By Malia Russell
Homeschooling is hard. Homemaking is hard too. Most women suffer at times from what we call burnout. When I have experienced it, I have felt like I was living daily with feelings of dread, exhaustion, and despair. It is often marked by feelings of failure regarding all the things we are being called to do.
The most profound time I can recall having a feeling of burnout was at the very beginning of my homeschooling journey. I went from working full-time to being a full-time homemaker and homeschool mother during a relatively short transition time. Before too long I found myself struggling to put dinner on the table and get a shower on the same day.
I recall feeling total despair regarding the state of my house. I felt enormously guilty about my lack of energy, and I could not see how the situation would ever improve. I knew other people seemed to have their act together. Other women had the perfect house, the kids in matching clothes, and I was pretty sure they had time to shower, put on make-up, and even style their hair. They made amazing foods that they brought to weekly Bible study. Their cars were always neat and clean inside. But I was failing.
Nonetheless, thanks to the Lord, I did not stay trapped in that time of despair. I started to study God’s Word. I devoured the Scriptures like my daily food and consumed His instructional words, inspirational words, hopeful words, and the ones that gave me specific direction for each day of my life. I joined a Bible study with other women. I started learning to keep my mind fixed on the things above, the things going on in the heavenlies, even while I was mopping floors and changing diapers.
I started to guard my mind very carefully. I was tired, and I wanted to be sure that if something were going into my mind and heart that it was wholesome and inspiring. I did not have the time and energy to waste on talk radio that was not inspiring or to listen to music that was not uplifting.
Finally, I learned how to do things “in pieces.” I learned to be content if only part of the house was cleaned each day. I learned to be satisfied with meals that were plain and not gourmet. I had to learn to make do with less and to actually learn to see it as a blessing to search out more economical ways to do things rather than seeing frugality as a burden. Ten minutes in the kitchen may be all I could spare, but rather than seeing that as “not good enough” I tried to see it as a great start.
Once I got my heart and mind focused on God’s Word rather than on my current circumstance, I began to see the burnout lifting. I started to see that some things could be eliminated or done more easily. I began to group similar tasks to maximize my use of time and energy. I learned to delegate and to accept help when it was offered.
After many years of homeschooling, I still experience small seasons of burnout, but now I see it as an opportunity to change things a bit. I often take the time to share how I am feeling with my husband, and he may make some helpful suggestions or even offer to take over some of my tasks to help me get back in the right frame of mind.
If we have been working diligently at home for several days, suddenly switching things up and going on a field trip or a trip to the park may lift everyone’s mood. If we have been off schedule and have fallen behind, tightening up the schedule and checking on everyone’s goals and progress may be just the thing to combat the feeling of being overwhelmed and under-motivated. If we have all been feeling tired, changing up the sleep schedule—adding in a rest time or going to bed early for a few nights a week—may be enough to get the spring back in our steps.
If you are experiencing burnout, it is important to know that it does not last forever, and it is often a call for change.
Start with examining your spiritual walk and see if you have been neglecting some of the basic spiritual disciplines that will help keep your life in balance. Prayer, journaling, and Bible study are easy to ignore when you feel overwhelmed, but they are powerful tools to help restore a proper state of mind.
Next, examine your self-care. Are you getting enough rest? Are you eating healthy meals? Are you drinking ample amounts of water? Are you getting exercise and sunshine? If any of those components are lacking, you will fall victim to excessive stress more easily. Even if you have many children, you can find creative ways to meet those needs, sometimes while completing other essential tasks.
Have you surrounded yourself with Godly people and positive and uplifting literature and music? If not, take some time to dust off some favorite CDs and set out your devotional books. Call an upbeat friend or make a date with your husband.
It’s perfectly acceptable to talk to your husband or a friend about your feelings, to seek their advice. It is also good to make a change in your schedule. For example, if you have been very busy, plan a relaxing day. If you have been off-schedule, evaluate your schedule and get back on track. Sometimes a short break will be all that’s needed to help you overcome feelings of burnout and give you strength to fulfill your duties.
If you are being offered help, accept it. Generally people who offer help are thrilled when you give them the opportunity to serve you or your family.
True burnout can cause you to question why you are doing what you are doing. If you are considering abandoning homeschooling or thinking of making other radical changes, be sure to give yourself some time before jumping to any conclusions. Often those times of frustration will be followed by some of your most rewarding homeschool experiences, if you are willing to stay the course.
Malia Russell is the blessed wife to Duncan, thankful mother to five children (newborn to 21), and an author, conference speaker and director of www.homemaking911.com and www.wheatnthings.com .
Copyright 2013, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.