Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I Don't Feel Guilty For Being Happy My Kids Are Going Back To School

The kids start school next week. We're pretty much ready, after buying five million dollars worth of clothes and supplies (sigh), but we still have a few things to do. I'm going to have kids in 8th, 6th, 5th, 2nd, and Kindergarten! Holy cow! Only #6 will be home with me for four hours every morning. First of all, how did this happen?! And second, I don't feel one ounce of guilt for rejoicing in this. No tears (well, when I send #5 off to K, then I might be a little sad --but not yet).

Some mothers have recently come under great scrutiny and judgement because they are thrilled their children are going back to school. Of course, these women are celebrating with photos and publicly shaming their children --not something I condone. But at the same time, I might be one of these mothers. I am THRILLED my kids are going back to school. Why? Two reasons: my sanity and theirs.

We need a routine again. We schedule, stability, mental engagement. We need time apart. They need structure and friends and homework and other adults instructing them (ones they will listen to). I need peace and quiet for some hours of the day. I need to regain some control over the household again. I always have these great expectations for summers, I plan these wonderful schedules, and then... I seriously completely fall apart. Every year. Every summer. Sometimes it's because of travel. Sometimes it's because of pregnancy. This year it was because of pregnancy and mental crap. Whatever the case, it's frustrating and I always feel like a failure (in this instance). Who am I, who cannot muster up enough energy, motivation, and resolve to give my kids some great structure that will make them better people!? Stupid brain.

I thought, once, that I could homeschool my kids. Why not? I'm capable and smart and... this summer has taught me that I am beyond grateful I don't have to because I really don't think I could. Or can (and for more reasons than the ridiculous PA homeschooling laws). I am so grateful for public schools! I'm grateful my husband works so hard in his career so we can live in an area that has amazing public schools. I'm grateful they are "free" (when compared to private schools), and I'm grateful my kids are doing well. I've been shown my deepest weaknesses this year and it was eye-opening to see that I simply cannot do everything for my children --not even close. They need school, they need church, they need others to help teach them.

My 11 year old is gifted and has been given tremendous gifted education where she has thrived (both in UT and PA). My 10 year old has an auditory disorder and the schools have been incredibly helpful and accommodating with his 504 plan to help him succeed. I understand that not everybody has been as lucky/blessed as we have been with public education, but I'm not going to be looking a gift horse in the mouth, you know? I understand all the fears of Common Core and the frustrations with miscommunication or bad teachers or lack of funds or, or, or... but I do not have the need to be upset with my school district. And that's a good thing, because the option of teaching them at home does not exist. I simply cannot do it. I do not have the mental or emotional capability to do it. Not at this point. But luckily, I don't have to! Their schools are great!

Anyway, this is why I don't feel guilty for sending them back to school (and for liking it). I'm not quite giddy --but I'm happy. Our routine will begin again: scriptures, prayer, breakfast, getting ready, out the door... and then I'll be able to squeeze in appointments and grocery shopping during those four hours it's just #6 and me (until the baby comes in February and then we'll just start all over). He and I can read books and go on walks and watch TV and clean up the house.

Sure, come May, I'll be anxious for summer again, but I think that's what is awesome about this --it's just like the seasons, you know? In March, we're praying for July. In August, we're praying for December. One season ends just as we are ready to start the next.

P.S. I love my children fiercely. Just in case that wasn't apparent in this post.


FoxyJ said...

I really don't like this trend among some people in our society to equate good mothering with being everything and doing everything for your kids. It just doesn't seem logical or sustainable--kids are people too and they have their own lives and their own needs. My kids love going to school and they love their teachers and classmates--I'm not going to take those types of relationships away from them, nor am I going to assume that means that they somehow love me less.

It's also, in some ways, a position of privilege--many mothers have to work or have other obligations that don't let them have that kind of time with their kids. One of the biggest things I've learned these past few years is how to let go a little--I have to. I go to work 40 hours a week, and my kids spend time with their dad and his partner. I can't be in control of them all the time and I can't do everything with them. It's really, really hard sometimes. But, they are doing really well and they have a lot of people who love them and care for them. And that's OK. I do love them fiercely, even when I'm not spending all my time with them and even when we're all happy they are back in school

Cheryl said...

I agree, FoxyJ. I think the trend that mothers have to be everything to their children also accounts for a lot of depression among mothers. I know some moms who are amazing at this --they homeschool and are involved with their kids and are super homemakers --but they are few.

swedemom said...

I love this post. I am among the tribe of moms who loves public school and is so darn grateful that I don't have to homeschool. I admire and respect those women who make homeschooling work for their families. I know that I would go absolutely crazy and my children would end up illiterate. Homeschooling and I aren't a good fit!

I also appreciate the routine and structure that school gives our family. I want my children to be able to function in the world and education system as it is, without expecting the system to constantly cater to their individual needs.

That said, I was one who posted an article about moms who gleefully post pictures showing more happiness about their kids being in school. I feel like too many women see being home with their kids, spending time with them, and well, actually being a mom, as a terrible burden. It makes me feel sad for them, and their kids, especially their kids. In my area, most kids are at camp anyhow and people seem to fill their kids' days with so many activities that they don't actually spend time together.

Don't get me wrong. During the summer, I make my kids go outside and I don't monitor every activity. But I actually enjoy having my kids home for some time when we can have flexibility and enjoy one another. I like the freedom to take my kids to the lake one day and ignore household chores. I wish I had more time like that.

One last thing, when I am not well, summer is hard and I rejoice when school starts too. I don't think you are a bad mom because you are happy for the reprieve of school. I just get sad when I see moms who see taking care of their kids as a burden.

swedemom said...

And FoxyJ, I loved your comment.

Diane said...

My parents felt this way and still do with my niece and nephew they are raising. We stay up way too late for me to be excited or happy about school. School wears me out because I can never get to bed on time. I miss the relaxation of the lazy summer. I guess it is all a matter of your needs and desires. I have found from my 2 years home schooling that I am the same kind of home schooling mom as I am public school mom. I am gung-ho and doing great until Christmas and then I slowly start to peter out. My kids have told me that I am the worst kind of school mom by April.

Cheryl said...

Diane, I'm the worst kind of school mom by April, too! LOL!

Oh, absolutely. It's one thing to be happy with the new routine/change, but definitely another when you're wanting others to raise your kids. I see your point clearly (and agree with it).

flip flop mama said...

Wonderful post. I totally agree.

WoozleMom said...

Disclaimer: I'm a homeschool mom.

But I don't think that makes me a "better" mom than a mom who doesn't homeschool (far from it! I am sooo not the model housekeeper, etc), and I *certainly* don't think that moms of kids in public school are worse moms!

I am so glad that you have had great experiences with public schooling! I am glad that your children are having their needs met!

My two older children are the same ages as your #5 and #6 (I also have a little surprise 6-month-old...I didn't plan for her to come so soon!) so I'm just getting started with the whole education journey. At this time, I feel prompted/called/led to homeschool my children. If this changes in the future, I will reevaluate at that time. But for now, I am happy to keep my little ones home to read good books, go on lots of walks, plus lots of field trips, of course, especially those involving other children, and inspire a love of learning as a foundation for what is to come in the future. I know that this can all happen in the public school system, too, and I think that's great! I went to public school as a child, and I turned out just fine. ;)

I have several friends who work in the school system here. Several of them have voluntarily told me, without knowing my plans, that my kids would probably be better off homeschooling. (!) So there's that.

Anyways, I hope that the school year will offer your family a fresh start with schedule, study, routine, etc. And I think it's great that you are happy. :)

Julie Allen said...

Ah, school. I hate when my kids go back (and I truly can't even believe that I'm even saying that), but I don't hate it because if rather be teaching them at home. Oh my gosh, we'd kill each other if I had to assume the role of teacher.
It's what school signals that bums me out. It signals early bedtimes, no more spontaneity, schedules and busy lives, HOMEWORK, etc. I actually love early bedtimes, but I hate the feeling of "we HAVE to get to bed early or the whole school day will be ruined" feeling. Basically I don't like being forced into a schedule. But I love routine, so I'm really just a big mix-up of conflicting feelings.
I'm still sad when I send my kids out the door every morning, and yet I have a feeling of relief, too. I can't articulate it except to say that public school definitely works

Julie Allen said...

for and I am very thankful that I get to feel melancholy when I send my kids back to school in the fall. It's quite a first privilege.

Julie Allen said...

*first world privilege.* Sorry, my phone hates blogger.

Amanda D said...

I'm with you on this one. So ready for regular routines, regular bedtimes, and some extra curricular stuff. Hooray for school starting today!