Light’s are on but nobody’s home.

As a homeschool mum I had given up any notion of a career outside the home. I did this joyously and because I wanted to. I didn’t want to miss the everyday happenings of my children…I didn’t want to be absent…but would you believe that a Christian homeschooling mum who dearly loves her children struggled with this very issue?

It all started about five years after we started homeschooling. I had tried a school-at-home approach, tried unit studies and was burning myself out by trying to rigidly conform our home and family to fall in line with Charlotte Mason’s methods. Previous to this my dear mother had *graduated* to be with the Lord and we started homeschooling within a few weeks. I also had a 6 month old baby at the time. My husband was away frequently and I found it hard. Then we completely uprooted from everything and everyone familiar to go to a new job in a new town, in a new state! My health was slowly going downhill. I think I’ve mentioned before that it can be draining and tiring to go our and make new friends and start all over again, so I didn’t. I was at a place where I was content…or so I thought.

The Internet is such an easy place to get lost in eh? One can roam around and meet new people, learn new things and justify sitting on one’s backside for large periods of time. (Oh, but maybe I’m the only one who struggles with that) I soon found that if I wasn’t actually physically sitting at my chair on the Internet, my head was on the Internet. Instead of my heart being turned toward the home, it was turned toward the Internet! You know, while in the shower pondering various situations and posts…thinking of email responses and hurrying the dishes just to write a quick reply…(or am I alone here too? I don’t think I am. )

It got to the point where I was hurrying through lessons…or when I was reading aloud my mind wasn’t really on the book. I was simply going through the motions of homeschooling and parenting. The lights were on but no one was home. I was physically present but emotionally absent from my home and the lives of those most precious to me.

But you know what? Simply recognising the problem wasn’t enough to fix it. 🙁 I asked some good (internet) friends to pray for me. They knew of my struggles and pray they did! I believe it was largely due to them, and due to the desire of my heart, that God released me from the bondage of Internet Addiction. Yep, I kid you not! Sad, isn’t it?

Part of the solution was for me to realise what attraction the Internet held for me. A large part of it was fellowship with like-minded believers. That was a huge part. There was another part of me that desired adult interaction. I also like to escape from the mundane. And I love to talk…I love to listen. I also love to learn. Aha, see all the causes that band together to fuel the fires of my addiction? Once I recognised these things, I was able to devise a plan of action. I didn’t want to get rid of the computer all together. It is simply a machine. Surely I should be able to control it, rather than have it control me? I didn’t see that getting rid of it would help deal with the root of the problem.

I need fellowship. I need to receive and I need to give to other adults. I love to talk and write. And I was like sponge, I was so hungry for knowledge. But in all this, I was suffering from Information Overload. Too much information floating around in my head. I found it hard to make decisions because there were always so many differing opinions on things. (Oh boy, what a mess eh?) I ended up emotionally paralysed because of Information Overload – my mind never stopped, never rested. It was always on the go, the hunt for new or more information. All this busyness and effort and stress on such low priority activities.

Needing to know

I had an urge to ‘keep up with what’s happening‘…(this is just a form of gossip, which the Bible speaks a lot about) to know what was going on within the homeschool circles. (See, I told you I was in a mess). The thing is, there is just way too much information, too many blogs, too many forums, too much info to try and keep up with! I was able to give it up…by giving it all over to God.

I have had to learn, and am still on a major learning curve, how to focus and to think more clearly. I have had to learn to be selective about the things I read, the places I visit and emails I respond to. I’m not on as many email groups or forums anymore. I’ve had to learn how to guard my heart and mind…but that’s for another post. 😉

Breaking Free

Taking a break or sabbatical from the computer is good…I found it especially easy on holidays or moving house. Actually, after not being online for a few days I really start to rest. Then, even when we return I’m not in a hurry to get back online because I know the pull it has toward me.

Firstly, I had to repent. I repented in front of my children. I told them the problems I was having but that it was not the true desire of my heart. I apologised to them and asked their forgiveness. I also gave my children permission to let me know (in a correct and respectful manner) when I was being ‘absent’ from them. If I was on the computer instead of with them, I taught them that they could gently come to me, touch my hand and ask me to do something with them. I taught them that they weren’t to nag me. Strangely, I don’t respond well to nagging or sarcasm or whining. 😉 You know, my girls did have reason to come to me. But you know what? They did not abuse that privilege. They came to me in love, touched my hand gently and looked into my eyes. Oh, what mother could resist? This was a big key toward helping me. It provided me with some accountability. My husband had offered to turn off the connection between certain hours but I new that the motivation had to come from within me, not an external source. I don’t suggest that all families try something so forward but I share this because it helped me greatly. It also taught my children a few things: we all need accountability…their Christian homeschooling mother isn’t perfect…how to correct someone in love…how easily one can use something good to ‘escape’…to know what it means to be emotionally absent and more.

Dear wife, dear mother, be there for your husband. Be there for your children. They want you. And they need you. No one else can do the job you are doing right now. God wants you, dear Christian wife and/or mother, to serve your family wholeheartedly, as unto Him. Play a game of cards or Uno with them. Do a jigsaw puzzle with them. If you want to have a great relationship with them when they are 15, then you need to have a great relationship with them when they are five! God is a God of miracles so I’m not saying it’s too late for any relationship that isn’t solid…rather that it’s so much easier to maintain a solid relationship than to repair a broken or hurting one, and then build on it from there. I’m not saying you have to be talking to your children every waking minute of every day. I’m talking about priorities and quality and quantity time.

Start now, today. Nothing is more important. Writing a book? Book orders to send off? Curriculum choices to make? Writing an email response…these are all things that need to be prioritised because they can take you away from your children. So, turn of the browser…go call your children and talk to them as you teach them or have them help you prepare tonight’s meal. Go on, you’ll be so glad you did.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
Proverbs 4:23