This was my day today.
Woke up at 9:00am. At 9:15 got a phone call from our friends with whom we had made plans to go to the amusement park in Central Park. They thought it might be too hot for the park. Thus ensued almost 90 minutes of wrangling and drama, both in my house and theirs, after which time it was decided that we would brave the heat and go as planned.
We arrived at the amusement park at 11:30. Happily there was a cool breeze. Kristin and I sat on a shady bench while the kids rode the rides until just after 2pm. By that time the heat had set in and the kids were ready to cool off at nearby Heckscher Playground. Kristin and I moved from a shady bench in the amusement park to a shady spot in the playground while the kids ran around in the sprinklers.
At 4pm we headed home, cooled off, had dinner out with Joshua at our new favorite restaurant and returned to play several rounds of MarioKart Wii before the kids got ready for bed at 9:30pm.
Now, this might sound like a mostly relaxing day apart from the morning drama, but it takes a kind of…patience is not the right word – maybe ‘zen-like spirit’ is more accurate – to spend many, many hours of most of your days accompanying your children on outings that are designed around them and at which you are mostly a bystander, there only to provide supervision, food, and comfort if necessary. It is not very exciting, or mentally stimulating or productive. The chores at home do not get done, nothing creative like writing or sewing is accomplished. It’s easy to see how some feminists both past and present have viewed motherhood as something akin to slavery at worst, indentured servitude at best, and drudgery always.
But thinking about it this way does everyone involved a disservice. In my case, I waited to have kids until I was ready to commit to spending my days with them. Still, I remember after Maya was born how difficult it was for the first month or so to be ‘out of the loop’ of our business. Suddenly I didn’t know what was going on with our customers or employees, and the feeling was very much a kind of withdrawal. I think all women who’ve been employed probably go through this feeling, and some of them never give themselves time to adjust, instead hiring a nanny and going back to work. (That’s not the only reason people have nannies, I know…)
After a while my brain adjusted – that’s really how I saw it – and it was no longer difficult to be at home. It was a pleasure. Not every minute, of course. There were and still are days when I think I might be losing my mind, or my brain is atrophying from too many hours spent sitting at a playground, but then I remind myself that this is my chosen path, and it is a short one at that. The kids will grow up and be on their own in the blink of an eye and I wouldn’t change the interim for anything.
Barring some unforeseen circumstance, we will be life learners always. There are no plans in our family to send the kids to school for middle or high school. And while I know that there are many families for whom homeschooling is a temporary situation, I’m always surprised when I hear that my friends plan to send their kids to school at some point. Not saying anything against that decision because each family must do what is best for them. For us, I think school would disrupt the rhythms that have developed organically for the last 11 years. I feel like life learning chose us, in a way. We were more suited to it than we even knew, and when we went from homeschooling to unschooling it was like finally finding clothes that fit; we were relieved and invigorated at the same time.
So this is our chosen path. For the kids it means days spent playing as much as they want, learning what they want when they want. For me it means being along for the ride, facilitating their interests and watching them grow while learning to maintain and foster my own interests at the same time. It’s not always easy. Some days the balance swings too far in one direction and I lose it a little. But so far we’ve always found our way back to equilibrium.
I hope that never changes.