In the past, it might have been called Keeping up with the Neighbors. In my mind, I call it "Go live you own life!" While this game can be dangerous for any Mom to play, it is especially detrimental to Moms who are working and homeschooling. The Comparison Game steals your joy. It also robs you of contentment, interferes with your family time, and messes with your family budget.
I put a border on this week's graphic. Do you remember the Mr. Yuk! stickers? They were supposed to remind small children to stay away from something dangerous ~ like household bleach, and they were supposed to remind our parents to put them away somewhere out of our reach. From now on, any time you are tempted to play the Comparison Game... think of Mr Yuk, and stay away!
Let me give you an example of how easy it is to get sucked into the Comparison Game, and then I hope to give you some tactics for overcoming this huge lie that wants to steal your joy.
Saturday morning I took our daughters to the gym. Note: our girls are 17 & 15, they're fairly independent on the cardio floor, and we go to this gym because my husband works there. Kurt opted to stay home. It was his day off, and he'd already gotten his workouts in after work earlier in the week.
As I was sitting on the recumbent bike, pedaling away at a slow but steady pace, I realized how easy it would be to start comparing myself to the other people there. The older gentlemen (maybe 60?) on the bike to the left of me was easily going twice my speed. The woman on the workout floor in my line of sight looked to be about my age, but obviously spends a lot more time there than I do. She had very little body fat, and it wasn't like I was being nosy, she was just dressed as most of the other women at the gym that day: yoga top, skin-tight work-out pants, and some quality shoes. Then there were the guys on the free-weight floor. Yeah, I had enough time watching testosterone overloaded guys lift weights in High School and College... let's just avoid looking over there shall we?
If I were into playing the comparison game, I could have felt really bad about myself, how I looked, or my physical condition...which truly isn't bad at all for my age. IF I had compared myself to these various other people I could see from my spot on the bike, I might have felt less than my best. However, I have learned that the Comparison Game only has losers, no winners. I try my best not to get sucked into this dangerous game in homeschooling, work, or the rest of my life. I knew WHY I was at the gym, and I knew I could be confident in Christ as my identity ~ I don't need to try to keep up with anyone else. I have my own goals at the gym, and I need to stick to them, not focus on what someone else is doing!
Later in the day when we returned home, Kurt and I were talking about the gym. He made some aside comment after I mentioned that there was a group fitness class. Something along the lines of: Oh yeah, all those soccer moms with their yoga pants. I know my husband loves me, and he doesn't mind that I wear sweats to the gym and not yoga pants...after all, I want to keep in shape for him, and myself, not to show off to the world. If you happen to like working out in your yoga pants, do us all a favor and buy a longer top to wear while you're on the workout floor, us other Moms don't want to see your backside. Just saying.
So why does the Comparison Game find its way into homeschooling, and why should the working homeschooling Mama be on high alert? Because your enemy Satan would love nothing more than for you to get sucked into the game, to lose your joy, and spend your time worrying about how you measure up.
The honest truth is this: none of us measure up! We all need Christ daily. We all need help to be homeschooling Mamas who have a chance of helping our children succeed. Working Moms just have to duck and swerve even more than others to avoid the load of guilt that our enemy is trying to pile on our backs. Don't let him win! Your identity needs to be in Christ, and your joy needs to stay firmly focused on Christ's forgiveness and grace!
Homeschooling Moms often get sucked into the Comparison Game. I've been there, done that, and decided it was no fun. How you choose to educate your children is between you, your husband, and God. While I may see something you're doing and want to explore it more for my family, I cannot get sucked into comparing my students' academic life with your students' lives. Maybe you have been blessed with a unique set of circumstances that are totally opposite of how God has blessed my family. If I try to compare my life to yours, all that exists is frustration.
This is why I call it "Go live your own life!"
If you find encouragement from something we share on the blog ~ awesome! If you better understand what a product is supposed to do or cover because of one of our reviews ~ great. If you're looking for a field trip idea... we've got a lot of those. However, don't compare your life to what you see of ours and be discouraged. Our life is not perfect, my children are not perfect, my husband is not perfect, and I can really relate to when the Apostle Paul said "Jesus Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am chief!"
What you can do, is look to others for ideas, not comparison. Then take those ideas to God through your earnest prayers. Ask Him specifically to show you if those would be good opportunities for your family to explore, or if you should file then in the "just not our style" folder of life (you know~ the trash can!)
If you are a Mama who is working and homeschooling, you need to step back and ask God to help you evaluate your home education plan. Then you need to honestly and truthfully look at what He reveals to you. You may never be able to purchase a brand-new curriculum for your child. Can you be content in that? Can you trust that God knows what you and your family need better than you know yourself? Can you humble yourself and say "no, thank you" to opportunities to join co-ops, sports teams, and activities that do not align with God's plan, or your family budget? Can you choose to accept that 25 cent notebooks, wooden pencils, your Bible, and a library card might be your only school supplies for the coming year? I want to encourage you that working and homeschooling CAN be done. It can even be done well, but it takes a while to find your groove! It takes a while to figure out how your children learn, and how you want to teach.
Give your self grace to try again. Gobs and gobs of grace!
His mercies are new every morning, and do you know what? You're going to need those mercies ~ every single morning! One thing working homeschooling Moms need to learn early is how to apologize to their children. You are going to fail sometimes, they are going to fail sometimes, but that Great Big God we serve has enough grace and mercy to cover it all. Be wiling to admit your mistakes, and set a good example for your children.
Remember last week when I talked about spending time with your husband? You're going to need to teach your children about respecting your time at home, and your time w/ your spouse. When the girls were in elementary school they found out (via the local radio station and their friends,) that there are a lot of free activities in and around our town. To a working homeschooling Mama, free is a really nice admission price! However, I sat them down and talked about how even if we wanted to do some of those things, we weren't going to be able to unless they took on more responsibility at home. It was not going to be physically possible for me to work, educate them, keep the house, cook all the meals, and still go do fun stuff. Thus began Home Ec class at an early age.
One girl at a time, one skill at a time, I passed the housework on to them, and it freed my time to take them to participate in those wonderful activities. When they first really started helping do the laundry, and not just folding the towels, they were so little that one would hop up on her stomach on the edge of the washer and the other one would hold her feet down so she wouldn't fall in. (I actually didn't know they were doing this at first. I just realized I wasn't having to put the laundry from the washer into the dryer anymore and I asked them if they had grown tall enough to reach it overnight? When they told me their story, I couldn't help but laugh. Obviously they were determined to go out on our adventures! When they first started cleaning the bathrooms, they were really little. So I just gave them a package of unscented baby wipes, some size small rubber gloves, a bottle of glass cleaner, and some cleaning towels. I still cleaned the toilets for a couple of years until I felt they were old enough, and careful enough, to use the toilet cleaner. Was I crazy? Far from it! I was reclaiming my time and teaching them life skills simultaneously.
All this to say, the Comparison Game is dangerous to play. My home may not be cleaned like yours, but it does get cleaned, and it works for us. My children may have different learning habits than yours, but it works for us. In fact, I rarely actually teach them anything anymore, they both have become mostly independent learners, or they use DVD or online resources to teach themselves. Is my life different than yours? Certainly. Is my job different than yours? Probably. Is my walk with Jesus different than yours? Of course, because He meets us where we are, and He takes us where we each need to go. What is not different from your life to mine is God. He is in all, and through all. He is the Great I AM. God is big enough to give us all different lives, ones where we don't have to fall prey to that dangerous comparison game. God is big enough, and powerful enough, and kind enough to give us each what we need, and take us in the direction He wants us to go.
Your life is valuable working Mom! Your homeschool and your children are valuable. Your spouse is a gift from God...even when you don't always see eye-to-eye. It's that whole iron sharpening iron thing.
You are valuable to God! Find your identity in Him, then go play a game that IS fun for your whole family... like Candyland or euchre!
Until next week, know you are loved!