Home School Burnout Part 3: The Mean Mommy

by Elizabeth

hsb part 3b

There’s more to the story than Part 1: Unrealistic Expectations and Part 2: “Mom Fail.” Much more went on in my heart the last couple weeks of summer break, and I really wrestled with whether to share what I’m about to share. I’m fiercely protective of my children’s privacy, and I don’t share much about them online (more on why I’ve chosen to do that in a couple weeks at Velvet Ashes).

I was afraid that talking about my homeschooling struggles might reveal that gasp! I’ve ever had parenting issues at all (as though both my children and I are perfect). While I never want to share my children’s stories or betray their confidences, this story wasn’t actually about them. It was about me and my own sin, and that’s something I do feel (timidly) comfortable sharing. I also felt it would be disingenuous to leave the story at “God turned my heart towards my children that week and POOF! Everything was fixed.” It wasn’t that simple or straightforward.

God softened my heart that third week of summer, it’s true. But something else happened after that: I listened to a free, one-time webinar called “Teaching Ramona Quimby: Homeschooling Your Intense Child.” I signed up for this webinar because, um, FREE. (I also listened to a free one about teaching math conceptually, but that doesn’t have much to do with this part of the story.)

The speaker listed some of the characteristics of what she calls the “intense child.” As I listened I recognized myself in her description. I was an intense child, all grown up. I have big internal reactions to stuff, I’m sensitive to external stimuli, I don’t like my routine altered, I want to blame other people for my upsets, and I don’t always know what to do with my emotions.

I began to see that I was aggravating the homeschool stress through my reactions and attitudes. Busted! God was convicting me big time. You mean this all came back to me? You mean I’m the problem here? I didn’t want to admit that. I would rather blame my issues on something outside me. I really couldn’t though.

I started having some conversations with my husband about this stuff, and we talked more in-depth about “boundaries.” He’d been telling me for a while that I didn’t have good boundaries, though at the time I’d been so overwhelmed I didn’t really know what he meant or how to implement his advice. As I became convicted that my own behavior was causing my frustrations, I could now look inside and see he was right.

Here is what I found inside myself: a deep fear of being a Mean Mommy. There’s a voice in my head that tells me I have to be available to my children at all hours. I can never tell them no. So I would let little people climb on me all the time. I couldn’t give myself permission to take a break or to tell them no. In my mind that would be withholding love, and I wasn’t supposed to do that.

I didn’t want to be mean. I didn’t want to reject anybody. But when my patience had worn thin and I was tired of being climbed on, I did reject. I snapped and spoke unkindly, or I went away and hid. Or both. Result: I was becoming the Mean Mommy I was trying so hard to avoid. Ouch! That realization hurt.

So I started seeing myself as culpable. I needed to take responsibility for my behavior and my reactions. I needed to institute some better boundaries, and I needed to do it calmly. I found that when I did, peace returned to my home. I fell in love with my children again. I was able to see and care for their little hearts again. I even delighted in them again.

The Mommy I was meant to be was coming back from the grave.

Part 1: Unrealistic Expectations

Part 2: “Mom Fail”

Part 4: Resources for the New & the Weary

2 thoughts on “Home School Burnout Part 3: The Mean Mommy

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