By Sharon Duncan
“I’m so glad it’s Friday,” sighed my weary homeschooling friend. “I have so much to catch up this weekend.”
A twinge of envy pierced my heart as I pondered how much a free Saturday would help me accomplish.
Every Saturday, I work a twelve-hour shift at the local hospital as a Registered Nurse. It is a rewarding career, to be sure. I earn a good income for a minimal time investment away from my family, and it is definitely a ministry opportunity as I care for people during their recovery from surgery. Still, it is sometimes overwhelming as I try to balance a full week of demands on my time as a homeschool mom, wife, teacher at our homeschool co-op, home decorator/housekeeper, church member, and Sunday School teacher. Yet, I have worn the dual hats of working weekend mom and weekday stay-at-home mom for the entire twelve years I have homeschooled. Is it a challenge? It sure is. Can it be done? It certainly can.
I looked at my friend with a wistful smile and said, “I would love to have a catch-up day. I’ll be working all day long as usual.”
“Yeah, but you are blessed to have a job like that. I wish I had a way of helping out with some added income,” she replied.
I was startled by her response. I did not consider myself particularly blessed with what I saw as a full schedule and no days off. Even Sundays were full with church and visiting family, and I had never liked the idea of using Sunday to clean or work on projects. Her words bounced around in my head as I left the coffee shop and drove home. I felt strangely convicted by her words as I contemplated the idea that I had been ungrateful in a situation that God had used to provide the best of both worlds for me and my family. I am my husband’s helpmate, and just as couponing and frugal living are part of financial stewardship, this is another way I come alongside him to share the burden of providing for our family.
“She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night” (Proverbs 31:16-18).
Before you decide to dash off with your resume in hand on a quest for a weekend job though, take some time to pray and seek God’s direction for your family. Saturate yourself in His Word and pray constantly about His will for your family. I continue to pray about our current situation, and trust that God will provide another avenue for us in His timing. This past summer, our patient volume has been low on our elective surgical unit, and I have been off most Saturdays for the first time in years. God has provided for our needs during this unexpected dip in our income, and I have enjoyed the additional time with my family.
Set apart some time for you and your husband to discuss your financial situation and your family’s schedule and routines. Depending on your children’s ages, you may have very little flexibility. Consider carefully the cost of working. How much money will you be able to net after the fuel expenses, any special clothing you would need, possible child care, and eating out? How will it affect your children? Will you be able to continue to spend the time you need with them for their education? Will you still have family time, and time with your husband?
Despite what you may hear, quality time is not the only thing that matters. Children need your attention, and lots of it!
If you and your husband agree that a second income is necessary and that God is leading you to outside employment, it’s time to think about how to make your new schedule work for all involved. When we began homeschooling, an older and wiser homeschool mom asked me whether I intended to continue working. When I replied that I did, she looked skeptical and warned me that homeschooling was a full-time job in itself. She was also a nurse, and said she just could not make it work. Her warning tone unnerved me a little. I resolved to give it my best effort, and decided that being as organized as possible was going to be the key.
First, lesson plans are your best friend. If you awaken tired on Monday morning, you will be tempted to call it a mental health day. There are times when this is a prudent course of action, but these day passes should be on reserve for when you truly need them. Use it too frequently and it has a self-defeating effect rather than the desired recharging of body and mind. Feeling like a failure because you can’t get it together on Monday mornings is a sure ticket to burnout. Charlotte Mason referred to good habits for our children as the rails that make the day go smoothly. Likewise, if we have thought ahead to what our children need to be doing on that Monday morning, we don’t have to expend that effort. Charlotte Mason also said, “The effort of decision is the greatest effort of life.” I can attest to the truth of that statement when I need to think about our history lesson in the moment that we need to be actually doing it!
Next, keeping a clean, comfortable home is a demanding aspect of daily life, and every busy mom has to set some chores on the back burner at times. Eventually, you have to deal with it, though. Maintaining a simple schedule for jobs can simplify an overwhelming to-do list. I try to stick to cleaning bathrooms on Mondays, floors on Tuesdays, entryways and dusting on Wednesdays, paying bills and managing other paperwork on Thursdays. I do laundry every day, since I prefer to do those one or two loads over dealing with a mountain of dirty clothes once a week. I also fold and distribute them as soon as they are finished so I can avoid ironing! Planning ahead for meals is a must if you are to avoid the evening despair over what to feed hungry kids, and a slow cooker is the closest thing I have to a hired cook.
Teach your older children to take over some of the work! Let them put the dishes away, even if it is not done “your way.” Give them a chance to burn a casserole so they can make a great one the next time! Show them how to operate the washing machine and dryer, and then let them do their own laundry. Even small children can dust for you. You can even count it all as home economics or life skills as you are training them how to do it!
Perhaps most importantly, learn to say no. If your mouth somehow cannot form the word “no” when someone corners you with a request to head up Vacation Bible School or to bake fifty cupcakes for the bake sale, train yourself to say, “Let me get back to you after I check my schedule.” This at least gives you time to really pray about it and discuss it with your husband. Your primary ministry is your family, and you have to protect the finite energy that God gave you to accomplish it.
Working away from home is a unique challenge for the homeschool mom, but with a little planning ahead and a lot of family support and prayer, you can make it!
Sharon Duncan lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, Tony, and her three awesome children. She is a homeschool veteran of twelve years, as well as a Registered Nurse who works weekends and loves to read, write, sew, and travel. Visit her at http://elephantsfordinner.wordpress.com/.