Fall 2020/ Jessica Frierson

For years I struggled through each day feeling so tired. It was not uncommon for me to fall asleep while reading a science or history lesson to my children. I felt like I was moving through a fog every afternoon. If I had to drive any distance over half an hour away, I was in danger of falling asleep while driving. I would have to pull over a few miles from home to get out and walk around a minute to wake up enough to get there. Finally, I reached the point where I couldn’t continue going on the way I had been. But I had to step out in boldness to take the measures I needed to ensure that I met my personal needs for the most basic of life’s requirements: sufficient sleep. Why wasn’t I meeting that need, and why did meeting it take such boldness, you may ask. I was living under the bondage of meeting the expectations of others. Sadly, many of those expectations I was trying to meet were from people I had met only in a book, but I had imposed their standards on myself and my homeschool. In the pursuit of being efficient, purposeful, and accomplished, I had become discouraged, exhausted, and ineffective.

With several children to homeschool, a toddler to chase, and a new baby needing constant care, my days were full to the brim with activity. Every time I turned my head, there was someone or something that I needed to tend to. My most productive time of day was at night when everyone was settled down, and the house was quiet. This was my work time, my refreshing time, and my much-needed quiet time. The problem was that I need a lot of sleep—less than eight hours and I just can’t function. I had trained my little ones to sleep late; often, the children would stay in bed until nine o’clock or so. Why was I pushing myself to be up with the birds each morning?

All of the moms I knew seemed to thrive on being early risers. In an effort to better myself, I had been excited to obtain a copy of a fairly popular book on how to manage your home. Along with many helpful tips on housekeeping and childcare, it stressed the importance of the mom being up hours before the rest of the family. Her day began before the sun’s first rays broke through the morning clouds, when piles of laundry had been folded and put away, the goats were milked, and the eggs gathered, freshly baked bread cooled on the counter, and every child’s school books for the day were lined up waiting to be used with their color-coded notebooks and neatly-labeled pencil boxes on top. This book even gave sample daily schedules from real, live moms like me to show me how to set up my family’s daily routine. These amazingly organized women were in bed by nine and up by five. Only one slept in until the outrageously late hour of seven a.m.!

To be fair, the book never actually stated the necessity of beating the sun up each morning—at least not in those exact words. But the implication was strong and was all I needed to add to my burden of feeling inadequate to meet what appeared to be the worldwide standard for a successful manager of my home. I trudged along, in a sleepy fog all day, rushing everyone off to bed each night so I could race like a madwoman to get as much cleaned as I could, skipping any quiet time for myself—because there was no time. I forced myself to lie down by at least 10:30, only to lie there with my heart thumping from running around like crazy and trying to push aside the thoughts of all the things I had not gotten done. I would watch the clock and stress myself out counting down how many hours of sleep I had left, debating whether I wasn’t better off just getting up than lying there getting nothing accomplished. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, I would finally drift off to a restless sleep to be awakened too soon by the dreaded alarm. The start of another day came too soon for this exhausted mama who was unprepared for facing her family with the grace and cheer they needed.

boldness (noun)
1. willingness to take risks and act innovatively; confidence
or courage.
2. the quality of having a strong, vivid, or clear appearance.

The idea to break free from what I felt society expected of me whispered to me in the night hours. It beckoned to me as I stirred the soup for the evening dinner and checked my son’s math lesson.It enticed me to risk the disapproval of others and to toss aside the self-inflicted burden I was carrying. I boldly made the decision that I would manage my household. But I would just do it in a way engineered to meet our needs. I didn’t even have goats to milk, and our eggs had already been gathered by Harris Teeter. My children’s lessons were set out the night before and the laundry—well, let the laundry be done when I got around to it! If some other well-organized lady from our homeschool group showed up at my doorstep at eight a.m. and (gasp) discovered that we were all in bed, what was that to me? It took me at least a year to relax into our new rhythm and break away from the ridiculous feelings of shame that I fought against when I was flipping pancakes at 10:30 or when calling the children to start school at 11 a.m. But the amazing thing about it was that I was so much more productive by staying up later and then sleeping as long as I needed in the morning. No more sleepy mama falling asleep while waiting on my daughter to decipher a new spelling word. I even drove through the night from Tennessee to Oklahoma without having to pull over once!

So if you stop by my house sometime, we may have every sofa covered with mountains of laundry that we are folding as we enjoy a family movie. We may decide to call our bacon and eggs brunch because it is quite late for it to qualify as breakfast. And if you come by too early, chances are that no one is going to be awake to answer the door. But I dare say that you will find our home a little happier, and this mama may just possibly be taking on the quality of that strong, vivid appearance called boldness, now that I have finally released myself from the burden of trying to fit myself into a box that wasn’t designed for me. Freedom feels good!

I’ve come to an understanding that our Creator is like a master craftsman. Each one of us has a unique makeup that has been perfectly and specifically designed for the plan He had in mind for each of us.* And just as you can’t put your guitar into my violin case, my life won’t fit into the custom-made style that works perfectly for you. We can glean helpful ideas from others, but we must try them out carefully to ensure that they are the right fit for the life God has designed for us. When we attempt to follow an ideal for the sake of meeting the standards of anyone else, not only is it destructive to our own success, but we miss the joy of discovering our own path in life. We have a misguided habit of thinking we need to be like everyone else. We look at the cozy, picture-perfect image from the outside of another home and think that is the way we could/should/would be if only we …. (Fill in the blank with whatever attribute you perceive makes them successful). It takes boldness and confidence in our Creator to be the unique individual that He created us to be.

How about you? Now that you know more about me than any stranger should, won’t you drop me an email and share how you have been emboldened to break free from unrealistic expectations? Or perhaps you need prayer for the boldness to climb out of a box you’ve got yourself stuck in. I would love to hear from you as you find the boldness to set yourself free.

For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.” – Ephesians 2:10

Jessica Frierson is a second generation homeschooler now teaching her own ten children. She and her husband, Ernie, knew from the time their first child was born twenty-three years ago that home education would be their only choice. They moved back home to North Carolina in 2000 to take advantage of the less restrictive homeschool laws here. She joyfully serves the Lord through ministry to her family, serving in her local church, writing and encouraging others with the testimony of the treasure of love she has discovered in our Lord Jesus Christ. Jessica is NCHE’s secretary and region 2 liaison.

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