by Karen D. Koch
I’ve been reading lately about the Mental Load women carry (not to mention the emotional load, but that’s another blog post). One article said that for women/mothers (and I’ll add homeschoolers), the mental load of being The Knower of All the Things can be really exhausting.
Mom is typically the one who knows when everyone is due for the dentist/orthodontist/optometrist/doctor/sports physical. She knows when the household is low on milk/toilet paper/batteries/staples/tape/notebook paper. She knows when the bills are due, where we keep the records, how the insurance works, and the status of all the kids’ schooling. She is in charge of family scheduling, birthday/Christmas/baby shower/wedding gifts, family celebrations, school photos, and more. And Mom is supposed to magically know where every missing object in the house is located.
While God is the true Knower of All the Things, and wired moms for this capability, it can truly be debilitating at times. Now that I have one son done with college and another part-way through, I finally have the mental capacity to fully evaluate my last 16 years of homeschooling. My goal is to assess and adjust for the next two kidlets in the homeschool pipeline. I encourage you to join me.
Moms’ brains aren’t typically good at resting. And even when we try, there are the never-ending queries and our own brains keeping us busy.
From the kids:
“Where are my swim trunks?”
“Mom, can you remind me to bring an article to co op?”
“Mom, where are the AAA batteries?”
“Why do I have to take swimming lessons?”
“Remember I need a ride to the airport Tuesday.”
“Where is the spare key to the car?”
“We’re out of coffee creamer.”
And constantly from my own brain:
“We need to replace the furnace filter.”
“I wonder if I should have Maddie take the PSAT this fall or wait.”
“I should take Stephanie flowers since her surgery.”
“I need to pay the water bill today.”
“I never called that lady back about speech class.”
“I need to get my fall co op classes in order.”
“My printer is out of ink but it’s so old even Costco doesn’t sell my ink anymore.”
As homeschool moms, the feeling of responsibility for your kids’ education and well-being can, at times, be overwhelming, particularly during times of extra stress like moving, illness, family emergencies. Here are a few practical suggestions to ease some of your mental load this coming school year. You can do this, homeschool mama!
1. Remove at least one activity from your life or your kids’ lives. Often when we add something, we forget to remove something else. You can also do activities seasonally so you can try different things without being perpetually exhausted. Whenever possible, combine activities (all kids take swim lessons at the same time, for example).
2. Get rid of at least one object in your house that is creating mental clutter. We had a metal bunkbed frame in the garage for the past SIX years. I finally found all the parts, reassembled it, posted it on Facebook, and sold it for $30 last month. That money went into the college textbook fund for child #2, and there are now fewer pieces of clutter in my garage. I made a list of other things I want to remove from my house and brain space. Facebook has many Buy Nothing or local sales sites to help with this.
3. Put someone else in charge of at least one of your ‘mom’ tasks. Even littles can do simple things like putting their laundry away, helping unload dishes, or putting toilet paper in the bathrooms. Moms don’t have to be The Doer of All the Things. Surely I’m not the only one who can take the trash cans to the curb! Allow some natural consequences if the tasks don’t get done. “Your clothes didn’t make it to the laundry room on time, so it’s not my emergency to do a load at 11 p.m.”
4. Organize your kids’ school records in one place. I keep a brown manila envelope for each kid for each year, but we’ve moved several times, and they ended up in a huge box in the garage. Their school record books and cum files were in different locations, and I had files scattered around for college applications, driver’s ed, SAT, theater workshops, piano, etc. After 16 years of homeschooling, I just this week put all these various records in order in a $15 garage-sale filing cabinet. One drawer per child. Read 10 Tips to Start the School Year Right. Here are some free, downloadable fillable school forms.
5. Abdicate from preparing one meal per day. When baby #4 arrived, I was 41 and tired. I told the kids they were fully capable of making their own breakfasts. I figured my job was to have food in the house and the rest was up to them for breakfast and some lunches. They have done an admirable job of feeding themselves since then, and it was one less thing on my to-do list. You may also assign your kids dinner duty on a rotating basis. After all, they are going to be adults one day, and need to learn this stuff.
6. Require advance notice of events/activities from your family. Someone else’s failure to communicate does not create an emergency on your part. A weekly family meeting goes a LONG way to prevent these types of crises, and children should learn early that it’s good manners and good for mom’s sanity to give advance notice of activities and needs. Having everyone’s schedules sorted allows more margin for emergencies, last-minute opportunities, etc. My kids joke that we need two weeks’ notice to be spontaneous!
7. Share the load. I guarantee other homeschool moms feel your pain. Find a like-minded friend to encourage and help to simplify your life. Maybe you can watch each other’s kids when you need to run errands or plan. Or do a minimalizing challenge together. Ask your husband to take on one or more aspects of schooling or activities. My husband manages most of the boys’ golf-related activities and travel. I still help, but this way I can watch and cheer for my children instead of managing all the logistics.
8. Try a bullet journal or a planner. I recently coveted a dear friend’s beautifully organized bullet journal (see photo samples, courtesy of Jennie C.) and aspire to create one for myself. The thing I love most about it is that all your planning/scheduling/mental load lists are in one place. I’ll be writing more on this later.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Karen Koch is a mother-of-four, and is about to embark on Homeschool Year #17. She’s reading a lot about minimalizing and simplifying, and assumes she will finally get it figured out by the time child #4 graduates from homeschool in nine years. Bullet journal photos courtesy of Jennie C., friend extraordinaire from way back before children.