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Self-Care While Homeschooling

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JEN MERRILL
Jen Merrill

The irony is not lost on me, that I am breaking my self-imposed self-care hiatus from my blog to write about self-care. (That is irony, Alanis!) (And if it's not irony, hush, I'm tired.)

Fall has fallen with a resounding thud here in Chicago, and with it comes Operation I Will Not Be As Unreasonably Cold As I Was Last Winter Because Dear God My Teeth Chattered All The Time And My TMJ-Riddled Jaw Went Into Spasm And I Cracked Two Teeth Clenching At Night And I'm Worth More Than That. I am notoriously bad at self-care, as evidenced by my answers when asked when I get "me" time.

  • In the bathroom with the doors locked and the fan on. I may or may not be using the facilities. (This is not self-care)
  • Driving to and from my student's houses for flute lessons. (This is mobile self-care)
  • The rare evening when I stay up several hours after everyone else so as to enjoy the delicious solitude. (This is paying-for-it-the-next-morning self-care)
  • The two mornings a week I go to the gym and have the privilege of being worked to death. (This is new self-care)
  • Massage therapy to prevent my jaw going on another little spasm trip. (Yes, this is truly self-care)

So for me to take action to take care of myself before it becomes an issue is new. And revolutionary. You'd think I had just invented the peanut butter cup. With sprinkles.

Taking care of myself got put on a back burner -- on a stove at a house on the other side of the planet -- a few years ago. The aromatic brown clumps were flying towards the air circulating device, and making myself a priority was one of the first things to go. You'd think I'd learn; the last time I did that I collapsed from exhaustion, had severe adrenal fatigue, and among other things eventually had to go gluten free to heal and stay healed. That was five years ago, and I will never be that sick again so help me. But I got cocky, and when things went pear-shaped a few years ago I quit taking care of myself properly. Oh, I continued to shower and eat and sleep and all those things, but stress management and exercise and life balance all went happy go bye-bye. This is known as the Era of 2010-2012, When All Hell Broke Loose And Kept Breaking And No Amount Of Karmic Superglue Was Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again.

This is also about when I started homeschooling a resistant, twice-exceptional, underachieving, stubborn-as-a-pissed-off-mule tween boy. He also has a whacked out sense of humor (no idea where he got that!), is intensely curious, is the living incarnation of Calvin, and there has not been a dull moment in this house in over 12 years. He's awesome and exhausting.

Is it any wonder my jaw muscles invented new knots last winter? The scouts should take notice. My over-achieving jaw muscles impressed my dentist, who surely named an oar or two after me this summer. Maybe even an outboard motor or sail.

My very long-winded point, and I do have one around here somewhere, is that no one is going to step up and say, "Hey, it's time you take care of yourself. Let me take over XYZ and 123 and LMNOP so you can go take care of yourself for a change. Now scoot!" Ain't gonna happen. And if you're homeschooling you're even less likely to have a chance to get away. I'm very fortunate in that A is old enough to stay home alone for short periods if necessary, that my husband works from home, that my parents are nearby, and that I have duct tape and am not afraid to use it. I've finally decided that self-care comes down to this:

You must be strong enough to tell the whole world, including yourself, to bugger off so you can get quality time with yourself.

This means late at night when you're so tired you're walking into walls is not the time to catch up on that book you wanted to read. You go to bed. This means that when you're already so overwhelmed that you absentmindedly put the cat in the dryer instead of the teddy bear, you do not make eye contact with someone looking for volunteers to run the Big Homeschooling Gala Dinner and Auction. You sit on your hands and investigate the tear in your jeans you've been meaning to repair for the last eight months. This also means that when you're awake and alert and in a reasonably good mood, that you're allowed to spend that time with yourself, doing something YOU want to do.

Our jobs as homeschoolers is not easy. Oh, how I wish it were. But it's not, and we have to take steps to ensure we have the energy -- mental, physical, and emotional -- to do what we do with the kids we're doing it with. I need to get better at this, because if I don't I will have another jaw spasm rave party this winter and if that happens, I don't know how I can continue with my flute. And that, my friends, would kill me.

So now, on this cold and rainy September evening, I am going to my nice warm bed (flannel sheets and electric blanket, natch) with a bit of humorous light reading, to be followed soon after by deep snoring sweet dreams. I am my own first line of defense, even against my own ambitions and dreams, and self-care is quickly rising in importance. Without it, I'm doomed.

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Need more self-care? Check out September's Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop, where bloggers all over the world are sharing their thoughts on self-care.

This post originally appeared at Laughing at Chaos.