I have been a home learning teacher, personal trainer – but I refuse to be a martyr mom


The end is near.

Soon the lockdown will be over and the kids will be back in their classrooms after three months of home schooling, vacationing at home, working from home in hell.

The result is that, once we get back to the normally grueling weekly routine, I plan to draw in pencil in an emotional meltdown.

I suspect I am not alone. My husband and I homeschooled two nice boys this year and last year because of the pandemic.

Frankly, despite our and their teachers’ best efforts, the kids learned everything except how to get used to digital crack with all the on-screen learning and edutainment (I see you, ABC Reading Eggs).

All in all, it’s a hell of a victory. I have long been addicted to success.

It’s okay to be satisfied that I did a good job, but I’m thriving a bit too much to be productive. Which is a clue that for me fulfillment is a shortcut to existential validation.

But it’s not just me. As Guardian journalist Bridie Jabour writes in Trivial Grievances: On the contradictions, myths and misery of the thirties:

“We want our lives to be meaningful, and many of us no longer have a religion or lifelong communities to feel attached to. We are more defined by what we have accomplished, even if what we have accomplished. is three 10-kilometer traveled in a week. “

If women in general are socialized to put others before themselves, then motherhood is a higher level of self-sacrifice.(

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Jabour observes that many of us look to our individual achievements for a sense of identity, as opposed to something bigger than ourselves – spirituality, for example, or community.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a problem for people of faith. I should know, since I count myself among them.

We all struggle with the fear that our importance will never be gained. On the contrary, we expect to secure our value through our work.

If this is how we operate when it comes to our own efforts, imagine what we are projecting on the children we homeschool.

And, so, a little perspective is in order if we are to break the lockdown with our relationships, our families, our sanity, and any semblance of well-being intact.

In a bunch of unpaid roles

First, especially for those of us with younger children, it wouldn’t hurt to recognize that we haven’t done so much ‘home schooling’ as we have done a particularly intense version of coaching. staff.

The kind that consumes everything, unpaid – and, besides all the other paid work on your plate, with a “client”, nothing less, who knows exactly how to push your buttons and for whom you feel biologically obligated not to. not ruin the rest of their lives – hence the emotionally draining effort of keeping your cool despite extreme provocation.

It’s the pressure.

We tend to put our needs last

Second, we must be wary of the parent-martyr reflex: in this case, the tendency to sacrifice oneself on the altar of the education of one’s child.

Moms might be particularly prone to this as they are overrepresented in paid part-time jobs and, according to history, may work more “flexibly” to juggle work and family life.

Then there is the fact that, if women in general are socialized to put others before themselves, then motherhood is a higher level of self-sacrifice.

For example, a friend of mine experimented with home schooling to her elementary school child before her own homework day began.

When she told me, a wave of guilt, admiration and (honestly) green-eyed envy washed over me at the initiative and energy that she managed to mobilize from the deepest depths. of exhaustion.

But we can choose not to nail it all

Which leaves me with the third option: resist the urge to be defined by our academic success at home – or the lack of it. In fact, I have a plan to survive the last few weeks of homeschooling before the official return to school on October 18th.

On the first day of the term, I will recognize the anguish I feel at the minimal effort that we will no doubt make, and then I will make the conscious choice to continue with my day. And I’ll do that the next day, and the day after.

I know that the success fanatic in me will falter at the increasing number of incomplete home schooling activities. But then what? Reality is more than the sum of my individual efforts.

The homeschooling parent as a personal trainer or the mother as a martyr are both working at an impossible task.

They are trying to reconcile the irreconcilable gap between the ideal – successful home learning as well as our own work – and the reality of simply going through the days, weeks, months of confinement.

Giving myself permission to be gentle with myself right now won’t solve all of our problems with work.

But my “failure” to pass my children’s homeschooling can weaken the connection between work and dignity that I have long believed in.

At least that’s my hope.

Justine Toh is a senior fellow at the Center for Public Christianism and the author of Achievement Addiction.


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