What About Me? Motherwhelmed: A Review
In all the excitement that is planning for a new homeschool year, this year I did something different. I took some time to plan for ME. A few months ago, I came across Revolution from Home on Facebook. This is the online home of Beth Berry, life coach, writer, and mom to four girls. I ordered her book Motherwhelmed and devoured it. Three times. I have never felt so seen and heard by a total stranger in my entire life. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it!
Inspired by her work, I've been doing some things differently - including the big something different in my homeschool planning - planning for ME.
What do I need to do for me this year?
What do I want to do for me this year?
How might my homeschool and household plans need to adapt to make room for me?
Much of my reflection about those questions happened while I was doing other things - washing dishes, pairing those socks, planning lessons and content for Hearth & Gnome. I knew immediately I needed to focus on my physical health. I have an autoimmune disorder and this stressful year has done me zero favors. I am back to a more restful schedule (early bedtime, an afternoon rest if I need one), drinking more water and less caffeine, cutting down on foods that I enjoy emotionally, but my body does not tolerate, and taking my vitamins and supplements. (I hate pills...) I also started taking two short walks outdoors, often alone. It's my time to listen to the birds, feel the breeze, smell the pine straw, and just feel good in my body.
The change has been marvelous. Not just for me, but for my family. Ignoring my health in the interest of supporting everyone else's isn't just sad - it's unsustainable. When I'm tired, achy, feeling badly, I am not the joyful, spontaneous, creative person my family truly needs. As Beth writes, "Like a bird without wings or a tree cut from its roots, I could never be my most powerful, fully-actualized self whiLe disconnected from essential needs, truths, and intuitive knowings." My family needs a soaring songbird to help them navigate this season with joy. They need a sturdy, shady tree to help protect them from life's storms. Doing either of those things is so much more difficult if I am physically unwell.
These small/big changes have made such a difference and they were my obvious starting point. But I also took some time to sit down, get quiet and centered, as distraction-free as possible to find out what else I might need and want this year. After all, "Not to feel like crap every day due to chronic neglect," is such a small ask. So with a cup of coffee, a notebook, and a pen, I sat down to listen to MYSELF.
And then, two things happened.
All the things I think I SHOULD need and want got loud. All the reasons why I CAN'T have what I need or want piped up, too.
I SHOULD plant a huge garden and grow everything organically. I SHOULD bake everything from scratch. I SHOULD keep my house more tidy. And I CAN'T possibly do what I want because things will fall apart if I take the time to do them. I CAN'T ask my husband to do more - he earns most of the money and the house is my job, after all. And I CAN'T expect my nearly teen to cook a simple dinner - he's just a kid! I'm his mom - I should cook his meals for him (with organic home-grown veggies and a side of home-baked bread, of course).
Fortunately, this sit-down was during my third re-read of Motherwhelmed and I was well-prepared for this cacophony. Rather than just accepting those statements at God's gospel truth, I asked some pointed questions. Whose stories are those?
Do I really want to plant a garden, organically or otherwise? Or is that someone else's story about what good mothers do?
Is baking from scratch really my jam? Do I have to bake everything? Or is that just another story?
Why is my house, which is really pretty clean, not enough the way it is? Is anyone really suffering because there are cobwebs in the dog room or smudges on the family room doors?
And is making most of the money an eternal pass on having to clean toilets or match socks or asking my tween to cook a pot of noodles really child neglect?
No, I do not want to plant a garden. (Gasp!) At least not now. I'm homeschooling and I can't do both - at least right now.
I love to bake, but it's time-consuming and everyone eats it in one day. Store-bought bread that lasts a few days will be just fine, thank you.
The house is fine, no one suffers - or likely notices - those cobwebs or smudges. And NO ONE gets an eternal pass on toilets and socks, plus cooking is a life skill.
Questions asked and answered, I decided to just write - and quickly. Every need or want that surfaced went on the page without pause or judgement. The silly, the weird, the impossible. On the list it went.
It was a long list.
And then, I asked for some help sifting through it. Following Beth's suggestion, I asked childhood me, young woman me, and future old lady me about this list.
Seven year old me is very wise and self-attuned. She knows all sorts of things about us. She knew I wanted to be a mom, a teacher, and a musician - and then I spent decades ignoring her until I finally made my way to each one! She's one smart cookie and I ask her first.
My inner 24-year old is vibrant, in tune with herself as a woman, passionate about the people she loves, activities she enjoys, and absolutely committed to her health inside and out.
My inner old lady has the wisdom that comes with hindsight, a devil-may-care attitude, and a salty mouth. (She's quite a bit like the seven year old, but with swears.)
Here are just some of the things they asked for this year:
7-Year-Old Me: More quiet alone time to create (draw, paint, sew, craft) and to make music, just for the joy of it - not for anyone else's consumption or approval.
24-Year-Old Me: More adult fun - ie grownup movies (enough with the cartoons already), grownup meals, grownup books. Also, dancing! And RUNNING! And finally, some cute clothes and more days in makeup, puh-LEASE. Fewer yoga pants and stretched-out tees. It's really embarrassing.
90-Year-Old Me: More makeup and cute clothes are fine, but don’t let that 20something get carried away and have you wearing girdles again! Less black, more color, and stick to comfortable shoes. More margaritas and way less time with people and things that sap your energy. More care for YOUR feelings and less time trying to manage others. They don't want to be managed and you stink at it, anyway. And forget the !@##%&* garden and the perfectly clean house. They really don’t matter as much as you think they do.
And for whatever reason, listening to my inner voices as if they are someone else, makes it easier to say YES! Yes to music, movies, dancing, and makeup. Yes to running - in comfortable shoes. And yes to time for life-giving people and paying attention to my own feelings.
I’ll be adding these things into my personal rhythms and/or reading, journaling, and reflecting on them throughout the year. As I plan our family and school rhythms, I'm creating space for those things to happen including a little checklist. It will live in my mom basket beside my calendar and I’ll use it to remind myself throughout the year what it is I know I need and want.
Planning for ME is every bit as important as planning for THEM. I’m just now figuring this out at mid-life, but it’s never too late to do things differently. Everyone I love most will benefit. As Beth writes, "Mothers are not mere madness managers and schedule minders. We are the chosen keepers of a quiet, timeless order. A natural, essential rhythm. A sacred evolution of heart-connection and consciousness and healing."
Does your family need more heart-connection? Consciousness? Even healing? Mine does. And the world does, too.
As Beth says, "We are a big deal, mamas." We may even be "among the most influential forces on the planet."
So yes to creativity, yes to caring for my feelings. Yes to ME - in full, glorious color (and comfortable shoes).
Do you plan for yourself when you map out your homeschooling year?
Have you read Beth's book?
I'd love to hear your plans and your thoughts,
Find more of what Beth has to offer here.
Buy her book here or wherever books are sold.