Ancient cartographers used to draw elaborate dragons and sea serpents on maps to denote unexplored territories. If some faraway land or ocean laid beyond their current knowledge they would scribble in a mythical creature—
Here be Dragons
Such a warning probably worked to keep the less-adventurous souls away, and at the very least, might have given a momentary pause to even the bravest of explorers.
For me, entering motherhood is a bit like heading out to strange, unknown lands. Sure, you know women have been setting off into it since the dawn of man- your own mother traveled there with you and her mother with her. It’s definitely not uncharted water; but sadly, some people like to throw dragons on the map anyway.
Only these dragons aren’t the kind that mark the unknown or the unexplored. No, these dragons cover every inch of the map except for one specific path of the mapmaker’s choosing. You know- the “only route” to motherhood. The cartographers who place them there do so with the intention of laying claim that their path to motherhood is the only logical course to take; and to deviate from their navigated course will result in nothing less than DRAGONS— total failure as a mother and complete unhappiness in your children.
Who are these cartographers trying to wield such power? Other moms. Moms who are not you- who do not have your kids- who do not walk in your shoes. The moms who, whether intentionally or not, stir the big ol’ pot of Mommy Wars.
I used to think “Mommy Wars” was just a term touted by a hyped-up media trying to suggest a conflict that wasn’t really there. The most recent being the Times article, Are You Mom Enough? Really? Mom enough?? So some moms are more mom than others? Or another recent incident involving Hilary Rosen stating Anne Romney never worked a day in her life, and thus triggering the old stay-at-home versus working mom firestorm. I wanted to believe it was just the media playing on words and taking things out of context. I mean, seriously, if there is any group of people that should band together it would be mothers, right?
I knew when we decided to homeschool my children that we were stepping off the beaten path and might be met with some raised eye-brows. And occasionally we are. I’m pretty good at just shrugging it off. I would be lying if I said it never bothers me. Some days after someone’s “well intentioned” encounter, I might have that momentary pang of doubt and wonder- am I screwing up my kids? The most hurtful critiques that worm their way into my head though, are not from strangers in the library or talking heads on tv but from other moms.
After deciding to homeschool I plunged with glee into as many homeschooling groups and co-ops as I could find. I was bright-eyed and optimistic and thought all of us homeschooling folk would get along.
Not quite the case. I have met many amazing friends and wonderful families to journey down the homeschooling path with but I have also been shocked at the large amount of “dragon-throwing” moms out there.
If I listen to them I’m either too religious or not religious enough. I either use too much curricula and am “stealing” my children’s childhoods, or we’re too lax with our play-based days. I’m either adhering to the wrong educational philosophy or don’t know enough about the one we are following.
Don’t get me wrong, not all homeschooling play dates have women sitting on park benches picking at one another’s teaching styles. It’s not like that at all. It’s the occasional generalization thrown out and usually not directed at any one individual. The kind of comment that at first makes you wonder if you heard them right and then stays around in your head all night. Then it’s the in-your-face comments and links posted on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Maybe people feel the artificialness of the setting takes the sting out of their comments and therefore fling judgments with impunity; or maybe they just feel safer preaching from a cyber pulpit. And this behavior isn’t just rearing its ugly head in homeschooling circles.
I’ve seen too many holier-than-thou comments veiled in a thin guise of “educating” other mothers, but it’s really mothers judging other mothers for not embarking on their path. Moms judging moms who birth in hospitals or those who choose home births. Moms who believe you’re sadly ignorant if you willingly choose a c-section. Moms who think you’re a granola munching hippie if you choose to go all natural. Moms judging other women for the length of time they breast feed. Even flat out admitting they are disappointed in another woman’s decision on when to stop. Moms being disgusted by women who choose to keep right on going with it. Moms questioning another’s disciplining technique, and moms appalled at the lack of disciplining in others. The snide comments passed on what someone feeds their kids while others object to someone else’s diet. On and on… It’s such a viscous cycle that I think ultimately stems from the dragons that already swirl around in every mom.
Dragons exist, after all, in the mind. A good mother will always check herself and at times be filled with dragons of doubt. That gnawing, gnashing doubt is evidence of the love harbored for their children. We oftentimes worry and fuss and toss and turn at night because we care- because our children are our world. You can’t decrease the dragons swimming around your own head and burning in your own belly by trying to fling them at someone else. We are all battling our own dragons. I don’t want to wrestle anyone else’s anymore.
And so I won’t. And I hope you won’t either. Question your decisions and actions if you feel the need – not because someone else is holding up a different map.
Look at your children. Do they know they are unconditionally loved? If so, then yes-
You are mom enough.
Happy Mother’s Day to you.
Related Links -
Flashback - Realizing homeschooling was always in the picture
Learning Together- Adding layers to your lessons to incorporate children of varying ages