This isn't going to be a "Why I homeschool" rant. This isn't going to be a "Why you're crazy for not sending your kids to public school" rant. This is my (hopefully) calmly reasoned attempt to find a middle ground, and help myself and my fellow sisters reclaim a little dignity and confidence in our own motherhood.
The war is obvious: "That crazy bitch lets her kids walk to the store by themselves!" " Did you see that woman who breastfeeds her 4yo?" "Her kid can't read yet, did you hear?" "*I* homeschool because I love my children. ""You know that's what drugs are for, right? You don't get a medal for going natural." "Isn't your baby sleeping through the night yet?" "Little Joey only eats organic food." "She's one of those vegan freaks."
It's totally like the Cornucopia from Hunger Games: Julia grabs a breastpump and a briefcase, which she uses to clock Stay-at-home Sal with, only to be tripped and stabbed with a vaccine syringe by anti-vax Moonbeam (who cackles maniacally that now Sal will suffer from autism). Crunchy Kate gets stabbed from behind with a kebab full of conventional meat while making a grab for some gluten free wafers, while two others duke it out beside the jogging strollers over Team TurtleNeck vs. Team Circumcision.
The crappy part isn't just that we're ripping one another a new one without any conscience. It's also that we're crippling ourselves with guilt and suspicion, causing us to miss out on the diversity of relationship and connections that we need to thrive as a community. While most of us wouldn't claim the title of bigot or homophobic (thankfully), we've become a terrifically narrow minded and prejudiced generation of women.
The awesome part is, we're all doing what we feel is best. We draw from gut feeling, research, experience, knowledge of our own situations, how well we know ourselves and our children, and from the unique vantage point of being essentially the manager of our own families. This is true whether we stay at home, work, work at home; adopt, birth fully medicated in a hospital or with bongo drums in the woods; whether we send our kids to public schools, waldorf, montessori, private schools or the living room table; are blended, parent alone, with a husband or with a partner. We love our children. We make best use of the the gifts we have. We are strong women.
Have you ever seen what happens when you put a lot of strong women in a room together?
Yeah. Me, too.
The Mommy Wars start when we're so invested in our choices that, somewhere along the line, we become convinced that our way is The Only Way. Put a lot of people like that in a room (or chatroom) at the same time, and you have what I like to call a FYMURGUYGHACIYPODSEF. (A Frack Your Mind Up Real Good Until Y Go Home And Cry Into Your Pillow Or Decide She's Evil Fest). Women judge one another preemptively, in order to avoid being judged. The media absolutely plays on this insecurity and milks it (pun intended) for all it's worth. If we can identify the "freak", we can reassure ourselves that we're normal.
Every person involved in such a war goes home saying the same things: "How dare she? Poor idiot. She doesn't know she's totally messed up. Wait...am I messed up? Is she right? Am I worthy?" Then, the warriors watch for failures and weaknesses in their opponent, to gloat. They reassure themselves with the hardships of others. They turn their own children into proof of their right choices, and launch into nervous self-doubt when the children fail to produce said proof. The mama warriors guard their islands carefully, separate and fighting windmills like addled Spaniard knights. It can rack us with insecurity about ourselves and riddle us with suspicious thoughts about one another. If we don't attack one another directly, we chose to undercut each other through whispered predictions of each other's downfall or gossip about how insane the next girl is.
How do I know? Because I've done it before, of course. I've also been a victim. So has every mother in America. Our culture is constantly morphing and changing, and it's no small task try and stay a step ahead of the game, setting our loved ones up for success. We desperately need the stability of traditions and community to keep our balance, and it can be unnerving when our peers chose differently than we do. Difference is inevitable,however, because that is the very nature of change. Life throws us challenges and we all grab the tools best suited to us individually; that is the strong and beautiful nature of the human spirit. What works for you may not work for me. And vice versa.
It seems, though, that if we're to thrive as communities, nations and as a race, we would need to value one another's children as precious and important (rather than members of a competitive team) and one another co-protectors and nurturers of our own little ones. There is something to be said in a well-rounded approach, strength in numbers and in having many supportive fibers in the safety net that is a village. We need each other. Your children need me. Mine need you. They need to respect each other with tolerance and dignity, too, because they are the mothers and father of their own generation. Humans are social creatures; our strength is in community, adaptability and diversity. Are we really teaching them the value of those things?
So, I suppose the question I'm asking myself is: what if we grabbed each other's hands, too? Suppose, for instance, that even though you chose differently for yourself, you chose to support my endeavors, or at least be respectful of the fact that I'm doing the best I can? Perhaps I can chose to wholeheartedly jump up and down with you over your successes, even you're walking a different path than I am. You could value my children's uniqueness; I can treasure yours for the amazing people that they are.
|"You mean you'll put down your rock, and I'll put down my sword, and we'll fight each other like civilized people?"|
That's not to say that we can't learn from one another; to the contrary, we absolutely have MUCH to teach each other. We all have faults and areas we need to grow in. Obviously, we won't always agree But how can we grow if we're constantly on defense, demonizing one another? . We also all have something useful and valuable in our perspectives to bring to the table (and to the lives of one another's children). The added bonus of this is that we'd get to act out our own choices with ownership and confidence, rather than in defensive reaction to why someone else might chose differently than us.
Of course there's a time and place to disagree, or to stand up for what we believe in. But are we really honestly doing that, or are we fighting hard against the thing that really frightens the bejibbers out of us: being vulnerable? A mindless kumbaya fest isn't sustainable, obviously, and that's not what I'm driving at. (Though, at this point, a good wine-induced singalong might actually be the best medicine possible! Imagine if we got over our inflated views of ourselves long enough to have a good, old fashioned giggle fest about what makes us similar!) I'm simply saying: perhaps if we all stopped shouting, we'd be able to hear and observe one another's wisdom, and see the beauty in each mother's approach.