Why it ain’t happening

I have not been doing much creative cooking lately. I miss it.

I miss discovering a brand new-to-me recipe, assembling the ingredients, and then chopping and stirring my way to exciting new taste sensations. Cooking traditional favorites is satisfying and pleasurable (especially when no one complains and everyone leaves the table happily stuffed), but it gets boring after awhile. I get bored way too stinkin’ fast.

When my days are relaxed, I can fritter (ooo, that reminds me, I want to make apple fritters soon!) about all I want, crafting and concocting to my heart’s content. One of my favorite happy feelings is waking up in the morning and then remembering that I get to play with, say, empanadas in a couple hours—oh, joy! Playing with food makes me giddy.

So if I like it so much, why am I not doing it? Because creative cooking takes brain energy and time, and right now my time is getting poured into my kids (and The Donut Party of 2010 and belly dance and church meetings) because—get this—I’m homeschooling my kids.

People have often said to me, ““I don’t know how you do it—homeschooling four kids…wow!” and up until recently, I didn’t understand their shock and awe. Homeschooling was no big deal. It simply consisted of us living together, growing older together, and learning about cool stuff together.

Which is true.

I also believed that homeschooling didn’t need to take much time.

Which is not true.

Folks, I can not believe I am saying this. My shock is profound. I am gape-mouthed and puzzled, scratching my head and spinning in circles. I am choking on my huge forkful of crow.

What in the world ever happened to my nice little idea of homeschooling?

I’ll tell you what happened. What happened is that my four little squirmy, pooping, suckling, screeching, grabbing, crawling babies done did growed up into four opinionated, inquisitive, mouthy, emotional, energetic not-so-little-anymore people who use up a lot more of my mental energy than I ever would’ve thought possible.

And that’s the truth.

Turns out, both babies and older kids are exhausting, but in different ways. How I’ve experienced it, caring for the physical needs of a baby is boring and draining and nonstop. Caring for older kids is less physical but much more mentally exhausting.

Here are a couple examples to drive home the point.

Example #1: A mama can (not that she does) have deep thoughts while changing a poopy diaper and rinsing it in the toilet. A mama can not have deep thoughts while teaching a child how to scrub the toilet.

Example #2: A mama can read a book while nursing a baby. A mama can not read a book while supervising table manners and appropriate mealtime conversation.

Example #3: A mama’s mind can go elsewhere (though it may be too exhausted to do much gallivanting about) when walking a baby to sleep. A mama’s mind can not go elsewhere when explaining Why Not to an angry child.

So see, after the morning sessions of Fred and piano, spelling and geography, science and Bible, my brain is zapped. I don’t have the energy to dream expansively of fancy dishes and savory sauces—just dreaming up the next day’s menu is all I can muster energy for, and then, just barely. Several hours of being fully present to my children does me in.

I think it’s right about here that I’m supposed to gush happily, “But I love homeschooling my children even more than cooking! It’s so wonderful!”

Except that I don’t know if that’s true.

(And no, I’m not playing Mama Martyr.)

It’s just that cooking involves dirty pots and sore feet, but homeschooling involves grit and exhaustion on a much deeper level.

And, yes, yes, happiness, too. It’s just that the happiness is more muted (and profound) than the giddy high that a flaky pie crust brings. (Also, children aren’t as easily moldable as a pie crust. There is no instant gratification when it comes to homeschooling.)

An Analogy: Homeschooling versus cooking is like a good night’s sleep versus caffeine. Homeschooling is like a full night of sleep and cooking is like a shot of strong coffee. The former is more satisfying, the latter more electrifying.

So there you have it, a long-winded, analogy-riddled and example-filled explanation for why I’m not cooking much these days. Things may shift (they always do) and suddenly I’ll find myself with lots of time to fritter and futz with food.

When that happens, you’ll be the first to know.

(Note of clarification: cooking creatively is relative. As soon as I was done with this post (minus the editing part), I got up off the couch to go experiment with some pepperoni rolls. So see, I’m still cooking creatively. It’s just not as much or as often as I’d like. So in other words, don’t be totally shocked when you see a new recipe pop up in this space. It doesn’t mean the big yellow bus has whisked my little ones away.) (Though the fact that the big yellow bus hasn’t stopped here doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes wish it did.)

This same time, years previous: puzzling it out, a milestone


  • Cookie baker Lynn

    Oh, yeah, I hear ya, honey! Where do the hours in the day go? But at least you know your chilluns will rise up and call you blessed. And isn't that more important than putting on swanky dinner parties?

  • beth

    I homeschooled for over 20 years and it was hard work!! I'm happy to say the older ones are done, or almost done with college. Whew! I don't know how you get all the creative cooking in that you DO get in. In the future you will have more time. Believe it, or not.

  • Kare

    For what it's worth, this non-Mom (at least, for now) is beyond inspired and I *so* admire your dedication (and willingness to be honest with yourself about it all!)

  • Anonymous

    Homeschooling definately has changed here too. I do wonder if it will shift again sometime in the future where the learning becomes even more self driven and they start reguritating to us the knowledge they so eagerly learn on their own. I so agree with all you posted! So true!
    L in Elkton

  • dr perfection


    Just humor me and don't feed your family (including yourself) any sugar for two weeks. Then blog about it. I will be waiting…

  • Camille

    Life is conflicting and when the kids (in other families) DO go to school in a building away from the house and the Mum (which mine DID), there are STILL conflicting emotions and challenging times…they are just DIFFERENT! Hang in there and enjoy the diversity life brings…you are doing a noble work with those four. One day at a time…one step at a time. 🙂


  • Jennifer Jo

    Half Assed, One would certainly have to wonder after reading this post!

    I've written on this topic before (http://bit.ly/cLuOyl), and while it was two years ago, I still stand behind this post one-hundred percent. I would also add that even though homeschooling is more mentally challenging these days, it is also more rewarding and fun. I didn't get into that too much in the above post, but it's true. What can I say? I'm a conflicted woman!

  • Unknown

    Sarah said that's why she always tries to talk people out of homeschooling! Funnily enough, I am seriously considering it now, but starting when the kids are about 7 or 8. I'm keeping them in the Japanese school until then.

    Please give Mr H my belated birthday greetings.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, I hate homeschooling and I think it is alright to say so (maybe not in front of the kids)
    But that doesn't mean I give in and send them away on the yellow bus (even though they long for such a reprieve)
    You'll do ok, and everyone will benefit!
    fancy food is way overrated anyway 🙂


  • Margo

    Great post. And I can see how older kids bring a different kind of exhaustion. I don't have a lot of new recipes these days either, but I do post sometimes on the little things if I have a nice photo 🙂 Which shouldn't be hard for you, I hope.

  • You Can Call Me Jane

    I absolutely love this post. I'm right there with you (and I'm only homeschooling two so far). Oh, and I love you, too:-).

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