Dear self before you became a homeschool mom,
You have no idea what you’re in for. You’re going to give up your house, a chance to have your very own laundry machines, a backyard, an up-to-date wardrobe, and the approval of your affluence-seeking acquaintances—acquaintances who were once your friends before you made a complete about-face in the trek of your life to homeschool.
Two degrees, consulting for Fortune 500 companies—all of it you’ll dissolve in order to stay home with your children and teach them to read, write, count, narrate living books, recite poetry, appreciate music, and collect leaves. Your acquaintances will murmur: what is she thinking!
But when they look at you like you’re a cockroach, you’ll count it as dung because you’ve finally reached a point in your life where you know exactly what your priorities are and all those naysayers are still looking for theirs, racing through life against vipers and rats. You know that you only live once to shape the lives of your children, lest they become confused about their faith, storing up their treasures on earth instead of heaven, misleading the masses with their strange ideologies of don’t-judge-me, let-God-be-God, I-can-do-yoga-because-God-knows-my-heart, and whatever-works-for-you-is-fine-with-me—all delusional nonsense because what it really means is let-me-create-God-in-my-image.
You certainly don’t want your children to bear strange fruit, do you?
So many things will change for you when you stay home. You’ll vie desperately for freelance gigs, tethered to your laptop as you earn pounds on your waistline. You’ll begin to morph into a frump when your favorite clothes begin to fight against your new curves. Are you okay with that? Don’t worry, you won’t regress to momma jeans or sweatpants, or doily bibbed dresses, or synthetic loafers, or worst, leaving the house make-up free in your pajamas to boot. It won’t get that bad. Some of the rituals you had as a young bride will endure through your convictions.
You’ll notice some quivering in your fingers, but not out of a sudden feeling of fear or excitement. Once the children finish wrapping their arms around your neck to kiss you goodnight, you’ll be typing your lesson plans or scheduling social media posts and you’ll open your hands, stretch your fingers, and glance at your screen to see an aged version of yourself, dark circles around your eyes, a lustrous and voluminous mane hijacked by frizzy hair. When your husband draws near to tell you he’s tired and is going to bed, you’ll hear the sound of your voice turn into a midnight owl, a dark, hollow void of fleeting time. You’ll sit in front of the window and watch the trees brittle under the moon between you and your neighbors. In your mind, you’ve already apologized to them for your PMS, which you know stands for Pardon-My-Screaming.
Living in an apartment instead of a house will be good for you, except for that wall-to-wall carpeting which will summon the asthma you had in first grade. But, you’ll never again have to greet contractors at your door bidding on a project you saved money for. Instead, you’ll contend with a backed-up shower drain and laundry machines with quarters stuck in their slots for the site manager to solve. You’ll be OK with those frequent encounters of suspicious hairs left behind by your neighbors on the lid, agitator, or tub of the washing machines you all share. If you’re lucky, you’ll find quarters hidden between your wallet, or in the car ashtray sentenced to oblivion. These currencies are a commodity and you’ll need to treat them like precious stones when they land in the palm of your hand.
Your husband, despite sacrificing a bachelor’s degree to marry you, won’t ever return to complete his coursework. Now that he is a family man, he can barely support his party of five. Getting back into university requires revisiting the tedious application process along with reluctantly applying for financial aid, which would tumble you all into a serious tornado of debt. Do you really want to become a slave to Master Card? You don’t want that and neither does your husband. He’d rather put his muscle into racking up those CAD certifications that bump him up a level, enough to grant him a few more cents on his wages. These bench-marks will never be sufficient to make it to senior level, though.
You may need to go back to growing your own food, but this time out of need, because organics at the local Sprouts are sometimes affordable but at the other green markets—the ones near the parks where the children climb trees and shoot arrows—you pay a premium, partly because their employees are paid top dollar for what they do, and the ambient lighting they create in their stores hike up their energy bill. Snobs go there anyway, so you’ll avoid them without giving it much thought. Anyway, the last time you grew your garden was for the fun of it, a project for the kids, remember? You’ll do it as a homeschool mom so you can count it as earth science or horticulture. You’ll do it to save your husband a few dollars each pay period. Your new staple foods will become beans and cheese, not because you’re Mexican but because anywhere you go it’s available and cheap and your children never complain about having to eat quesadillas or burritos. Your mom could remind you that as a kid she survived on a diet of beans and tortillas while her Abuela kept herself alive on tobacco with a tear in her eye, sitting on a rocking chair in a vecindad tenanted by prostitutes.
You’ll learn the value of every drop of dish liquid soap. Stocking up on dish soap is more cost effective than buying paper plates, paper cups, and plastic ware. You won’t want dishes to pile up since you’ll only have one sink basin available—since the second basin will be occupied by a dish rack—because there won’t be enough counter space in your apartment’s kitchen. Yes, dish liquid will become a metaphor to your everlasting frugal lifestyle. And it won’t matter if it doesn’t cut grease or if it’s from the dollar store. You’ll scrub if you have to and you’ll take the time to do this after every hot meal you prepare, three times a day—two of which you enjoy with the children, and the other, dinner, with them and your husband who’s always famished, tired, and moody from an hour long commute from Orange County. You’ll be a homeschool mom, after all, and you’ll have time for all domestic duties to be executed with unwavering devotion. As you wash dishes, and set timers, and review curriculum consumables with one glance over your shoulder, you’ll imagine yourself wearing a cape and a tiara. What’s more, you won’t need to worry about damage to your hands. You don’t do manicures and your mother never taught you it was necessary for femininity. You were a bohemian through high school and college and you came to realize that manicures belonged to the sorority girls and fresas you swore you’d never become. You know your hands are your asset, despite Christine telling you in high school that they were ugly when they made the feature page of the school paper. Your hands are what you’ll continue to use to build up your house no matter where you plant yourself, girding up your loins like a man, out in the garden you picture in a lost reverie as you wait for your first grader to recite the blends and special sounds. You’re digging your fingers gingerly under the dirt, rubbing the sediments of decaying leaves and roots left behind by earthworms. You recall this intimacy to the soil because there’s no room for artifice, for pretense. Isn’t this why your husband married you anyway, because you impressed him on your first date when he picked you up at five a.m. to go fishing. You knocked his socks off when he saw you hook your own bait. Oysters, he said to you. They don’t gross you out. I love you!
Soon you’ll be vacuuming the eraser residue off the carpet, underneath the table where the children write in their workbooks. And you’ll call that little moment a victory. In all your toil, in all the nesting manias that will occur to you at any given moment, vacuuming eraser crumbs will signal reassurance to you. It will indicate to you that mistakes have been identified and have been corrected. By your children.
Long Beach, CA
Eréndira’s work is featured in Day One, The Cossack Review, Huffington Post, Red Tricycle, The Tishman Review, Cordella Magazine, Stone Soup Magazine, The Review Review, Black Warrior Review, and other publications. A homeschool mom, blogger, and former adjunct, Eréndira lives in California with her husband and three children. She is writing a novel. You can find her on Twitter @BelovedEro or at her website www.erortega.com.