“I have decided to homeschool. What next? Where shall I start?”
I told you the other day, I can answer this question in one word now. Years ago, I used to run Islamic Parenting classes back in Bradford. I remember once after I finished my talk, a young lady asked me ‘If you had to advise one thing to a young mother, what would it be? What is one piece of advice I would give? I asked myself and struggled to find the right answer. Fast forward a few more years, now that I have been a mother six times and homeschooling for nearly a decade, I know the answer. I know the secret. I know the formula that helps mothers like me to keep their sanity. Not only keep their sanity but it helps them to enrich themselves so they can help their children better. And the answer is this: SELF-LOVE.
Yes, you read that right. Self-love is exactly where you want to start to embark on this long, tiring and yet rewarding journey of motherhood, especially the kind of motherhood that takes 100% responsibility for her children’s learning and education. Now, let me explain what I mean.
Whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not, 70% of who we are as an adult was shaped in our childhood years. We have accumulated a bank of experiences in our subconscious mind that shaped our attitudes as an adult. And we recycle these experiences to navigate us through our relationships in life. When we are dealing with emotional meltdowns, tantrums and rebellious behaviour, we’re recycling our parents’ (or other adults’) reactions or responses we have banked in our subconscious mind as a child.
Whilst I am eternally grateful for my parents raising me the way they did, I also acknowledge that for many of us and all too often our parents didn’t plant the seeds of self-love within us. We have to understand that. We have to understand that our parents did what they could within their means, using the resources available to them at hand. We have to understand that they too had their own limitations and unresolved issues they were going through at times. We have to understand that and accept the Divine Decree for being content with your past whilst acknowledging the work you have to do ahead is the first step towards understanding your SELF-WORTH.
Ultimately, it is Allah who chose to bring me into this world through my parents. I am grateful to be born and I’m grateful for all my past experiences for they shaped me into who I am today. So, whilst I am grateful for my parents and childhood experiences, I also acknowledge that I had to undo somethings that I picked up as a child. I am talking about things like not recognizing my own value, doubting myself, shaming myself, accumulating feelings of guilt and putting my own needs last. And we- as mothers- are especially good at this- putting our needs after everyone else’s.
You see, when you become a mother, it’s so easy to lose yourself into motherhood. Your days start revolving around the needs of your children. Your interests start revolving around the interests of your children. You have to be available 24/7. Feeding, changing nappies, washing poo off bottoms, cooking and cleaning around the clock, and the list is never-ending. Things that were not even considered things become BIG THINGS. I am talking about being able to go to the bathroom as and when you please and having a moment of peace in there. At times, it seems like you have no life of your own. Add on top of that the responsibility of educating your children at home, the burden is real. As such, it’s so easy to lose yourself into motherhood and at some point have a nervous breakdown. You see, when we burn out, we are very good at masking our pain to the outside world. When we are on the verge of a nervous breakdown, we still keep up the pretence with the outside world. But the real pain hurts us and it hurts those closest to us. We don’t break down at work, in front of our boss or a neighbour’s party. We break down behind the closed doors hurting those who are closest to us. So, my dear sister, the only way to handle the challenges laying ahead of your journey is by instilling SELF-LOVE within yourself so you can avoid burn out or at least handle it the right way.
We have often heard the term ‘You can’t give from an empty cup’. Boy, how true is this when it comes to motherhood, parenting, and homeschooling. If our own emotional tank is empty- how can we spread joy and happiness around our household?
So, what exactly does self-love mean? It means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness. It means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others. It means saying NO without hesitation to people and things in your life that don’t serve the purpose of moving you upwards and onwards. It means allowing yourself to make mistakes instead of accumulating a sense of guilt. It means giving up harshly judging or punishing yourself for every mistake you make. It means being gentle and accepting of yourself. It’s only then when you accept your raw, authentic and vulnerable self, you start the journey of growth.
Now, for some people, this may sound selfish and strange. No, self-love isn’t about being self-absorbed and narcissistic. It’s about getting in touch with your own self, your own well-being, your own happiness, your own goals, and dreams. It’s about not losing yourself into motherhood. It’s about having a moment of quiet to reflect and pushing through your own limiting thoughts and beliefs. Because it’s only then we can live a life that truly helps us to grow as a person so we can help our little ones to grow too.
So you have decided to homeschool. And you are asking me what to do next. My answer is – change your mindset. Increase your sense of SELF. Recognize your own value in the world for you are very special. There is no other person in this entire world who looks or thinks exactly like you. None can serve your family and children better than YOU. You are in their life and they are in your life for a PURPOSE. Allah chose YOU for them, and them for YOU. Stop being harsh with yourself. As we recycle our childhood experiences, at times we find ourselves dealing with situations in a not very desirable way. We find ourselves shouting, screaming, yelling and taking out our anger or frustration in a way that we later end up regretting. It’s ok, you are on a journey. Everyone makes mistakes and this is how we learn. Accumulating a sense of guilt is counterproductive. The guilt keeps you stuck in the same situation whereas being gentle with yourself enables you to move forward. Forgive yourself and maintain your own hobbies, interests and goals.
So my dear sisters, regardless of whether you homeschool or not, here is my one piece of advice to all mothers- LOVE YOURSELF and love yourself more for it is only then we can manage the stress of motherhood and parenting and LOVE our children unconditionally.
Stay tuned for more practical tips on how to better self-care so you can continue to discover new ways to grow.