I never wanted to be the kind of mom that loses her temper or sounds irritable around her children. In fact, I did not even think I had it in me. Having grown up with an extremely patient mom and an emotionally steady father sort of made me believe I would genetically end up the same way. However, this has been far from true. There have been times when I have expressed irritation toward my kids and God showed me that there is absolutely nothing good in me. None of us can inherit being controlled by the Holy Spirit by osmosis. It is a conscious choice and effort that we must make every single day – walking by the Spirit.
But it is not just about walking by the Spirit. We all need to come up with a game plan for the responsibilities and roles we have to juggle. Each of our circumstances warrants a different “tactical” approach to managing stress. For example, one mother’s stress of homeschooling and meeting the demands of a part-time job is unlike the stress of a mother who is homeschooling a high school student and has forgotten everything she used to know about physics and advanced mathematics! In my case, it is the stress of raising four young children, homeschooling, , discipling a group of ladies, giving seminars and talks, ministry activities, running the household, and most importantly, being a helpmate to my husband.
Even though each of our situations as moms may be unique, I’m sure you can all relate to the fact that we have a long list of responsibilities and roles that we cannot run away from fulfilling. And when all these responsibilities and roles collide at the same time, it can be overwhelming, to say the least! This is when emotions start to heighten and if we are not careful, we can turn into our very human selves – the kind of moms that are stressed out and stressing everyone else out
But here is the good news. Just as stress can be triggered by our surroundings, the pressures, and the burdens we have to bear, stress can also be avoided. While I am not an expert at stress management by any measure, having four kids has necessitated the need for me to come up with tactical measures so that I can be a better mom, better wife, and better servant of the Lord. I believe that one of the Devil’s strategies is to make us feel like we are a slave to our personalities, that we cannot change, that our circumstances are really too much to bear. But I also believe that God does not want us to live a defeatist life. He wants us to experience the abundant life as he says in John 10:10.
I would like to share with you simple stress avoidance tactics that have worked for me and hopefully, you can take what applies to your situation and make it work for you, too.
Tip # 1: As often as possible, sleep early and wake up early. If you find yourself rushing into the activities of the day, give yourself some extra time every morning by waking up earlier. But the key is to sleep early so you are well rested. My doctor friend suggested no later than 11 PM because your body repairs itself between that time and 2 AM. Also, studies show that sleeping well keeps you from gaining weight! Do you know that you will die sooner without sleep than without food? You can’t go 10 days without sleeping!
Tip # 2: Re-charge your battery. Personally, I get recharged by alone time. Even though this may not seem possible with so many children, it is! I have a little strategy for this. After breakfast (which ends by 8 AM), the kids shower, brush their teeth, and play together. They know that by 9 AM we start homeschooling. So before then, I go to my room and have alone time to read my Bible, take a nice shower, read or write. Sometimes, I even get to take a short nap! Since the kids are busy playing, reading their Bibles or practicing violin, I don’t need to entertain them. This time allows me to charge up my battery for the day. In the afternoons, I also encourage my kids to nap. Two of them are past the napping age, but it can’t hurt to let them get at least an hour of quiet and rest. Besides, I treasure my afternoon peace!
Re-charging your battery is about doing activities that energize you. Some moms need to be with other moms. Others need their cup of coffee, the parlor, or some shopping once in a while. Whatever it is, make time for activities that you enjoy doing (as long as they aren’t excessive or immoral!). Homeschool moms don’t have to be haggard-looking or 10 years old than their age!
Of course the best way to re-charge is to rest in God’s presence. If you have time to, please read A Life of Rest, A Life of No Limits and Psalm 27.
Tip # 3: Get fit and fabulous with your husband and kids. In the past, pregnancy and breastfeeding gave me excuses to give myself “treats.” But these treats did not contribute anything good to my life. In fact, before I started exercising again, I had 33% body fat! Even though I didn’t gain a lot of weight during my pregnancy, all the junk happily became fatty tissue in my body. Ugh! Yuck!
Edric and I finally got into an exercise routine. We would run three times a week. We still do this. Honestly, I don’t like running, but Edric motivates me because he is so disciplined about it. And I have seen the benefits of exercise. My mind is clearer. My energy levels are higher. I also have greater self-discipline.
The apostle Paul saw the connection between physical fitness and spiritual fitness. Physical discipline helped him to stay spiritually focused and faithful.
1 Corinthians 9:26-27 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
Family fitness is easier to do when there is like-mindedness and accountability between you and your spouse. Imagine a household where one spouse wants to eat all the lechon, chicharon, chocolate, spam and where the other one wants to be organic and vegetarian. (And, no, we aren’t vegetarian. We are somewhere in between!) It just won’t work. So decide on a fitness routine and meal plan that you can do together as a family. And please don’t tempt yourself by buying junk food and sweets for the kids. If it’s in the house, it’s too accessible!
Tip # 4: Train your kids to be self-directed and independent learners. It helps alot that my two older sons are reading well. My second is still on his way to becoming an excellent reader, but I don’t have to mirco-manage him all the time. They both have pretty good comprehension, too. Because of this, I can assign them tasks and they can do quite a bit of work on their own.
Raising children who love reading begins with us, as parents. Reading with your kids, letting them see you reading, and making reading fun are ways to get your kids on the path to reading on their own. Of course, using a solid phonics program for pre-schoolers helps alot, too.
Tip # 5: Don’t be pushy. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t encourage hard work in our kids, but as an example, I won’t force Elijah to write a paragraph or story on a day when he has already done a lot of writing for other subjects. Why? I don’t want to kill the joy of learning in my kids. That is a higher value for me than finishing an assignment. Besides, he can write the paragraph later in the afternoon or the next day. Homeschooling gives us a lot of time to make up work that isn’t finished. That’s one of the things I love about it. And I absolutely refuse to be hostage to the daily lesson plan dictated by a curriculum. As homeschooling moms, we can set the end goals and make adjustments to the process. However, as a safeguard measure, interact and dialogue with your kids alot to find out if they are retaining information they learn. Can they answer your questions and formulate judgments and conclusions about what they are learning? This is important.
Tip # 6: Make homeschooling a lifestyle. A whole lot of learning happens when my kids are playing together, interacting with each other and others, exploring, inventing, reading independently, practicing music and piano, exercising, and accompanying us on trips, errands and various activities. Instruction time is about 2 to 3 hours, but learning doesn’t have to start and end during that period of the day. Class periods have programmed us to believe that education happens inside a classroom. But education can have so much more depth and dimension to it. Once a parent understands that homeschooling is a lifestyle of learning (and that children are learning all the time), the academic pressure eases.
I remember an occasion when our sons were watching a performance of students on stage. We were seated on the balcony and could see all the little heads bobbing up and down as the children danced and sang. Our kindergarten-aged, Edan, said, “There are 67 people on the stage.” I turned to look at my husband, Edric, for two reasons. One, I was surprised that Edan bothered to count everyone. And two, I was hoping Edric would verify if his counting was accurate. Well, it was. This pleasantly surprised me. This was math applied to real life. Do we do alot of counting drills at home? Not really. But we do play a lot of board games that require him to count and add up his points.
Tip # 7: Smile and laugh often. This may sound like silly advice, but it has helped me to be positive with my own kids. Learning should be fun! If I can’t smile or laugh while teaching, then something is wrong. I’m too uptight, not spirit-filled, or too focused on my goals. I am not enjoying the process. And if I am not enjoying the process, how can I possibly expect my kids to either?
Tip # 8: Be purposeful. When I was younger, I would easily say yes to speaking engagements and ministry activities. I would also take on projects thoughtlessly. It wasn’t until I attended a talk by Wayne Cordeiro that I learned the principle of the 5%. 95% of the things we do, others can do. Meaning, these are not my priorities. But there is the 5% that only I can do. Growing spiritually, being a wife, a mom, homeschooling, discipling the ladies I meet with, homemaking…These are part of my 5%. No one else can do these things for me. Everything else is second in importance.
Matthew 25 is a good reminder that we are all given a stewardship. God has not entrusted to us everything, but he has entrusted to us certain things. He expects us be faithful with these certain things. To Joy Mendoza he has entrusted the role of a wife, motherhood, homeschooling, and the mentoring of other women.
14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16 Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves *came and *settled accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
22 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
When people ask me questions like, “Can you speak for this event. It’s for single ladies and the topic is relationships?”, it’s much easier for me to say, “I’m sorry. Thank you for considering me but I cannot commit to speak for your event.” Before, I would feel pressured to say yes. And then I realized, wait a second! There are so many women out there who can speak on this topic, who have more time to prepare for it and who can do a better job than I can! Saying no to opportunities or activities that are not part of my 5% has helped me to say yes to God’s calling and purpose for my life and devote my energies to the right priorities. Furthermore, Edric helps me determine what’s important. I channel schedule decisions through him so I get his input and seal of approval.
I am not only accountable for my preoccupations, I am also accountable my time. As much as possible, I refrain from scheduling appointments or doing errands before 12 Noon. Weekday mornings are devoted to homeschooling. It’s my job. When I make compromises with my morning schedule, the homeschooling work piles up for me and the kids. This can get stressful. But if I safeguard my weekday mornings, the kids and I are able to finish our goals by the end of the year.