I recently took a trip with two of my very best friends to Ireland. We have known each other for several decades, before husbands, children, back when our dreams were fresh and we were determining our next steps. At midlife, we took time to be together, to reflect on how we want to live the remainder of our years, where we are called to serve. We prayed for each other, we talked about soul things, and we were quiet together, absorbed in a journey we all very much needed.
At the end of the week, I came back home with joy to my husband and children, reminded of the adventurous woman my husband was attracted to. While he engages in parenting and making educational decisions with me for our children, he loves to get me away from it all and talk about other things. I find this is true for all the moms I know, homeschooling and otherwise. My husband married me, not a homeschooling mother, and he needs to talk with me about things other than kids, curriculum, and school schedules.
If you are like me, this stage of your life is defined by your roles as wife, mother, home-educating parent. If you find yourself in a crowd of new people and are asked, “What do you do?” you answer in terms of what is consuming your time right now. That is a natural response. But don’t buy the lie.
You are more than what you do.
If all goes well and you live a full life, you will not always be a homeschooling mom. You might be a parent, but your responsibilities to your children will wane. When asked to define yourself at this stage, will you have anything of “you” left?
A few years ago, I was at a homeschooling event and overheard a conversation between an older homeschooling mom, about to graduate her last of many children, and a younger mom, newer to the journey. The younger mom congratulated the other mom on being about done with this stage. Surprisingly, she responded with near despair, remarking that she hoped some of her older children would let her homeschool her grandchildren.
At the time I was feeling guilty about my part-time job and the several hours a day it took me away from giving my full-attention to my children. It felt selfish at times, but this conversation was a turning point. Along with friends and hobbies, working, even a little bit, is one thing that helps me retain my identity as a woman made in the image of God, with unique interests and a soul that will continue to develop and be of value long after my children have flown the nest.
Paid-work may not be part of what keeps you grounded. It could be volunteering, developing hobbies, and remaining vitally connected to the female friends who know you and will help you be true to your real self.
When we engage our true selves in things that matter to us, we also lead the way for our children to do the same. We help them consider their gifts, what they love, and who they want to be. We allow them to be individuals as we show them that we are more than their mom and teacher.
In our narcissistic culture that tells us to put ourselves first, it is often hard to walk the fine line of taking care of ourselves without falling prey to self-worship. Discovering that balance is vital to the health of our families and our future selves. We worship our Maker when we keep in mind our whole mission, and prepare ourselves to live lives of service, beyond this one consuming phase we are in right now.
So don’t neglect the inner you. Nurture old friends while being available for new friendships. Find people on different journeys: retirees, young adults, women that don’t homeschool. Develop interests that feed your spirit and keep you interesting. And someday, if you have a chance to meet up with friends from far away in Ireland, GO!
Photo Credit: First image design by Charity Klicka; all other images by Rachelle Reitz.