When you were a child, what dreams did you have for your future? I had many great ambitions, from author to actor to astronaut. Most often I dreamed of writing a best seller or landing a part in a big movie. But underlining it all, I always wanted to get married and have children, and I imagined teaching them at home as my mother had taught me.
I met my future husband around the end of high school and got married just before I graduated from college. We had our first daughter a little over a year later. My other dreams obviously weren’t happening, but that was okay…My family plans were right on track. We added more children to the brood, and – rather sooner than I anticipated – the homeschooling years were upon me.
And that was when I suddenly looked around and wondered what I had gotten myself into.
Let me preface the following by saying that I truly enjoy being a mother. I love my children very much, and I’m thankful that I get to be at home with them and that we have the freedom to homeschool. But honestly, those dreams I had of doing other things have never died. And on the days when the house is trashed and the kids are whining about everything and it feels like the school day will never end, I begin to wonder whether someone else ought to take over this job and free me up to do something that suits me a bit better.
One of my biggest struggles is that it seems impossible to keep up with all the things required of my position: cooking, cleaning, dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, and just general parenting! But even more discouraging is the feeling that none of these things really matters all that much. Parenting is one possible exception, but then, according to our culture, it’s really kind of a bother and a waste to have children in the first place. Beyond that, though, it’s definitely a waste in our culture’s eyes for an ambitious woman to stay at home doing nothing but wiping down floors and dishes and rear ends. What does all that work amount to at the end of the day? Nothing that won’t have to be done all over again the next day, and it doesn’t even come with the satisfaction of getting a paycheck for it.
For whatever reason, these feelings hit me harder during this school year than they ever have before. I spent numerous hours trying to sort out my feelings, talking through it with my husband, trying to figure out what could help me get through this slump. I tried to recall those things you hear about how moms are so important and homeschooling is so awesome, but to me they all felt like platitudes. You know what simple truth set off the biggest light bulb moment in my head? Realizing that somebody’s gotta do it.
Some of you may be familiar with Mike Rowe, former host of the show “Dirty Jobs,” and now host of a newer show with the same title as this post. I haven’t seen the latter yet, but both shows take you on a tour through occupations that many might consider dirty or undesirable. For instance, most people don’t grow up hoping to become a trash collector or a wastewater management operator. These jobs don’t have much prestige, don’t always require a lot of skill, and probably don’t collect a big paycheck. Yet we depend on these types of jobs every day. Doctors and scientists may work to keep us healthy and develop new cures for diseases, but without clean running water and proper disposal of waste, even modern medicine couldn’t keep up with all the people who’d be getting sick! We may tend to turn up our noses at these humbler jobs, but somebody’s gotta do it, or we’ll all be in a heap of trouble.
The same can be said for the tasks I do as a homeschooling mom. They may not be glamorous or exciting or even provide any income, but somebody’s gotta do them, and that makes them important. Somebody’s gotta clean the house, or our living conditions will become chaotic and unsanitary. If it’s not me keeping things clean (and supervising the kids’ chores), it’s either up to my husband, who is busy enough as it is, or we’d have to hire someone, which could add a significant expense to our budget (as mentioned in this post, though, I am not opposed to hiring help when you need it!).
Somebody’s gotta educate the children. If I didn’t homeschool, I’d be sending my kids to another teacher, because educating the next generation is important work! Being a grade school teacher may not carry a lot of prestige, but this job lays the foundation for a child’s education. The attention and encouragement of a teacher can also make a big impact on a child’s view of themselves and their capabilities. Teachers can truly affect the trajectory of a child’s life. There are many stories of influential people thanking a childhood teacher for giving them the tools and the drive to be successful!
Most importantly, somebody’s gotta be a parent to the children. A child can have the best teachers or nannies in the world, but no one can replace a child’s need for love, care, and security from their parents. Not all careers involve being an absentee parent, but the most high-paying and prestigious careers often do. The lives of the rich and famous may sound appealing sometimes, but when their children are parented by surrogates 95% of the time, I think it’s questionable whether these people can be called the children’s “parents” at all!
All this is to say: Homeschool moms, you are doing work that is indispensable. You as a mom are irreplaceable. And while it’s not a bad thing to evaluate your situation and see whether another arrangement might be more beneficial to the family, do not believe the lie that what you are doing now is insignificant or worthless. Dads, encourage your wife! Let her know how valuable her work is to you personally, as well as objectively. Her work is rarely seen outside the home and is often criticized. You are one of her only cheerleaders, so be the best one!
We may sometimes envy those who have jobs that attract the attention and praise of our peers, but what matters most is that we are doing the work that God has for us. Somebody’s gotta do this important job, and if He has called us to it, it is the best thing we can do.
Photo Credit: Graphic design by Michael Farris, Jr., Second and third photos courtesy of Jessica Cole