So, we’ve made our peace with the life God has given us. Good. The next step to thriving as a low-energy homeschool mom, then, is to accept our limitations. Now, before I go on, I don’t want you to think I’m not a fighter. Quite the opposite — researching this stuff could be my side hustle if I let it. I could go down that rabbit hole for hours. I try new things all. the. time. And I’m glad I do, because over time I’ve found some things that really help me (which, yes, I plan to share in future posts).
I don’t think we start with fighting, because we need to thrive right now. We don’t say, “Oh, someday, I’m going to build a livable life … someday when I have the energy to really live out my ideals.”
No. That’s not how it works. In fact, learning to live well within our limitations is doing ourselves a favor because there will always be limitations.
I have used the analogy of the poet before when talking about school planning. It applies here as well.
Sonnets are awesome. They are also very strictly defined. An English sonnet is a poem of 14 lines, 10 syllables per line. Within this tightly defined form, there is still room for creativity — you can choose your own rhyme, for example — but still, you have to stick to the 14 lines of 10 syllables each.
Are there 15 lines? 13 syllables? It’s not a sonnet.
Earlier this year, my oldest son wrote his first sonnet. He chose as his topic our traditional Thanksgiving family gathering at my parents’ house. He’s written a number of poems I have found touching, but it was his sonnet that brought me nearest to tears. I don’t think it was only the subject matter or the way he chose his words. I mean — yes — of course that was a big factor. But the form of the sonnet itself is particularly moving in a way that other poetry is not.
Some women have a lot of energy. They can do one million project-based-learning adventures in a day and still have the internal resources required to do the laundry and make the dinner. Good for them.
This person is not us.
We can either channel our inner two-year-olds and get petulant about this, or we can decide that we get to be sonnets. Free verse poetry has its own charms, so I’m not knocking it, but I love sonnets, and it really shouldn’t bother me that I get to be one. Don’t let it bother you, either.
What does all this have to do with being a low-energy homeschool mom? It’s simple, really. Accepting our limits is a big part of being patient in affliction. We are sonnets in the sense that our lives have to be more strictly defined. Don’t think: this is a bummer. Instead, think: I am a sonnet.
Doesn’t that feel way better?
Okay, so the question is, What does this have to do with decision fatigue? Lots!
But first: What is decision fatigue?
I’m glad you asked.
Decision fatigue is the energy drain caused by making decisions. It’s the opposite of doing something by habit. Think about it. When we do something by habit, the only energy expended is in the doing of the thing, and even that is easy like riding a bike — no decisions have to be made about it because everything is done by muscle memory. Conversely, when things are not done by habit, we have to expend energy in the doing, and also in the thinking about all the aspects of the doing, and also in the debating about whether or not to do the thing in the first place.
It’s an exhausting world out there, folks.
Understanding our limitations eliminates decision fatigue by eliminating many of the decisions.
Let’s use money as an example. If I’m trying to decide what sort of education to give my child, and the local private school costs 25% of my income and would plunge my family into poverty in order to pay for it, that school is not an option. I do not need to spend a whole bunch of time discussing the pros and cons, praying, and asking advice from people I trust. It would be an irresponsible financial decision, therefore it’s not an option.
Notice the total lack of decision fatigue?
The key here is not only knowing your limits, but submitting to them. If you know, for example, that you can only handle one activity per week outside of homeschooling, you never have to spend any time debating over whether to add a second or third. If you know you cannot stay up past 9:00 pm (or you and everyone around you will have to pay for it tomorrow), you don’t even have to consider going to an event that starts at 8:30 pm.
I love getting up early in the morning. Being a morning person, I’m happy to be awake, and even happier if I’m awake before everyone else. But I know something else about myself: if I get up before the sun, I will eventually get sick. This is a weird thing, and I don’t know why it happens. I can get up easily at 5:30 am. But if I do that during a time of year when it is still dark outside, I will do this for only few days before catching a cold. I will sleep in while sick, try getting up super early again, only to end up back in bed. It’s a vicious cycle. In the summer months, however, I can get up at 5:30 am or even earlier and never catch anything.
Because I know this is my limit, I simply do not get up before the sun ever. It doesn’t matter if I read an article about how much more productive my life would be if I would just get up earlier. It doesn’t matter if someone tells me that the Proverbs 31 woman got up while it was still dark. I don’t need to make a decision about when to get up because I get up shortly after the sun rises.
For me, getting up before the sun would be like adding a 15th line to my sonnet. It would mess everything up.
Planning your days and weeks and months is a lot like writing a sonnet. First, you learn the rules. I encourage you to sit down with a piece of paper or a journal and write down all of your known limitations. Maybe you can’t eat peanuts. Maybe you can’t jog. Maybe you can’t get less than x hours of sleep. Within these limitations, you can write the poem of your life — you can create a work of art that glorifies God while still getting dinner on the table.
It’s true that, if you manage to get yourself even somewhat better, you move the goal posts. Your limitations will change. Maybe you won’t need nine hours of sleep anymore; maybe you’ll only need eight. No matter. You can adjust as you go. The point is to be realistic right now and then work within that form.
You’ll be glad you did.
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