Yes, you read that right. Not your children’s happiness, but yours. It is critical that you are happy in your life. You can’t fake it, hide it, pretend it into existence either. Happiness (joy, contentment) comes from within and is an involuntary experience. People will tell you to drum it up, to choose joy in spite of pain, to focus on your faith or hope or good fortune when you are disheartened to lift you up. Gratitude practices are often listed as necessary for a happy life.
The truth is, however, that we sometimes use gratitude or “joy” as a denial of reality—of what is actually happening in our worlds. When you are in pain or are feeling a chronic sense of joylessness, no list of blessings will overcome the truth of your emotional state. It is important to face it squarely and to find out what the source is (if you are not yet able to see or admit it).
Your happiness is critical to your homeschool because you set the emotional tone for the home. The stay-at-home parent is the sun, rain, wind, and snowfall. You rise in the morning and create the weather conditions of the day. Certainly a child can whip through the house like a tornado, or on a moody morning another child may cheer you up with a bright sunny smile and spontaneous cuddle.
But on the whole, your disposition sets the tone for everyone else’s experience. You can’t fake it.
This is why I recommend that you have a source of well being that is quite apart from whether or not you feel good about your home education choice (or choices). It matters that you are doing work of some sort that gives you purpose, a goal you can accomplish quite apart from your spouse or children, an outlet that puts you in touch with your best self.
If your happiness is contingent on how well your children approve of your day’s lesson, or the outing you planned, or the poetry teatime you took the trouble to set up, you are likely at some point to become resentful when they don’t supply you with accolades or approval.
If you can come from a lived-happiness that inhabits you, when the teatime fails or the children are cranky, you’ll know to where you can turn to remember that you are indeed a lovely, whole, competent person apart from their cranky evaluations.
In some cases, the blues are profound because of a relationship that is traumatizing you in a daily way. Could be a spouse, aging parent, child, teen. It is critical to admit this and to seek professional help if this is the case. No one person in the family constellation should have so much space that they wreck the experience of living at home—the place that should be the sanest, safest, emotionally sustaining space of anyone’s life.
Ask yourself today: Am I happy?
Then ask yourself what you can do to move in that direction one step at a time. This question and its resolution may be more important than any curriculum decision you make for next year. Don’t put it off, be honest, and get support. Happiness is real, matters, and you deserve it. So do your kids.
Image by Omarukai (cc cropped, text added)