So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

I stared at the computer screen nervously. I was on a chat forum dedicated to homeschooling, and I had a burning question to ask.

How do you home school while battling mental illness?

Click. Send.

For a whole day, I waited for a response. The next day I had a few people pipe in. By few, I mean two. And they were both questions in response to mine.

Do your kids notice? Have you tried seeing a therapist?

I cupped my chin in my hands and felt the bleakness swell up in me like a wave. I had been searching online for articles or blog posts on how to homeschool your kids while dealing with mental illness, but nothing came up. Either homeschool moms just didn’t deal with it like I did, or no one talked about it. Either way, I felt alone and defeated. Negative thoughts were rampaging through my head daily.

Your family would be better off without you.

You are a disappointment and a burden to your husband. He deserves someone better.

You’re ruining your kids.

They’ll grow up to be sad like you because that’s all they ever see.

While I was officially diagnosed with clinical depression at age 18, my illness began manifesting itself when I was 12.

One day things were fine; the next day they were not. My world was turned upside-down. Like anything in life, my depression ebbed and flowed. While it remained an undercurrent of my daily life, there were long stretches of time in which I felt normalas normal as you could be under the circumstancesand functioned fine.

RELATED: This is Why People With Depression Don’t Reach Out For Help

This season of life, however, I was not fine. The cold, gray, Midwestern winter landscape that surrounded me mirrored what I felt inside. I was drowning in an abyss so deep that at times I felt a physical heaviness in my chest. I sometimes locked myself in my room and kept the lights off. I was distracted easily, and a constant feeling of impending doom hovered over me.

One afternoon, I was driving into town to meet my sister at a movie theater. On the way there, I stopped at a gas station and did something I hadn’t done in 14 yearsI bought a pack of cigarettes. I sat in the parking lot with the window cracked, taking long drags and feeling the tightness in my chest dissipate. It had been so long since I smoked that I felt dizzy.

I was tired and at the end of my rope. I didn’t want to die, but I also didn’t want to live.

Something needed to change. I found a therapist who was willing to charge on a sliding scale and started going to sessions regularly. I also saw a psychiatrist, who helped me overcome my mulish reluctance to anti-depressants. One thing kept coming up in my therapy sessions: the stress and burden of homeschooling. While homeschooling was not the cause of my depression, it certainly exacerbated it. Over and over, my therapist would gently prod me on my motivations to school at home. Finally, during one session she asked, “What will it take for you to put your kids in school? If you know homeschooling is making it worse, what will it take?”

RELATED: I Have Anxiety and Depression—and I’m a Good Mom

It was at this point that I went to the internet to search for answers on pushing through a manifestation of mental illness to keep some continuity of studying at home. I found no answers. All the articles I found related to homeschooling through a burn-out or a move or a change in financesbut no one talked about mental illness.

What will it take?

I had started homeschooling with noble intentionsI wanted to foster close relationships in our family, grant my children the freedom to be themselves, instill values, and give them a tailored education. For the most part, I enjoyed my time at home with the kids, but homeschooling is hard, even on the best of days. It’s an all-consuming lifestyle that few mothers get a respite from.

I came to the realization that it would be far, far better for me to put my kids in school while focusing on getting myself better than it would be to keep homeschooling and risk them not having any mother at all.

So I called the public school district, set up an appointment, met with the different principles, and signed paperwork. I drove home feeling like a failure. I tossed and turned at night, thinking about the horrible things that could go wrong with my decision.

RELATED: Homeschooling: A Cautionary Tale

I’ll give you a spoiler alertthings turned out fine. Better than fine, actually. My kids had supportive, wonderful teachers who kept me up to date on their progress. They made friends and got good grades. Today, I have two in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary school. They’re all thriving. Except for my one son, who swears he will hate school in all forms forever and ever amen, the rest of my kids prefer public school. I’m better than I have been in years. I’m healthy mentally and physically. I enjoy life, and our family is happy.

I wish there wasn’t so much pressure on homeschool moms to stay the course no matter what.

I wish there wasn’t an emphasis on pushing through it because everyone goes through hard seasons when homeschooling. I wish more people had the courage to throw out a line and let women know that sometimes the question isn’t is homeschooling right for your kids but is homeschooling right for you.

I wish the issue of mental illness and mental health were addressed in the homeschool world more, and I wish public schools weren’t demonized so much by church leaders. Maybe there wouldn’t be so much reluctance to admit that something we think is good can actually do more harm in the long run.

Annie Barkalow

Annie Barkalow is a mom to four kids and a full-time college student. She is an unapologetic introvert and book worm. You can find her ducking out of parties and standing sentinel at the coffee pot.

So God Made a Mother With a Willing Heart

In: Motherhood
Mother and daughter smiling, color photo

You may have heard it said that God only gives special children to special parents.   But, when God made the mother of a child who has special needs, the Lord did not need a special mother, the Lord needed a mother who was willing. God needed a woman who would say yes to an assignment that many choose not to accept. The Lord knew she wouldn’t feel qualified to raise a child with special needs, but that didn’t matter because God would equip her every step of the way. Since there is no such thing as a perfect mother,...

Keep Reading

Mothering One Day at a Time

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding daughter in matching shirts, color photo

As I sat with my growing belly, full of anticipation for the arrival of my firstborn, the possibilities were endless for this little girl. Maybe she would lean toward the arts and be a dancer, writer, or musician. Or maybe she would take after her great-granddad and become a scientist. And maybe one day she would be a mother too. Dreaming about the future was fun and exciting. But then she surprised us with an at-birth Down syndrome diagnosis. Special needs were never included in my dreaming sessions.    All of the sudden, my hopes and dreams for this new...

Keep Reading

Fall into the Arms of Jesus, Little One

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Child walking

I have three younger brothers, so I know how crazy and wild boys can be. Lots of falls, cuts, scrapes, bruises, broken bones, and even a couple of head stitches. My husband has two younger brothers. He’d always tell how they used to jump from the banister down two floors onto the glass coffee table. Why anyone would do that, I have no idea. Pure madness and chaos.  Right now, I have a little baby boy who’s only seven months, but I know he will probably be just as wild as his uncles and dad. But that doesn’t mean I’m...

Keep Reading

You Don’t Have to Lose Yourself to Be a Good Mom

In: Living, Motherhood
Woman brushing wet hair

There is nothing wrong with losing yourself in motherhood. Diving in head first, serving your kids and spouse endlessly, never asking for a break, being proud for providing an amazing childhood for your kids, and allowing mom to become your entire identity. But what if you don’t want that?  When did this become the standard of motherhood we are all expected to achieve? Why does society say the best mom is the one that’s 110% physically and emotionally available for her kids all the time and never does anything for herself? Why are you less of a mom if you...

Keep Reading

No Screens Before 7: How Our Family Broke Free of the Screentime Habit

In: Living, Motherhood
Kids using smartphones

“We still have three more minutes!” my 7-year-old says, bouncing with Christmas-like anticipation and excitement. “Well,” I say, looking from him to his 9-year-old sister, “what could you do for three minutes?” “Leg wrestle!” they exclaim and run to the carpeted living room. This life-filled exchange was not happening in my home just a couple of months ago.  In spite of my best efforts, screen time had taken over. Both the kids and I would slip into this zombie-like, space-time vortex. I would look up and know it wasn’t healthy, but it was just so easy to just keep on...

Keep Reading

10 Tips to Banish Teenage FOMO

In: Faith, Motherhood, Teen
Teen with red hair smiling

Do you ever feel like the whole world is having a party—and you weren’t invited Maybe you worry about being included in the right groups or invited to the right sleepovers. Maybe you envy the relationships you see at school or youth group or feel jealous of the perfect social media posts showing others making memories together. If you’re a teen in 2022, you’re probably well acquainted with the fear of missing out. Knowing or wondering what you’re missing or who is getting together without you can leave you feeling lonely. It can leave you lonely and a little blue....

Keep Reading

I Want My Boys To Become Men of Character

In: Kids, Motherhood
Young boys with arms around each other by water

I’m a single mama of two young boys. As a woman raising young boys, I’ve thought a lot about how I want them to act—as kids and adults. We joke around that I’m not raising farm animals, and we don’t live in a frat house. I’m trying to plant seeds now so they grow into men with positive character traits. They burp, fart, spray toothpaste on the sink and somehow miss the toilet often, but I’m trying to teach them life lessons about what it means to be great men and gentlemen.  Interactions with other men provide opportunities for us...

Keep Reading

I Know It’s Just Summer Camp but I Miss You Already

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Kids by campfire

You would’ve thought I was sending you off to college. The way I triple-checked to make sure you had everything you needed and reminded you about the little things like brushing your teeth and drinking plenty of water about a thousand times. You would’ve thought I was sending you to live on your own. The way I hugged you tight and had to fight back some tears. The way you paused before leaving just to smile at me. The way I kept thinking about that boyish grin all the way home. The way I kept thinking about how you’re looking...

Keep Reading

I’m So Thankful For This Little Family

In: Faith, Marriage, Motherhood
Toddler boy and infant girl, color photo

I remember my teenage self dreaming, hoping, and praying for a life like I have now. Praying for a man to love me, to be loyal to me, to want a family with me, to provide for me, to show me what stability felt like and what it felt like to not ever have to worry . . . and here he is right in front of me. I remember my teenage self dreaming, hoping, praying for a house I could make a home and raise my family in. Here it is right in front of me. But most of...

Keep Reading

The Kids are Grown—Now What?

In: Grown Children, Motherhood
Middle aged couple at home smiling

Between video chats with our son stationed overseas, our daughter flits in and out our door from college while the shoe jungle by the front door and lack of peanut butter in the house are proof our youngest adult son is still under our roof.  Our kids are now independent—almost. Gone are the days of diapers, endless food preparations, naps (well, not for me), and announcing everyone’s daily schedule like a calendar drill sergeant. After years of simultaneously spinning multiple plates on various body parts, we managed—by God’s grace—to raise three kids to adulthood. We made it! (High five!) We...

Keep Reading

5 Secrets to the

BEST Summer Ever!

FREE EMAIL BONUS

Creating simple summer memories

with your kids that will  last a lifetime