We have six kids, 4 boys and 2 girls. When people discover that we often get some version of the question:
“How do you do it?”
This question comes with a lot of assumptions. Assumptions about what is a good mom, what is a good family life, what is a good income, and on and on.
Honestly, I think the American cultural standard for being a “good mom” is ridiculously high and mostly unattainable for mothers. Really, this unattainable cultural standard is also true for many other Western cultures or cultures that for whatever reasons feel pressure to emulate or romanticize Western culture. American culture echoes throughout the world, the good and the bad, and the “ideal American mother” standard is no different.
There seems to be an insane expectation to have the perfect tool for every possible circumstance. However, then you have to also be extremely tidy about all of those items you have accumulated for every circumstance, all of that stuff. This is so you look like you don’t have a lot of stuff. But you do, of course, have all the “essential” stuff you “must” have for your kids that any “good mom” would have. Then you’re also expected to be hyper-vigilant, watching your children closely while you clean up all the messes from them getting into all the stuff you need to own. You also need to make sure your house is large enough to hold all that stuff you “need” to have. You’re also supposed to feed your family a diet with ingredients that are largely only available from niche, expensive markets in the US. But don’t go into debt while buying all that stuff you’re supposed to have or those expensive ingredients or making sure your house is large enough so that every kid has their own room. Just balance it all perfectly, ok.
Now, I’m not trying to disparage any of those practices individually, but the idea that we, as mothers, have to be the panacea of perfect in all areas of life to be considered a “good mom” is a crazy, cultural lie.
I’m not having it.
Mothers, give yourself a healthy dose of self compassion. You’re a good mom. You’re doing right by your kids. It is possible to have a large family, unschool your children, and be happy with your life.
One of the worries that other “large family” mothers have confessed to me is they feel like unschooling in a large family would result in nothing but chaos. Mothering a large family can feel like there is so much to be mindful of and stay on top of that if you don’t manage every little detail, it will all fall apart. However, I think a lot of the worries can be solved, or at least lessened, by focusing more on how to simplify the logistics of running the household and letting go of that “perfect” standard, rather than nitpicking everyone’s moment by moment activities. With unschooling especially, the logistics is where you need to focus your attention to cut down on the feeling of chaos, and not focus on trying to manage your children’s learning. Humans, especially children, are just amazing learning machines. You don’t need to manage it or make it happen. You just need to help them feel emotionally secure with unconditional love and trust. Then you need to stretch yourself to say “yes” as much as you can to all the interest and exploration that will come up, even the stuff that seems frivolous and doesn’t look like “learning.”
It’s a lot easier to say “yes” when you’ve already arranged your home to be a “yes environment.” The big “aha moment,” paradigm shift for me was realizing that I needed to shift my focus away from stressing about “if only this person would do this and that person would do that” and then start focusing on how to make my home a yes environment that is not a burden on me, or my kids, or my husband. A place that is simple, peaceful, and a pleasure for everyone to live in.
With that paradigm shift in mind, I’ve got some posts linned up about household logistic hacks I use, which have helped our home feel more peaceful, relaxed, and less chaotic.