This is a guest post from Sarah Faulkner. She is a homeschooling mom in Washington state. She has five kids, ages 13, 11, 9, 5, and 2. 

I am still feeling rung out from my decision to put my kids into Homelink.  It has been such a long week, I feel like a piece of paper that has been wadded up and thrown in a garbage bin.  So, I thought I would pick myself up and go visit a friend.
I should know better.  I am always a better mom when I’m not around other moms.

The Price of “Me” Time
My friend is amazing.  She is kind and caring and everything I am not.  I feel sorry for my kids. I wait to share my writing news with her.  I am nervous to share because deep down I feel selfish for writing.

How can I put my kids into a government run program, just so I can write!  Why can’t I be content to wait until they are a bit older?  It’s only 5 or 6 years. Really, I should put my kids first. But am I putting them first by not participating in these programs and keeping them home? They might really enjoy a day of fun classes, and grow up thanking me.  Then I wonder if I am just doing that “self-justifying thing” because I seem to have these same conversations in my mind before a big purchase….

Selfishness vs. Balance
I think the problem is my motivation.  It’s not whether they will be scarred for life it’s “Am I a bad Mom for doing something for me?”  What is the difference between a Selfish Mom and a mom who “knows how to balance herself?”

I ask my friend.  It’s taken hours for me to build up telling her.  She’s a conservative Christian and I worry she will think less of me because I enjoy Penelope so much. I think it’s pathetic at this age I still care what people think.  Her response is, “Well, I have always heard good things about Homelink.  Of course it was never from die hard homeschoolers.  I don’t know any that have tried that program.”

Am I a sell-out?

Picture Perfect is Mental
It was easy to balance my self and my kids before I started raising my two youngest. They are special needs, mostly through behavioral issues.  I would go to the store with my first 3 and strangers would tell me what a great mom I was.  People would interrupt us at the restaurant to comment on how pleasant it was to “see parents raising their kids right.” I never felt guilty for having “me” time in those days.

We are still the same parents, but my youngers couldn’t be the same children as the rest, and the comments turned to under-the-breath judging about how “a little discipline would go a long way.” I think that’s what started to make me feel like a Bad Mom, and I thought if I poured more of myself into them I could bring back to the accolades I like.

It didn’t work. My youngest two have forced my self-esteem to stop relying on others and I have begun to find it within myself.  And I suppose that is the beauty of being selfish. To be selfish, but not in the way of ugliness, in the way that produces beauty.  I am pretty sure I can’t find it, if I don’t do something freeing for me. Maybe that’s the key, self-sacrifice isn’t 24/7, it’s a balance with selfishness.  That’s what makes it ok.

Now, I’m off to make popcorn for dinner.

26 replies
  1. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    Wow Sarah. Thanks for that. I struggle so much with the though of balance, and I don’t have half of what you do going on. I send one kid to school, and I am (95%, depending on the day) going to school the littlest one at home, so I think about the difference between selfishness and self care. There is a fine line sometimes for sure. On a good day, if you ask me, I will say what you are doing is great if you become a better parent. Doing something for yourself is not selfish if you can be a kinder, more patient and caring person around your kids. On a bad day, I would say that you’ll kick yourself one day for not sticking with it 100%. But as we all know, life is never 100% of anything and there are ebbs and flows and whirlpools all the time that can get us caught or stuck.
    I guess I’m writing this as a note to myself too. This is what I will try to tell myself in the next few years when all I want is a day to myself and maybe to lie on the couch all day, but I will have a small person to take into consideration and make sure I’m not totally screwing him up, or his sister because I don’t have the courage to home school them both.

  2. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    I thought the main point of homeschooling was to take control of your family’s life. Once you’ve taken your kids out of school, it’s up to you how you manage it. So in what way is making YOUR choice on how to manage that selling out?

    Do what you think is right and best for your family and all is good!!

  3. Mark Kenski
    Mark Kenski says:

    Sarah, it’s pretty clear that the two special kids are what took your experience from the realm of the challenging into the realm of the heroic. Heroic is good! And heroic is admirable.

    But we–even you and your husband–are human beings, not mythic superheroes. So you have to respect your limits as a human being, and your needs as a human being. There is “talented giver” there is even “olympic athlete giver” and you may well be in the latter camp, but you *still* have to take time to nurture yourself and your marriage.

    I’m glad you found a way to take some load off of your psyche; please quit beating yourself up for that. It wasn’t quite clear how long and which of your children you “put back in school” but at least you–at this moment–are healing somewhat and recharging your batteries and sorting things out.

    My advice to you is:

    1.) Engineer a way to give yourself a break some times. And when you get a break, take it without guilt. Same goes for your husband and breaks you get together are most important of all.

    2.) Make some more friends where you live. Ones you can depend on to help out. Do not accept failure on this one! Solitude, like any essential nutrient, becomes a poison when you have too much of it.

    3.) Find some people: counselor, therapist, pastor, neighbor who listens well? pen pals? that you can count on for support when you need it.

    4.) Maybe find ways your older kids can help out in ways that do not sacrifice their own education. Life has seen fit to give them special needs siblings, and growing up helping with that has a price, but offers something intangible of great value to their character, to their understanding of humanity–in the deepest, most personal way it is possible to learn, through experience.

    It sounds like you could continue to home school your healthy kids without too much difficulty. For the extra, heroic, effort of homeschooling your special needs kids, you obviously still have some work to do finding balance. I wish you the best.

  4. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    Me-time or mom-time should be non-negotiable…it’s not just you, every one of us needs it. The ones who say they don’t, I’m pretty convinced, are lying to save face (for what I don’t know).
    I used to live in WA state and did a homeschool/alternative school choice (is that what Homelink is? Ours was called Home Connections) and it was so wonderful. We moved there and I didn’t know anybody, and neither did my kids. They made a few friends, so did I. They enjoyed their classes, and I enjoyed the time I got to spend however I wanted.
    There are those of us (hi!) who consider themselves conservative Christians who love Penelope’s blog. I learn so much from this blog. It’s one of my absolute favorites. It encourages me to keep homeschooling and see what needs adjusted when I want to leave in the car and take a week off and not tell anyone where I’m going!
    I’ve always liked the phrase, “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” I think the hardest thing about homeschooling is lack of free-time. It’s the number one reason why I waffle when I have hard days. I just want like, 5 hours to myself with quiet!
    You’re doing a good job.
    Sarah M

  5. jessica
    jessica says:

    I have to agree with another poster here, I think it’s imperative you find a therapist. You are wading through so much ‘unknown’ territory and it seems like you are having a hard time getting in touch with yourself and being confident in your decisions. That anxiety will rub off on the kids and the efforts will be hampered by the insecurity. It looks like, from the outside, that it’s time to build a support network. This can be hard when you don’t have time, but making it a priority will ease your burden down the road. Find the time- perhaps while they are in this program. And I think the program is fine, you need a schedule to be able to ground yourself again. Don’t feel bad about something that will have an immense positive effect on your health. It’s not me or them, it’s a collective.
    2- Writing is healthy. Writing to yourself is an excellent way to connect with yourself.
    3- I’ve reached a point in my life that I am extremely picky with who I am friends with. We have limited time in our own lives and the lives of our kids. I basically speed date friends now (let’s meet for a play date, then a coffee on another day) if I’m having red flags about a person and their relation to me or the other way around, I politely move on. Like in dating, you know pretty quickly who you want to be friends with. If that woman is making you uncomfortable or you can’t be upfront with her, figure out why.
    4- It’s ok to compare yourself, but try to not beat yourself up. Use it as inspiration. No one is perfect. For example, my sister in law is super mom- fantastic with her kids, extremely present and giving, nurturing and kind. If you chop apart her life she has my MIL and her MIL taking care of the kids twice a week and on demand, they are in school, and she has Fridays all to herself. Basically, she gets a break often, but that allows her to have variety and refocus and re-energize. I can’t compare us because our lives are so drastically different in how we organize them. This might be the same for you and your friend.
    5- Why do people feel the need to analyze someone’s behavior or their kids behavior and then come up and validate the way they are handling life? I find this so strange. I feel like it makes way for even more insecurities. I ignore people who give off the cuff judgments like that. No one in the UK came up to my family and said statements about how the kids are and how I’m raising them, but people like to do it here constantly.

  6. Becca O
    Becca O says:

    I don’t know about your Homelink since each is a little different, but ours in Richland is fabulous. Many “hard-core” homeschoolers use it part-time. Its not much different than choosing to use a co-op one day a week. Guilt for doing something for yourself is is my big pet peeve of modern parenting no wonder the rates of narcissim are going up we do act as if the world revolves our kids. I am also a conservative christian who loves this blog .

  7. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    “She’s a conservative Christian and I worry she will think less of me because I enjoy Penelope so much.” —– What does this mean? Do religious people not like Penelope or something?

    Don’t worry about homelink, if I had that nearby I might do a class or two. Who really even cares what other people think? You need to identify and “name” the issue that is causing this so that you can move on from it. Find out why exactly you care so much about what other people think. Don’t be a fake version of yourself, just be authentic and people will appreciate that and like you.

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth says:

      Sarah,
      Just one little note that I hope you don’t take too personally, but it’s regarding your photos. They are so blurry and overexposed that it hurts my eyes to look at them. Do you have a decent camera or camera phone so you can take better pictures to go with your blog posts? I would email this comment to you but I don’t know how else to tell you that.

      Also, my husband has a pug. I feel like I should post a photo or something to go with your pug in the photo.

      • Teryn
        Teryn says:

        Penelope talks openly about her views which are very liberal in some areas and could make some religious people uncomfortable for supporting her ideas. This is very black and white thinking though. Non Christians can have very good ideas to share and believers can have very skewed thinking in areas. Just because I don’t agree with Penelope’s take on religion and sexuality and whatever doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate her views on homeschooling and parenting and transparency. But I definitely know people that would think it a wrong to enjoy her blog at all. I don’t choose to be good friends with those people or ask for their opinions.

  8. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Sarah, this reminds me when my toddler son would want to play with me, but I’d try to distract him so I could carry on reading books about how to play with kids!

    It’s interesting to have some perspective on someone else agonizing about their parenting decision-making. One resource that has helped me is another blog, ahaparenting.com/blog. It has lovely articles, like the one on there about spring-cleaning your psyche, each one like a mini-therapy session.

  9. Annie
    Annie says:

    I love your posts Sarah. I feel like someone understands, even more than I do reading P’s posts. As an ENTP, I don’t even know anyone with my personality, let alone another mom. And two of my 3 kids have major special needs (primarily medical for one, and behavioral for another.) I don’t know how to do this, and still Be Me – surround myself with new ideas and venues, discuss inspirations (that don’t have to do with the kids!), learn a new skill, demonstrate competence, etc.

    There’s a book, kind of fluffy but decent, called _Mother Styles_ dealing with type. And ours in the only type where the author tell us to get a job at least part time to keep our sanity. The repetitive nature of child care is really particularly hard on us. Combined with a never ending drive to make things better, scan for issues that need fixing. Our already overdriven psyches do not get a break.

    For my family, we just decided that because of this we will start using some form of curriculum. I don’t go with the flow that easily, not with kids who beg for screens all day. And I’m not ok with screens all day. Call me controlling, tell me I need therapy because of it, I don’t care. Adding all of it up – the routine, the detail-oriented nature of the work, the confines of home, and the need to know I’m not screwing things up – and something has to give. It’s not just about the kids, it can’t be. Symbiosis or something. Anyway, tell the kids I said thanks for freeing up some of your time, bc it’s nice to hear from a mom in a similar situation.

    • Sarah Faulkner
      Sarah Faulkner says:

      Annie, I read Mother styles and loved it. :) When I keep the kids learning, they want time to play. When I don’t engague them with learning, they want screen time.

  10. Katarina
    Katarina says:

    Be gentle with yourself. Your plan sounds great. Your needs and feelings matter. There is nothing wrong with your plan, even if you didn’t have this particular reason for your strategy. Wishing you all the very, very best. (And who cares what anyone else in the world thinks, including me!)

  11. another perspective
    another perspective says:

    I’m surprised Penelope let you post this here. I just read her column advocating that women set aside their selfishness, and accept abuse, cruelty and bad partnerships for the kids. She wrote that divorce is selfish even in cases of abuse and neglect.
    This idea that happiness is shallow. I respectfully disagree.

    We are powerful role models for our kids. When we set boundaries about what’s tolerable to us, pursue our passions, live a life that brings us joy and deep contentment, we give them the tools and the permission to do the same.

    We need to teach them by example, that it is acceptable to be resilient and driven and passionate about their interests: they will still be loved. Let’s not teach them how to tolerate the intolerable, how to slog through an unsatisfying life.

    Good for you, Sarah. Your kids are learning important lessons from your choices and reflection.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thank you for noticing that I’m happy to have guest posts from people who have different opinions than I do. To be honest, I agree with a lot of what Sarah writes, but I don’t need to agree with her to post what she writes. I want this blog to be a place where lots of people can post opinions that don’t necessarily mirror my own. When I say I love being part of this community, it’s because we are all working so hard to figure out what is right for us — not because we all agree.

      Penelope

  12. Anna
    Anna says:

    Sarah,

    My uncle, a conservative Catholic, has four girls who (mostly) homeschooled and works in the homelink program. The families in the program seem to be very pro-homeschooling. For one reason or another, they choose homelink. Maybe it is to be involved with a teacher and other students in a couple of classes that are of special interest for the student, or lack of knowledge and experience in a subject by the parents. I don’t know a lot about homelink, but maybe it is also the connection to others, structure, and accountability they appreciate. Ultimately, hopefully they are *using* homelink, not the other way around, and are not subject to it.

    I hope to homeschool without a government program. But I know that my uncle is very personal in his approach and connects with the students as individuals. It really is a homeschool island in the otherwise public school.

    Also, I am a conservative Christian and really enjoy Penelope’s posts.

    Anna

  13. Jennifa
    Jennifa says:

    Homelink looks amazing and I would love to learn more about it. I was looking through it on my phone last evening on my hour train ride home. But is it available everywhere, or just in that school district? I searched for homelink Maryland and came up with nothing but nursing homes.

    Sarah’s voice in this post reminds me of my sister, so actually at first I had nothing to comment on, ’cause I was like, oh I hear this kind of stuff all the time.

    But then after reading the comments I was kind of struck that some people would think homelink is ‘bad’ or not homeschooling. It looks pretty radical to me. And it would be something like that that would have the potential to really really change school for the masses. Am I crazy?

    Also, to me, if you don’t send your kid to a school building everyday, you are already bucking the system and will see benefits. Why on earth Sarah feels like using homelink is copping out somehow is just amazing to me. Is there that much pressure to homeschool in a certain way? Anti-government or something? I don’t understand it.

    • Sarah Faulkner
      Sarah Faulkner says:

      Jennifa,
      As far as I know Homelink started here in WA. A friend of mine started it when she demanded money from the school district. There is a clause saying if public schools cannot meet a students needs then they must pay to provide another way. She started a small homelink and it grew across the state. Each one is slightly different. With hers, she gave $500 per student to buy school materials. At the end of the year you had to give them back to the district and it went into the school library. As you can imagine that was filled with pretty cool learning tools.

      • Gretchen
        Gretchen says:

        “A friend of mine started it when she demanded money from the school district. There is a clause saying if public schools cannot meet a students needs then they must pay to provide another way.”

        Oh my gosh, what a racket!

        Man, I respect some homeschoolers—my parents homeschooled my youngest sister. But about half of I read on this blog and in the comments seem like people who just can’t cope in the real world.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          The “racket” you describe is called Free Appropriate Public Education or FAPE.

          The homeschoolers and unschoolers I know are able to cope and have given up huge successful careers to give their kids this opportunity to be educated the way that they need.

          I enjoy writing, but my style would be to tell everyone about why unschooling has worked for us and that the only downside was coming to terms with not having free babysitting for 12 years. I don’t have many emotional stories to share with anyone, yet I could write a whole book on unschooling.

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            “Free Appropriate Public Education or FAPE”
            but who decides what’s “appropriate” that the public has to provide them?

            my mom is a speech path in the public schools and has a lot of stories to tell about the whole access to least restrictive environment, too…

            so now the public has to fund everyone’s wacky flavor of what they want education to be? arghhhh

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          Yes they do, it’s the law to provide a free and appropriate education. If the public schools can’t accommodate your child then they have to find and fund an alternative. Normally they will do all the accommodating at the school, but sometimes that can’t be done.

  14. Marissa
    Marissa says:

    FIrst, homeschooling is about being in charge of your family. If you decide to put them in a program then that is fine. Don’t stress. Second, I’m a conservative Christian and I love Penelope! :) I’m sure that she and I would not agree on everything but life is no fun if everyone is the same as you, right?

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