socialization / what I've learned

pros & cons of being the perpetual mother hen

March2014 040I was amused when a much older friend told me she loved watching me with my kids. I was the quintessential mother hen, as I always have the four kids following along behind me.

I remember a young mom saying she was just so thrilled to homeschool her kiddos so she could just be with them again. But then she discovered she was indeed with them, every single hour of every single day…and then what?

Indeed.

In the first book I’d read about this lifestyle, the author wrote that if you don’t genuinely enjoy being with your kids, appreciating their companionship, you shouldn’t homeschool.

Might not have entirely made sense to me when I first read that, but it sure does now. Never were truer words spoken.

Should I always be with my kids? Do my kids always want to be with me?

No, they don’t….and turns out, neither do I, all the time.

Let me unpack that a bit…

There are too many music lessons, and sports, and playdates and youth groups and other stuff to honestly say that I am ALWAYS with them. Though they aren’t typically out of my presence for seven hours regularly, they are involved in a lot of activities away from me.

Kids, especially in adolescence, crave solitude…to think and strum their guitar, write their songs and text their friends, read their books and think about who they are; what life’s all about and how they fit into it. They don’t typically have the emotional confidence, or contented fortitude, to be hanging out with twenty five of their favourite, or not-so-favourite chums, for seven hours ten months of the year.

My adolescent kiddos like their mama and daddy time: reading “To Kill A Mockingbird” after the younger siblings are in bed, getting to be part of all the big family discussions, like where we’ll adventure to next, or just going for a hike; but certainly they don’t want us ALL the time.

Children were born to parents and parents were intended to be primary leaders in their lives, as the pinnacle unit in their community.

Children are a part of something bigger, though–their community–something that may not always be familiar or comfortable with their parents; living in a culture with values that might not be their parents. Still, kids are exposed to others outside their parents’ comfort zone, and must learn how to interact with the larger world in the context of their family.

Turns out that though I enjoy my quadrangle of children, I like being by myself too. It invigorates, energizes. I get to express myself creatively better when NO ONE is around. I get stuff done incredibly quickly when I’m alone. I get to think a thought through to the end, without interruption. Peace and quiet works for me too.

There are times, like when we’re travelling, or living away from home for a few weeks or months, that the familial continuous and close proximity is a bit much, for everyone. Not everyone could verbalize that. But a couple of us certainly can, and loudly.

One daughter harps and harangues, and gets on her ‘edge’. I know then that it is best to take the other three to the playground and let her sit quietly in our rental and decompress. Sometimes this is even more important than guarding my own quiet time.

Don’t get me wrong though. Quiet time for me is as necessary as breathing fresh air. Mama can get on her edge too. Without an occasional quiet time, it’s PMS every day of the month. If there is one easy-to-get-out-of-balance potential to this lifestyle, it would be quiet time for mama. Surprise to no one, I am certain.

I can’t imagine there is a mother out there that doesn’t need her own time and space. It might be a run she requires, after four, when the oldest can look after the youngest. It might be after the morning breakfast dishes are washed, after the kids are brought to school in the early morning rush, or it might be a Saturday afternoon when the kids are hanging out at someone else’s house.

And this is definitely necessary in a home educating household. But mama can find a way to balance, she just has to know what she wants, be humble enough to ask and set healthy boundaries.

So this is the funniest misconception I often hear…that they are with me ALL the time. I chose this lifestyle because I want to be with my kids. I want to experience life with them and learn with them and discover things together.

Despite the notion that these wee, sweet babes that I delivered into the world to enrich my life and that I can love on, are with me all the time…though in the beginning these pretty little packages required everything from me, they gradually want to crawl toward independence, then walk, then run, and eventually will crave such heavy independence before they’re even legally permitted, and will want to live in different households with or without my readiness.

And if it weren’t this way, what would the world look like? Tis the way our world moves forward.

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