“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” “School begins! Yay!” So says my Facebook newsfeed. Yours too, huh?
That time of the year has arrived.
I cringe a little more each year. It is also constantly thrust in my face in no uncertain terms. It’s always said tongue in cheek but it carries with it deep significance: mothers it seems are doing the happy dance that their children are now away at school and they have some time away from them. Relief floods their voice.
Ever since we decided to homeschool, I try to steel myself against this day. And my children are not even close to school age yet. However, it still affects me.
This time reminds me of my choices, our choices as a family, that we are not mainstream, that we have made some unpopular decisions and the consequences of those decisions give me less time away from the children, less time to develop myself (whatever that means) and a more insular life focused entirely on my children, my husband and our three bedroom home with its laundry, its cobwebs and its perpetually unkempt bathroom.
I now get why one of the homeschooling groups I know in Sacramento throws a “Not Back to School” party. It’s a reminder that we are not alone, that we do have something to celebrate.
As my homeschooler friend Jackie Ehtesham put it, “Why shouldn’t the people who are subject to someone else’s schedule and an assembly line curriculum (both at school and at home), feel as if THEY are the ones missing out?” It’s true and yet I forget. They are the ones missing out – they’re missing out on time with each other, missing out on a Christian education in the home (schools are Humanist if anything); they are the ones missing out on being able to take vacations when they want and learning experientially, creatively, at a pace that works for them, in an educational environment that is focused on their children individually. It doesn’t get better than that. Not for my children and not, as a mother who wants the best for them, for me. “And yet,” Jackie says, intuitively, “even in the face of wildly successful statistics on the social contributions and academic accomplishments of homeschoolers, we can still succumb to the fear put upon us.” Fear that the children aren’t being “socialized” as if we’re going to put them in the basement and keep them on a strict diet of chicken bones and algebra.
“Why shouldn’t the people who are subject to someone else’s schedule and an assembly line curriculum (both at school and at home), feel as if THEY are the ones missing out? And yet, even in the face of wildly successful statistics on the social contributions and academic accomplishments of homeschoolers, we can still succumb to the fear put upon us.”
This fear however I think takes a back seat to the real fear most women (including me) have hidden in the back of their minds: the fear of a diminutive life, a life where no one notices what you do, a life where you do not matter. Feminism has done immense damage in this area, preying on this fear that is part of a normal person’s life – man or woman.
The only antidote to this existential fear is Biblical. I might matter to no one else, but I matter to God.
In the absence of God’s authority, however, and certainly in some circles in addition to God’s authority over us, feminism has convinced us that if a woman doesn’t have a job outside the home (or a home-based business) she isn’t really worth anything.
Fear-mongering of this kind is even blatant in supposed financial planning shows where women are told to keep a stash of money hidden away from their spouse and be aware, be aware of how much money they have as a family if they choose not to do so and never, ever quit your job because, hey, your husband could cheat on you, leave you or, well, he might just up and die on you.
I hope my sarcasm comes through because with all that is living in me, I reject this notion.
This is not my truth. This is not my reality and I refuse to accept anything that would shove its way between a union God has created – that between my husband and me. My truth is a man who cares enough for his family to accept a life of unending work, who cannot go to school to further his education and start a new career path because the drop in pay at the entry level position would be a hardship on us. So much for the male chauvinist holding down his woman, pregnant and barefoot.
This existential angst, this reaching for the stars on our own, this fear that I will never amount to anything in and of myself has its roots in the Fall of Man. Throughout Genesis 1 and 2, we see order placed where there was no form, order where there was chaos, words of blessing, natural divisions between light and dark. And then, in Genesis 3 begin the lies, the deception and eventually the Fall.
When Eve spoke to the serpent in the Garden of Eden she was subtly deceived into misquoting God. She was asked, “Did God really say…” Doubt was planted in her mind. She should have exercised authority immediately. After all, man(kind) had dominion over animals in Eden – the serpent had no business questioning God’s commands. But she did not stop him. She refused to exercise her authority over him and in arguing with him, she misquoted God. In one statement, “Eve disparaged the privileges, added to the prohibitions and weakened the penalty.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary edited by Walvoord and Zuck.) I can’t help but think that this is the way of all sin.
Each time I am tempted to sin, this is the trajectory my thoughts take and this exactly the thought process that is behind me so-called role of being a boring, frumpy stay-at-home mom who homeschools her children.
Thank goodness (and God!) for sending me friends who get what I’m saying, friends who I can turn to for support and direction, who have been there, done that, felt that and have chosen the right thing to do.
Kari Brautigam is one of them. I have never met her – she lives in Wisconsin and we have only “talked” through our blogs and Facebook pages. I complained to her about moms doing a happy dance this time of year and asked her how she felt about it.
These were her words, “To be honest I hear you… your little ones are so little and dependent, I know what that’s like! BUT (and here’s my big BUT) DON’T LISTEN TO THEM!!!! They won’t be dancing when their kids come back to them disrespectful and whiny, hurried and stressed. Don’t think that sending them away will be better for you. They won’t behave better if they get a break from you either, in fact, the opposite will probably happen. You are wonderful with your children. You have a grip on discipline that will be lost if you send them away. If you need to, set up play dates, trade childcare days with friend, make the time you spend with them fun… It’s true, you may have to give up some of the things you enjoy, but it’s only for a season!”
“To be honest I hear you… your little ones are so little and dependent, I know what that’s like! BUT (and here’s my big BUT) DON’T LISTEN TO THEM!!!! They won’t be dancing when their kids come back to them disrespectful and whiny, hurried and stressed. Don’t think that sending them away will be better for you. They won’t behave better if they get a break from you either, in fact, the opposite will probably happen.”
Or in other words, according to Jackie, who I previously mentioned, “It’s really hard to break out of that mold of comparing ourselves to everyone else, instead of looking at our actions from an eternal perspective and using The Bible as our measuring stick (incidentally, the word “Canon” means “measuring stick”). The Apostle Paul talks a lot about “keeping our eyes on the prize” so as to “win.” We are never told to keep our eyes on the other runners.”
The Apostle Paul talks a lot about “keeping our eyes on the prize” so as to “win.” We are never told to keep our eyes on the other runners.”
In a world where nothing beyond today matters and the best life one can have involves having the most fun or the most stuff, it is important to remember quotes such as this from G. K. Chesterton:
“When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.”
How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.
So keep your dancing shoes on, those of you who are so thrilled to get rid of their children. But I will not be joining you this year or any other year when school begins. I will be rejoicing quietly in my work as a woman, a wife and a homeschooling mom in my three bedroom home with its laundry, its cobwebs and its perpetually unkempt bathroom.