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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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Need a shot in the arm for your homeschool? Get Thrive Together, a monthly email that brings you:

--the best of the homeschool blogosphere,
--current homeschool news,
--and great quotes that will refresh your homeschool mama mind.

Latest Posts


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You don’t know the darkness and silence next to the bed of your (beautiful, vulnerable) person, kept alive by a machine. The respiratory therapists making adjustments to help your loved one’s brain get enough oxygen so she can make it to tomorrow.
You don’t know the holiness of that bedside, where Christ meets you with His peace when everything is out of your hands. That bedside, where literally all you can do is read scripture and pray.
I am telling you, that is a bedside you do NOT want to be at.
I have been there and I never want to go back. God and an army of prayer warriors got us through that. Our person is still vulnerable. There are people in your life who are vulnerable.
We were at that bedside with decades of collective medical experience on our side to develop best practices and treatment plans, and learn from mistakes made on other patients.
Our loved ones who end up fighting COVID-19 with the help of a humming ventilator will not have that benefit. This disease is just too new.
If you’re a leader of people, your job right now is to take care of your people. Be honest. Take this seriously. (We can do that without letting fear take control.)
If you’re an employee, protect yourself, so you can protect your family. Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, eat your vegetables, exercise, get good sleep, take some vitamin C.
Above all #STAYHOME to #flattenthecurve so that you don’t end up by that bedside with not enough resources. Stay home, so that when the vulnerable person in your life needs it, they’ll have access to the ventilators and care they need.
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I would feel totally overwhelmed and underprepared if I were in your shoes. Homeschooling is hard even when you did choose it. We’ve changed a little, too. Every meal is a reading meal these days if the kids want that. (They do🤓.)
So, please ask me all your questions. I and other HSing mamas in your community have YEARS of experience with this atypical version of education. How can we help you and your specific kids in your specific situation? We have learned a lot of things the hard way and we are happy to help make this time smoother for you.
What I desperately hope: those of you stuck in a situation you didn’t want AT ALL, might come to see education a little differently. It can be flexible. It can happen over the course of a whole day, with snacks, outside time, screen time, and play interspersed between lessons.
This type of education is more about LIFE and HOME than you might think. While your students may be doing the same work assigned by the school, the setting change from school to home will change almost everything else about their educational experience this semester.
Here are my two favorite tips to get you started:
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2. Alternate between types of work.
The younger the kids, the shorter the lessons. Ballpark: elementary should be 15-30min/subject max. Middle school 30-45min/subject max.
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