Interesting that homeschool moms are questioned about their kids’ socialization. Meanwhile, kids are being transported to many activities every week: co-op, science classes, theatre or piano practice, baseball games, playdates, jobs. It’s the mamas that are driving, coordinating, managing a house, helping small children, and teaching lessons. By the end of the day, mama is tired and she hasn’t been hanging out with friends.
She’s tired enough that she doesn’t feel like asking a friend for coffee or going to a concert. She likes getting into her pjs after a nice hot bath, then slide into bed with Netflix or a book, a bowl of potato chips and a gin and tonic (this might be lifted from real life). It’s not the homeschool child’s socialization that the general public should be worried about.
Sometimes, lost in her homeschool world, mama remembers she hasn’t talked to an adult all day, possibly not all week, except for superficial conversations with grocery clerks, post office people, the dance or violin teacher.
When dad comes home, if a dad comes home, mama wants to talk. And mama has a lot to talk about. Even if dad has spent all day talking. A solid partnering relationship is certainly part of healthy socialization for mama. But it’s not all she needs, and it is a heavy need to satisfy.
Building relationships and connections takes work, and requires a lot of conjuring to step outside the mama role, build friendships for the sake of her own well-being.
The notion that we are alone is not real. It’s a feeling. A sometimes terribly uncomfortable feeling. It’s a feeling that screams that we need to get more connected, or go deeper, or be more vulnerable in our relationships. Maybe we desire relationship that affirms us and accepts us. But alone? Seven billion people live on this planet. We are never alone.
Loneliness is a common human experience. Everyone discovers that they are alone in the world. Though they may be surrounded by a community of family, of long term friendships, of familiarity with the community businesses and restaurants, they are friends with their neighbours and homeschool co-op teachers, music teachers, dance teachers, still everyone learns eventually that we are separate and alone in the world. But we are alone in the world, together. Loneliness is a state of mind.
The grass ain’t greener. Just because other mamas go to work and chit chat around the water cooler, just because other mamas drop their kids off at school and have six hours to head to the gym and tidy the house, doesn’t mean they’re also not lonely. The grass ain’t greener anywhere; there’s always challenges.
Mama needs to be part of the bigger world, her own world. Maybe it is a book club for mental stimulation or a dance class to make her feel young again. Maybe she needs to start her own business, start a course, or play with a hobby. Mama needs her own thing.
Your tribe doesn’t need to be the same person, the ideal person.
Your best of friends might not have homeschooled at all. Your routine coffee dates might not be with homeschool parents. Or maybe they are, but these friends might hold radically different homeschool philosophies.
A bouquet of friends. Recognizing the commonality between you and someone else is the goal. Just as in marriage, there are no two people the same, with identical values, identical interests or identical plans. There are no two friends the same. We pick each friend as a flower in the meadow and make our own friendship bouquet. Cheesy, but accurate.
We connect with one friend in how they parent. We connect with another in our homesteading interest. With another friend, our paths cross regularly because our kids connect. We always find community in the common, when we’re regularly crossing paths with random people and being our authentic selves.
More than anything, she needs to let down her guard and not expect identically homogenous people. More than outside activities, the lonely homeschool mama needs to accept the beauty of non-homogenous relationships.
We need to overlook our perceptions. It is only a perception that we are alone. In just one famous homeschooling Facebook group, there are 11,000 people. That’s just one Facebook group. There is a ton of homeschooling community available. Sometimes it’s on-line. I know, it’s not the same as face-to-face socialization. But it has its place. If 11,000 people are on a Facebook group, and we all know plenty of homeschool families that are not on Facebook, then how many more homeschool families are in our face-to-face world?
Practice recognizing similarities. We’re not looking for homogeneity (because it doesn’t exist); we’re looking for common interest, common connections, perhaps common values.
Try to temporarily set aside your book cover judgment so you can find your commonalities. Everyone, and I mean everyone, can find commonalities with others. The human experience is every human’s experience.
Find friends based on interest. So where to start? This might sound familiar homeschool mama: start with your interests. Connect in places you would want to go if your children didn’t exist.
Try this more than once. There’s no guarantee that your closest circle of friends are fast friends the first time you met them (though that happens too). Just because you went to book club once, or a bible study, or the gym, or knitting club, and you didn’t immediately connect, isn’t to say that you won’t develop that friendship.
Don’t expect everyone you like will like you. Not everyone that likes you will you like. (Sounds like advice we might share with our children.)
Familiarity breeds friendship. Where you are regularly is where you will make friends. Like the grocery store, pet food store, the library, or extracurriculars.
Vulnerability is required. You must risk being who you are if you want to be known. That means you have to know who you are, be able to be who you are and let people know that person, not the shiny person, not the closed-off person, but the real person that you know is definitely you.
Brene Brown says it best: “Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
You have birthed a community too. Though this suggestion runs contrary to present-day advice, you have birthed, like literally birthed (or ‘heart-birthed’, adopted) your most valuable community. One day, the kids in your homeschools will likely be your friends. Approach them now as your friends and you might miss the point of parenting and teach them unhealthy co-dependence. Though these friendships have a different origin and progression, and you are their prime social influence, you are making your own community through your family.
Be friends with yourself first. Take yourself out to places you enjoy. Not one of my kids will volunteer to follow me into the antique or book store, but I’m all over that stuff. I’ll take myself on the local art walk. I’ll take myself to the Thai restaurant and order something no one else in my family likes. I am different than my family and I like being with myself.
I’ll close this post with the wise words of shame researcher, Brene Brown. She discovered four powerful elements of true belonging:
(If you want to know more about what these directives mean for a less lonely world, read her books.)
1. People are hard to hate close up. So move in closer.
2. Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil.
3. Hold hands. With strangers.
4. Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.