A friend who's new and fresh to the world of homeschooling sent me an email a couple weeks ago. It contained those words, so familiar to mothers of every kindred, tribe and nation:
"I wonder whether I'm doing enough with my children."
I'm not even going to bother calling for a show of hands.
The thing is, my immediate impulse was to fire off the following reply, and I probably did: "Of COURSE you are. Look how happy they are! Look at the books you're reading with them! Look at the time they're spending with their family! Look at the outside time they're getting! And they're getting way more personal attention than they did in their old classroom anyway!"
I had to laugh at myself, though. Because the very next day, I said to a friend, "I wonder whether I'm doing enough with my children."
Why is it that we're so full of confidence in those dear to us? We believe the best in them. We offer grace and comfort and optimism. But when it comes to ourselves? We're like the cranky schoolmistress who prowls about with ruler in hand, ready to rap someone's knuckles.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever gleaned as a new mom was this: When you're feeling stretched beyond your limit, or down on yourself, ask yourself this: "What if a friend came to me and poured out the same problems I'm having right now ...
'I feel overwhelmed by new motherhood,' or
'I can't seem to keep the house clean and organized,' or
'It's been hard to find friends when I can barely get out of the house,' or
'My child is barely crawling ... and the neighbor's child is practically walking already'?
Not to mention ... "My thighs are huge." "I'm so flat-chested." "My hair is too straight." "My hair is too curly." You know the litany we all entertain.
What would I say to that friend?"
Chances are, not a single one of us would say, "Yeah, you DO have problems. Get it together, girl!"
Isn't it more likely that we'd offer up ...
"Hey, don't be so down on yourself. You have a lot to juggle, and you're doing the best you can. And don't be afraid to ask for help!"
"You'll find friends before you know it. You're lots of fun to be with!"
"Your child is so good at x,y,z. Don't compare him to other kids. He'll blossom in good time, and you're doing a great job with him!"
"What??? I think you're beautiful!"
So, why not fire the cranky schoolmistress and replace her with the voice of your best and wisest friend?
It's a rough world out there ... and in here. I'm thinking we could all use the extra dose of tenderness.