by Karen D. Koch
We’ve all heard of the Mommy Wars. Working mom vs. home mom. Cloth diapers vs. disposable. Nursing vs. formula. Vaccination vs. non-vaccination (or somewhere inbetween?) Car seats minimum time or carseats until age 12? Daycare vs. mom at home? Strict feeding schedule or on-demand nursing? Organic or McDonald’s for lunch?
The Comparison Trap
All these debates and posturing are exhausting, mainly pointless, and wearisome to me. Moms work hard. We have a lot on our plates. All of us. I jumped off that rampant comparison train a long time ago. I’m just too old and tired for endless debates that do nothing to build any of us up as moms. For my own sanity, I’ve had to part ways with a homeschool mom or two who was just too combative and critical of me in some of these areas.
I believe the core problem in all Mommy Wars is insecurity and/or pride. I have been guilty of both. If you’ve been on Facebook for more than five minutes, you realize how so many are constantly offended over someone else’s choices or threatened and defensive because someone disagrees with their opinion or stance. I’ve fallen into that trap before, but when we do that, we all need to lighten up. This doesn’t mean you can’t have your convictions and share them if asked or that you have to agree with everyone, but don’t use your opinions as a battering ram. Maybe we need to be sure of our decisions and talk more with God and our spouse about them and less to others.
But as I’m speaking to a mostly homeschool mom set, I’d like to collectively ask all of us to lighten up as well. If you’ve brought your kids home to homeschool, that’s great, and I applaud you. I don’t think you’ll be sorry. But let’s not make homeschooling into another turf for new and interesting Homeschool Mommy Wars. You know what I’m talking about:
Some Homeschool Mommy “Battles”
Classical vs. unschooling
Structured vs. unstructured
PSP vs. filing PSA individually or not at all
Saxon vs. other math
Intensive Latin vs. skipping foreign language
SAT vs. no testing
College vs. apprenticeships/work
Dances vs. no dances
Dating vs. courtship
Organic vs. fast food and whatever’s easy
Electronics vs. no or limited electronics
Different views on what modest dress entails
Different views on whether girls should pursue higher education
Pick your own!
And guess what. . .even as homeschoolers we tend to drag many of the other Mommy Wars into question: formula or nursing, how long in carseats, to vaccinate or not. . .you get the idea. There’s no easy solution, but I have a few thoughts.
1. I can learn things, get ideas, or be encouraged even by people who do school radically differently than we do. And I hope they feel the same about me. We don’t need to convince anyone or convert anyone to our way of thinking. One of the kindest and gentlest homeschoolers I’ve ever known had very strong convictions about no television ever in her house, and I have a husband who loves ESPN. We respected each other’s opinions and we were good friends. Another friend completely banned Barbies and Disney princess movies in her house, but that didn’t affect my life. I’ve been inspired or convicted more than once by someone with a different perspective. Sometimes I have an “aha” moment and completely change something I do after watching someone else.
2. There is no one perfect, just-do-this-and-the-kids-will-turn-out-perfect formula anyway. Every family has their own ideas, frame of reference, talents, occupations, challenges, and personality. Something that works great with your family may be a complete disaster for someone else. I read at least an hour and a half aloud to my kids every day and love it. Some people would rather put a sharp stick in their eye than do that. But we are beyond pathetic about scheduling fitness into our schedules. Some homeschoolers have stellar athletes in their home. Someone else’s choices might not work with your convictions, frame of reference, challenges, or learning style. It’s ok.
3. Our ideas and homeschools change over time. Mine have. My kids are on a 12-year age spread, top to bottom, born in four different cities (in three different states!) I think I did some things well with the two oldest that I have definitely flubbed up with the younger ones, but I think I’m doing some things better with the littles. Changing cities, then states changed the way I do some things. My thoughts on vaccinations have shifted considerably since child #1, for example, and I freak out less about the lower grades now that I’ve seen my two oldest be accepted to several colleges with no problem in spite of our homeschool’s shortcomings.
4. There are no real winners in these Mommy Battles anyway. Can we just be encouraging and supportive of one another as the Bible calls us to do, even when we have conflicting ideas? Even if we disagree with someone, we don’t need to be disagreeable. Most of us are doing the best we can and would probably do better with more encouragement and less criticism. Rarely do I change the way I do something because someone has told me how wrong I am.
5. We don’t have to defend our choices all the time. I got some flak for nursing my youngest for two years, but he was my caboose and I wanted to hang on to that special time. But some would criticize me for not nursing longer! Isn’t the goal to feed our children? We chose golf as a sport for our kids, not because we’re wealthy but because my husband worked at a golf course and the kids could play for free. Free was much more appealing to us than expensive sports clubs. Once someone told me it must be nice to make enough money to have all that golf access. Sheesh. One homeschool overly-organic mom always wants to tell me how much better they eat than we do. Even though this is more-than-likely true, you can imagine, this isn’t particularly kind or encouraging to me.
6. Kids are watching. Do we really want our kids to be self-righteous or defensive when encountering people who disagree with them? That’s a recipe for disaster. God calls us to act with grace. Kids do as we do more than they do as we say.
7. Build one another up. Homeschooling is challenging enough without fighting each other about it. The Bible tells us to be encouragers. “He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:10-11.” It’s not just a friendly suggestion. We need to give each other grace instead of attacking wherever we feel threatened by someone else’s choices. Don’t most of us want to raise our kids to love the Lord and other people and to be educated enough to make a positive difference in this world? That’s someone we can all strive and encourage one another toward.
Karen Koch served as CHEA’s Communications Assistant for many years while homeschooling her four children.
Article previously published on Homeschool411.com on March 28, 2016.