My husband is working long hours these days. Last night he worked from 8 in the morning till 11:30 at night.

As a small business owner, his job is feast or famine. This is a feast. Everyone wants their plane worked on at once, everyone has a deadline. We’re grateful for the business, but also exhausted.

Sometimes I think that it would be easier if I worked too. Maybe it would take some of the pressure off him. I worry about the future, and the desire to have extra to “store up in barns” for our old age. I worry that by the time both girls have graduated from high school and gone to college, I will be 56. That’s not a very promising age to be competitive in the professional arena, especially after 20 years of being on the sidelines.

Sometimes, I do feel the pressure of the world’s judgment (or at least, my perception of the world’s judgment) on our decision to home educate, and to live on one income. And sometimes, I feel the restlessness of these years. It’s important work. But it’s often not terribly stimulating. Another load of laundry. Third grade math. Puzzling over this or that squabble, and what to do about it.

But in my saner moments, I can’t imagine how I could work. He would still have these stressful times when customers have deadlines. What would become of the kids if we were both working? How do families where both parents work full-time do it? Those I know who do it have parents who help with the kids, or, if they home school, they have spouses who help with the teaching and childcare. These things are not options for us. And right now, in the midst of this crazy season, I am very grateful that I can be here, “holding down the fort,” making Christmas preparations, schooling the girls, preserving stability so that the absence of Dad and husband can be experienced for the temporary phenomenon that it is.

I know I would enjoy working outside the home if it was just the two of us. It’s not that I am primarily a home-body by nature. I like my home, but I like the rhythm and challenge of meaningful work too. And I would like feeling that I was contributing to our household economy, rather than forever spending — groceries, clothing, gas, school supplies.

All of this is real.

But so is our shared desire to see this through. So is my admiration for the people my children are becoming in this slower-paced, more thoughtful environment. And so is the strange check I can only think of as “calling” that tugs at me whenever I try to consider (as I have often done these days) how we could make it happen if I were to go to work.

My daughters rang bells for the Salvation Army over the weekend as a part of 4H community service, and I was able to talk with the mother of one of the other girls (also home schooled). It was encouraging to me; she spoke of the challenges she’d had with an older child now about to graduate, but also of how glad she was that she had stuck it out.

For the rest of the day after that, there was a layer of quiet peace spread over everything. I still don’t have answers to all of my questions and stresses. I guess I was given for those hours an assurance — that rare, precious, elusive thing — that I’m where I am supposed to be. There isn’t a viable alternative. But also, I’m not ready to give up yet.

Like most such experiences, words fail to capture the sense of comfort and stillness that carved out a space at the heart of my gnawing anxieties and familiar cycles. It was like a Rembrandt painting where a very gentle light illuminates the key players in dark surroundings. It isn’t dramatic, or strong; it doesn’t look like enough light to take the chill away. But it shows the important part, the part you should pay attention to.

Rembrandt, Adoration of the Shepherds — Public Domain

8 thoughts on “Peace on earth

  1. Oh, Janet, that last image (both visual and in words) is lovely. I’m so glad you got some reassurance.

    1. I seem to be forever going back and re-deciding on this issue. One day, I hope to arrive at the land of Once-and-for-All. :-)

  2. I like the analogy to a Rembrandt painting — light on the important part, in the midst of dark surroundings. My days are similar to yours, with 2nd grade math (at least you’re multiplying!), another load of laundry, a sibling squabble, and a husband who travels (weeks at a time) for work.

    A thought about the little “tugs” — When I first met my husband, a little tug said, “He may be more ____ than you’d like, but don’t check him off.” A few months went by. Again, “He may be less _____ than you’d like, but don’t check him off.” This continued until I married him, LOL. So glad, so very glad I did! He’s a keeper, that man. A true Nugget of Gold.

    We also don’t have a viable alternative to homeschooling. $10,000 to $12,000 per year PER CHILD for private schools, times three children? Not going to happen. Our local public elementary schools are so low-functioning (below the 15th percentile for the state), that I have often thought it would be a complete wasted of our time (40 hours per week, with bus time + homework). That would be a terrible return-on-investment.

    Janet, you do seem to be questioning this part of your life a lot lately. What do you think is the underlying source of your restlessness? One thing that has helped me has been to NOT try to arrive at Once-and-for-All with the decision to home educate. IOW, each day provides its own choice to be done or to keep going. Perhaps you feel as though high school is looming up ahead, and you’ll be “locked in?” Can you walk it out more a day at a time? “Today, we homeschool. Tomorrow, we’ll see. I’m not there yet. Now, open your math book to page…”

    I don’t actually SAY that to the girls. Okay, I admit, sometimes I DO threaten them with, “That’s it! I’ve HAD it! I’m going to put you on the BUS!” I’m sure I shouldn’t do this. Sigh.

    We have “mascots” for each year so far. Hilarious, now that I think of it. The knick-knack for my oldest daughter’s Kindergarten year is an adorable small ceramic angel with a graduation cap. The knick-knack for her First Grade year is a little red wagon (that was the name of our school last year — Little Red Wagon Homeschool). This year, for Second Grade, it’s a short yellow bus. ROFL. I never realized this before.

    What will next year’s mascot be? :)

  3. I guess there are a lot of reasons why I’m restless right now. And of course there’s general mid-life crisis. I’m in my second year of it. :-)

    Our public schools are hurting around here too — running on empty where budget is concerned. Teachers are not allowed to buy pencils, they’re on such a shoestring.

  4. I register students to attend GED class and I have been in the classroom teaching. In many cases, the students have someone in their lives who is a mentor figure but in many cases the mentor figure is not a parent, sometimes it’s a grandparent. You are doing the right thing by just being there for your children as they are growing up. You are investing in their future and yours. The pay off for them and for you will be some years down the road and you just have to wait for it to come. The pay off will be rewarding when it comes. The pay off may come in the form of grown up children who have their heads screwed on straight and are successful in leading their own lives. And, … eventually becoming a blessing to you and your husband as you may rely on them for help in the future.

  5. Thank you, Jerry. I appreciate your perspective — a good reminder of the long-term rewards.

    One of the ways my understanding of homeschooling has changed since I first started is that I see how the academics are only a part of it. It’s a whole experience. There are things about it that I feel I’m not very good at, but the aspect you point out — simply being there for them — requires no special qualifications. I can do that.

  6. Janet, those moments of peace are so rare. I’m sure many people never get them at all. I am convinced you are doing a fantastic job of raising people. The image of the painting is perfect. I’ll be clinging to that one.

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