fingers under door

I was once asked if stay at home moms relax in bubble baths and read all day. Now, I may be going out on a limb here, but my guess is that this is not the reality of most mothers; it’s certainly not mine. I’ve never in my life worked as hard as I do now caring for five children, keeping some sort of order in my home, feeding my family, serving in my church and community, and facilitating my children’s education. If I didn’t intentionally make time for myself, it would never happen.

This brings me to my next principle for homeschooling: it’s essential to take care of yourself. At the beginning of our homeschool journey, I had a fairly new baby, a preschooler, and three children in various stages of elementary school. I don’t think I read a book the whole year and the only times I even got close to a bubble bath I was sitting outside of the tub fully clothed watching my children splash and knowing that I would have yet another mess to clean up when they were through. Being a mother is some seriously hard work and if you don’t take the time to take care of yourself your children will suffer as much as you.

It is so important that you take time for yourself every day and this will look different for everyone. First, let’s determine what counts as taking time for yourself. If you’re “going to the bathroom” 15 times a day because it’s the only room in the house where you can be alone it’s time to make a new plan. Face it, it’s not a real break if someone is pounding on the door or you can see little fingers under the door the whole time.

When my children were younger I would wait till it was nap time for the baby and then the rest of my children were sent to a different room with something to do and we set a timer for 30 minutes. I was very clear with my children that they were not to leave their room until the timer went off. If you have multiple children it’s essential that they are all separate during this time. This will eliminate the possibility of fighting. Also, make sure that they have something to keep them occupied. If you know that your child will not last for 30 minutes with a book, then make sure they have something to color, or a favorite toy. Decide what your child likes and create an environment where they will be happy for 30 minutes.

If you’re a morning person you may decide to wake up before your children or if your children are older you can leave the house at some point during the day. Another option would be to take 30 minutes when your spouse gets home from work or before he leaves in the morning. The point is, figure out how to make this work for you and do it. Make it a priority.

So what do you do during this time? This is not your time to clean the bathroom, sweep the kitchen, veg in front of the television, or scroll through social media. This is your time to do something that fills your cup. This might be hard if you aren’t used to taking care of yourself, but determine what rejuvenates you. You might decide to read a book, work on a hobby, take a nap, or exercise. If you don’t know what fills your cup then start by making a list. What is something that you loved to do before you had children that you haven’t found time for in a while? If you had a weekend to yourself and you could do anything you wanted to, what would you choose to do? Is there something you have always wanted to learn about? Would you like to feel better or improve your health?

For a year or two, 30 minutes a day was the best I could do. Now that my children are older and we’re all sleeping through the night I wake up before my children to exercise and then go on a walk with my hubby around lunchtime. The point is, your life looks very different now than it will in three months or in three years. Whether you’re homeschooling just during the COVID-19 crisis, or making a permanent change, taking the time to care for yourself will be a principle that will improve the quality of your life for the rest of your life.

Figure out who brings you joy and choose to be better for them. Have you started your list yet? Leave a comment and share your ideas with others.