Single Parenting (sort of) and Unschooling - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 13 Old 04-12-2010, 09:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not actually a single parent. I am married and my dh works and I stay home with the kids. The thing is that my dh is in the military and is gone A LOT. Just in the past 2 years and 8 or 10 months he's been away from home for 2 years and I've been on my own as the only parent in the home. I have 3 boys. One is an adult, 19, living at home, dabbling in community college classes and trying to get a job. The other 2 are 6 years and 2 years old. I feel so tired and overwhelmed every day that I can't even think about doing anything extra.

I spend my days just trying to get daily necessities done like feeding my boys, keeping the house clean enough that it is safe and can be used (it's never really clean which I feel a lot of stress about), making sure we have clean clothes. Trying to take the boys out to do anything else is so exhausting for me that I don't enjoy myself. Recently we went to northern Virginia to visit my mother. While there I thought it would be fun to take the boys into DC. None of us had a good time.

I'm wondering if it's possible to unschool when you are the only parent available. Having to be engaged with my kids so much when I also have to do all the other stuff needed to take care of their needs and our home is just too much for me. Are there other single parents of multiple kids out there doing this? Maybe it's just me. Maybe I just can't handle it.

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#2 of 13 Old 04-13-2010, 02:11 AM
 
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Sorry, I haven't BTDT, but I wanted to drop in to say , MarineWife. Sounds like a rough situation.

Learning & growing & changing everyday!
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#3 of 13 Old 04-13-2010, 09:14 AM
 
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I'm not sure that not unschooling would make things easier. My experience with ds being in school was that it was much harder and more stressful getting him up, fed, and out the door on a schedule. Of course, my ds isn't exactly easy going... Then there was all the help he needed to process all the things that bothered him that happened at school. It was very draining for me.

Your younger guys are still so young, only one hardly even school aged. I just have the one ds but he was pretty intense, especially at age 4. He is SO much easier now (he's 8). He's doesn't need as much help. And he doesn't make huge messes like when he was 2.

But you certainly need a break! Are there any other ways you can get one? Any extra $ for hiring an occasional cleaner? Babysitter? Can your 19 take the little ones to a playground for an hour or two once a week? Maybe a mother's helper... The couple of times an older neighbor child (maybe 11 or 12) came and played with ds at home was great because he was home having fun and I could get a few things done.

My main focus when ds was younger and I was looking forward to sending him to school so I'd get a break was getting enough sleep. I didn't always manage but sleep was a priority that helped keep me on an even keel. Then, I'd take ds to a playground or for a walk if the house was too depressing. I'd feel better for getting out of the house and getting some sun and exercise. Take care of yourself! Don't have huge expectations of having a clean house and doing tons of wonderful activities with your guys. They are still very young and it will get easier.

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#4 of 13 Old 04-13-2010, 11:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks guys. It's good to know there are others who understand how I feel.

I don't have any intentions of sending my boys to school. Just the thought is too scary for me. Plus, I know things would be difficult in other ways if we had to follow someone else's schedule.

I've been wondering a lot about how much I should be doing with my boys at this point. I'm not worried about the 2yo not getting enough exposure to things except that I'm not always up for even going out in the yard with him. Luckily, most days my 19yo and his friends are here skateboarding at some point so my 2yo can get outside with them.

Mainly, I'm worried that I'm not doing enough with my 6yo. He is not even school-age yet. School isn't compulsory here until 7 and, if he did go to school, he'd only be in kindergarten this year. I guess the thing that's getting to me is when I go on homeschooling and unschooling emails lists and groups and everyone is talking about all the things they get out and do with their kids. I rarely do any of the things others are doing. I can barely make it through the day. So I've been wondering how important it is at 6yo that the child be exposed to things like museums, historical sites, community fairs/festivals.

I did read a post from someone on an unschooling email list recently that before the age of 8, most kids are fine just playing and hanging out. Maybe I'm getting ahead of my kids? I do that sometimes. Expecting them to do more than they can or want. I don't expect my 6yo to be reading or writing or building elaborate machines or science experiments or anything like that. I just worry that I'm not getting him out to see more and do more outside of our home and our people. KWIM?

We have no extra money right now. If it weren't for our tax refunds, I don't think we' be able to pay all of our living expenses right now. We have to pay for 2 households right now. My dh was sent to a training class that lasts long enough that it's considered a permanent change of station rather than just temporary duty. That means that the military expected the entire family to move away for about 6 months just to move back here again. My dh doesn't get any extra family separation pay or a per diem for food and rent. Since we chose not go to it's up to us to pay for everything. All of that really adds to my stress. I haven't had to worry about money like this for probably 7 or 8 years.

My 19yo does help sometimes with some things but he also adds to my stress a lot. He did the grocery shopping for me this week. He and his friends do help me clean sometimes when I ask. He does watch the LOs if I have to run errands. He's not attentive enough to take the LOs to the park for a while. There's no way I would let him drive them anywhere! He likes to cook in the middle of the night and leaves a mess all over the kitchen even after I've asked him several times to clean up after himself. I heard him going in and out of the house in the middle of the night last night. I don't think he got home to stay until around 3 am. He's involved with some people and into some things that I don't like, that I think are interfering with his chances to be independent and successful right now. He was with a friend last night that I really don't like and I can imagine what they were doing.

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#5 of 13 Old 04-13-2010, 02:18 PM
 
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I did read a post from someone on an unschooling email list recently that before the age of 8, most kids are fine just playing and hanging out.
I do think that is basically true, especially if ds isn't asking for something. My guy does happen to love interactive science museums so I was taking him to those at that age. But he was an only and bored. I can see that now that he is 8, he is ready to handle structured activities so much more. He still doesn't like them, though.

Depending on how I spin things, it can sound like we do tons of great things. But the reality is most days ds plays a lot of video games. We spend a lot of time taking dh to appointments (physical therapy 3x/week because of a broken bone). That might sound enriching and in some ways it is educational but we're mostly driving and killing time...

Mom to unschooling 4everboy since 8/01
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#6 of 13 Old 04-13-2010, 03:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I do think that is basically true, especially if ds isn't asking for something. My guy does happen to love interactive science museums so I was taking him to those at that age. But he was an only and bored. I can see that now that he is 8, he is ready to handle structured activities so much more. He still doesn't like them, though.
I'm not a big fan of structured activities, either. While I was pg and ds2 was 3-4 he was in a dance class. After awhile he decided he didn't want to go anymore because it was too loud and busy. When dh is home we have lots of fun going to aquariums and museums and festivals or wandering around and exploring different cities/towns/places. That's not really structured, though. We go when we want, see and do what we want in a relaxed way and leave when we're done. I just can't seem to do it on my own. Even something as simple as taking them to the beach is exhausting for me.

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#7 of 13 Old 04-13-2010, 06:10 PM
 
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Just want to send you hugs cuz sometimes as I'm dying for DH to walk through the door after another looooong day, I wonder how on earth military families manage? You're not alone long enough for it to just simply be life and adapt, but you're alone enough for it to get really wearing.

I try and spend as much time as possible outside (easy to clean, less necessity for saying no = happier everyone). I've got a few standby tricks under my belt (homemade playdough, bubble formula, goop with cornstarch & h20, baking soda and vinegar) that can break up a long afternoon and am aways on the lookout for more. National Geographic kids has some really easy science experiments that you can set up in a minute with regular kitchen stuff and clear instructions. I think my kids would be fine without this stuff, but it is pretty fun and relieves any latent guilt about doing nothing.
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#8 of 13 Old 04-15-2010, 05:05 PM
 
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Army wife here. I know there are days everything falls apart, and that's okay. Do you make a point to read to your boys? Do they have imagination building toys? Then you're doing fine. Trips to the museum, or get-togethers with other homeschoolers can do wonders for *your* sanity though. We don't have much of a homeschool community here, but the community services playgroup ended up being a lifesavers this last deployment!!
Oh, and let the laundry sit...I promise I won't tell.

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#9 of 13 Old 04-15-2010, 08:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Army wife here. I know there are days everything falls apart, and that's okay. Do you make a point to read to your boys? Do they have imagination building toys? Then you're doing fine. Trips to the museum, or get-togethers with other homeschoolers can do wonders for *your* sanity though. We don't have much of a homeschool community here, but the community services playgroup ended up being a lifesavers this last deployment!!
Oh, and let the laundry sit...I promise I won't tell.
Thanks. I'm not a clean freak, believe me! I get the bare minimum done for us to have a safe home. I can only let the laundry sit for so long, though. We run out of clean clothes and I'm the only parent available to do it. Some of it has to get done sometime.

I'm not a group person. I don't enjoy being around a lot of people (adults) often. Whenever I do get together with other adults or families I need several days to recover. Playgroups, whether homeschool or other, are just not helpful for me. My kids might enjoy them but I can't do them too often.

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#10 of 13 Old 04-16-2010, 02:07 PM
 
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I'm not sure that I can offer anything in the way of help but I can certainly offer support and a knowledge of the difficulties of single parenting with an unschooling homestyle.

I have four children, 7 months to 10 years old, and I am continuing to unschool the brood while we all recover from the sudden death of our husband and father a year ago.

I understand the sheer exhausting magnitude of labor required to keep sole care of the children and home. It is daunting at best. I've considered schooling them after the suggestion of a dear schooling friend but I realized that I would not decrease the workload at all. I may even increase it with the addition of school schedules and time requirements.

I currently find it difficult to keep up with the basics (food, dishes, laundry, child safety, infant care) and forget to work snuggle and enrichment time into the schedule. It is so easy to put my nose to the grindstone and work hard all.day.long with the baby strapped to my back. It isn't working so well. At the end of the day, I'm exhausted, the house isn't grateful for the attention, the list still isn't done and I forgot to play and explore.
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#11 of 13 Old 04-16-2010, 02:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am so sorry for your loss. That is something that is always in the back of my mind. Even when my dh isn't deployed to a war zone he still does dangerous things on a regular basis for his job. I don't know what I would do if he were suddenly gone.

You hit it right on the nose, too. It's so hard to get the snuggly and family-doing-things-together time in when all the other stuff is weighing on me with the knowing that there's no one to help me. I realize I've been negative toward some of the responses here, which I don't mean to be. I'm just trying to be open and honest about how I feel. I do feel better just getting this off my chest. That works for me a lot of time. If I can tell someone who isn't going to give me advice on how to do things differently/better (like my dh, who I know means well and is just trying to help), I find myself more able to do more things.

An example, my 6yo has recently expressed an interest in playing games. We can't seem to have fun with that, though, because the 2yo wants to get in the mix but he just gets in the way of it all because he's too young to understand how to play and his attention span isn't such that he can sit and watch, even when we make up our own game rather than following the rules. He doesn't take naps most of the time anymore and there's no one to distract/play with him while I do something with my 6yo. I feel like my 6yo is suffering because of this and I don't know what to do about it.

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#12 of 13 Old 04-16-2010, 02:36 PM
 
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You can't really prepare yourself for the death of your spouse. I know it must be a low level anxiety for you pretty much all of the time. Other than keeping our debt low, living life authentically, and carrying life insurance on both of us, I never considered it likely that he would die suddenly. Ironically, it is my BIL who is the Major in the Army, my husband was a computer guy.

I don't know anyone else with similar time constraint issues, though, so maybe we can brainstorm a bit together along with some venting.

Currently, I need to be more mindful of joining the children in their activities and I need to hire help. I keep trying to be frugal and do it all myself but the reality is that no amount of saving for a future is going to ensure any sort of life for us. It is all so random with so much potential for pleasure and pain and being careful and close with my money isn't going to guarantee me any sort of life. After reading your thread, I called a housepainter--because, really, I'll never do it myself in the next 5 years. I may call a housecleaner, too. Do you think your 19 yo can be negotiated with for help? And maybe an able-bodied friend? If cash is short, maybe transportation favors or baked treats?

It is so hard to find the time for individual attention for the children. I understand that. When I do get some baby-free time, I am just as desperate for time for myself as the the children are for one on one attention.

Nothing is smooth when you are it for the family.
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#13 of 13 Old 04-16-2010, 08:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I keep trying to be frugal and do it all myself but the reality is that no amount of saving for a future is going to ensure any sort of life for us. It is all so random with so much potential for pleasure and pain and being careful and close with my money isn't going to guarantee me any sort of life. After reading your thread, I called a housepainter--because, really, I'll never do it myself in the next 5 years. I may call a housecleaner, too.
This is it, isn't it? There's no amount of preparing for the future that can guarantee anything and it's not worth it if it takes away from the joy of the present. The present is all we have.

I hired a mother's helper, a cleaning service and a lawn service while my dh was deployed and was getting all the extra pay that goes with that. All of that was very helpful. I couldn't afford weekly cleaning but I could get monthly. I was amazed at the difference it made. I had at least one day a month when my entire house was clean at once. If you can get even one of those services, a mother's helper or cleaning service especially, it would probably lift a big load off of you. That's more important than any amount of money you might save by doing it yourself.

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Do you think your 19 yo can be negotiated with for help? And maybe an able-bodied friend? If cash is short, maybe transportation favors or baked treats?
My 19yo does help with some things. He'll do the lawn care this season and he helps clean the house most times when I ask. He actually asked the younger boys not to strew the Legos all over the room again because it makes it harder for him to clean up. He's having a hard time himself now. He feels the pressure to be an adult but can't find a job. He's been trying his hand at community college but his first semester didn't go well. He got dropped from all of his classes. He says he is serious about it and wants to try again so, hopefully, he'll take 2 classes over the summer. He was not unschooled so has all the issues of a schooled/conventionally parented young adult.

My next door neighbor has offered to help me a few times. Her 6yo ds is my 6yo ds' best friend so they play together almost every day. Sometimes both my LOs go to her house to play. I haven't taken her up on her offer because I don't even know where I'd begin. Also, sometimes I'm embarrassed about the state of my home even though she's not judgmental in the least. She came over one morning to exercise with me and when she saw my kitchen she said she'd cry with me. It was so depressing. My 19yo makes messes during the night and doesn't clean up. Almost every morning I wake to a kitchen that is such a mess it can't be used until it's cleaned. I let a lot of the house go just so I can get the main parts clean enough that we can use them.

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It is so hard to find the time for individual attention for the children. I understand that. When I do get some baby-free time, I am just as desperate for time for myself as the the children are for one on one attention.

Nothing is smooth when you are it for the family.
I used to feel like that when my youngest was a baby. When he took naps I still had a hard time doing uninterrupted fun stuff with my middle child because I needed that time for myself, too. It was the only time I got when I didn't have a LO constantly needing me, on me, touching me. He doesn't take naps anymore and still nurses but nursing him is hard because I feel so overtouched.

When my 6yo said he wanted to have a picnic today I decided I'd do it no matter how I felt. I made lunch and we went to the park at 3:45 in the afternoon. Every time I started to get stressed about the time I consciously reminded myself that we are not on a schedule. We can have a picnic at the park any time we want. The time doesn't matter. It was a lot of fun. I pushed the boys on the swing and even swung myself a little. For me, I have to just decide that I am going to focus on them no matter what. Talking about that here has helped me get back to that. I appreciate that so much.

knit.gifSAHM to 3 boys and 1 man; 22 jammin.gif, 9REPlaySkateboard04HL.gif, 5 FIREdevil.gifand now 1 year oldtoddler.gif!

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