Homeschooling retirement. For many homeschoolers, that might be a long way off. For others, it's right around the corner. What happens when it's over? What happens to mom when she's no longer a "homeschooling parent"?
Before I was a writer, I was a fitness instructor. I took my kids to the gym with me when I taught classes. I subscribed to fitness magazines, wrote my own routines, trained for a marathon I never ran, went to conferences, and took other instructor's classes not for the fitness aspect of it, but to see what I could learn from them.
Fitness was my "other life." It was the life that belonged to me outside of being a mom and a wife. It was also a life that I could live simultaneously without taking away from my family.
My coordinator, Kathy, had two full grown sons. And although she hadn't been a homeschooler, she was a "housewife" when her sons were growing up. She was in her mid-sixties when I started working for her. Fitness, and management, was her life after kids. I looked to Kathy as my role model because she had essentially "retired" from being a full-time mom. And she did it gracefully.
Knowing her boosted my confidence that as the kids get older, and when they are out on their own starting their own families, I won't be hanging on to my old life, wondering what to do with myself. I had an indescribable feeling that fitness would be my life after kids. And, while I had kids, I was enjoying a casual interest in it, with no rush to "get ahead" in the fitness world. I will have a chance later to do that.
Then, I started writing. And writing a lot. And my kids got older, and we started traveling, going to classes, and having more and more social activities. It was getting hard to fit in my fitness classes on a regular basis, and find time to write. Writing was becoming my life, and fitness was being pushed to the back burner.
I had to make a choice between the two. The difficulty of the decision was exacerbated by the fact that I had banked on fitness as my "other life". By giving it up, I was a bit worried that I would be abandoning my retirement plan.
I eventually quit my fitness job, and fully accepted writing as my "other life," with fitness being a part of my overall plan to stay healthy and enjoy the functioning of my body. It was hard at first. It took me a while to find my direction, and to find my new rhythm. It took me a bout two years.
Now that my writing has become so entrenched in my current life, I wonder, is this something that I could do after my kids grow up? Is this my new homeschool retirement plan? To write?
If so, I need to make sure to write about things other than homeschooling. I can't bank my entire life on the homeschooling market. I need to invest now into other genres so that when it's time to retire, I'll be ready.
Although I'm not 100% sure what I'll do when I retire from homeschooling, the transition from fitness to writing has taught me one thing - I'll manage just fine. You know how I know? Because, right now, I am practicing, and learning how to find myself. I'm investing in my homeschooling 401k, making sure that I have enough of "the other me" in there, that I forget where I put her when the time comes to let go of the "homeschooling mom" part of me.
I love being a mom, a homeschooler, and a wife. But there is so much more to me than that. I love the people in my family, but I don't want my life to be so much about them, that when they leave, I don't know who I am anymore.
It is said that moms need to make time for themselves, and take care of themselves. I used to think that meant we need to relax and re- energize. It's not just that, I discovered. It's also about self-discovery, liking one's own company, and balancing our own lives with contributing to the lives of the people we love.
Preparing for retirement, to me, is a mindset. I not only give myself the freedom to be me, I give my kids the freedom to be them, and provide a strong role model that women can have their own lives, while being a parent. Just like dad can be a good, involved parent while having his own life. It's not a woman's destiny to give themselves up entirely for other people. Although it's enjoyable and rewarding to share ourselves with our loved ones, it's not everything there is.
When homeschooling ends (approx. 14 years from now), I am prepared to fall in love again - with life, with the people in my life, and with myself. I'm pretty sure that I'll still be a writer, in some capacity, and maybe I'll get back into teaching yoga when t he kids are older, and I don't need to leave them with a babysitter. Or, maybe I'll have found a new passion. Whatever happens, it'll be good.
So, tell me, are you ready to fall in love again when homeschooling is over?
Tammy Takahashi lives and learns with her three children (10, 7 and 4) and supportive husband in California. She is the author of Deschooling Gently: A Step by Step Guide to Fearless Homeschooling. She also serves as the editor of the California HomeSchooler magazine, a bi-monthly publication for the Homeschool Association of California. You can read more from her about education and homeschooling on her website. And you can email her at tammy.takahashi @ gmail(dot)com.