So many times when I am certain that I am losing my mind (or my child is), I later learn that hormones are playing a role. Biochemical changes are a reality that require a response for homeschoolers.
I want to begin by reminding you that I am not the medical doctor. I was trained as a clinical psychologist, So I can speak to the issues that come along with hormonal changes from a psychological perspective. But most of what I’m going to share with you today comes from personal experience, unfortunately. You should seek your physician’s advice first and foremost. But what I have learned is that when it comes to hormones, information is powerful medicine. Knowing that what you’re feeling isn’t abnormal helps immensely. There are four P’s that I want to share with you today concerning hormones and our homeschooling.
Homeschooling and Pregnancy
The first P is pregnancy. It wasn’t long into my pregnancy when I realized that hormones were changing my personality. The cheesiest commercials would have me bawling my head off. I was certain that I was hideously unattractive and that the physical changes I experienced were permanent. When we are pregnant while homeschooling we would do well to explain our hormonal variability to our children.
One of the most important ways we can handle our hormones and pregnancy is by getting extra rest. Our bodies are pulling out all the stops in order to create a whole new person. No wonder we feel so tired. I have been pregnant many times while homeschooling other children. I have worried that my lack of energy has been a detriment to them, but I have no evidence of that. Take a nap when you need it, Mom. Your kids want you to be well rested. Nap when they do. Save videos or games for these times. Or ask your husband to be in charge.
Along with getting extra rest when you’re pregnant is the importance of exercise. Taking a walk is a great way of helping to control the extra hormones that are flooding your system. Exercise is a known mood lifter and, of course, is good for you and the baby. It can also help with another consequence of hormonal changes during pregnancy, which is increased appetite. During my first three pregnancies, I was alarmed by how much weight I gained. I wish I would not have been worried. The weight quickly came off when my appetite returned to normal after delivery.
In addition to getting extra rest and exercise and not fretting about your increased appetite, be sure to ask for help. Tell your husband, family, or friends what you need—whether it’s a nap, a walk alone, or time off from cooking. I often went to my husband with that overwhelmed look on my face, which was his prompt to say, “Do you want to go out to eat tonight?” I’m pretty sure he was afraid not to ask that. Ask for help in your homeschooling, too. My friends were happy to help me in our home school co-op when I was pregnant, whether that meant teaching, carrying loads, or taking care of a toddler. We just have to put our pride away and ask.
In your homeschooling, feel no guilt about doing the activities that don’t exhaust you. If science experiments and field trips overwhelm you, put them aside until the baby comes. Do the activities that rejuvenate you. Your children will survive.
Homeschooling and Puberty
The next P is for the second hormonal milestone in your homeschooling journey: puberty. This is the time in your homeschooling when you will likely ask,”What happened to my child?” I didn’t realize that puberty was at the heart of the changes I saw in my son. Where there was once a happy and agreeable boy, there was a weepy, angry, rebellious son. I jumped to the conclusion that I had failed as a mother. He jumped to the conclusion that he was failing as a son. Once the hormonal haze had cleared, we both realized that hormonal changes were to blame. In fact, he acted a lot like I had when I was pregnant with him! I will say that not every child will experience these hormonal changes in the same way, just as not every mom does.
If you have a child who is experiencing the hormonal changes of puberty, one of the most important things you can do is to be sure your child gets enough sleep. This is challenging as teens often begin staying up late at the same time that hormonal surges begin. Have a serious conversation with your child about the dramatic changes that are happening in his or her body. Major growth is taking place that requires an increase in sleep. This would be a time to consider beginning your school at a later time. We start school later now as a result of having more than one student in puberty.
Weight training seems to have been a significant help to my teen boys in puberty. They were able to put their extra testosterone to good use. Weight training for girls can also be very beneficial. It seemed that consuming protein shakes was helpful for my kids. Interestingly, my kids have all become interested in healthy eating during these hormonal changes. Ask your teens what kinds of food to keep on hand. They may be able to tell you what they need during this growth period.
In addition, an important lesson I’ve learned about hormonal teens is not to talk to them when they are emotional. Wait until they have had rest, even if they require discipline. Have all important conversations face-to-face. Don’t talk about emotional subjects on the phone or via text. Guess how I learned that?
Homeschooling and Perimenopause
The third P is for the next hormonal stage in our homeschooling journey: perimenopause. I really didn’t believe it was a thing. Suddenly I was experiencing night sweats daily. I was so drenched I had to get up in the middle of the night to change. Whereas I had never had significant PMS symptoms, I found myself suddenly having them all. I could go from being happy to depressed and angry in a moment. I began to experience hair loss, palpitations, anxiety, and the same increase in appetite I had experienced in pregnancy. The combination of symptoms was very alarming. It helped to talk to other women who have experienced the same thing. Some of them felt they needed to take hormones to treat their symptoms. I tried this as well and immediately experienced side effects that weren’t acceptable to me. I didn’t know what to do.
I found the book The Hormone Cure by Dr. Sara Gottfried. What I love about the book is her stage approach to dealing with perimenopause. The author, a gynecologist, does not immediately suggest hormone therapy. Instead, she first discusses the vital role of stress and lifestyle. Because of the book, I realized that I had experienced significant relationship stress that was exacerbating my symptoms. After reading the book, I was careful to make sure I got adequate sleep, exercise, and good nutrition. I also found a combination of supplements that has helped me. I am not symptom-free, but I am much, much better. I can manage my symptoms, especially knowing that they are hormonally mediated and short-lived. If you are experiencing the symptoms of perimenopause or suspect that you may be, consider buying The Hormone Cure and seeking the advice of your physician.
The fourth P I would like to share with you today is prayer. Whether you are experiencing the hormonal symptoms of pregnancy, puberty, or perimenopause, you can find health and hope through prayer. Our heavenly Father knows what we are experiencing. He can be trusted to help and advise us. He will also use godly women to counsel us. I have felt such relief in sharing my experience with other Christian women who understand and will pray for me. I advise you to reach out to women you know to talk about the hormonal issues you’re dealing with. I am praying for you right now to know His peace and health as you persevere in your calling as a homeschool mom.
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I’m writing my niece (who is expecting her first baby) a letter about what she doesn’t want to know about being a mom. Maybe she’ll have the courage to read it a few years from now when she wonders why she can’t stop crying.
#1 It hurts.
We’ve already covered the pain of labor. But if you’re going to nurse your baby, be prepared for the sensation of your nipples being subjected to a nutcracker for 25 minutes every couple of hours. The good news is this pain is better with lanolin and time (about two weeks will do it). The bad news is this is just the beginning of the pain your child will inflict on you. You can look forward to being bitten, head butted, and whacked with a hard toy when you least expect it. When your little darling leaves marks, be prepared to convince those who are sure you’re a domestic violence victim that you’re just a mom.
#2 You’ll never be alone.
You don’t want to be away from your baby now. Understandable. It’s also understandable that you enjoy being around people. But trust me when I tell you that you will think Guantanamo is an amusement park when your kid gets done torturing you. Just when you fall asleep, there they are to wake you up. You go to use the toilet or take a shower and your little blessing will be banging on the door screaming for you. When you sneak off to chat on the phone, read a novel, or have some chocolate, he will appear suddenly like a stalker in a scary movie. Only it’s your life. The really terrifying thing is they never grow out of it.
#3 Your house will never be the same.
Be sure to take pictures of your beautiful nursery now, because it’s going to be trashed very soon. Newborns pee, poo, and puke on everything and no matter how much you Shout it out, you’ll be left with stains. As your little doll gets older, expect to see the wallpaper ripped, the walls littered with graffiti using various mediums, the carpet dyed, and the curtains cut. Everything you love in your house will be lost, broken, or used to start her personal landfill. Is it possible to protect your home and belongings from this destruction with gates, locks, and strict discipline, you ask? Absolutely! However, your reputation will be destroyed when your child starts a tell-all blog about her mommy dearest.
#4 You’ll abandon your principles.
Whether you’re committed to giving your kids no fast food, no toy guns, or no video games, odds are you’re going to cave. Why? Remember, you’re going to be in pain, sleep-deprived, and living in a house ready for a Hoarders episode. If you’re really going to make your child be the one weirdo who can’t go to the McDonalds birthday party, play with the other boys in a Nerf War, or use any kind of screen (they all have games), you have some family therapy in your future. The therapist will probably agree to guest post on your child’s blog.
#5 You’re going to be afraid.
Remember the hypochondria you had during pregnancy? That’s going to grow along with your child. You’re going to be certain that every disease, disorder, and cause of death is going to visit your kid. Then you’re going to be afraid that you have the opposite problem. You’ll worry that you’re ignoring symptoms that would be cause for obvious alarm to anyone who wasn’t awakened by a screaming interrogator every 30 minutes. The truth is most of these terrifying scenarios won’t happen. Unfortunately, you still have reason to fear. Read on.
#6 You’re going to be embarrassed.
You’re careful to be politically correct and not to offend people. Your child, on the other hand, will behave like an alien life form or a National Enquirer reporter who has no respect for your reputation. She will point out everyone who’s fat with a Simon Cowell kind of honesty. She will tell your mother-in-law what you said about her before she came over. She will repeat the curse word you used in a weak moment when someone you want to impress asks how she is–probably your mother-in-law. If you give your little paparazzi a Facebook-connected camera, you deserve what you get.
#7 You’re going to be disappointed.
The disappointment your child dishes up will go beyond embarrassment. Kids are like cashiers at fast-food restaurants who listen carefully to your request for no mustard, no onions, and extra ketchup and then give you the opposite. When you express your disappointment, the cashier and your kid will look at you piteously as though you just haven’t learned not to sweat the small stuff. Whether your request is no mustard or a college athletic scholarship, my advice is the same. Don’t place any special orders and you’ll be satisfied with what you get.
#8 You’re going to need help.
Like any other torture victim, you’re going to need some counseling. Even if all you do is sit and cry to another mom, do it. It’s cheaper than therapy. And for heaven’s sake, relax your rules if they’re making you crazy. A bottle won’t kill a kid who’s nursing, a serving of chicken nuggets and fries won’t destine your child for the Biggest Loser, and getting a housekeeper doesn’t mean all you’re doing is sitting around watching reality TV and eating chocolate (unless you are, in which case call me. It sounds like fun). If your husband isn’t motivated to help out, use your best vacant stare and repeat gibberish. That shouldn’t be hard for you.
#9 Your body will never be the same.
You think you’re going to be one of those moms whose body looks just as good as it did before you had a baby. You probably think you’re going to win the lottery one of these days, too. Go ahead and blow the money on the stretch mark cream and the chiseled ab workout programs. They’ll help you get through the denial phase. Sure it’s possible that you’re one of those freaks of nature, who doesn’t have an abdomen that looks like a Shar Pei puppy after giving birth. But I feel it necessary to remind you of what we covered in the truth about pregnancy. If your body is the same, your friendships won’t be. We’ll all hate you. To avoid this, be a smart girl and wear a tankini even if you don’t need to.
#10 You’ll love it so much, you’ll want another baby.
Yes, despite learning everything you never wanted to know about being a mom, you’re going to want another child. It’s crazy! My diagnosis is Stockholm Syndrome. The child has hurt you, tortured you, destroyed your house, made you abandon your principles, scared you to death, embarrassed you, disappointed you, reduced you to dependency, and ruined your chances of appearing on the cover of Shape magazine, yet you’re convinced they’re one of the best things that’s ever happened to you.
You know what? You’re right.
P.S. Very soon, you’ll be cooking for three so I have a gift for you–a dinner time survival guide.
Twelve years ago I gave birth to my third son. In my heart of hearts, I knew he was a boy before the doctor said so. What I didn’t know was how much I would be affected by the knowledge that I would never have a daughter.
My husband and I wanted two to three children when we got married. When boys number one and two arrived, I assumed baby number three would be a girl. I was the oldest with two brothers. Every family I knew growing up either had both genders or all girls. The baby dolls I played with were girls. I never seriously considered that I would have an all-boy family. Until that’s what I had.
The Truth is Taboo
I knew immediately that I couldn’t tell a soul that while I was crazy about my beautiful, healthy newborn son, I was sad about the daughter I would never have. If I were honest about how I felt, people would accuse me of not being grateful for my children or not trusting God or not even being a good mother. After all, there were women in China abandoning babies of the less-preferred gender, weren’t there? To say that I wished for a daughter in addition to my incredible sons was a sin. And so I was silent and I grew very, very depressed.
One thing we know from studying veterans of wars and victims of crime is that if hurting people don’t express what they’re feeling, they are at risk of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and worse. As I continued to deny my feelings, the stress I was under in parenting three boys ages three and under escalated.
Thankfully, I found a group of women online who felt like I did–women who, like me, assumed they would have a child of both genders, but didn’t. Also, like me, they wrestled with guilt for feeling as they did and with the unwritten rule that you didn’t talk about how you felt. As I got to know these mothers, I learned two things that are important for mothers with the baby gender blues:
- You have to talk about it. You might not be able to tell your mother, your in-laws, or even your best friend, but there is another mother out there who knows what you’re going through. Be honest with her about how you feel.
- Let go of the guilt. Needing time to adjust to a different plan than you envisioned is not wrong. In fact, the more guilty you feel, the longer the adjustment time.
Others’ Comments are Unkind
When I thought I was adjusting well to the idea that I wouldn’t have a daughter, someone would say something that would set me back. Here are just a few of the things I heard and what I thought:
- I just can’t imagine not having my daughters. (She thinks my life will be awful without one.)
- I just don’t see you being the mother of a daughter. (I’m not good or girly enough to have a daughter.)
- I just got lucky having a girl after having boys. (I’m not lucky.)
- That is so, so sad that you don’t have a girl. (There’s no bright side.)
- Boys don’t take care of their parents. (I’ll be lonely in my old age.)
- You only get to be involved in weddings and with grandkids with your daughters. (I’ll be left out of my kids’ lives.)
With the help of friends who experienced similar unkind comments, I learned two more things that can help mothers with baby gender blues:
- People say stupid things that simply aren’t true, even if they believe them. I was blessed with a very close relationship with my mother-in-law. I knew that God willing, I could be close to daughters-in-law, too. I also knew families of all grown boys who took great care of their elderly mother and I knew grandmas with only sons who were very close to their grandkids. Look for the exceptions to these ridiculous rules. You’ll find them.
- People often have ulterior motives for what they say. People who are jealous of you will use what they suspect is a disappointment to their advantage. People who are hurting about their own family will often want the company of your misery. Consider the source. Are the people who love you best encouraging you? Listen to them.
My husband and I had three more children, the fifth a daughter. But having a daughter hasn’t changed my compassion for women with the baby gender blues. I remember that time in my life well.
To be supportive of a mother of one gender:
- Don’t assume they’re upset. Not everyone is disappointed.
- Don’t express sympathy. If you’re close, ask the mother how she feels about the baby’s gender and respond accordingly. If you’re not a confidant, don’t mention it.
- Don’t tell her gender doesn’t matter. You’ll contribute to her guilt.
- Compliment mom and baby. Tell her how beautiful her child is and what a great job she does in parenting.
- Share positive examples. People who told me about adorable families with all boys were my heroes. My pediatrician made me smile when he said, “You’ll always be the queen.”
- Use humor. When we learned that baby #4 was a boy, too, our brother-in-law said we might as well remove all the toilet seats. I should have taken his advice.
those who hope in me will not be disappointed. (Isaiah 49:23b)
While we may experience temporary disappointment in all aspects of life, we will never be disappointed in the God who loves us and will never leave us.
Has anyone said anything hurtful about the gender of your children or have you inadvertently said something to a parent with all boys or girls?