As a mother of 5, youngest 8, I am nearly past that horrible period where everyone is willing to share with you what you might be doing or are doing wrong, as a parent. I’m pretty fully into the stage where the children are capable of informing me of that, themselves. 😉
And to those parents I may have upset by offering MY opinion, please forgive me. Temptation afflicts us all.
But yesterday I had a lengthy talk with a neighboring mother (3 children, the eldest barely school age) and because I did NOT answer her back as I wanted to, and because I think she spoke from a couple common places of prejudice, I’m going to discuss it here.
If a defense of the point of view of being a SAHM , of larger families, or of homeschooling is triggering to you, stop reading now.
This mom, who, as I said, has MANY fewer person hours invested in this whole parenthood business than I do, was moved to comment on my older daughter’s plans for college. She’s doing this because my daughter babysits for her (more on that later) and is totally awesome. She wants good things for my daughter. I tried to keep that in the forefront of my mind.
So, here’s a selection of what she said, the responses I didn’t give, and a little unpacking.
(First, let me mention, I have an older son, currently in college. He’s taking 18 credits, is a Junior, and has an A average. He was also homeschooled. The child in question is a Junior in high-school, is taking 2 college courses this semester, and has an A+ average in her college courses. We’re talking about where she might go when she graduates high-school. And I didn’t ask this woman.)
“She should go away to college. Because she’ll grow so much, living away from home.”
She hasn’t grown here? That’s odd, because she (at 16) is the person you trust to watch your kids when you have a problem. No one in the world encounters this young woman and misses how extremely competent she is. So we’re not talking about ‘Children at college learn to do their own laundry.’
unpack: Kids need school because life is tough. If your child hasn’t suffered through bullying, erratic teachers and a suicidal besty, they won’t be prepared to be contributing adults. Well, okay. Since you don’t know what else she does with her time, you may not realize that she spends time with age peers, who have all the same problems at camp. So she’s not missing out.
“She should go to (certain expensive) early college program.”
I won’t mention the name, because I’m about to be candid. For something on the close order of FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR we could send my child to “college” with other teenagers. Um, really? I graduated from a very good boarding school, which, btw, I paid for myself. If I wanted to drop over 40 thou on a school for a high-schooler, I’d send her there, because I know at least a dozen kids who were early admit to actual colleges, like MIT. My friends went to college at 15, even back then. And my daughter doesn’t need a training wheels college experience with a bunch of kids who haven’t out-grown their wall full of Bieber posters.
unpack: Your family is too close. She mentioned “so supportive.” but she didn’t actually say, “smothering.” Of course, it would be totally ‘normal’ for a teenage girl to be mouthy and hateful to her mother, so, since my daughter isn’t, I must really be crushing her. We’d better get her away. This followed closely after “I could never homeschool because I butt heads with my eldest.”
You know what I also didn’t say? That child is 7. You’re an adult. Your head needn’t be anywhere near “butting” height, if you’re standing up.
Another homeschool one: “The school they’re in right now won’t work for long. We’ve considered homeschooling, but we need the money and I love my job.”
Really. We have no need of money, and, frankly, I’m too dumb to have a job. I don’t EVER experience the need to balance my family’s needs and my work responsibilities, because my ONLY identity is that I’m the mother of your babysitter. And I’m totally too stupid to hear you complain about the conflicts between even picking up your kids and work stuff (when you call to ask my teenager to do it for you) or to hear the worry in your voice about where they’ll go when the extended pre-school you have them in runs out of time. And, btw, when you made fun of the prestigious day-school I attended? I’ll live to see you praying to get them in. Because I’ve lived in this town most of my life and have decades more experience and I know what your choices are.
unpack: No one is a SAHM if they have options. *I*, as an educated woman with a career, have a completely different life experience than you do. You must have been raised Amish, or something. Or had a head injury.
This is a very common POV. Since women’s work is devalued in our society, no one would CHOOSE to do it. Except, some of us do. For me, I tried for years to have a family and it actually is the most exciting and rewarding activity I ever engaged in… and I had big fun, in my youth. 😉 This is what I want to do, and I’m really, REALLY good at it. It’s so great that I was willing to take a pay-cut to do it.
“She’ll want to get away, because she spends so much time at home looking after the little ones.”
No, she spends time at YOUR home looking after little ones, because that’s her paid job. At my home, she’s a teenager. The kids HAVE a mother, who lives in the house. That mother does the mothering. I do the cooking, and sort laundry, and drive to things, and educate them. I don’t know what TV you watch, but just because we have 2 more children than you do doesn’t mean we’re the Duggars. Your house needs a babysitter. MY house has members of a team, who put away their own laundry.
unpack: Homeschoolers aren’t “normal.” If your child is responsible it’s not because they’ve been raised to be (abetting natural inclinations), it’s because there’s some major dysfunction going on. I’m swilling gin and eating bon-bons all day. Because, really-taking care of a family isn’t WORK. This point of view covers up all the hours of child-raising we commonly subcontract. I would NEVER suggest that mothers who work outside the home aren’t “full-time” mothers. That’s a vicious and repellent POV. But there’s no denying that having everyone OUT of the house several hours a day means that all the diaper changing, schoolroom sweeping, food-prep, etc. happens somewhere else, too, and is done by people we pay to do it. In my house, it’s done here.
“Your daughter should go to “X-named” expensive and crispy liberal arts college.”
Um, no. My daughter, pleasant as she is, has a mind like a shark. She would absolutely HATE being surrounded by rich kids taking 6 years to find their path as glassblowers or film-makers. And she’s REALLY strong on personal hygiene, for herself and others.
unpack: I know your children better than you do. They’re cool, like me. Nope, they’re not. I know this, because I KNOW them. I spend every day with them. I may look crispy-granola to you, but that’s a choice. My kids are supported in their own choices, and don’t actually chat with their bosses as much as you think. That’s both polite and strategic. If you have not learned the value of being polite and strategic in work environments, you’ve only worked for relatives. Rich relatives.
She offered her services to “edit” my daughter’s college essay. I told my sister this, and heard her head explode.
A) My daughter will write her own essay. Otherwise, she’d be cheating.
B) I was a published writer before you were born. As far as I can tell, you’re not even credited as co-author of a paper in your field. And I looked.
C) I’m not her “mommy”; I’m her teacher. As such, I’m competent to judge an essay.
D) The achievements of my students speak for themselves. Her brother was a prize-winning essayist AND scored in the 99th percentile, nationwide, on the ACT science portion. That’s her brother, the ballet dancer. In her first academic college class, at 16, she has an average test grade of 105 in an accelerated math course. (On a scale of 100. That’s good.) The younger ones have similar accomplishments.
This unpacks to: Really, you’re not a teacher. You’re just an overprotective helicopter mommy who needs to let these poor children out into the world.
INTJ: Worships competence. Plans for the future. Suffers fools seldom.
And had a bad conversation, this weekend. 😀