If you've been with me awhile, you know that I've talked a lot about self care. The risk of burnout is so high for homeschooling moms because of the unique load of responsibilities. I believe that self care is a fundamental part of homeschooling sustainability.
Some moms have built in help that lends itself easily to self care. Maybe you have trusted family, a friend or neighbor who lends a hand when you need it. Maybe your spouse has a flexible schedule or works from home and is therefore able to share the load of homeschooling and housekeeping with you well.
But for many moms, self care feels unattainable because they don't have any help. They don't have family nearby. They don't have a spouse who is available. And, they may have additional circumstances that are doubly taxing. If you're nodding your head "yes" than this is for you.
Tips for Self-Care Without Help
1. Daily Rest Time: Rest time is an essential way to care for your children and yourself. It costs nothing and doesn’t require any help (just some practice). Every day we implement a time of rest.
This can be anywhere from 30-90 minutes of time where your children are in separate spaces from you. When we lived in a small house we had one child in each bedroom (including mom and dad's room) and one in the living room and I would base out downstairs.
A rest time is the recharging your introverted child needs, but it is also where you can have a little bit of time each day to do with as you please. I consider our rest time to be my break time. Some days I am productive and some days I just loaf around, but nearly every day I need this time to be alone. Consider implementing this practice into your daily rhythms!
2. Annual Retreat: I think it is incredibly helpful for homeschooling moms to have time away each year (or maybe even more often, if possible). This could be attending a homeschooling conference or a weekend away with friends. It could be as simple as renting a cabin or hotel (especially on a discount site) for an overnight alone.
It is so helpful to have time to decompress, think in a quiet space, rest and recharge. If a whole weekend is not possible either due to scheduling/time or finances there are other ways to have a "retreat" of sorts. Have your spouse (or a trusted friend) take your children out for a whole day.
Being home alone is an anomaly for homeschool moms, so take this time to sit in quiet, rest and be invigorated. If finances are challenging, maybe you know someone who is an empty-nester in your community, church or neighborhood who you could ask to "house sit" while they are on vacation.
I know moms who do this with a mentor or neighbor and they take that time to have a quiet overnight in their guest room a few times a year. If you truly don’t have anyone (spouse, friend or neighbor) who can watch your children, consider even a mini-retreat.
If your kids are old enough you can leave out a tray of food and snacks and activities or have a movie marathon. A little planning can afford you a few hours. It’s not ideal, but I think there are many ways you can be creative with finding time to retreat!
3. Share the Mental Load: One lesson I have had to learn the hard way is that, as a homeschool mom, I cannot do everything by myself. Even with a husband who is eager and available to help, I was still carrying so much of the mental load of things. I was doing all of the planning, delegating and thinking ahead "stuff", even if he was helping with the actual task.
Using these Fair Play Cards has been a game changer. (There is a book and a documentary too, by this same company). This exercise has given us language around our expectations and the ability to take ownership over tasks in a way that alleviates the load from our partner. We are able to completely "hold a card" which means we are responsible for the conception, planning and execution of a task, rather than delegating just the execution part.
Homeschooling naturally lends itself to the homeschooling parent carrying more of the load, so we're not looking for our tasks to be shared 50/50. But, this has really made us feel like more of a team in the life we're building together.
4. Healthy Habits: I can't over-emphasize the importance of sleep and healthy habits. We all know this, right? I find myself thinking I need to stay up late to get more stuff done or have alone time to recharge, but really this leads me to more fatigue and an ugly cycle starts. Did you know that sleep is one of the greatest influences on our emotional state?
This goes for our children too, so protecting their sleep and our own is an important way to care for ourselves and our family. Make a firm boundary around sleep. This goes for eating habits and movement too. There are seasons where these things are very hard. But, is it harder than trying to homeschool and care for our family from a completely depleted state?
If you don’t have active help, you will need this even more (and it’s free!). Self-care starts with the basics: fuel your body, move your body, and get as much rest as you can.
5. Simplify Your Schedule: Another way you can care for yourself is by simplifying your schedule. Don't try to do everything all at once. Do yourself a favor and don't cram your schedule so full that it's bursting. That is a path straight to burnout. One of the most caring things you can do for yourself is leave margin in your schedule: decide what things are truly important and only do those things.
Maybe this means saying "no" to things that are good or changing up your curriculum. But, leaving margin means leaving time for connection, exploration, slow mornings, following rabbit trails, time for your interests and many other excellent things!
6. Feed Your Mind and Soul: It's easy to get lost in the world and responsibilities of being a homeschool mom. It can become our whole life and identity, if we let it. But it's important to find a hobby or interest we can enjoy that is separate from homeschooling.
Read, listen to podcasts, try new recipes, join a running club or Bible study, spend time with friends who don't homeschool etc. Whatever it is, do some things that are just for "you". Do things that feed your mind and your soul.
What Can You Implement Today?
Homeschooling without outside help can be tough. But, by caring well for ourselves we can hopefully avoid burnout and be in it for the long haul. If you're feeling burnt out, pick one of these things to implement into your life. Small changes and big changes can lead us to better boundaries, longevity, and healthy self care in this beautiful homeschooling life! Happy Homeschooling!