What did you want to be when you grew up? I’m 44, and I still don’t have an answer to that question, and honestly, I don’t think most people do. Mostly, we fall into the trap of just surviving.
Maybe I haven’t found my “passion,” and perhaps I never will, but I do know that the life of a mother is about more than just surviving and holding off on her dreams until her children are grown.
Why am I so sure of this? Because I have six children. I gave birth to my oldest the day after my 28th birthday, and I will turn 58 roughly three weeks before my youngest turns 18. I’m not putting off my dreams and desires for another 14 years.
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Getting Caught Up in Survival
When you have that first child, you’re world changes in ways you can’t imagine. My second daughter arrived only 16 months after my first, so it wasn’t long until I was in full-blown survival mode.
You quickly feel like life is a continuous loop of laundry, naps, and meals. Daily life becomes a swirling whirlpool you can’t escape.
You add more children, decide to homeschool, move several times and before you know it, you can’t remember a single that YOU wanted. A single dream that YOU have.
Life becomes a repeating checklist of things you have to do and places you need to go. We allow all the “have to’s” to crowd out any possibility of remembering ourselves.
Crystal Paine's Say Goodbye to Survival Mode course helped me to see that even those moms who are conquering the world aren’t immune to just surviving either. Sometimes you can have it all together, and still be disconnected from what you truly want.
So what do we do when we’re tired of just surviving?
Change Our Mindset of Motherhood
First, we need to examine our mindset around being a mother — especially that of a homeschooling mom.
As homeschooling moms, we take on a big responsibility and relinquish our freedom in a way society can’t comprehend. We can easily take on the attitude of a martyr and focus on all the ways our choices have restricted us and our dreams.
But is this even true?
Would I have more freedom if my children were in school? I don’t think so. Then our time would be dictated by outside institutions with little input from us.
As relaxed homeschoolers, we choose how to spend our time. If we want to go somewhere, we go. If we don’t, we stay home. Homeschooling provides great freedom, even for mom, to pursue our interests.
Yes, being a mother is a life-changing event that comes with many different seasons and challenges, but we shouldn’t allow it to push out everything that makes us unique.
Finding Your Way Out Survival Mode
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could flip a switch and survival mode would end? If only it were that easy, but it takes a little more than that.
When we’re in the thick of surviving, we usually think there is one significant barrier to life being perfect. Maybe it’s sending the kids to school, a better chore system, or more money; it’s that one huge and life-altering thing that’s perpetually beyond our grasp.
Why do we place the bar so high and out of reach?
It’s easier. It’s easier to focus on the thing that is unlikely to happen and continue to be the martyr.
I know, I’ve done it, still do, and I bet you do too.
Thinking this way allows us not to take action at all and remain in the whirlpool of life just minutes away from drowning. However, if you honestly want to enjoy your life and not look back with regret, you owe it to yourself to escape the grips of survival mode.
Now, this is the point where a lot of people would tell you all the systems you need to make that happen, but I’m not a system’s mom. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants mom and planning too far ahead stresses me out.
So what do I do when I find myself mired in “have to’s”?
- Put me first
- Ask questions
- Let things go
- Set a goal
How can a homeschooling mom of 6 put herself first?
I know that sounds selfish, but that’s not what I mean. Moms often put themselves last, and in doing so, we forget our desires and dreams. Even the small daily decisions push us farther away from ourselves.
What is my typical answer when my husband asks where I would like to go out to eat? I don’t care. And in the grand scheme of things, I don’t. But little by little, decisions like this rob us of ourselves.
We wake up one day and realize we have no idea what we want, and we aren’t even sure how to figure it out.
The first step is to start asking yourself what YOU want, even in the same everyday things.
- Where do you want to eat?
- Buy the yogurt you want.
- Fix what you would like to eat for dinner.
- Make a few household decisions without input from anyone else.
These examples may sound silly, but it works. Slowly, you begin to see that you have choices and life isn’t conspiring against you.
Question the “have to’s” of life
So often I see moms running themselves ragged trying to keep up with so many demands and activities, and homeschooling moms are particularly prone to this type of frenzy because we worry our kids will miss out.
But in doing so, we’re often missing out. We’re missing out on rest, peace, and money.
So question another night out at an activity, question the traveling sports team, and question all the endless demands of your time, because you can’t do it all.
When I’m considering additional commitments, I always ask myself if this is good for the child, for me, and our family. If the demands of the commitment exceed the benefit, it’s a no.
Sometimes you have to let things go.
Letting go can be one of the most challenging steps in escaping survival mode, but one of the most important.
Often, we feel so desperate because we’re not living up to the expectations we have in our own mind.
We should “do school” for hours each day, have an immaculate house, and loads of cash in the bank to travel. That’s what everyone on Pinterest and Instagram does, right?
We tell ourselves that everyone else has it all together, so why don’t we? Here’s the dirty little secret: they don’t either! Okay, maybe there are a couple of supermoms out there who are living the perfect life, but I find even that hard to believe.
We need to let some of our expectations go. This can be so difficult, but living every day angry at ourselves for not being perfect is the linchpin of just surviving. It keeps us annoyed with our lives and forever chasing an ideal that is always out of reach.
So think about that list of “have to’s” that you have scrolling through your mind and question them. Are they all absolutely necessary?
You decide where to eat.
Another step that sounds so small and insignificant, but can have a major impact is choosing. Sometimes moms need to reconnect with their desires at the most basic level.
Do you want lemon yogurt and not raspberry? Get the lemon.
Do you want to order Chinese and not pizza? Get Chinese.
Do you want to go to the mountains for a vacation and not the beach? Go to the mountains.
These may all sound silly and small, but if year after year you’re brushing off the sand and thinking of how you wanted to go to the mountains, a small part of you is dying.
What you want matters too, so honor it!
Time to Stop Just Surviving
I don’t know when your time will come to stop existing in survival mode. I think it happens when you start getting some uninterrupted sleep again, but whenever it does, take action.
Your dreams and desires didn’t evaporate simply because you became a mother. They’re still hiding somewhere under the weight of expectations.
More importantly, they don’t have to be grandiose, conquer-the-world dreams either.
My dream is to sip a cup of tea and read Anna Karenina in peace. What’s yours?