SummaryHomeschooling mother Amanda Evinger, shares heartfelt and inspiring tips on how to be content with our vocation to stay at home and homeschool our children.
We’ve probably all heard the comments — or at least we are painfully aware they are out there.
“But don’t you work? Don’t your children drive you crazy– how can you handle being around them all day long?” Or my favorite one, “Don’t you get bored sitting home all day?” to which I’d love to respond, “Oh, only when I’m done watching my daily 2.5 hours of soap operas and have cleaned out all my bon-bons.”
And sometimes, we may get the opposite reaction — “How can you find any time to teach properly when running after children, cleaning up messes, and cooking all day long?” Even though these comments don’t reflect reality for most stay-at-homers, they can spur us on to rediscover the beauty behind being a stay-at-home parent and realize, once again, our divine mission (in the midst of dirty diapers and uncompleted workbooks!).
When seeking to appreciate the gift of staying at home with our children day in an day out, here are encouraging tips:
1. Always remember the nobility of one’s calling.
G.K. Chesterton was a true cheerleader for domestic life and motherhood and believed it was one of the greatest of all human endeavors. He once wrote:
“When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery… the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home – as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then, as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No, a woman’s function is laborious; but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.”
2. Keep our eyes on our mission and the God calling us to it.
Not on our trials and struggles. Those who stay at home to homeschool their children in America today often encounter serious struggles with things such as: isolation, insecurities, misunderstanding and criticism from others, financial challenges and more.
Keeping the following Scripture verse before us (posting it above our kitchen sink can be very helpful) on hard days can remind us we draw our courage, faith, and strength not from within ourselves, but from Almighty God, who rules the heavens and is omnipotent.
“I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me” (Philippians 4:13) is a simple verse we’ve heard often, and it’s one to cherish. If we feel we can’t make it through the day, or can’t keep up with the challenges of homeschooling, or can’t manage our household smoothly… it’s fine, because it isn’t up to us.
Again, as the Sacred Scriptures remind us,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
3. Be persons of profound and genuine prayer.
St. (Mother) Teresa once said, “My secret is very simple: I pray.” This little secret was the key to crafting one of the most magnanimous souls in the history of Christianity. Let it be our little secret too! Even when we feel too overwhelmed or busy to pray formal prayers, we can always offer ejaculations with all our heart.
Even just praying, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” repeatedly can change our entire day or lift us up from the depths of sorrow or discouragement. One supreme advantage of being in our “domestic church” all day is that we can surround ourselves with holy images and maintain somewhat of a regular prayer schedule that would not be possible if we were at work all day. Taking advantage of these contemplative blessings can make all the difference and keep us in touch with the joy of Christ.
4. Don’t let isolation get the best of us.
Many parents gladly return to work after being home with a new baby, mainly because they are tired of feeling isolated. They miss the social aspect of being an integral part of a business or work environment. As humans and creatures of God, we need to enjoy cooperative communication with others and intimate friendships.
When we are home with the kids all day, we must make a consistent effort to keep up a healthy social life, for ourselves and for our children. Getting together for activities with other homeschooling families, having “play dates,” or even being part of online homeschooling groups can help us more than we realize.
Isolation can be a danger to our emotional and spiritual health, and we must protect ourselves from it.
5. Nurture your heart frequently with spiritual reading that will encourage you on your journey as stay-at-home parents.
There are a wide variety of resources out there that can serve us. Some of my favorites are the books by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, such as: Grace Cafe, The Domestic Church: Room by Room and The Heart of Motherhood. I have also found the website, Shower of Roses, to be helpful, as well as belonging to Heart of Seton, a Yahoo group for parents who use Seton curricula.
When I am greatly in need of some inspiration, I also turn to the words of St. Teresa of Calcutta, who encouraged mothers in their vocation in extraordinary ways (a summary of her quotes on family can be found here.)
She once said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” I love contemplating the words of St. Pope John Paul II on motherhood. He once wrote (See The Heart of Motherhood, p.15):
It is a disservice not only to children but also to women and society itself when a woman is made to feel guilty for wanting to remain in the home to nurture and care for her family. It is also necessary to counter the misconception that the role of motherhood is oppressive to women and that a commitment to her family, particularly to her children, prevents a woman from reaching personal fulfillment and from having an influence in society.
6. Don’t hesitate to take breaks!
After spending the day feeding and changing a baby (12 times at that!), trekking to Holy Mass in a vehicle that sounds like a bad rock song with a wiper that has a mind of its own (remember those financial challenges of a mainly one-income family I mentioned earlier?), providing three meals and a snack (even if it is just Fruit Roll-ups… there’s always sticky hands!), washing mounds of dishes, answering phone calls, paying bills, fitting in several hours of quality homeschooling time, picking up all kinds of interesting “stuff” around the house, and pinning squirmy bodies down long enough to fit in some family prayers, we stay-at-homers could use some pampering.
We can’t be afraid to take that totally unnecessary bubble bath, watch a family movie, or do whatever wholesome things we must do just to relax. If we don’t, stress build-up can bring on serious emotional and physical consequences.
May the Blessed Mother, who lived a domestic life in Nazareth with great serenity, be our Advocate and friend each day we stay at home. Mother of Divine Grace, pray for us!