During this first year of "real" homeschooling I have been blessed with several resources that have really helped me to maintain a (more or less) cheerful attitude with my children. One has been a place called Orly's Treehouse, where there is a children's playcenter attached to a gym and salon. Since February, I have been going there for weekly manicures, and I have to say it is $12 extremely well spent, as I come out feeling refreshed and ready to enjoy the weekend with my family. We then spend friday afternoon cleaning the house and are able to spend the time that Dad is around on the weekend enjoying family activities rather than catching up on errands. The employees in the children's area go above and beyond, they are creative and fun and my children really have a great time there, so there is no guilt involved in dropping them off.
The second "survival strategy" has been a wonderful grandmotherly woman who has offered to watch my children once a month while I go to confession. Mostly, she sits in my car while the children listen to a book on tape, but the regular grace of this sacrament has had a substantial effect on me.
I hope that I have said thank you, but sometimes thank you does not quite seem like enough. Since there is no way that I can pay these women back for what they have done for me this year I am hoping that I will remember, when my time is more my own (that day will come, though it seems impossibly far away some days) to pay it forward.
One of the things that is complicated about being a homeschooler with a large family is that most of my friends are also homeschoolers with large families, so while we have great socialization there is not much opportunity for peers to help one another -- we are all so crazy busy ourselves just trying to manage our households.
However, I can encourage my children to make themselves available as inexpensive babysitters when they are teens, and I hope especially to remember this confession idea. One of the things that I have found incredible about these three sources of help lately is that they have come with very few strings or baggage and no judgement of me for needing help. More often than not, young mothers don't need advice on how to change a diaper, they need 15 guilt free minutes to themselves. I hope that someday I will be able to help with that when someone else is in my situation.