Family, goals, Life Talk, philosophy, seasons

Far From Ideal

You guys might or might not be good for me. I spent a ridiculous amount of time this weekend coming up with the perfect combination of first and middle names for the third-daughter-we’re-never-going-to-have. All the talk on here about names … Carl laughed himself silly when I saw me scribbling out the list.


Anyway. On to this post.

I have this ideal family life, in my head. It’s not even so unreasonable. It doesn’t involve children wearing white dresses and running through fields of wildflowers with nary a grass stain to be seen, or me standing at the sink washing my glassware to sparkling cleanliness with a chipper smile on my perfectly-made-up face. It’s actually pretty simple. It is this …

I read stories – many of them – out loud to the children every day. Some are picture books, some are longer chapter books.

We go on walks outside every day. On days when it’s warm enough to hold a pencil without your fingers falling off, we take drawing supplies so the girls can draw any bits of nature that catch their eye.

We don’t necessarily do art projects every day, but when we do them, they inspire great bursts of creativity and the girls revel in them. Mamma does not grit her teeth and wince over the mess.

We do school according to schedule, and it’s never haphazard, or forgotten because Mamma got distracted.

The kids work with me in the kitchen when making food, and it does not drive me to distraction. I can assign them clean-up chores, and not forget to remind them to keep up with it.

Our home is filled with music and laughter and friendship all the time.

And I am not so dog-weary tired all the time that it’s all I can do to plod through my day.

It doesn’t sound that impossibly, does it? OK, maybe the bit about me not losing it over the inevitable mess that comes with any kind of art project. But the rest of it? It’s simple. It doesn’t require any Herculean bursts of strength to accomplish. Lots of other families do it (I know, I know, comparison is the thief of joy and all that … but it’s true). So why is it so hard for me, for us as a family, to live that sort of ordinary, peaceful, simple, happy life? What is it about me that makes me so tired all the time that I can’t seem to get much more than the basics of life done in a day? I get almost-enough sleep these days. I’ve eliminated as many outside stressors as possible from my life, which were what used to suck all my energy from me. I eat mostly-right, and while I don’t specifically exercise, I do my best to stay somewhat active. I’m not depressed, thank God, anymore. The kids are 4 and 6, a pretty awesome age, past the baby-and-toddler stage, not requiring my attention every second of the day, requiring all I’ve got just to keep them and me alive.

When I was eighteen, I started feeling the aimlessness of my life. One day, as I was grumbling to God about the fact that I had all these great ambitions and yet all I was doing was working in the hardware store and not doing anything about those ambitions, it felt like he hit me upside the head with a 2×4.

“Then do something.”

I got home from work that day and immediately started researching colleges with good English programs. I knew that I couldn’t just sit around and expect life to change me, that if I wanted to achieve my dreams I at least had to start down that path myself.

I thought of that experience this weekend, as I was grumbling once again about my inability to get anywhere with my very basic daily life goals. Living with someone like Carl, who sees what he wants and then figures out how to make it work, and then does it, is very exhausting for someone whose natural inclination is to wait for God to drop life changes into her lap without her lifting a finger.

This isn’t the same situation as my decision to go to college instead of twiddling my thumbs waiting to be discovered by someone who would want to publish my wonderful books, though. I wish I could just do it, just go ahead and make the changes. But the problem here is that I just don’t have the energy to change. When I talk about being tired all the time … even forcing my brain to deviate enough to think about sitting down in the middle of the day and read a story to the kids is an effort, much less doing it.

I have a great schedule written up and posted on the fridge. It’s flexible, and basic, and pretty much the best daily schedule I’ve created since I started making schedules for myself however many years ago. And have I been able to stick with it once since the day I wrote it?


I’ve written this entire post, and now I’m not even sure if I’m going to publish it or not. Because what’s the point? To have people metaphorically pat my head and say “there, there”? In hopes that someone will give me a magic cure, something that will make me suddenly able to do everything I want to do? Neither of those are what I want.

But I guess maybe I will publish it, not in hopes of being soothed, but because I strongly suspect there are others out there in the same boat as I am, and maybe knowing that they aren’t the only one floundering will bring them a small measure of comfort. And because sometimes, the very act of sharing one’s struggles can give one strength.

And because, frankly, if I’ve sat here for an hour typing out my frustrations, I don’t just want to hit “delete.” I have little enough to show for my days as it is, I don’t need to lose the few things that I do get done!

11 thoughts on “Far From Ideal”

  1. If anybody there-there’s you, send ’em over my way, I’ve got a punch in the nose waiting for them.
    My gosh, you SO sound like me ten years ago when my kids were that age. I wish I could give you a magic formula, something to the tune of “Just do THIS” and it will all fall into place (with a magic fairly tinkle and twinkling of glitter dust). Alas, it never did for me.
    But I do think that I learned something in retrospect, and it’s pretty much what Laura just said: the lifestyle of a mom and homeschooler has stressors inherent in it that we don’t even see. You ARE under stress, just by virtue of the responsibility that you’ve taken on for yourself. Homeschooling is HARD. It’s also wonderful and rewarding and worth it and all that, but it’s HARD. I spent my whole homeschooling life in denial of that fact, and kept wondering why I was so exhausted all the time and had no energy for those wonderful things like the ones you’re describing (and then I’d feel guilty and get more exhausted, blah blah).
    And the other thing is that while you might not be in depression right now (for a given value of depression), you’re still in grief. That does its own thing to your strength and energy.
    So, no really wise words of advice. Just, maybe, be kind to yourself. Just doing what you’re doing is already such good parenting, even if it’s not fulfilling your list. You’re doing well – really.

    1. Oh, and by the way, after your “naming” post, I picked out four more boy names – you know, just in case I wanted to go for that “seventh son” deal. :D Naming is definitely contagious.

    2. I’ve been wondering lately if the whole HSP thing contributes to the exhaustion in parenting, and might account for some of the differences between those who seem to be able to go-go-go without blinking, and me, who needs a day to recover after an hour’s playdate with one other kid. The constantly changing nature of parenting and its immense pressures have to have some effect on us HSPs, right? (And would explain Carl’s ability to get things done while the immensity of a task overwhelms me before I even begin – he knows, and I know, that he is moderately sensitive, but not even close to being an HSP.)

      (Also – ha! about the names. So glad I’m not the only one afflicted with that sort of fun nonsense.)

      1. Yes, that’s precisely it. Being HSPs (which is a *good* thing) means getting overwhelmed that much more easily. An hour’s playdate with another kid? Oh dear yes, totally exhausting! :)

  2. I’ve been a homeschooling parent for most of my kids’ school lives and the girls are now 15 and 17, so a long time! And yes, especially when they were little and I had just had my son, exhaustion was an endless state of being. But take heart, it does get better. I remember sometimes when I was teaching them to read I would actually fall asleep while reading and start saying crazy words that weren’t on the page. My girls would laugh and say “Mom! You’re falling asleep.” They still remember that, but now they are terrific readers and my 17 year old has gotten her own novel published. We had days where we painted outside (not as messy) and days where we baked all day and some days where they watched Disney movies while I actually got some housework done.

    It sounds like you’re being too hard on yourself. Just enjoy being with your kids and having the opportunity to teach them to read and add. And if you really want to make a change, decide on the one thing that is most important to you and work on only that one thing. You can’t do everything! You can pick something else next year if you want to. Stick with it and do some things for you every now and then to keep your spirits up. If you came to my house, you’d find all my kids snuggled together reading, but widen the view and you’d also see an extremely messy house! I figure I can have a clean in two years when my daughters go to college.–Sorry this comment was way too long!!

    1. Oh, don’t apologize for the length of the comment! It was a great reassurance. Sometimes I think I panic because I feel like I have this narrow window of opportunity to DO things with my kids, and if I don’t cram it all in now (like reading really awesome books every day), I won’t be able to do it later. Which I know is nonsense when I stop and think it through, but does tend to subtly creep in and influence my emotions when I’m not thinking about it.

  3. I have SO been there. Being a teacher-parent-homemaker is HARD. You are NOT the only one. (I, too, grit my teeth at the prospect of art projects, especially since we moved school to the living room for the colder months. GAH!)

    You don’t have to be perfect. I think if you do ONE of the things on your ideal schedule in a day, you are doing well! As my student teaching supervisor used to say, “If you get to the end of the day and there is no blood on the walls or bodies on here floor, you have succeeded.” Though I always temper that with with my favorite Peg Bracken quote, “You expect to see a few bodies lying around a battlefield.”

    Just a thought, but you might want to schedule a check-up with your doctor – just in case your tiredness is due to anemia or something. For me, I know I was thinking “daily life is just exhausting and why am I so tired and confused and can’t make decisions?! I can do better than this – so why AREN’T I?” When I found out I was anemic, a lot that I was going through could be traced back to that. Just my 2¢.

    1. Our school has to be done at the kitchen table since moving to this apartment, and oh boy does it make it harder to stay motivated to do things! I hadn’t even realized until we didn’t have a school table anymore how nice it was to not have to clear everything off five times a day just to get anywhere (the kitchen table is ALSO my sewing table, writing desk, and pretty much everything else that requires a flat surface).

      I am seeing the “aim for one thing off your list at a time” from several different people now – so maybe I really ought to start listening?

  4. I am much less behind on my blog reading than I have been, but I still hope it’s not too late to… well, actually, it probably worked out well… because I also just read in another old post, this one from The Bloggess, well, she made these stickers you should give to your friends or strangers when they need a pick-me-up. So here, it’s timely, I’m giving it to you (virtually):

    Honestly, you know, I don’t even think I can attempt to do what you do. Your posting this at least made me say, “Well, maybe I’m NOT so lazy!”

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