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The Limits of Self-Care

The Limits of Self-Care

There was one particular week this Fall that was an attitudinal crap fest in our house. School went okay, but interpersonal relationships were, shall we say, “not flourishing.” Kids were taking their sibling squabbles to new and higher levels. Kids who still nap didn’t, and the people who don’t nap needed to.

It doesn’t help that every verbal member of our family has an incurable case of genetically inflicted sarcasm. When we’re in good moods, a houseful of sarcastic clowns is hilarious, but it can edge into cruelty when people are cranky.

I was hanging by a thread with a temper that flared at the slightest deviation.

This is one pitfall of being an Enneagram 1. Whether I want to or not, I default to a position of perfectionism. If you’re also afflicted by perfectionism, I have no great answers, but solidarity sister. Yours may be different, but my particular perfectionism manifests itself as a hare-trigger temper often pulled by household clutter. And in a house filled with seven people, clutter is constant.

I got a reset Friday night when I left to attend the Charlotte Mason Memphis Tertulia retreat held at The Grove, a lovely little Memphis retreat center. It was a short day and a half of Mother Culture. We painted with a local artist, went on a nature walk together, listened to encouraging talks from fellow homeschool moms, shared meals, and talked books. It was lovely.

On Saturday afternoon, I was sleep-deprived but coming home with a cup filled by homeschool mama community. I was ready to add a dash of new ideas, hope, and confidence to our home and homeschool.

With no evidence to support such a presumption, I had expected the rest of my family to have the same feeling of rejuvenation I was walking in the door with. Magically, I had expected my husband to have gotten our family mostly packed for the road trip we were getting ready to take. I don’t know, maybe I was hoping for kids all lined up with their bags ready and their smiles beaming like some Hallmark commercial.

So much for expectations.

Using a crib as a laundry basket works!

After a week filled with crummy attitudes, I’d expected them to melt away with no new ingredients added to the mix.

Shock of all shocks! The unsavory flavors of crankiness, short tempers, and bitterness were still there. The kids and husband had not added rest, joy, contemplation, or fresh air to our household atmosphere.

This is obvious in hindsight, of course. Jake had spent that time dealing with the same chaos I’d left behind. It’s been so long since I’d been able to attend a retreat (darn those nursing babies), that I’d forgotten that the rest of the world doesn’t rejuvenate because I do.

We can zoom this lesson in to the smaller moments within a homeschool day.

One thing that’s amazing about homeschooling—or even stay-at-home motherhood—is all the time we get to spend with our kids, but when that time is full of strife, quantity isn’t an asset. We simply have no choice but to add a fresh dose of rest, fun, love, comfort, silliness, or adventure to the mix. We have to change something if we want attitudes to change; as Jim Rohn was famous for saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Those stolen self-care moments of prayer in the closet or a walk around the block that prepare us to face again the chaos in our homes are just rejuvenation for our own souls. They don’t fix the problems we face, they only strengthen our resolve and soften our hearts to face those same challenges with gusto.

But we have to remember that our rest is ours. Self-care is limited to ourselves. Others need their own self-care, too.

Photo: Cedric Lim

Rhiannon Kutzer

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Nice to meet you!

I’m Rhiannon.

You can call me Rhi for short (as in “rejoice”). I’m a fiercely independent homeschooling mom of five, a Navy wife of 13 years, and a creator of various things: articles, a semi-regular newsletter, quilts, furniture, and the occasional knitted scarf. This is the site where I write about our homeschool journey and news and happenings in the homeschool world. more about me.


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