There is a lot of talk about the Post-partum Depression, but what about Homeschool Depression? I was surprised recently when talking with a few fellow homeschoolers to learn that two of them where on medication for their mental well-being. This prompted me to think about if Homeschool Depression is common. I believe Homeschoolers often suffer from a range of anything from the blahs to full-scale depression. I believe that new homeschoolers and veteran homeschoolers are both equally susceptible to falling into the abyss. However, I believe the cause of and the relief for newbie and veteran homeschoolers are very different. In this post, I will be dealing with what I have termed the Homeschool Blues: From Blahs to Depression for Newbie Homeschoolers.
The transition to homeschool mom is similar in many ways to the transition of becoming a mother for the first time. Just like when you first became a mom, you are thrust into a world that is new and unfamiliar. There are new responsibilities, at least one young person relying on you, friends may or may not make the transition with you and family may not be supportive. During the first year or even the first several years, you may be plagues with nagging questions in your head, “Am I doing this right? Am I ruining my children? Is this what is best for my family?” These are serious stressors that can quickly be overlooked in the chaos of the new school year.
A case of the Blues can come on quickly and be tough to shake. There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help and medication. As I mentioned earlier, you would not be alone in taking this route. However, if you decide to that professional support is not needed but want to take steps to make things better yourself, following the traditional advice given to moms with the Baby Blues may not be a bad idea. Below are some ideas on how to put into action some of the traditional advice you may be given.
Get out of your four walls. Being a homeschool mom means that there are less opportunities to connect with adults on a regular basis. There is no chatter at the morning bus stop, little time for a leisurely morning phone call or time for an aerobics class at the Y. Suddenly you find yourself straining for adult conversation. Personally, I found myself becoming good friends with the clerk at my local grocery store and the deli guy and … well, you get the idea. There are easy and cheap ways to get out of the house without abandoning your homeschool duties. Try incorporating a trip to the library, the park, a local field trip to the courthouse, a museum, or the theater into what you are doing that week. I personally have found having something to look forward to at the end of the week makes the week go a lot smoother.
Connect with a support group. Non-homeschool friends are available to talk when you are having a crazy morning and just want five minutes of Mom Time but they may not understand how the person that used to talk about fashion and kids has suddenly morphed into a crazy lady whose every sentence must contain the words homeschool or curriculum least once. Support groups are different than co-ops. Co-ops typically meet on a weekly basis for classes. Each Mom is expected to put in her fair share of the work. Support groups are a little more free flowing in that they typically offer field trips, playdates, Mom’s Night Out, and other get togethers but not on a regular basis. Often times they share an online forum or group where you can connect with other homeschool moms. Searching Google, www.hslda.org, or Yahoo Groups should give you a good start into looking into what is available in your area. TheHomeschoolLounge.com is a national homeschool forum.
Eat right. This one is tougher than it sounds. It seems as if I am always eating standing up with the baby on my hip, while grading a math paper and loading the dishwaher. But a little bit of planning goes a long way. Keep good snacks and fresh fruit available and you will reach for the chips less.
Do something for yourself. There is a saying “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” This is double true for the Homeschool Momma. Find 15 minutes a day to do something that moves you in the right direction. Even if you do the same thing everyday, put it on your To Do List. You may find that your 15 minutes is spent cleaning a closet, exercising, calling a friend, or just sitting with a cup of tea while the kids watch a video. It is ok. You need it. Plus, crossing something off your To Do List is very rewarding.
I will add one piece of advice of my own; fake it until you make it. Your children are not the cause of your Blues. Make the extra effort to insure that they are not overly affected by your struggles. Smile at them. They need to be responded warmly to even when you do not feel like it. Chose to ignore the small stuff; spilled milk is only spilled milk and there is nothing you can do about it now anyhow. Celebrate their successes! As their teacher and mother, these are your successes too!
I hope this helps you feel less alone and offers you some positive ideas on how to shake off your Homeschool Blues. If you try some of these ideas and feel that they are not working, please reconsider talking to a health professional about your Blues.
Up next will be Homeschool Burnout, Beating the Blues for the Veteran Homeschoolers.