Cry & Peace: Back to School with a Newborn


Editor’s note: This article is reprinted by permission from Seton Magazine.

Courtesy of Seton Magazine. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Courtesy of Seton Magazine. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This summer, we welcomed a new bundle of joy into the chaotic hustle and bustle of our family.

She has brought much excitement and cheer to the household (as well as some extra television time while Mom was a zombie the first week home); but alas, at some point, we have to get back to normal life, back to home cooked meals, back to not wearing pajamas all day, back to work for Dad and back to school for the rest of us.

This is my second baby born since we started to homeschool so it’s not my first time to the rodeo.

The ‘Cry’ Test

I gauge when to start back into school after a new baby by how many times I cry during the day. If running out of carrots when I’m trying to make carrot cake sends me into a fit of sobs, I’m probably not yet ready for the emotional demands of schooling two strong-willed elementary-school-age kids and my hillbilly preschooler.

I try and wait until my hormone and fatigue levels have abated enough to where I can get through the day without weeping during an episode of Blue Planet (why is nature so cruel?!).

Once I’m a little more myself, I plan out the first couple of weeks back with the possibility that things may not go as smoothly as I imagined during my post-partum downtime.

In my fantasies, schooling is always so well organized and executed precisely. (Except for the occasional moment of self-doubt during a two a.m. feeding when I start panicking over the possibility that I chose the wrong math curriculum and my children would never advance past addition and subtraction thus dooming them to test scores that could only get them into a shady online college with questionable degrees.)

School is Rarely as Planned

But even without a newborn, schooling rarely goes as planned, at least in our house. The proverb should have read, “Man plans. God and homeschooled children laugh.”

So with a new baby, it’s probably safe to build in a little extra time for the days when the baby is fussy and won’t settle or when the meals are all running late because the baby doesn’t want to sit in her bouncer or when Mommy has been up all night with cluster feedings, has had a gallon of coffee and can’t remember any of the kids’ names, never mind trying to figure out what the answer to 7 + 3 is.

An older, wiser homeschool mom once suggested planning out Monday through Thursday and using Fridays as catch up days. What invaluable advice!

I ended up using a lot of Fridays when our last baby was born, and whenever I’ve had a kid enter their threes (which, in my opinion, are far nuttier than the “terrible twos”).

Peace in the Spectrum

I make good use of naps and feedings by scheduling subjects the children have trouble with so that they can have some uninterrupted time for instruction and help with their assignments. It’s much easier for everyone to focus when I’m not trying to calm a screaming baby who is spitting up all over the schoolbooks.

My baby carrier is the single greatest weapon in my arsenal in the battle to succeed in home educating my children. My older children need to be educated. My baby needs to be held. My baby carrier brings about a peace between the two ends of the age spectrum that otherwise would not be attained.

I’ve noticed when we start a school day, everyone of all ages seems to want to participate in some way. Even if it’s just sitting in the room and stacking blocks or sitting at the table and coloring, everyone wants to “do school”. It only seems natural to have the new baby a part of things too. The baby carrier makes that possible and easy.

With school starting again and a new baby joining the family, household chores may have to suffer. I know there are some moms out there who read that and say “Hooray!” and can then move on with their lives without another thought about that sentence, happy for an excuse to not worry about cleaning so much.

2 Lifesaver Suggestions

I also know there are other moms, like me, who just broke out into a cold sweat thinking of all there is to do around the house, and the idea of not getting it done makes them physically ill.

For those moms like me, I offer two suggestions. The first is: if you can afford it, hire a maid. As a practitioner of frugality, I know that it sounds like a waste of money. Why hire a maid when I’m home all day to do the cleaning myself? Because it buys you some extra time and a little sanity and is, therefore, not a waste of money but a good investment!

A maid would be amazing, but I don’t have any extra room in our budget to hire one. So that leaves me with my other suggestion for moms like me who can’t stand the thought of an imperfectly kept house: learn to.

As someone who has a difficult time not being productive every second of my life and being an anxious person, I look to the story of Saint Martha as a reminder to take time out to just sit still and spend time listening at Our Lord’s knee as He speaks.

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.” (Luke 10:41)

Our Lord reminds us to focus on what is important, not on superfluous chores that will always be there, unlike our children who will too soon be grown and gone.

Compromises & Priorities

I have had to make some adjustments in my thinking to try and help me accept that my household is bustling with little lives that make everything joyous but sticky. My husband works long hours and can’t help a lot; my mother lives in another state and can’t help at all.

I have five children,  a small home-based business and I homeschool, so I have a mess that is currently out-pacing me. In the end, it’s more important that the children are fed than to have a dusted piano. Right? Maybe?

So I have learned to make some compromises. There are a few chores I try and keep up with daily such as dishes, sweeping up the floors, and, since I have a bunch of boys, wiping down the bathrooms.

Everything else, I get to when I have time. I only allow myself one big chore a day, as I tend to get obsessed with housework and push school off until I get “just one more thing done” which generally takes us well into the night when I realize the children have been unusually quiet and I find them in the backyard, dressed like savages, giving off a Lord of the Flies kind of vibe while hunting a squirrel for their dinner, since I was taking so long to get something on the table.

Way Over My Head

Sometimes my floors need washing, but now I wait to wash them when I have extra time. If I do not have time, then I tell myself that there are worse things than a dirty floor like… dirty ceilings! And since I don’t have dirty ceilings, I’ll look at them when I walk around the house instead of at the floors.

And then I look up and see the various splats and stains on the ceilings and realize I am in way over my head with these kids.

I just keep plenty of Lysol wipes on hand to get me through. They’re great for wiping fingerprints off walls, doors and light switches, wiping down the juice-splashed keyboard and desk, wiping down the bathroom surfaces in between bathroom deep cleanings and wiping crud off the fridge and kitchen cabinets whenever there are a few free minutes and I happen to notice a surface that needs scrubbing.

I also do a load of laundry each day so it doesn’t pile up and become the K-12 of laundry that I try my best to ignore until everyone in the house are wearing swimsuits because they literally have nothing else. With the institution of the load-a-day laundry schedule, we’ve turned swimsuit day from a weekly occurrence into a day that only happens when we are actually going swimming.

So hopefully, with a little wiggle room planned into my school week, making good use of naptimes and nursings, baby wearing and accepting that my house is going through a “cozy” phase instead of a “clean” phase right now, perhaps I can get through the coming school year even with a new baby.

Saint Martha pray for us!

donna-sayles-200About the author: Donna Sayles is a homeschooling mother of five who is head over heels in love with her husband, her children and her religion. She hopes to one day make a career of bringing souls to the Catholic Church through her writing (or, at least, not driving away active Catholics.)

Copyright 2015 Donna Salyes for Seton Magazine; reprinted by permission.
Images courtesy of Seton Magazine. All rights reserved.


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