One of the biggest challenges I face is loneliness. Does that relate to home education? In part, in this current phase of life, yes it does. My life consists of looking after my children, supervising them, guiding them, talking with them, reading to them, doing the basic childcare and babycare activities, and then, when they are asleep at naptime or in the evening, doing things relating to my part-time job or working through other administrative tasks. In between that, I am involved in church, a couple of ladies’ Bible study groups and a Christian organisation relating to my work. There isn’t much time for much else! On a good day, I am really happy with the balance – between the children, my marriage, church and Christian activities and continuing in my career. But at other times, I do feel lonely.
What is it that causes loneliness? Is it being physically isolated? Or is it more to do with feeling misunderstood? For me, I think it is the second. Some of the choices we have made as a family leave us without a clear ‘peer group’; not that that is a reason not to do what you believe to be right, but it can make it difficult to really discuss things and to receive helpful and empathetic responses. For example, if I were to tell many of the young mothers around me that I felt lonely, they would suggest that I should put the boys in nursery or pre-school to free up some ‘me time’. To them, that is the logical and natural solution, and therefore my current feelings are of my own making. You could argue the same for many aspects of the same thing. Professionally, I work less than full time, in order to be able to prioritise my family; therefore I don’t have a peer group there, and often am told, ‘if you would just come back full time’, or ‘when the children are in school and you work full time again....’that things might be different. Similarly, amongst some Christian circles, there can be a feeling that I should not be seeking to work outside the home, and might be told that it is unsurprising that I don’t have much free time if I am choosing to do things which I ought not to do. Does having a peer group matter? AW Tozer said, ‘the masses are always wrong’. I recently heard an inspirational speaker state that ‘true innovators have no peers’; whilst I would hardly describe myself as a true innovator, I found that quotation helpful! What has encouraged me to continue have been some wise ‘older women’ who have been honest with me. They have admitted that their choices did leave them lonely and misunderstood at times, but that they were utterlyconvinced that this was the best wise use of their time (Backlink best use of time). Online resources, in particular blog writers such as Jess at ‘Making Home’ have also helped combat that sense of isolation; a helpful blog post on this very issue is here.
The Bible talks much about friendship. In our ladies’ Bible study this morning, we were discussing those type of friendships where there is true accountability, and true spiritual encouragement. We were talking about how these relationships need to be deliberately sought and nurtured. I asked the question what we should do if we felt we lacked these relationships, and I was told to go and get some; helpful on the one level, but perhaps missing the point and exacerbating my feelings of being misunderstood! How does a homeschooling, part-time working mother of three children aged three and under build relationships? When? Where? Having said that, this Bible study group has been an absolute godsend to me. Most of us have young children, and whilst we work our way through a book of the Bible, guided by an extremely gifted Bible teacher, the children are in an adjacent room having their own structured activities and lessons. It is the only time in my current week when I am not with the boys during their waking hours, and it benefits me and them both greatly. The best part of the Bible discussion is that although it follows a format, there is space for people to raise issues and questions which are directly relevant to their lives at that time; therefore we often go off on a tangent and discuss the real, practical issues of living day to day as Christian woman in our society. It’s great, and through that, I have indeed developed some relationships which are based on a shared desire to know God more.
With like-minded mothers, I have also found that a walk in the park with the children provides the best opportunity for us to talk. The children need our supervision and interaction, but can also spend some time running ahead or exploring just off the path whilst we get some time to talk. With lively boys who love being outside, that is a far better solution than inviting somebody round for coffee and having the children get restless and frustrated. I think it does us all good to be out in the fresh air, and even on the days when we feel least like it, it can be helpful. I can understand why Charlotte Mason put such emphasis on time out of doors for children under the age of six or seven!
I emailed the friend I regard as a mentor about some of the current challenges yesterday, and as always, her counsel was gentle, wise, encouraging and very genuine as she drew from her own experiences and applied her wisdom to what she knows of my family. Not all relationships have to be face to face, and the internet and ability to email round the world can be a great blessing to those who feel isolated. I would encourage you to look at blogs written by those in similar circumstances to yourself; of course all advice must be weighed carefully in the light of Scripture, and you also may not have seen how the blog writer actually functions in ‘real life’, but bearing in mind these limitations it can be helpful. Another friend of mine spoke similarly of writings relating to singleness.
I could dig a lot deeper into the balance between having Christ as our ‘all sufficient one’ yet being humans created for relationship and deliberately placed within a community which is described as a ‘body’ with a perfect inter-relationship between its parts. But today, I’ll stop here. I’d love to know how you respond to feelings of loneliness. Please share!