The crushing cycle of exhaustion is easy for any homeschool parent to fall into. Parents work so hard to take care of everyone else, they don't have time to take care of themselves. They get worn out, and then every step gets harder.
This exhaustion creates a cycle where a mom is so tired it takes twice as much effort to do anything. Now she needs more time to take care of herself, but she has less time to do so. The circle can keep spiraling until there's a breakdown of some sort—an angry outburst or stress-induced illness, for example.
When the cycle of exhaustion happens, a parent feels so guilty about it, that she redoubles efforts to take care of others, which leads back into the same cycle once again.
I've been on this cycle of exhaustion. I know how it feels, and I want you to know that you are not alone. There are lots of homeschool moms who feel it, too.
It's okay to ask for time alone. It's okay to be a little "selfish" now, so you have more of yourself to offer to take care of others later. It's not wrong to take care of yourself as much as you take care of your spouse and children.
Just like Jesus, we need time to refresh and rejuvenate, and thankfully we have a Biblical precedence to do so.
Jesus Knew How to Ask For and Receive Help
Jesus directly asked for help at times. For example, he asked the disciples to come to the Garden of Gethsemane and pray with him. Twice he got upset with them for not staying awake and supporting him as he asked. To emphasize: He asked for help and got upset when he did not get it. It's okay to ask our friends and family to help out and to be hurt or upset when they don't come through for us in our time of need.
When help was offered, Jesus graciously accepted help. He allowed the angels to attend to him and accepted the help of Simon to bear his cross. When friends and family ask if they can help us, it’s good to consider the heart of their request and take them up on it from time to time.
Jesus taught his disciples how to do part of his job and then sent them out to do it. In the same way, we can teach our little ones to help us with our work, and—when they are ready, send them out to do it. We don't have to do it alone.
Allowing Others to Help Us Gives Them a Blessing
Reach out to your husband, your family, your children, your friends, and your church when you need help. Don't let pride and embarrassment get in the way of allowing others to be blessed by helping you.
If you need extra funds so you can hire someone to help with the worst of the cleaning, it's okay to ask for it. I know you are thinking that your budget can't handle it. But maybe your husband is willing to give up $20 a week so you can afford an hour of assistance with cleaning or a babysitter to take the children for a couple hours. Hiring help means you get the self-care time you need and the helper is blessed with the job.
Or maybe your husband, mother, or sister is willing to give up and hour or two a week to help with the housekeeping or watch the children. If you don't ask for help, they might never know how badly you really need the help. They might think you're doing okay when really you're on the verge of drowning in the cycle of exhaustion.
We too often expect other people to intuit when we need help instead of directly asking for what we need. Others may realize that things are hard for you, but they don't understand how hard because you are so good at masking the exhaustion.
If our wonderful, amazing, awesome Jesus asked for and graciously received help from his friends and family, how much more should we ask for help from those willing to help us?
Allowing friends and family to help gives them a blessing. Think of how good it feels when you take care of your children (when you aren't in the grips of the cycle of exhaustion). It's rewarding and fulfilling, right? For many people, being able to help a friend or family member feels equally as good! Let them bless you, and they get blessed in turn.
What it Doesn't Mean When You Take a Break
Taking a break doesn’t mean you don’t love your children or that you are failing them.
When you allow yourself space to rest and breathe, you find yourself less annoyed, more caring, and more giving. By allowing yourself even a 5 minute break to sit quietly in your room and pray or meditate, you find that you can reach for the extra bit of patience later on in the day. By taking an hour or two a week to go window shopping or exercise at the gym, you find you have more happiness inside—happiness you share with your children and spouse.
It’s a Phase, But It's Still Very Real
The truth is this cycle of exhaustion is a phase in your life, but that doesn't make it any easier today. One day, you’ll think back on your homeschool years as a memory, and your children will be in a new phase with new problems and new blessings. And a new phase will occur right after that. Life is a series of phases, and they are all at once both wonderful and difficult.
Trying to live like Jesus means taking care of ourselves as much as it means taking care of others. If you don't take time to take care of yourself, you're not giving your spouse and children the best of you. You're giving them what's left of you. And the cycle of exhaustion leaves nothing to offer.