So, the title contains a little foreshadowing, but it’s me being dramatic. This is about me and my perspectives. There is one thing is this world that I know and know for sure and that’s that parents (aside from those whackjobs that keep their kids in cages or abuse them or don’t feed them, you know the obvious evil people) love their children and want what is best for them. I just think, that what is best for our kids is sometimes muddled by our own wants and our own selfishness. So without further ado … here’s what I think. 🙂
One of the things I’ve known since I was a child, a little little girl, was that my purpose in life was to be a mom. And I’m seriously one of those people who enjoy the hell out of it. No, my kids aren’t perfect, and we all know I’m not perfect, I yell, I threaten, I don’t follow through, I’m a hothead and I expect A LOT out of these little people, but I love them to the core. that’s what moms do, you know, we love so much it hurts. Sometimes my throat hurts so hard from yelling that I can’t swallow for 30 minutes after. Sometimes my foot hurts from kicking the sofa and sometimes my head hurts from thinking too much, like when I’m teaching the kids factoring, or one of the boys to read or when the older kids are explaining JAVA to me. Actually when Dan or one of the kids starts explaining programming languages to me, I go on a little hiatus, a vacation of sorts in my brain. In fact, about 1 hour ago Dan was explaining logarithms to me (I can’t even spell logarithm) and I wrote an entire blog in my head … no, not this one.
At any rate, our entire goal is to live a life of no regrets. That to me means a gazillion different things, but at the top is being my kids mom, like all the time. I used to send my kids off to school, you know to learn. But then I realized they really weren’t learning much of anything important. Sure they could say a few words in Latin and maybe conjugate a sentence and claim they read Chaucer, but were they loving learning? No and hell no! They hated it. They were learning that learning sucked. That it was boring and forced and well, stupid. That if you didn’t learn exactly what you were told, regardless of your level of interest, you were punished with no recess. They were like sheep, learning exactly what everyone else was learning and at everyone else’s pace. They weren’t encouraged to learn about things that interested them or read books that they actually wanted to read.
Oh and then, they came home with hours of homework because the schools couldn’t teach what they needed to teach in the amount of time they had, and, you know, they had to learn it because they had to pass the state tests – duh! And so, Dan spent a lot of painful hours teaching crying kids Calculus or the pythagoreum theorum and things that I’ve never heard of and certainly never want to know exist. And I spent an exorbitant amount of time and money on crafts and projects and things that could be considered fun for the kids, in a weird round-a-bout way, but sheer hell for a mom who had already been to school for 18 years, if you count my two years in PreSchool as school, which I don’t, and who really just wanted to spend time playing and swimming and climbing and cuddling and reading with her kids who had been gone for 8 hours,. plus all the hours we added to ensure they were well rounded and had all the opportunities that we never had, and that we didn’t miss that one thing that they were born to do, like be a softball star or a football legend or a pianist or a opera singer or a ballerina or an MTV dancer. They were over-scheduled because we thought that’s what good parenting was.
Then one day, someone at the school ticked me off, it was like the last straw, you know, the straw on the camel’s back. I was livid, I was off my rocker mad, heads were going to roll, and Dan said, we should homeschool them ALL. I looked at him like he had 100 heads, not just 2, but 100! Me, the Irish tempered chick who sits before you, homeschool OUR children? Are you mad? Not a chance in hell. I could never homeschool our children. It made me laugh because all my mom ever said was that I should be a teacher. I wanted to be a lawyer, I had the argument part down pat. She would retort (she could have been a lawyer too) “There’s a lot of school involved in being a lawyer, you should be a teacher, you’d be so good at it.” A lot of school, eh? Always with the logical angle, Helene.
But then the idea of homeschooling was put forth and it started to culminate in my brain and I started thinking who else better to teach MY children than ME? Who else knows them better? Who else has higher expectations? Who else will set the bar high enough that they will jump (or if we are being honest, push them)? Who else would help them gain the courage to soar and be there to catch them when they fall? And most importantly, I’d get to spend all day, every day with my kids. All day learning, me watching their beautiful brains soak in all the information I kindly and lovingly expose them to. Over the course of the summer, everything changed. I started homeschooling 5 kids all at once in 2010, with a baby (sweet Elly) due 3 months in!
The first day was amazing. And then we entered a hell like vortex. It didn’t go nearly as well as my worst fears predicted … it went south so fast, it made my head spin. It was akin to being burned at the stake. I cried nearly every day. I was under an incredible amount of stress to ensure the kids finished every subject every day. I started looking into speed as a viable option for all of us as there weren’t enough hours in a day to get it all done. They didn’t willingly do anything. There was no beauty in watching them learn. It was torture. For me and for them. They became masters of manipulation. I would scream and do everything I could think of until I finally would say, in my most perfected valium voice, SIT DOWN NOOOOWWWWW and they would, ever so obediently and pretend to have repented. I thought it was the voice, I thought I scared them by talking so eerily quiet. But no, that wasn’t it. They were just waiting. Waiting until the slightest distracton, a baby crying, a struggle over a problem, a sneeze … and they’d be gone and I wouldn’t realize it immediately, because, and they knew this, I’m easily distracted. But when I did notice, oh yeah, shiot hit the fan.
I can say with almost sheer certainty, that I handled the first two months of homeschooling possibly the worst of any new homeschooler on the planet. See, Dan, WORST IDEA EVER! See, Helene, me a teacher? What a JOKE! If I were a teacher, my classroom would be empty because every child would be in the principals office.
And then, Elly was born and none of us wanted to do anything but hold our sweet little girl. And that’s all we did, for months. We sang to her, we read to her, we cuddled her, we made up stories for her, we couldn’t get enough of her. We loved her so much. In my new mom bliss I forgot about school and we were happy. It later occurred to me that had they been in school, everyone would have missed so much. Here we were cuddled on a bed at 10 am, still in our pajama’s books spread out all over snuggling with our new baby and learning.
Learning about love and sacrifice. Learning about loving another person so deeply, even when that person can give you nothing in return. Learning about a love so pure it lasts a lifetime. Our kids learned more in the few months of school reprieve than they ever had in their entire lives. When we finally went back to the books, I relaxed, I became me again. I let go of the entire curriculum we were using, it was boring, bland and definitely not for our family. We switched to a much more relaxed schedule. I let go of Latin and the extensive grammar of conjugating sentences, I even let go of cursive, though two kids sought it out on their own and learned it.
I let them work at their own pace. Some fell way behind in math, but excelled light years in phonics, some just the opposite. Some read and read and read and others wouldn’t pick up a book to read unless I superglued it to their hands (which, of course, I never did). We studied whatever we felt like learning about and we were thriving. Today, our school is very much the same. We have a very unschooling lean, but I just can’t get past the letting go of ALL curriculum. So I encourage and facilitate phonics, reading, writing and math; the basics. Kenny, Dally, Cardy, Maddy and Rowdy are learning French because they want to. Kady is learning Spanish and Kerry is studying German! GERMAN? Because they want to! Our life rounds out our school. Life skills, which are equally, if not more, important than the 3 R’s are the bulk of our learning!
What floors me is that they are way more active in their “education” when I’m not dictating what they will and will not learn. This is when I find them designing foam kayaks, it’s when Grady first picked up a book on JAVA. When I back off they start whittling spears from sticks and research edible wild plants and study up on survival skills. When I back off Kady starts learning Sony Vegas and uploading movies and learns all the settings on her Canon Rebel, Brody becomes and endless stream of App ideas and inventions. Life skills fueled by interest. What better way to educate yourself? “Everyone needs skills”, another of Dan’s famous sayings. I agree, there are too many people with zero skills running around, too many dependent people these days!
Like, I think there is nothing worse in the world than a guy who can’t fix a leaking toilet or change the oil in his car or build shelves for his kids’ room. There is nothing worse than people who can’t do for themselves, who can’t think for themselves. What’s crazy is this fixing and doing stuff for yourself, is a major 360 from the me of before. The same me who thought I could never homeschool is also the same me who thought Dan was insane for never paying anyone to do anything for him and I mean NEVER. This used to drive me nuts, now it’s one of Dan’s sexier traits. He’ll pay someone to do something for me, like clean our house, but never for someone to do something for him. Basically it’s because I’m lazy and he’s not. If I had the money, I’d pay someone to cook for us, clean for us, cut our hair, buy our clothes, fix all the things the kids break, shop for us … but not Dan. He does everything and so the kids are learning about everything. When you hear me say in an interview that the kids learn everything from Diesel Mechanics to Geography, it’s for real!
Dan is a walking, talking Jack of All Trades. He knows more about things and can explain things to people in a laymans terms better than anyone I’ve ever known. I never met someone who could debate me in politics and have the upperhand … Dan has the upperhand. Luckily we agree on EVERYTHING political and religious, hence I’ve just started using him as my brain as I need to keep mine as decluttered as possible to be the best mom, wife and teacher I can be. Do you ever have the feeling your brain is at capacity, that it just can’t take in any more information? I get this a lot and so now I just upload it all to Dan. It’s like I have a hard-drive that I can tether to at any moment. I can literally say, “Hey Dan remember that thing I was telling you about the other day, that was about some politician and he said something insane? What was that?” And he’ll have the answer waiting. Or I can ask him, “Remember that homily from that Priest last year in Canada, what was it that I loved so much?” And he’ll remember! Yeah, that’s sweet!
I really think our kids (and us) are living a charmed life. I think they are lucky as hell. You know, we always talk about living a life without regrets, living an authentic life and living every single day the best it can be lived. I failed this today. It was rainy for the 3rd straight day and so I took out playstation and listened to the kids fight and scream all day over who was giving up their controller so another sibling could play. Apparently the compassionate love only lasts so long. Then I sent every single one of them to beg the owner of the campground to open the pool, despite the fact that it was about 60 degrees, if that, and I was dressed in a sweatshirt and sweatpants. She did and they swam while I made this BadAss vegetarian chipotle chili that Grady thought was the best chili ever. I love that boy, he’s thankful for food, I can make him happy every day! Then they all came back with blue lips and I had to let them back in.
Living in an RV is pretty much my utopia, and it’s obviously theirs. I mean, if I had liked my brother or my parents I would have loved to live the life my kids are living because I hated school and hate seems like too weak an adjective. But like most people these days, the thought of spending that much time with those people is akin to torture. But we aren’t like that. We genuinely love each other and genuinely make each other laugh. It gets a little wild in here, but we are wild people. I think most people camping around us right now think we are crazy. Yesterday, we went absolutely nuts wrestling and screaming and laughing and the RV was shaking and the windows were open and it wasn’t until 35 minutes later when we were sweating and bruised up that we looked outside and about 6 people were gaping at us. Yep, my kids wrestle with us. They also longboard, snowboard and slackline and kayak and climb and cave and swim and raft and … we aren’t just their parents, we don’t just tell them what they have to do, but we play with them and roughhouse with them and get crazy with them. We support them, encourage them and love them. We just enjoy each other. And sometimes, yeah, just sometimes, I think others enjoy us too. The guy whose mouth was hanging open just dropped off some firewood and left me with some really great words! Which is a gift, kind words, I mean, well the firewood too, but the words are lasting, unlike the firewood which the kids burned up in a matter of 45 minutes. Today people are so ugly, they are so critical and judgmental and cruel. I’m turned off by society in general, so that when I meet someone who is smiling or appears happy or has zero complaints or who actually takes a moment to say a kind word to someone, I’m truly affected. To have someone just say one nice thing is a gift.
But yeah, we are parents, but we are also friends with our kids and that’s so so so so SO cool. They trust us. They love us. And they even like us! And I think it’s because, well obviously because Dan and I are super cool,doh, but also because we chose to live in crappy apartments and drive crappy cars and have REALLY crappy furniture in order to spend time with them, love them and nurture our relationship. We made THEM a priority, instead of our jobs and our status in society. We don’t have kids who “can’t wait until they are 18” or that hate us or that are embarrased to hug us or hold our hand or be seen in public with us. I consider myself lucky as heck! And you know what? I love being around them too! They are fun and funny, they are wild and crazy, they are kind and compassionate, they are loud and obnoxious, they are persistent and insistent, and they are mine! Nous sommes tres benis!
The only thing I regret is the years I put them in school and filled up all their extra hours with sports and piano and acting and ballet and gymnastics and blah blah blah. I’m so thankful I don’t have the regret of daycare (now called school for 6 week olds to school age) as well. This is such a big regret that can keep me up at night worrying and stressing. The things they learned, can they be undone? That’s huge!
So now I know what we are doing is right! I’m sitting here writing with Elly on my right arm, saying, “I said I Wuv you Mommy!” I say, “I love you too, Elly.” And she says, “I said I Wuv you first.” I hear Dan grumbling because someone dumped a bowl of chili on the floor and I hear Grady asking Coby if he wants to lay down with him and read. Brody is on top of Kenny and Elly is now on top of Brody. Dally comes running back saying, “I hear wrestling.” Emmy is singing, “Let It Go.” This is how it should be. We are all together. We are a family! A few minutes later, as if she knows she’s missing a great moment, Kerry calls, “I miss you guys so much.” Sigh … it’s hard to let your kids go follow their passions. Belt it Emmy, Mommy needs to hear it!
It’s awesome too that Dan doesn’t have to work in an off-site office, he doesn’t waste time commuting. He’s here all the time. The kids might say he spends a lot of his time working, but he also spends a lot of his time not working — their perspective is somewhat skewed! So is Dan’s. He sometimes thinks our kids are lazy consumers. He has high expectations too. His parents worked him to the bone. Mine not at all. Dan has a great work ethic and I abhor work. And so we try to meet in the middle. Knowing that work is just a small part of life, knowing that working to live is the key and not living to work.
I often wonder why people put forth so much effort toward a career. Like a nice car and a nice house with nice furnishings isn’t enough? When does it end? When is enough enough? Now, don’t get me wrong, I want some things. Like, first and foremost, I’d LOVE a new RV. Have you ever seen inside those suckers? They are literally nicer than our half-million dollar home! Fireplaces, granite countertops, heated tile floors, leather furniture … the list goes on and on. They are impressive, and they are huge. RV’s like the Newmar KingAire or the Prevosts or American Coach AND the ever so gorgeous Newell … drool. No seriously, major drool.
We would fit so well, it would be so much easier for Dan to work and for us to spend time lazily inside the RV, but … oh yeah and a truck or van that isn’t 15 years old would be sweet. And a beach house and maybe a boat and … ok, yeah, enough is never enough, I can understand that, but I don’t want that stuff as much as I want to be a fulltime mom to my kids. I don’t want to miss anything. I don’t want them to need me and me not to be there. You know what’s awesome? Coby has nursed himself to sleep EVERY SINGLE time since he was born, save a few times when he’s fallen asleep on Dan or one of the other kids … that’s 21 months of nursing, 21 months of bonding that only I can give! I’m blown away by that! I guess life is a trade-off of priorities. I’ll take being here to nurse Coby over a new RV or car any day!
Now as I write, Kady and Dally are howling laughing because Kady was going to the bathroom and Dally ran in right in front of her. I don’t know why that’s so funny, but they obviously do. I would miss this. More importantly, they would miss just being silly with each other if we were at home, going to school, going to work, shuttling all over the city to different extra curricular activities. I know I would regret this, I would regret them never really getting to know each other! And then they’d be like my brother and I and all of Dan’s siblings. None of us talk. None of us raised our kids together. Dan lived 9 miles from his oldest brother for 13 years and we don’t know their kids and they don’t know ours. Thats possibly the worst scenario I can dream up. Our kids not staying close.
What I find so depressing is that the majority of households are dual income and so the majority of kids are being raised in daycares and in public schools away from each other. I’m not judging (much) I’m just wondering what makes people make the decisions they do. I fully acknowledge the fact that some people don’t have the luxury of staying home. I get it. But, what makes a mom of an affluent family decide to work outside of the home? It’s a real question, I really do wonder.
Because from my perspective, I would die being away from my kids for all those hours, slaving away at a job, wondering what my infant was doing, whether she was laughing or crying, hoping she didn’t need me, while at the same time hoping she needed me – because as moms we need to be needed!
Nine hours. Nine hours away, would my mind ever wander from the kids? Would I get any work done? But it’s not just 9 hours and then you’re with your kids, cuz we all have to sleep, especially kids, so even if I could extend my day to spend more time with my children, they need at least 8 hours of sleep per night, some like Kerry and Emmy need like 10+ hours – geesh those girls can sleep. It would soon become apparent that I was absent more than I was present. That other people were taking my place, filling in where I couldn’t would likely kill me. Maybe I’m the nut case here, maybe I’m the one with attachment issues, but I’d be devastated!
I’d feel like a failure because my kids and my family as a whole would be getting the shaft. Oooooh, let the hate begin. It’s my feelings we are talking about, but I’m going to be hated because something someone does would make me feel like a failure IF I did it. So go ahead, tell me how you can’t afford to stay home and how out of touch I am and how judgmental I am and how not everyone is lucky enough to marry someone who doesn’t cheat/leave/beat/abuse drugs/alcohol/lose their job/treat them well … tell me all about it. And I’ll tell you life is full of choices. I’ll tell you that I think you’ve been hoodwinked by society into thinking you can be a fulltime mom and a fulltime employee and that I think this is just, yet, another war on women. Women can indeed be anything they want, it’s truth!! We are strong, we are smart, we are capable, but is anything more important than being a mom?
Except, being a dad? Oh yeah, dad’s you hold a lot of responsibility here. Your kids need someone at home. I know a lot of dads who work two jobs to make that possible. It’s that simple. I also know a few dads whose wives are in higher paying fields and the job of raising kids falls joyously falls on them. I personally love stay-at-home dads. They tend to be more chill and find the fun in everyting. They are super creative and they don’t have preconceived ideas or ideals that they have to live up to. They just parent. It’s a beautiful thing! Someone’s going to hate on me because I ommitted grandparents. I have nothing to add to the grandparent field. We aren’t blessed with doting parents, hence I’ll leave grandparents to wax philosophical on their experiences in the comments below!
There’s no doubt kids need a parent home with them, they don’t belong in daycares, I’m sorry, they just don’t. I worked in one and it was institutional. One room for infants, one room for kids 1-2 (and until potty training is 100%) another for potty trained 3’s, another for 4-5’s. The infant room had a bunch of cribs where the babies stayed unless they were being fed. Feed, burp, return to crib. If a baby cried, I would immediately pick her up, the other teachers would not. I once was rocking 3 crying babies in a rocking chair. The other teacher was cleaning and disinfecting. Saddest thing EVER!
I primarily worked in the 1-2 “classroom” and I arrived after school around 3 and worked until the last parent picked up their child at 7. That’s 7 pm! Most of these children were dropped of around 6 am when the center opened. 13 hours! 13 hours!!! I thought that was sad then, I think it’s a tragedy now. I remember this adorable little girl named, Shondra, her hair was always impeccably braided. I loved her, we bonded immediately. The moment I walked in to the “classroom” until the moment I left she would be by my side. One day her mom came to pick her up at around 5:30 pm … she wouldn’t leave me. Talk about an uncomfortable situation. Here was this tiny little girl whose mom was waiting with outstretched arms and she wouldn’t leave me, the girl she spent 2 1/2 hours a day with! From that day on, I would go to the infant room and rock crying babies from 5 pm until the time her mom picked her up. I remember her all these years later.
I know you dad’s are sometimes forgotten as a viable option when trying to keep kids out of daycares. You are kinda reduced to a paycheck these days. It’s tragic. I’m like your biggest proponent. Dad’s are vital to a child’s growth. In our household dad is vital for ensuring our kids do more than get loved. LOL. In fact we all must agree, Dad’s can be the absolute best choice to stay home for their kids! I know a dad, Matt, who stays home with his 3 kids and homeschools one of them. He’s hysterical, he’s fun, he’s active, he’s a GREAT DAD!! Probably the funniest person we know and he brings it into his parenting. He and my “sister” made the decision before they were married that he was staying home. She’s got a business mind, she started and runs her own business! She’s happy and content, she’s doing what makes her feel fulfilled and she can relax and focus because her husband, her kids’ dad is at home taking care of their children. He’s happy and content and he feels fulfilled because he’s doing the most important job in the world. And their kids, well they are nothing short of AMAZING
But you people, society in general, don’t make it easy. Ask any stay-at-home mom or any stay-at-home dad . Wait, is there a modern term for moms and dad’s who stay home. If not, someone needs to coin it. All the movements have a new term, like crying it out is now called, Self Soothing (please!) and Global Warming is now called Climate Change. We need a new moniker too. Stay at home (mom/dad) sounds so blah. Like we actually stay at home. Well, actually today, I am. For like the first time in forever, I am hanging out on the couch with my laptop, a whole night has passed since I wrote the first part of this blog and now it’s morning. Dan took Grady, Brody, Kady, Kenny and Dally to a Big Water Competition in Lachine, QC and me and the littles are hanging out. Elly and Coby are playing legos, actually they are walking around with the lego bin on their heds laughing hysterically, Cardy, Maddy, Rowdy and Emmy are playing MineCraft, a game that I frankly think looks stupid and boring. It’s still pouring rain outside and I just felt like drinking Chamomile tea and blogging. Elly is now kicking and screaming because Coby won’t share the bin. I might spike my tea, any suggestions as to what one would spike tea with? Now she’s laughing and climbing all over me … 3 year old’s are bi-polar!
But the choice is wraught with the underlying tone of “What a waste”. Society isn’t very supportive. We raise our girls, Dan and I included, to be anything they want to be, but if they choose to be a mom, society frowns as though all the education and cheerleading has been a waste of time, as if anything, any job, like working at McDonalds, would be a better choice. When I first became a mom, and was asked “Do you work”, I felt the need to explain how I was a double major, how I had a really promising writing career at a ridiculously young age, how I had an office and oversaw copywriters … I felt the need to ensure that the person asking questions knew I had the potential to be someone, but that I chose to be a mom. Today, no-one asks a mom of 12 if she works, but if they did, I would stare at them and them maybe cackle, a spooky, weird, odd cackle of a laugh, maybe start twitching. “Do you work?” Nope, I’m just up 24 hours a day, shower maybe once a week, have playdough in my hair, smell like milk, cook, clean, color, teach, sing, read, dance, wrestle, socialize at the park (agony), fall off Slacklines, medicate, bandaid, feed, water and field ridiculously stupid questions, like “do you work?”
I think the worst thing we do to women (sorry dad’s I’m speaking from a woman’s perspective, but I’ll open the floor to a man’s perspective in the comments and even accept guest stay-at-home dad blogs) is make them think they can do both, parent and career, and do both well. Something is going to give, and most likely it isn’t your job because your superiors can fire you, your children can’t. I’m fully aware that I am blessed, I won’t say lucky because that undermines the struggles and the fact that Dan works tirelessly for our family so I can stay home and focus solely on him and the kids. But blessed by my choices in a husband and blessed in my choices as a mother … yes, I will concede to blessed!
But it is simply not fair to expect so much perfection out of one human being, we aren’t super-heroes ya know? I can’t imagine working outside the home, I would not be able to pull off half the things I do now. No-one would eat, I can tell you that. It would be fast food every night. They also would never wear the same thing twice because laundry would be out of the question! I also wouldn’t have the time to sit and listen to their wonderful, yet never ending stories about everything from their dreams to what someone said to someone else and what that person said in return and how they said it and why they said it the way they did and what that person was wearing and what they ate after they said it. I’m exhausted by the end of their stories and it’s my fulltime job to listen to them … if I had another fulltime job, the stories would have to end. As would the random cuddles in the middle of the day and the countless other incredibly satisfying and endearing moments I get to experience because I don’t work.
I wish I drank more, it would have been really funny to add to the end of the last paragraph that my mid-day binge drinking would have to end, but I try to stay real here and it would be a lot of extra work to try to keep a persona of a half-drunk momma going …
I think we need to stop telling women they can do it all. It’s not fair, because of course we can’t, no-one can and to tell them differently is setting them up for failure. For some, working is a matter of survival and for them my heart aches. If Dan were to leave me, which of course he wouldn’t because I’d kill him, or God forbid die, I’d be forced to work and I wouldn’t know true happiness again because happiness for me is being a mom full time. Being a mom is the most meaningful job I can think of. Where else do you please individuals so greatly with just your presence? Where else are you welcomed and loved and cherished regardless of your apperance and smell? And, where else do you control the future and line the heavens with faithful souls from one humble little abode? We moms create something from nothing … anyone other than a mom try to claim that one! Actually, that’s pretty superhero, don’t you think?
Love ya Moms and Dad’s everywhere. Happy belated Mother’s Day. Happy belated Father’s Day. LOL