412 | Homeschool Mom Burnout: Are You Unappreciated or Overdoing It? (Jennifer Cabrera)
Have you ever begrudged your family for under-appreciating your homeschool efforts? If so, you then probably felt guilty for feeling neglected. For the love of homeschooling and our families, we do all we can to show it. Having these thoughts and emotions could be homeschool burnout. Or could you be overdoing it and wearing out your audience?
Jennifer Cabrera, the Hifalutin Homeschooler, is the writer of homeschool truth, humor, and inspiration. Jennifer lives in Salado, Texas with her husband and three brilliant boys. She is a licensed Physician Assistant/MPH, but set aside that career for her ultimate life's work. She is also the author of Socialize Like a Homeschooler: A Humorous Homeschool Handbook and Revolting Writing, a hilarious writing, vocabulary, and illustration journal for reluctant writers. She is a featured speaker with Great Homeschool Conventions and her memes and witty insights are widely shared on social media.
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Jennifer Cabrera Hello and welcome to another Hifalutin Homeschooler episode of The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Jennifer Cabrera and I am one of many hosts here on the podcast. Each week, we bring you an encouraging conversation, inspiration, tips, tricks, and or humor from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home.
Now, while the title of the show is Homeschool Solutions, we do not pretend to have the answer to every question related to homeschooling, but we do hope to keep it real through lessons we've learned and urge you toward Jesus Christ and prayer with him as the greatest parent-teacher conference available.
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Do you ever wonder, if you didn't plan it, no one would want to do anything with you? I suppose this is not a thought all homeschool moms have, maybe just those of us with all teens, all sons, or all overworked husbands. Or maybe it's just the more overachieving homeschool moms who try and are largely able to pull off and plan big educational gestures, feats of field trips, host these quirky events, and set up elaborate science projects, family gatherings, game nights, themed meals, forced walks together, mandatory movie nights, and trivia with tea time. This episode is entitled, therefore, "Homeschool Mom Burnout". Are you unappreciated or overdoing it? By the time we're worn out, and we've worn out our favorite multicolored gel pens jotting down ideas and lists of groceries and decorations and to-dos to make it all happen, and then all the cooking and details, or cutting out game pieces, or writing 200+ true false statements themed to a specific holiday or historical era that we might be studying, and then we've ensured pleasant participation at grade point, basking in the excited smiles and enjoyment or, well, ignoring the less than thrilled reactions than we expected, and then all the cleanup-- But we don't really mind because we love them, and it was worth it because someone probably learned something, and they'll look back and remember these moments someday with warm smiles and giggles and lament it all to their own kids. And obviously you had a good time doing it all, being a big kid, loving your family, you know, all those things that you never did when you were in school and all the time and effort and attention to details that you had to point out for them to notice. You've exhausted yourself, the theme, their attention, and their willingness to play along. And you got plenty of Instagram-worthy photos to prove it all went smashingly, or at least that you tried.
So, well, this is where I risk sounding like a selfish, whiny child when I say, "Why does it seem like that no one thinks to ask mom to do anything? Why don't they want to spend time with mom? Do they love me as much as I love them? Do I care if they show it? Have I set the bar too high? Do they think I expect the same amount of presentation and build-up? Am I too much? Do I need a timeout?" Well, yes, probably, at times. I am a little manic, making memories and orchestrating family fun. I just love them, grumbles, goofs and all. I love to see them smile. I even enjoy the part that goes wrong. I can find fun in the failure. I soak up the time just sitting together. I urge laughter and looking for the bright side in what does go wrong. I mean, don't get me wrong, there is no whiny expectation going on here. I just recently hit burnout, I think. Maybe I've hit perimenopause. Oof! Let's not talk about that. Or after reaching the 800,777th level of Wordscapes while gritting my teeth in an anxious way over what I need to be doing but aren't doing right now, it occurred to me that I've worn myself out and I need to back off a bit.
So much so that I'm excited about being on call for jury duty. A jury duty summons, you know, so that someone might miss me or wonder what I'm doing, seeing, hearing, or who I'm saving from sending to the slammer, or at least the 50-mile drive to and from the courthouse will feel like a mini vacation. With the pocket change they promised to pay me, I can stop and have half a latte. But why haven't I been selected to appear yet? I call dutifully every Friday, as instructed. It's sort of like the mom's version of Charlie's Angels, but in baggy sweats and overprepared to absorb all the details of the case, to spout historically researched opinions, and arrange for soothing themed snacks for my fellow jurors to enjoy while we deliberate. I mean, I have ideas: taxation-is-theft toffee bites or insurance-is-a-scam scones. I really don't know why I haven't been called in yet. Uh, well, it could be because I look particularly opinionated on paper. All these questions that they make you answer. Gosh, I stood back and thought, "Well, I'm a confusing mixed bag of tricks and trades. Level of education: master's degree. Place of employment: self-employed. Job description or title:....”
Huh, well, this one was hard to answer. Um, blogger? No. Not much these days anyway. Writer? Well, "has been known to." Educator? Well, technically, yes, but influencer? Well, I mean, I have been known to get people moving in the right direction with sarcasm and encouragement to persuade others via social media. So yes. But no, that's not right. Speaker? Well, yes, occasionally. I mean, not my best skill, but I do have things to say. Caregiver? Cook? Event coordinator? School counselor? Pusher? I mean, I didn't really know what to put. And then I was like, "Wait, do they want to know what I could do based off that education level that I claimed in the question before?" Well, it's way more impressive on paper. Nah, but I'm out of practice. So I just wrote "homeschool writer/speaker". But then I scroll down and there was this question: "Do you have any formal specialized training?" And then all these options to check. And there was "medical training", so I had to check that box because, yes, I graduated from physician assistant school, I have a master's in public health, and yes, I have a higher level of understanding in these areas, but I wanted to scribble underneath it, "Um, I'm also on-the-job trained and likely, at this juncture, better at teaching algebra, old-school essay writing without the need of AI assistance, educational planning, transcripts, elaborate science unit study creations, and feeding, clothing, cleaning, and morally or valiantly attempting as a support counselor, and to pray for my family while occasionally--okay, all the time--inserting unsolicited advice and opinions." That was probably too much to write, so I just left it at "homeschool writer and speaker”.
Now, upon the reflection brought on by a jury duty summons questionnaire and during my self-hosted pity party of lonely, neglected, and underappreciated homeschool mom, indeed, I determined that I am, number one, overqualified for my job. These guys are so lucky to have me. Do they have any idea how much a governess like me would cost in the real world? I think not. And the second thing I determined is I'm not getting called in for jury duty. Seriously, neither the defendants nor the prosecution's attorneys are going to be able to be sure what exactly they're getting when I show up. "She doesn't even know who she is." Also, I probably shouldn't have penciled in, "I'd like to bring my 15-year-old with me so he can see how this process works, and ask a few questions for himself." And third, I realized, I don't idle well. I need a project, stimulation, and just an inkling of appreciation. For real. If any teen offspring so much as, I don't know giggles or smiles affectionately in my direction after I've made them a sandwich or surprised my still-homeschooled child with a field trip to a rock show or lovingly packed groceries, supplies, and clean laundry, laced with mom's encouraging notes for the twins to return to college, I am immediately fueled and ready to do the next thing for them. The famous country singer Tim McGraw long ago pinned moms like me everywhere when he twanged, "Just to see you smile, I do anything." But I'd forgotten to adhere to the next line in the song, "...that you wanted me to." (Pay no attention to how awful that singing was, I'm trying to make a point here.) This is the problem, fellow overworked-by-self-infliction-and-then-underappreciated-homeschool-moms, a lot of what we do for our kids, husbands, even spoiled, smelly canine family members was never asked of us in the first place. And sometimes we're just too much. And though most of what we do is appreciated, it's exhausting to keep up with. And maybe our kids, whom we've hopefully taught to recognize and thank others for their kindness, are worn out from keeping up with ours, and their desire to acknowledge and reciprocate is overtaxed.
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First Corinthians 16:14 tells us, "Let all that you do be done in love." Well, there's this famous quote, and I can't figure out who originally said it or the exact wording that that person may have used--because I'm tired of looking it up after five minutes--but you've probably heard some form of it too. It goes something like this, "Don't expect more than you are willing to give." Now, for starters, I think this is a good way to console someone or your kid in a situation where they hope to be treated a certain way, or maybe get rewarded for effort they didn't really make. Like, you know, not winning the science fair with a project they threw together in one day. Well, us moms are doing the reverse of this, and the line maybe should read, "When you go above and beyond for the love of homeschooling and family, don't expect a return on all you're willing to give. Let them love you back in their own way." But we don't need this to be a quote on a meme that we can humbly share on Facebook and Instagram to scold our ingrates. Well, this would be a faux humble gesture, a "faumbly" gesture. (And yes, I just invented this and it should be a thing. A false humble gesture: a "faumbly" gesture.) We don't need this because we're doing these things out of an endless fountain of love, with both positive and a negative feedback loop. Darned if they do, and darned if they don't give me a hug or a champagne toast. "I'm surprising them with heart-shaped pancakes and a field trip this Monday because I love them. And this is the homeschool life we've built together that won't last forever, so I have to shove as much love and fun and memories and special treats and amazing activities and gestures of affection and emotion-filled, one-day-nostalgic-eliciting moments because I simply love them too much."
Now, my husband's grandmother taught me this one, well, accidentally. She didn't speak much English, and after two years of high-school Spanish and one semester course in college, my Spanish was, well, useless. But we found a good way to communicate, and she loved me pretty much from the start. "Too much," she would say. "I love you too much, Jennifer," she would say. Now, some may say it was a translation mistake, but it stuck in our family book of unique endearments next to, "Mama knew you could do it." And, "When's the last time you pooped?" "I love you too much." I still tell my kids, text my kids, and show my kids maybe too much, making it hard to reciprocate, or just not giving them time to reciprocate, much less to breathe between all the gestures and squeezes of affection. First Corinthians 13:4-7 says, "Love is patient and kind. Love does not envy or boast. It is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things." So clearly this is God's permission to love them to bits and pieces, no matter what, or how much they show it in return. Because I know I can't quit. I'm just going to try to be aware of when I need a timeout on my more eccentric ways of showing it. And also--and here's where I've been going with all this episode that started as a pity party and ended it as an "I'll do what I want and keep loving them too much" declaration--I'm going to let them love me and return how they want.
Yes, of course, I hope they love me too much too. They just probably don't want to design me a scavenger hunt and snuggle session to show it. I almost slid into sadness the other day when my twins drove away to start a new semester adventure at college, where I can't shove good food and a listening ear in their face hourly. I don't see these moments of departing getting any easier, but-- Well, I mean, I did shove a hoard of homemade goodies and microwavable sustenance in their car, along with "please do drive safe" and "let me know when you get there" and "make good decisions." Later, they arrived and tossed their haul into a cramped dorm room and took off for tacos with their friends. And then I got a texted plea, "Mom, please don't send anything else. There's no room. We've got too much stuff." What? No, "Thanks for all the help and the goodies"? Just a receipt showing that I'd overdone it again, overshot my target. They're drowning in my affection, and protein bars, and paper towels, and chocolate milk, and extra spiral notebooks. Well, they were starting a new tough semester, I needed to be mindful and a little adult, so I texted back and said, "Sorry," with a heart emoji. And I left it at that. However, late late late, like really late later, I'm literally sliding into bed with my book and my heating pad to comfort my aching back and my heart that was now questioning my tendencies for overdoing it, and then I got a text, "We worked it all out. Thanks. Going to Walmart tomorrow for a few extra things. Love you. Good night." Which in teen-guy speak is practically a sonnet of appreciation. I almost laughed out loud, but I didn't because my hubs was asleep next to me. Seriously though, how does he sleep when the dorm that I had thought overpacked for was now not fully stocked as I had intended? But also I needed to laugh because...so I hadn't overdone it, right? And so I texted back, "Okay. I love you too much. Good night."
Now, the takeaway: All this to say, if you have the tendency to overdo it in your homeschool or family life because you just love them too much and perhaps feel that time is flying by, so you want to squeeze all the marrow out at the same time--you're trying to overstuff them with love that they can carry with them always, but you're wondering if it's sticking or if they would do the same for you. Stop. The answer is no. If my husband and boys arranged a tea party for a movie night with Jane Austen, I might worry. That's not their love language. Also, if you're already monopolizing and nailing large gestures of affection and family time, I mean, and you already did Pride and Prejudice with pastries last week, well, you weren't giving anyone any room or incentive to try something else, to come up with their own way of affection. And it may never be as big and grand as your own. Why would you want to be overdone anyway? Maybe you need to back off. Simmer down. Take a deep breath. Wait for it. "Mom, we're going to take you to our favorite ramen place when you come visit next month." This is what I was told before they left for school. I wasn't really paying attention at the time, but now I know that that translates to, "We love you too much." So remember, when you go above and beyond for the love of homeschooling and your family, don't expect an equal return on all that you're willing to give. Let them love you in their own way. And keep being awesome. I mean, have fun with homeschooling. Overdo it if you want to. But enjoy your own work and let that be your reward, getting to see the smile on their face and enjoy doing it. And when you see that smile, it's like, "Okay, start the next thing." But don't forget to pause and let them love you in their own way. So that's all for now. And until next time, stay weird and homeschool on.
Thank you for joining me here on the Homeschool Solutions Show again. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share for healthcare you can trust. To learn more about why over 400,000 Christians have chosen Medi-share, go to greathomeschoolconventions.com/medishare.
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Lastly, have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling event of the year offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit hall in the United States. Find out more at greathomeschoolconventions.com. I hope to see you in Texas.
Also, if you'd like to connect with me, you can find me at Facebook at Hifalutin Homeschooler and on Instagram @hifalutinhomeschooler. Also, you can email me directly with any questions, concerns, anecdotes. I love to hear stories from other homeschoolers. That's [email protected]. Until next time, stay weird and homeschool on.