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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Free Time vs Burnout: Are You Making Your Life Harder Than it Needs to Be?


Mary Ellen Barret explains that she is neither crazy nor a supermom. But, she admits to making life harder. Here are her 5 questions for restoring sanity.

I am generally uncomfortable with people’s reaction to my being a homeschool mom. This is because, in general, the reaction usually questions my sanity.

Now most of the time questioning my sanity is a perfectly logical thing to do—sometimes I even question my own sanity—but I tend to resent it from strangers. The other end of the spectrum is people referring to me as a “supermom,” which conjures up a picture of me in a cape and tights.

No one wants to see that.

The fact is I am neither crazy nor a supermom but, like many people, I am trying to do the best thing for my family on a daily basis while also being open to God’s plan for us all. That being said, sometimes I am guilty of making my life harder than it has to be out of some sense of obligation or some ridiculous standard that I have set for myself.

When I find that happening, it’s time to step back and wonder if my situation is really that difficult or if I’m imposing some kind of homeschool mom martyrdom on myself.

Life is hard enough, and I have to be careful of falling into the trap of making it harder by doing too much, expecting too much or just being generally unrealistic about my life.

So here a few questions I ask myself when I feel like my stress is reaching unhealthy levels.

1. Am I doing too much myself?

My to-do list on any given day can have twenty or thirty things on it, many of which are household tasks that can easily be accomplished by one of the children. My own inclination is to do it all myself because it will be faster, better, more efficient, etc.

But that will often result in me being overworked and stressed, and it misses the opportunity for my children to serve and learn. So parceling out that to-do list needs to be a priority for us moms and letting it go a bit that the floors won’t be mopped as perfectly as when we do it, or the dishwasher is loaded differently. As the song says, “Let it go, let it go…”

2. Am I overcommitted outside the home?

Two years ago I made the mistake of taking on a few outside commitments that were all very worthy and enjoyable except that it was making me miserable. In addition to all of the driving around I had to do with the children’s activities, I had added a few of my own. Then, of course, there are the regular errands that must be run and regular times outside the house.

When I was complaining about my constant exhaustion and not being home enough, my husband gently and wisely counseled me to give a few things up. It was like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders.

Now when people ask for my involvement in a project, my first response is usually no. Sometimes I will ask for time to think about it and run it by my husband, but by and large it’s no. This is also true for many of the worthwhile and wonderful things my homeschool group plans every year for the kids. I am very selective about what takes us out of the house and for how long.

My friend and colleague Ginny Seuffert has long counseled homeschool moms to be stingy with their time, and I would venture to add that you must, on their behalf, be stingy with your children’s time as well. It’s for the good of the family.

I am committed to planning Vacation Bible Camp for my parish, but the bulk of the work is done in summer. I also help the altar society clean the altars and statues in church after the 6:30 am Mass on Fridays. None of this detracts from our school days, and I take other requests to prayer and consult with my husband before I agree to anything else.

3. Am I doing something everyone hates?

Have you ever picked a family read-aloud because it was a worthy book that you thought every well-educated person should be familiar with, but all the kids hated the story? I have. It’s miserable to go on.

Family reading time should be worthy and appropriate and all that, but it should also be enjoyable. There are many, many worthwhile books to spend time with, so don’t go on with one that makes everyone groan in agony when you are reading it to them. Same goes for craft projects, boring movies, and co-op classes that are more work than pleasure. We so often have this idea that we must soldier on because it’s good for us, or because everyone else does it, or some other nonsense.

Yes we are Catholic and know that suffering is eventually rewarded, but that doesn’t mean we have to sign on for it in this silly way. Put down the book and the glue gun. I give you permission not to burn yourself out on this.

4. Am I too tired?

It sounds so basic and it is often the one thing we are doing to sabotage ourselves. Moms need sleep. If you are up all night with the baby, then you must rest during the day for the sake of both your physical and mental health, especially if you are nursing the baby.

If you are up at night on Pinterest or Facebook, you are taking valuable rest time from yourself and not using your time wisely. Turn off the screens after dinner, relax and go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Institute a daily quiet time in the house (after lunch is a good time) whereby everyone goes to their room or some corner of the house to read, listen to music or a book (on earbuds), play quietly or nap. Use this time to refresh yourself and if necessary take a little power nap.

5. Am I comparing myself to others?

This is a trap that I am convinced comes directly from the devil. I am often guilty of thinking other moms are doing a much better job than I am at educating their children and comparing just how I fail my kids with how they are succeeding. This attitude is not from God, and that nasty, comparing voice of failure in my head is thwarting my mission. Don’t give into it.

When you find this attitude creeping up on you, remember that no one else has your children, your husband, your home, your obligations, your gifts and talents. God chose these children for you and He placed it in your heart to homeschool them. He will bless your efforts and give you the grace you need to be the best you can be for your family.

Don’t compare yourself to others because you have no idea what else goes on in their home; rather, be happy for people who seem to have it all together, and encourage and praise their efforts. This is a much better attitude and one that will filter in to your own homeschool. Happy moms have happy kids.

Homeschool moms have such busy lives and so much pressure to do everything well; let’s not take that to an unreasonable level. It is so much better to embrace simplicity, scale back and be content with our place in life right now.

You will be a calmer, happier mom, and that is what a real “supermom” looks like.

About Mary Ellen Barrett

Mother of seven children and two in heaven, Mary is wife to David and a lifelong New Yorker. She has homeschooled her children for eleven years using Seton and an enormous amount of books. She is a columnist for The Long Island Catholic and blogs here . Meet Mary Ellen.
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