You probably have friends who send their kids to school. You might even envy them sometimes:
- They get seven whole hours of peace and quiet every day.
- They actually get to finish things.
- Their house is clean most of the time!
While there are a lot of pros to homeschooling, this lifestyle can be stressful, too, right?
It could be that being solely responsible for your child’s education weighs heavy on your shoulders, that trying to stretch one income across all those bills is becoming nearly impossible, or that being with little people all day long drains you. Whatever the source of your stress, admitting homeschooling is stressful doesn’t mean we love homeschooling any less (or that sending our kids to school would be any less stressful).
It’s just being honest.
That being said, when you confide in another homeschool mom about your stress, the conversation is easy. You understand each other, and neither one of you suggests you quit homeschooling to relieve that stress. You troubleshoot and commiserate: end of story.
However, when you talk about your stress to your friend who sends her kids to school, the conversation can take a very different turn.
When Your Non-Homeschooling Friend Points Out That You’re Stressed
“You seem really stressed…all the time,” my friend commented one day.
I had just finished venting about everything from never getting a break from my kids to my husband’s long work hours to facing a new obstacle in my quest to earn extra money from home.
“I mean, I’m just trying to figure out what your normal stress level is. Are you always this stressed? Because you seem to live at this level of intense stress all the time as far as I can tell…” Her voice trailed off.
Those were definitely not the words I wanted to hear, and I bristled defensively at them.
This friend was my closest friend, and she sent her children to public school. Normally, this didn’t affect our friendship at all. Like me, she still had young children at home, so I felt like she could relate to my life. We had so many other things in common that how we chose to educate our kids didn’t seem to matter much.
Today though, it mattered to me. I felt completely misunderstood and more than a little offended. While she didn’t outright question my decision to homeschool, the question was implied in my mind. After all, homeschooling is the main reason I needed to earn extra income from home, and why I, as an introvert, was often drained from the lack of alone time.
4 Ways to Respond When Your Friend Says You’re Stressed
She left, and I dissolved into angry tears. Instead of saying, “You seem stressed,” couldn’t she say something else–anything else? Maybe, “Can I take the kids for a few hours, so you can get a break?” or “Wow, that sounds so hard!”
But as my anger subsided, I decided to actually stop and consider her words. Was I really always this stressed? If so, what could I change about my life (aside from quitting homeschooling, which wasn’t an option) to reduce that stress?
After I swallowed my pride and really thought about her question, so much good came out of it. Here are four tips to make the most of these conversations.
1. Don’t get defensive.
I don’t know what it is about being a homeschool mom, but when a non-homeschooler comments on our stress levels, we automatically assume they are questioning our decision to homeschool. That assumption naturally puts us on the defense. As I said earlier, just because homeschooling is stressful doesn’t mean it’s the wrong decision.
Assuming doesn’t build strong friendships. Try to avoid putting words in your friend’s mouth. If you really believe she questions your decision to homeschool, ask her directly and have an honest conversation about it.
2. Remember that your friend cares about you.
After you’ve stopped being defensive, remember that this friend (if she is a good friend) cares deeply about you. She doesn't want you to be under such intense stress, and she wants to make it easier somehow.
When public school parents question our lives, it’s easy to hear it as, "You're crazy and should put your kids in school." The truth is, if this is a good friend, she probably doesn’t have a big agenda other than your well-being. She just loves you and wants you to breathe a little easier.
3. Seriously consider her questions.
When someone who doesn’t see your day to day life or fully understand the lifestyle you’ve chosen, it’s easy to dismiss their questions. But what if we seriously considered them instead?
Your friend’s question offers an outside perspective on your life. If you are stressed and frazzled all the time, hearing that observation from a non-homeschooling friend is a good time to stop and re-evaluate. Maybe there really is nothing you can change. Maybe this stress is just for a season.
Then again, maybe it’s not. Maybe you can make changes to reduce your stress.
4. Talk with your spouse (or a good friend) about what you can change.
I admit it. I tend to see everything as top priority. There are absolutely no balls that can be dropped, not a single no that can be said. When we homeschool moms look for things to cut, we often come up short, assuming that living with high levels of stress just comes with the territory.
That’s why you need someone objective to talk to—someone who isn’t in the everyday with you. You need them to ask, “Why is that so important? Why can’t you stop doing this?” You need them to force you to prioritize.
Prioritizing means putting things in order or importance, and only one thing can be your top priority. When you list everything in your life in order of importance, there will be things at the bottom of that list, things you can probably cut.
For example, when my husband and I talked, we realized that trying to save for a house–something we both thought was the natural next step for us–was putting an enormous amount of pressure on us both. I was working long hours to make my small blog earn more, faster. There was no margin in my life. Taking a house out of the equation for the next couple of years made a huge difference in my stress levels. Now my stress is much more manageable.
Sometimes, we lament not having more homeschool mom friends because they are the ones who can really understand us. But our school mom friends have more to offer us than we think.
Mom friends are mom friends, no matter how they choose to educate our kids. When they offer advice and ask hard questions, listen. It might help you more than you think.
About the Author
June loves deep discussions about homeschooling, parenting, and minimalism. When she’s not homeschooling, decluttering, or blogging at This Simple Balance, she loves to enjoy perfect silence while sipping a hot cup of coffee and thinking uninterrupted thoughts—which, of course, with four kids ages eight and under doesn’t happen very often!