The longest job…tips for surviving!

Being a mum was the longest job I ever had. (Still is!)

It took me a few years to realise the implications of this, when a degree of restlessness was making me twitchy and at times less than happy.

This was absolutely nothing to do with my devotion to my role as a mum, nothing to do with the unconditional love I had for the children (still have), and absolutely nothing to do with the honour and value I attach to the role of being a parent and home educator.

It’s just that before, as an employee, when I got restless in a job I could look to change it, either apply for a new job, a new role, a new venue or some other rethink that refreshed my working life and renewed enthusiasm.

Can’t do that with being a mum! Once a parent always a parent. There’s no changing jobs. And it’s the same with home education – most are in it for the duration.

Of course, we don’t ever not want to be parents or home educators – I’m taking that as a given. But like with any job, it’s inevitable that at times you get bored. But that’s not the fault of parenting or home education, it’s just to do with the human psyche and our own personal needs requiring some attention.

It’s something I do harp on about regularly and I’m not apologising because it’s important; that we should pay attention to our own personal development and fulfilment as much as we are attending to the children’s. Mostly, though, we don’t, we let constraints of time, busyness, budget, practicalities, get in the way. There are so many reasons – or excuses!

So how to change that dissatisfaction that can build up with this long-term job? I found a few ways over the years:

  • Firstly, acknowledge that being happy and satisfied all the time is not achievable. That’s not the reality of life – again thanks to the human psyche. Once we accept that this is the case, we can pause a day or two, accept that this is the case today and nurture ourselves through with gentleness, instead of beating ourselves up about it as we sometimes do!
  • Happy and satisfied are also not finite objectives, but an ongoing changable process of development with ups and downs, moods, and mishaps and mistakes we have to learn how to deal with.
  • We can learn to deal with them by trial and error with things like distractions and contrasts; relaxing activities versus busy activities, creative activities, getting outdoors, using green spaces, sports, watching a good film, meeting others.
  • Then plan some time that is exclusively devoted to your own personal activities/work/pursuits that do not involve the children, where you develop a mutual respect between you of time to be left to your own business and they have to get on without you. (There’s a funny scenario where I start this described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education‘) This is not neglecting the kids, it’s teaching them the valuable skill of getting on independently.
  • Look at ways of changing your home education routines. Look at the bits that work. The bits that don’t work. Kids grow and change all the time and we sometimes don’t notice that everyone’s needs have altered since we started and so we need new approaches to accommodate them. You might need to back off more these days!
  • If you’re fighting with the kids all the time, change how you approach them and their learning. It also may be you’re simply just tired. Check out your reasons – rather than theirs!
  • Remember that circumstances always change with time. Difficulties pass. And if you can find ways to navigate the tricky restless times you will be passing on that valuable skill to your children too.
  • Don’t blame either yourself, your parenting, or home education. Blame is being reactive. Instead investigate pro-active ways to make changes and discuss it with the kids and others.
  • So make exclusive time where you get to go out without youngsters and talk about your dissatisfied bits and share ways of getting through them with other adults. Find out what others do to fulfil their needs and their time management that enables them to do so.

    Make something – even if it’s just an impression!

  • I once read that a day always feels better when you’ve made something. That’s so true – try it – whether a loaf or a cake, a photo or a painting, a difference – by changing a room round perhaps or different habit/routine, a discovery, or even footprints in the mud! Try it!,
  • Remember that the kids are learning all the time, whatever you do – or don’t do.
  • There is a whole chapter devoted to looking after yourself in ‘A home Education Notebook‘. It’s that important.

In our rapidly changing culture we rarely stick at anything for long. Parenting and home education is something that we have to stick at for years and years. However, there will many changes that occur throughout those years, some naturally, some through the course of time, some you can implement yourself. You just have to pay attention to the need for them. Restlessness and dissatisfaction is often a sign you haven’t!

If you’ve developed strategies others might find helpful please share in the comments below.


9 thoughts on “The longest job…tips for surviving!

  1. I resonate with your post, but especially is this part true!

    I once read that a day always feels better when you’ve made something. That’s so true – try it

    Home ed can take over every minute sometimes! If I can at least crochet something (even while sitting beside my students) or plant something/get my hand in the dirt, it does much for my outlook!


  2. As so often, it is like you can see inside my head and know what I need to read and hear. I find home educating so challenging with children who have strong opinions on what they do and don’t want to learn which is I guess great but still challenging when I feel most of the time I am letting them down by not getting them GCSES and so on even though frankly I had all the education and got pretty much nowhere in life but then I am down today and have marriage difficulties which don’t help things. My teens have great values and can debate issues of the day and history and I can see they are intelligent but I still question myself constantly except on the occasional day when I get convinced we are doing exactly the right thing. I will keep re-reading this post on the tougher days like today.

    • So glad to have inspired Kate, so thank you so much for sharing your honest response. I went all through the same feelings as I’m sure many do. But let’s remember YOU are not letting them down by ‘not getting them GCSEs’ as you say because; firstly – ‘getting’ GCSEs is not a guarantee of future success – intelligence and life skills are, secondly – the youngsters are not finished yet and can do GCSEs at ANY time when it suits them, and thirdly – there comes a time when they will take over their own education for themselves in their own way when they see what they want to go for in life (and GCSEs may never be part of that anyway). Home life difficulties are always very challnging and can colour the learning climate, I agree, but negotiating these times are very much part of what life is and to develop the skills to get through tricky bits is actually far more use than exams! Your kids clearly have the skills and intelligence to access whatever they need to and it is YOU who have facilitated that. So in my view you’re doing good! Take care of yourself through your current challenges. All the best.

  3. I love this Ross, thank you for being open about these feelings. I am only just realising that the blame game gets me nowhere! Our family have made some drastic changes in the past few months which included a move of house to a different part of the country. My husband’s new job is nearer to home and so now I have time to walk in nature in the mornings before he leaves. I feel so much better for it! Obviously the move wasn’t all about me, my husband was restless and the boys were fed up too. We have all had a new lease of life. It’s not all been roses but I am learning every family member has needs not just the children!

    • Thank you very much for telling me. I’m so glad the post has resonated with you. And really appreciate you sharing your story. May you all settle into a new happines in your new location. All best wishes. x

  4. I love this post, Ross. Thank you. I feel that the passage of time … developing a lifestyle together and growing/changing needs … means the role as parent/home educator changes in ways we don’t foresee from one point to another. When my daughter was younger I found it much more full-on and there just wasn’t that ‘instant time’ to carve out anything for myself, which was hard… but now she’s 12 we can sit alongside each other working on our own projects and that is something I never could see happening when she was say, 7. As a family we have learned together and through mutual respect/talking (sometimes shouting!), it’s turning into something comfortable where we all have the space/time to follow our own dreams. For us, that’s the beauty of home-ed!

    • That’s lovely to hear Alice, thanks very much for taking the time to share. It’s a common mistake to carry on in old ways that no longer work, isn’t it! I’ve been guilty – still am! But now the girls are in their twenties they can just say ‘butt out mother’ and we all have a good laugh over it! 🙂

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