. They don’t have time to take a shower. They just don’t have time.

Motherhood is hard. And while I hear those words tossed about so often, I really, really don’t think that as a society we respect and internalize that truth. Maybe because so many women do it. Maybe because moms listen to each other’s stories and think, “Yep. I do that, too. Yep. I have that, too.” Maybe because we forget as our kids grow up into adults just how hard it was.

For too long we’ve belittled the frustration of motherhood and the toll it takes. It IS a big deal. It IS a huge, overwhelming job. I completely empathize with you! I’m there with you! Look yourself in the mirror today and say, “I AM doing a HARD job.” And then smile at yourself and say, “I can DO this HARD job. I LIKE this hard job. It IS a job like no other. And NO other woman can do this job for my household like I can.”

While I know that motherhood is hard, I know there are so many other women out there that have it harder than I do. Maybe harder than you do. And sometimes that is helpful to hear. It pulls me out of self-pity when I have one kid vomiting on the couch, one throwing herself on the ground screaming and sobbing because the neighbors cut the trees down, one walking in the door with a broken nose from gymnastics practice, and one asking what’s for supper. It helps keep me focused and motivated to remember these are passing moments, and others have “real” problems.

But, well, you know what? At other times, this only serves to drive home to me how frivolous and incompetent I am. Then, whammo, guilt monster, judging, and belittling set in. That is not productive, and it is not health-promoting.

We’re not here to see who can raise their kids better. Who can clean better. Who can cook better. Who can yell less. Who can do more and more while still raising kids.

Listen. Some of us do cook better. Some of us do clean better. Some of us are more patient. Some of us enjoy toddlers more than others. Some of us can work and come home and have energy to help with homework. Some of us can help teach Sunday school without dreaming of the game Whack-a-Mole at night. Some of us do love to shop with our kids.

But nobody can be YOU to your children. Nobody. Ever. So encourage yourself more. Let go of the judging and belittling of yourself and other moms. Find humor. Encourage another mom. Humor another mom.

You are amazing! You have a wonderful skill set! Embrace it! Love it! God did NOT make you like anyone else. Clean house or messy house. Food from the farm or food from the box. Introvert or extrovert. Medical doctor or GED. Award-winning kitchen designer or self-proclaimed artist.

Yes, I know that in motherhood you’re always interrupted! Interrupted you. That’s the story of a good mom’s life! For several years, you may be forced to give up WHAT YOU DO while you mother your children. Today’s world argues against that. For me, it was necessary to give up what I DO in order that I didn’t give up on WHO I am. Does that make sense? Doing too much robbed me of WHO I was. I was losing touch with myself.

Well, I’ll close. But today I would like you to consider if there are a couple of things in life that you might want to give up so you can be the mother and person you want to be. Maybe it’s as simple as not answering the phone when it’s that best friend who talks for an hour. Or maybe it’s the frequent trips to visit your sick relative. (I know that sounds very harsh.) Maybe it’s the extra class you’re trying to squeeze in.

I just don’t want you to lose YOU! And I also want you to have a great relationship with your children! As two of my children have entered the teen years, I am just so struck by how they are so amazing. And I’m so glad they like being around me and even confide in me at times.

And I know I am temporarily giving up a lot of WHAT I do. But because I have kept true to WHO I am, I know I can look forward to a future doing what I want to do. And doing it as healthy as ever, inside and out!

Have a super weekend!

Terri F

 

 

Why Can’t I Do Both?

Lazy and lame. Someone scathingly wrote to me that I was lazy and lame because I quit working as a medical doctor and instead chose to stay home with my four kids and homeschool. The words stung a little, but it’s nothing my own mind hasn’t wrestled with over the last seven years since staying home. I mean, there ARE moms who actually do BOTH homeschooling and doctoring! I know it IS possible. I’m a pretty capable woman, so I have often wondered why I “couldn’t” do both! In my life, I have confidence that I can handle most challenges thrown at me. In fact, a sure-fire way to guarantee I do something is to tell me I can’t!

Why, then, could I not “handle” work and homeschooling simultaneously? I mean, deep inside, I romanticize about being the mom who runs kids, always has extra kids around, has fresh meals on the table, volunteers in the community, is always there for her friends, desires her husband each night, pays the bills, exercises, keeps a neat house, attends social functions, reads good books, and is loved at the workplace. Other women say they do it successfully and happily!

No Satisfaction in Both

I know I’m not “other women,” but I curiously, deeply wondered what it is about me that prevented satisfaction when I did both. (Because I can sure tell you there was NO satisfaction or good humor when I did both, despite the fact that I LOVED doing EACH!) I just can’t be that, and I have to keep forging a life that keeps me true to my inner core. (I think that’s a unique thing in life. To step INTO yourself and say, “Yes, I feel really good. THIS fits me.” And to find a way to make that work for you, your family, and society.)

Back to my meanie accuser. I realized that this person and I may never see eye to eye because we simply do not have the same wiring, the same mother board, the same values. I am not here to tell moms to quit their jobs. I have a best friend who I told to get back in the work force—get back in there! Go for partnership. This woman needs to work or she’ll drive herself (and me) crazy. Work keeps her grounded and focused, even though she has four kids at home.

But not me. I pondered this now that time has passed and softened the emotions surrounding the transition from practicing medical doctor to being a stay-at-home mom. What is it about my wiring and my mother board that won’t allow me to peacefully work and homeschool?

Run Back to the Convent

My mom must have sensed something strange about me, because she used to tell me I should be a nun. “You’re running the wrong way, Maria,” I would have screamed as The Sound of Music‘s heroine danced and sang herself back to the Von Trapp home. “You’re running towards chaos! Go back to PEACE and ORDER! Go back to the convent, I say! When they tried to solve a problem like Maria, the nuns must have subtracted wrong. They got the wrong answer! You’re doomed! Return to the inner sanctity of order and quiet!”

No. Kidding. I didn’t really need to be a nun, but there definitely is something appealing about those quiet stone halls and methodical rituals! I love being a mom and teaching my four daughters. They’re bright. Loving. Talented. Kind. And I get to teach them every day! We can run into a lot of chaos homeschooling, but introspection has taught me that at the end of the day, I must have–or be moving towards– peace and order in each area of my life:

  • my kitchen
  • my stack of bills
  • my laundry room
  • my purse
  • my relationship with my husband
  • my relationships with my kids
  • my relationships with my friends
  • my relationship with God
  • my teaching
  • my health
  • my schedule
  • my text message and e-mail in-boxes

I’ve been called a perfectionist before, which I see now is somewhat of an error! I see how I and others could confuse them. For me, it’s not perfectionism, but it’s the pursuit of peace and order which makes me feel good inside. The house doesn’t need dusted as long as it’s picked up! I’ve been called controlling before, too. Again, maybe. But not really. “Honey, you didn’t put the garlic press back where it goes. It’s out of order…”

When I Was Working and Homeschooling

Anyhow, when I was working at the hospital as a medical doctor, I came home exhausted. I hadn’t lunched, supped, peed, or pooped. I carried two pagers (the code pager and the on-call pager) and the “house” phone. I was busy. I ran to codes, sick patients in the ICU, and had 5-7 patients waiting to be admitted to the hospital from the ER. It was fun. It was hard. But when I came home, my core value need could not be overridden. I needed order and peace.

Instead, I was greeted by sticky hands full of love. Couch cushions on the floor and blankets draping the chairs to create imaginative tents. And mail partly opened and tossed haphazardly on the counter for me to organize. Once, I even came home to find that tiny, nimble fingers had moved my great-grandmother’s fine china dinnerware all around from its protective nook.

School was expected to run on my days off, yet I hadn’t had time to organize my lessons. Get art supplies. Run through a craft or activity to see if it would work the way Pinterest said it would. My child didn’t do school the way I wanted. We (are supposed to) start at the left and we work to the right. We (are supposed to) fold our papers in the middle. And we don’t scribble-scrabble all over them!

PEACE. ORDER. Those are intrinsic needs for me and drive how I interact with life, my environment, and my people. No matter how many different things I tried, I couldn’t align my deep needs for peace and order with working and homeschooling simultaneously. Since family and education are other values that I cannot compromise, fully embracing motherhood and homeschooling and forfeiting professional goals (which don’t seem to drive me as much as peace and order, family, and education) felt much more comfortable and fulfilling. I do not regret my decision.

Conclusion

I hope you know that what you do is important. How you do it is important. How you feel when you do it is important. Strive to find out what makes you tick, and create a wonderful life which fulfills you and makes a difference where you want to make a difference at! If you’re struggling and you can change your mindset and that takes care of it, go for it! But if you try different routes, different techniques, and your mindset just won’t budge, maybe you should have been a nun. No. Kidding. Maybe you need to find out exactly what it is that’s not able to compromise deep within you and honor it.

How about you? Do you have greater needs for peace and order than other people? Does this need affect your work-home relationship? Do you fervently seek peace and order in all areas, including your own head? What happens when you have to be exposed to too much disorder and chaos? How does it make your body feel? How about your head?

May good blessings fall upon you today!

Terri F.

Image attribution: St. Lucas altarpiece, Andrea Mantegna, downloaded from Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Andrea_Mantegna_019.jpg

 

 

My Biggest Homeschooling Challenge

The other day, someone wrote to ask me about my biggest homeschooling challenge. I referred to it in a post I wrote about five years ago: Why We Homeschool. I thought my response to Barb might resonate with other passionate, intense homeschooling women who frequently fight their high expectations, so I wanted to share it here. The image at left is meant to be humorous and NOT indicative of our homeschooling days!

 

Dear Barb,

Hello! Thanks for reading! I had to go back and read that post from five years ago–and that’s what took me so long! (Finding time is a big challenge!) I hope you’re doing well, as is your family! And homeschooling is thriving! You asked about my “biggest” challenge.

My biggest challenge. Yes! My biggest challenge is overcoming myself. Homeschooling forces me to overcome MYSELF. My inherent tendencies. My little hang-ups. My natural (and developed) habits. These children are people, and they’re amazing! But (at least mine) they weren’t born neat and tidy. They weren’t born quiet. They weren’t born believing that mom is right. They weren’t born wanting to do their work. Mine weren’t born knowing how to express themselves. And so on and so forth.

And I feel like I WAS born to be neat and tidy. I WAS born to be tranquil. I do think I’m always right (ha!). I was born a worker. I’m super expressive and make friends easily. I’m sure I wasn’t born this way (Haha! Right!? Or was I?…), but it sure feels like it now! I am a perfectionist set in my ways who likes to succeed. (Oh, my. That sounds horrible.) So forcing myself to step back patiently, yet persistently, to reach our goals without squashing who each child-person was (is)—was (is) super hard! I want to jump in like a Tasmanian devil homeschooling mommy and whip them all into the little beings that they are to be. But, alas, I know in my heart that’s not possible or desirable.

Learning to cut myself out of the picture, while still pushing the children so they could (can) bloom, grow, and succeed in the future all alone without me (and my husband), was (is) really hard. Dealing with the chaos. Noise. Mess. Stubbornness.  Lazy bone-ness. The inability to be able to share what’s on their minds/hearts because they’re still learning feelings and words for them. Accepting the mundaneness that sets in when the thrill of all the new learning and teaching is over. (Because homeschooling is exciting at first, with all the new things to learn and ways to get your child to learn. But then after a time, 90% of the day, you kind of go on cruise control. You’ve got it mostly figured out– how the day needs to go and how your children learn. Then, it gets a little mundane. And you kind of question what you’re doing.) Are you really making a difference in the world like you meant to back when you were 20?

And there are other hectic, frenetic days. Where nothing goes right at all. And nothing happens the way it’s supposed to. And this goes on for a week or two (or more). And panic sets in because there’s no “good” school. And I feel mad and angry and controlling. Learning to rein that in with love and compassion and a heavy dose of reality checking. (I mean, seriously. In public school, there are tons of days where classes are not structured and linear. Snow days. Holidays. Fire drill days. Teacher institute days. Picture days. Substitute teacher days.)

So my challenge is ME. That is it. That is my challenge. It’s not an exciting challenge. It’s not anything risqué or mysterious. But it’s my biggest homeschooling challenge. Controlling me, my fears, my perfectionism, and my expectations! Letting my children become amazing adults on their own terms and not mine, while still educating them according to the standards I think they’ll need to have a job they excel at and enjoy one day. (So I can finally sit around and eat bon bons.)

Hope you have a great weekend and that you love homeschooling as much as I do!

Terri F

Written:
11/9/2018
Image attribution: Hans Holbein [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Page: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Koerperstrafe-_MA_Birkenrute.png

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