My name is Heather, and I am a recovering workaholic.
The dictionary definition of a workaholic is a person who works compulsively at the expense of other pursuits. For myself, change the word “pursuits” to people. Ouch.
It is only in the past year that I realized that it is possible to be a workaholic homemaker. It has taken several health crashes to recognize that I am being sent a huge message that I have got to make changes in myself. I’ve done some interesting reading that has helped me learn some skills to help me in my recovery.
I gleaned this idea from the book Margin by Dr. Richard Swenson. He says that the healthiest lifestyle has 4 gears:
1. Park - This is for rest and renewal. He later says that we need three kinds of rest - physical, emotional and spiritual.2. Low - This is the gear for relationships. It is for family and friends. No hurrying, just quality time. 3. Drive - The usual gear for work and play - it uses a lot of energy and feels productive. That productive feeling has been my drug.4. Overdrive - Useful when you have a deadline looming or are trying to hurry out the door. Meant for using in short bursts.
The analogy of my energy shifting gears like a car just didn’t really sit well in my mind. For one, I never learned how to drive a stick. The two occasions it was attempted were an Epic Disaster, admittedly due to my lack of patience. I hated riding a bike where you shift gears. I much prefer a single speed. Hmmm… this is pointing to the root of the problem isn’t it!?
I hashed it out in my mind, and I think a mixer is a much closer comparison.
- Park - Still for rest and renewal. We still need physical, emotional and spiritual rest and we need it daily.
- Low - This is where you knead bread. And really, we must recognize that we live in human bodies and we aren’t machines. We can’t plug ourselves into an unending energy source. We knead by hand. Slowly turning and rolling, and soaking in the sensory experience of the smooth, oily dough. It can be a sticky business, but it is worth the effort. This is the gear I had lost and am trying to find once more. The completely radical thought that occurred to me is that this is the gear where I need to homeschool my children, not the next gear (Drive). Because children don’t enjoy being driven. No one does, actually.
- Drive - This is where you whip egg whites. You beat up a big bubbly froth and you see fast results. But those lovely fluffy clouds are delicate. Over whipping them brings disaster. Actually, reading Rachael Ray’s advice on whipping egg whites is just a little too ironic - “You’ll know if you have over-beaten your whites if the mixture starts to break down and if there is liquid weeping.” Ahem. If there is weeping, you are over-beating yourself and those around you. And finally, just remember that you can only sustain this level of energy for a certain period of time before your arms starts getting sore and you need to rest.
- Pulse - If you hold down the pulse button for too long, you will burn out. Short bursts only. Then rest or slip into low. This gear is useful because we still need to get our family out the door, and with little ones, it can feel like herding cats. But personally, I need to structure my life to avoid this gear if at all possible.
Hear the cautionary tale of a person that has burned out her mixer on more than one occasion.
A second book that I read on the subject is Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie. If you are a Christ-loving-type A-homeschooling mother, this book is written for you!
I feel embarrassed to admit that these are the words I needed to hear, but I don’t think I am the only one - “Relationships don’t flourish or or grow with maximum productivity. Relationships need time, spent lavishly. Homeschooling is all about relationships and relationships aren’t efficient.” I would add, relationships need time spend in low gear - kneading slowly and patiently. Time just being, without thinking of the work we need to accomplish. “Teaching from rest means doing one thing at a time, and we do that thing with all our heart.”
Dovetailing with that thought, this one that stepped on my toes regarding multitasking - “It’s a lack of focus… a refusal to seek out the important things.”
But about 90% of the book, perhaps more, is building up! There is hope! We can learn and grow! She reminds us, “You are insufficient, His grace is not.” Also, “I suspect that all of our attempts to teach from rest are futile unless prayer is the cornerstone. We’ve got to start there.”
Thankfully, God is eager to give grace, mercy, hope, and wisdom to those that seek Him with all of their heart.
I’ve started composing a companion article that details some of the practical things we are doing to stay in Low Gear while homeschooling. I hope to have it posted in the next week and pray that these thoughts can be encouraging as we all seek to grow in Him.