Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Unschooling and Marriage

Cathy Kramer
We are excited to share this post from guest Cathy Kramer over at http://borntolearnfreetolearn.blogspot.com/ Thanks so much Cathy for a thought provoking piece!
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When we officially started our unschooling journey over ten years ago, my son was five years old and my daughter was three years old.   We found a small group of friends that were either unschooling or homeschooling and for the most part practicing some sort of attachment parenting.  I felt free to not only discuss co-sleeping, extended nursing, and fears of parenting, but also to share my love for my husband.  For the next several years I continued to meet many moms that shared the same passions as me not only in our educational philosophies but also in our marriages.  Somewhere along the way though, things changed. 
One evening I dropped my two teenagers off to hang out with their homeschooling friends.  As I returned home ready for a date with my husband I said, “I have somehow become the odd mom in the group.”  I shared an experience that was becoming more regular for me when I dropped the kids off on the weekends or in the evenings with their friends.   My homeschooling friends made jokes about me hurrying back home to hang out with my husband.  At first it was fine when they made their jokes, but after a while, it started bothering me. Was something wrong with me?  Was it weird to want to have date nights with my husband rather than spending time with my mom friends who I saw frequently throughout the week?   For me, these little bits of time alone together were our time to invest back in each other since so many years had been devoted to the kids.  I suddenly felt like the outsider with my homeschooling friends, but in all honestly, I did want to run home to my husband.  Never having family close by to watch our kids for nights out alone, date nights had become something I looked forward to now that our kids didn’t need or want us watching over them constantly. 
When we started our unschooling journey I liked that the homeschooling parents we met seemed to enjoy each other’s company.  Now, I keep asking myself, “What happened?  Why are so many of our friends getting divorced or living in unhappy marriages?  How did so many of our unschooling friends lose track of each other?  Here are my thoughts:
1.  When unschooling, the kids often become everything.  We focus on their every need and at the end of the day, we are exhausted.   
2.  Unschoolers tend to do everything as a family.  This is one of the things that drew me to unschooling as my husband and I both loved including our kids in our daily activities.  This can be great except when one day your children are teens that need time away from the family.  You are then stuck trying to find things to talk to your spouse about.  
3.  This is something I never considered when we started unschooling because I had a very beautiful, picture perfect view in my mind of everything unschooling, but perhaps many marriages were never good from the start.  Perhaps the kids created a connection but as that connection changed, the marriage couldn’t hold things together.
4. Maybe as unschoolers we aren’t immune from the pitfalls of life.  I think as homeschoolers we often think we are protecting ourselves and our families from the cruel world.  Reality is there are unschooling teens who are depressed, unschooling teens that try drugs, and unschooling teens that have sex.  Also, there are unschooling parents that get divorced.  As different as we sometimes feel from mainstream society, we still feel the effects of living life.  
What can you do?  Well, I can only speak for myself.  I have been married for almost 24 years and I am still pretty happy with my guy.  Here are some things that have worked for us through the years.
1.  Hold hands often.  I remember times when the four of us would hold hands.  My husband would put each of the kids on the outside and the two of us in the middle.  Then he would tell the kids, “I want to hold Mommy’s hand today.”  (I still remember feeling a little giddy when he did that.)  We often touch our kids and forget that our spouse needs touch also. 
2.  Find pockets of time alone to talk or do whatever.  When our kids were young, we were always coming up with ways to find time alone.  My husband is someone that needs to talk without interruptions.  As an unschooling momma this was hard for me to do.  So, one thing we did for a while was wake up early on Saturday mornings and have coffee together before the kids woke up.  At other times I woke up and ate breakfast with my husband before he left for work. It was a short amount of time together, but worth it. 
 3.  IM, text, and email…… even if in the same house.  For as long as we have had internet, my husband and I have instant messaged each other throughout the day.  Often this is the only time to talk about issues since the kids are always around.  Sometimes we have even IM’d each other while in the same house.  It is a way to talk without interruptions and without the kids hearing every word.  Plus, a short text during the day is always a nice reminder that someone is thinking about you.  
4.   Be flexible.  Unschooling can bring numerous benefits to a family but in my opinion, you have to be open to changing and accepting new situations.  Don’t be afraid to change things up.  
What works for you?  What secrets can you share to remaining in a happy, healthy marriage while unschooling?  Also, what goes wrong?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are catches to finding date time.

I want to find something for us to do or talk about; he wants to spend the time being sexual. I do not like sex. It's annoying and messy. I love being touched, but dislike the exposure of going further. I endure it for his sake. I have trouble enjoying any alone time because I know he'll want to do it and I'll concede.

As for finding something we can do together, we're short on money (so signing up for pricey classes to share or events is not a smart option).

Around home, we don't like to spend our weekends doing the same things: him(watching sports), me(cooking for the week ahead, household chores). We do take walks together every week or so, but I feel like the "strong one" who's supporting him. Being together seems to emphasize the gap.

How to close the gap? (I need a counselor, I think--but again; that's big money).

Cathy said...

Anonymous,
Please don't let money be a reason to avoid having fun with your husband. We rarely spend a lot of money. Usually we will go by Chipotle and pick up food to bring home and watch a movie together. (Our library has free movies) That is date night for us most of the time. A few times we have taken our bikes to forest preserves and rode. These were the best times because it gave us lots of time to talk without other commitments to worry about.

Like you we have found over the years that our interests don't always match. My husband is a musician on top of his paying job and enjoys spending a lot of time playing guitar. It is a solo activity until he asks me to listen to him play or invites me to attend a gig. It's not the big things that make the differences in connecting, it's the small things. Also, don't be afraid to sit and watch a game with him on occasion. Just as with our kids, we do some activities that aren't of our choosing in order to be a part of their lives. Sometimes my husband will go on walks with me in the morning even though that is not his thing.

I am not a counselor, but one thing I have noticed over the years is that many couples know each other so well that they "think" their spouse understands what they are thinking when in fact they don't. In my humble opinion, the best way to close the gap is to TALK. Talk a lot about what you really want and need but also listen to what your husband really wants and needs too and see if you can meet somewhere that is good for both of you. I know for my husband that many times over the years just knowing that I am willing to try his idea of fun makes a huge difference.

Good luck. Marriage is definitely not easy.

Cathy

Rachel said...

Cathy,

Hi! I loved, loved this post. I adore my husband too (and he adores me). We love to hang out together. Like you, ordering take out and watching a movie or catching up on cool shows we have TiVo'd can be the most fun. We have been married for 17 years, together for 18.

I feel terribly sad for anonymous, because, tho being an unschooler makes intimate (sexual) time difficult to come by, I love that time with my husband. It's not annoying or messy but a way to bond with him, on a spiritual, emotional, and physical level. And all those rings don't usually coincide in other activities. It is the most vulnerable way to be with another human being. It does't have to happen all the time (God knows it doesn't for us), but it should be a positive event for both spouses.

I never saw breastfeeding as sexual (like some weirdos who are against breastfeeding do) but it has those same qualities. It is a physical, emotional and spiritual bond with a baby/toddler. I would never think of depriving a baby of that, nor would I think of depriving my husband (and ME) of the very act the brought those babies into existence.

I don't think it's a healthy attitude that 'anonymous' has about sex, and I think her marriage is headed for the rocks if she and her husband don't find some way to close the gap. It makes me very sad to read.

Just wanted to let you know, Cathy, that you are not alone in wanting to go home and hang out with your husband or hold his hand. There are other unschooling moms out there, like you, and I am one of them. (And you know what else? I think witnessing that kind of love and affections is great for the kids to see and know about.)

Thanks again for such an important post.

~Rachel

Anonymous said...

My husband is very protective of me. It sounds great but sometimes it is a problem because he seems to be protective of me against the kids! It is hard because he still doesn't get the unschooling philosophy as well as I do so that he might see what the kids are doing as being rude, while I see it as developing independence and free thinking. Conflicts arise because of this. He wants to protect me "don't speak to your mother that way," etc while I don't see it as being rude- just questioning. He is at work most of the day so he doesn't get a full understanding of what has been going on all day and when he comes in, he expects the kids to be a certain way - he really is a 50s dad some
times! He loves me and I love him, but sometimes it gets really frustrating to parent the kids with someone who still doesn't get it.

Cathy said...

Rachel,
Thanks so much for your feedback and positive energy. It is wonderful to hear of other unschooling couples who have been together for a long time and enjoy each other's company.
Cathy

Anonymous said...

We are always so busy taking our kids here and there, working , cooking, living there just doesn't feel like there is much time for US! We have made it a priority this year to go out once a week. We hire a babysitter and we get a break. It is worth the investment- I promise you!

rfs said...

@Anon- good idea! We always had my sister or mum to babysit.

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