On the outside, it might look like we've got it all together. We teach the kids, we discipline, we make food for the family, we get the kids to extra-curricular activities, we clean (sometimes)... and most of the time we do it so well that even our husbands can get the impression that "it's all good" and that we can handle anything that is thrown at us with diligence and aplomb. Reality, though, is that we often struggle. That we worry about whether we're doing enough, stress out about getting it all done, and even feel remarkably inadequate much of the time. Even the most relaxed, competent, confident homeschool wives have their moments of doubt and despair. But as we soldier forward in dedication to our kids and families, it's not surprising that husbands don't see it; that they mistake efficiency for sufficiency. We've gotten pretty good at what we do. But that doesn't mean we don't need some support. Even if we don't say it, we homeschool wives have at least a few things that we need from our husbands, to make this whole thing work:
- We need you to communicate with us. One of the ways we are able to keep going along this homeschooling journey is by "talking it out". Remember, we spend the large majority of our time around people under the age of 18. For most of our day, we can't even think our own thoughts because we're busy dealing with everyone else's thoughts and behavior. We crave adult interaction, and if you're the first adult that walks into the house, expect to be the one to fit the bill! Talking with our spouse helps us to connect with our partner and connect back with ourselves as an adult (separate from our roles as mother and teacher), and recharge our spirits so that we can go back to the task of pouring out ourselves into our children. So take the time to talk with us. A few minutes of engaged conversation will make all the difference in our attitude, outlook, and effectiveness.
- We need you to just listen to us. A lot. When we come to you and say, "I've had enough. I can't do this anymore", we don't want you to give us 100 reasons for why that's not true. We really want you to just listen, and to let us know how much you love us and believe in us. It's hearing what we say and giving us emotional support, without offering solutions to the problem. This might seem like the same thing as needing you to communicate with us, but it's not. Communicating together is when we both share in order to build intimacy and remind ourselves that we are a person beyond our roles. Your listening is about letting us get things off our chest and emotionally drain off so that we can gain perspective and feel encouraged. Think of it this way – if we're level-headed and calm, we want to communicate together (and hear what you have to say too). If we're emotionally overwrought, we need you to just listen (although a few supportive statements like "I'm sorry honey, I love you" or "That's really hard, but I think you're doing such a great job" are allowed)!
- We need you to help us get away. We love homeschooling. We love our children. But we don't want to be responsible for both every single second of every day. Just as you need down time when you return home from work, and on your days off, we need the opportunity to get away and do something for ourselves. The difference between what we do and working outside the home is that we never get to "come home" from our work…our work is the home! We need you to encourage us to take time for ourselves, away from the house and kids, on a regular basis – and to provide the help and support to make it happen! Give us a night on the town with the girls, or a trip to get a pedicure. Anything that is away from the house, away from kids, and that gets us back in touch with who we are as persons separate from "Mom".
- We need you to wear the "Responsible" hat with the kids sometimes. Because we're with the kids 24/7, we have to be consistent about schedules, discipline, and just about everything else to keep the household running. It's a lot of work, and it rarely is the kind of work that has a discernible sense of completion to it. But we'd like to be fun, too! When you take on some of the responsibilities around the house, including being consistent about disciplining the kids, it allows us the freedom to be less structured, less responsible, less "the heavy", and to just enjoy the kids. Doing a load of laundry, making sure the kids eat a balanced meal, or handling the issue when Johnny responds disrespectfully are simple ways you can ease us from the burden of always being "Mrs. Responsible".
- We need you to be sure there is enough money in the budget for homeschool curricula, and to prioritize these resources as just as important as other things that you value. We don't have the energy to battle educating the kids and battle being able to acquire the resources to do so. Having the right "stuff" for teaching makes all the difference in how effectively we can homeschool, as well as how we feel about the job we're able to do. And to really keep us going, we need to be able to buy a few homeschool "extras", too – resources beyond the textbooks and straight curricula that make learning fun, interesting, and exciting (science project kits, anyone?).
- We need your encouragement. Homeschooling is hard. It's wonderful and fulfilling and worthwhile, but it is also difficult. It is, in fact, most likely the hardest thing we've ever done. We need regular encouragement and support to keep going, because if we aren't getting what we need to be "ok", then we can't give anything out to our kids. We need to hear on a daily basis that you're proud of us, that you appreciate what we're doing, and especially what you appreciate about what we're doing. Don't ever assume that we know you think we're doing a good job. Tell us, and tell us often.
- We need you to care about homeschooling, and show it. Not just in a "Of course I care about it; you're investing in our kids" kind of way, but more in a "Hey, man – you gotta tell me what happened in the game last night" or "Check out my new iPad 2" kind of way. Ask us questions each day about how it went. Find out what the kids are learning, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Learn what curriculum we're using for Science, and why we chose it over the other curriculum. Listen to our questions about whether we should move on to the next concept, or spend some more time reviewing. Take the time and energy to really see what we're doing, and to show interest in it. Knowing we're not alone in the homeschooling journey can be the single biggest factor in how successful we are at it.
- We need you to prioritize time for just the two of us. Our marriage must be a priority. It is very easy for us to get caught up in focusing everything on the kids, and for all of our energy and time to go toward them. We need you to get us away from the children, and give us time with just you, in an environment completely different from the home. You come home on your time off, to get some rest from your work environment, but we have to get away to get a break from our work environment. Plan regular date nights for just the two of us, and periodic weekend trips away, in order to help us reconnect with our roles as husband and wife. The stronger and healthier our marriage is, the more energy and resources we will have to be the best educator we can be.
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