A while back, I met another homeschooling mother, and our conversation naturally drifted to the ins and outs of homeschooling. Being new to town, I was excited to have found a potential new friend. As we were chatting, I let my guard down (a difficult thing for introverts to do, by the way) and made a random comment about a small difficulty I was having in my homeschool. As it turns out, my new acquaintance did not share my struggle. She replied with a comparison between our two families, and she portrayed mine as inferior.
I was hurt by the comment, but that was only temporary. What was more disturbing was that I felt something defensive rise up inside me. In my heart, I wanted to tout the successes of my homeschool… to prove myself… to validate myself. I’m glad I didn’t act on that! But the potential for a new friendship seemed to be lost, as I determined to keep my mouth zipped regarding anything personal from that point on.
As I thought more about the conversation, however, it occurred to me that this woman probably never intended to insult me. She probably wanted to impress me.
We homeschool moms tend to be a conscientious sort. We deeply desire what’s best for our children. Among our many hopes for our children, we want them to know and love God, to have good character, to be well-prepared for anything the future holds for them, and yes – to be smart. We are constantly in search of the perfect curriculum, the perfect schedule, the perfect books, the perfect systems, the perfect formula. We seem to have bought into this idea that if we can be perfect mothers, then our children will turn out perfectly. Not that we would ever SAY it in those words, but I think a subtle form of that type of thinking takes root deep inside our hearts.
At least it does for me. In my mind it sounds more like this:
Tsk, tsk. Not on top of things, are we, Michelle? The kindergartner still isn’t reading, and you STILL haven’t potty trained that 2-year-old. So-and-so’s son is trained, and so-and-so’s daughter is reading, and they are younger than your children. And those little ones are so disobedient! Your older ones weren’t like that… You’re slacking. What’s wrong with you? Your kids would be so much better off if you were a better mom. If only you would just… BE MORE.”
Be more what? More consistent. More organized. More creative. More patient. More energetic. More perfect.
So we strive to have it all together. And, we want to be affirmed. The mom who compared her homeschool to mine likely wanted me to respect that she’s doing a good job with her family – which she probably is. She likely didn’t think before she spoke. And, she likely never even realized that while she was building herself up, she could be knocking me down.
So, while my friendship with that woman never really took off, I’m not angry with her. I get it: She wanted affirmation, and her comment lacked grace. But I really wish that the conversation could have gone a little differently. I would have been so grateful if she had instead smiled and said, “I know what you mean! Can I share something that has helped me?” or “Yes, that can be tough!” or “Oh boy, that would bother me too! I’ll be praying about that.” That would have helped and inspired me. Instead, I felt judged and discouraged.
Please don’t misunderstand – I don’t think it’s a bad thing to share our successes. As moms we should share our successes and celebrate those of others. We should be cheering one another on and spurring each other ahead. I am genuinely thrilled for my friends, who are gifted in ways I am not, and for their children, who are accomplishing things that mine are not. We should be joyful for the unique ways that others are blessed. Love is not jealous.
But love is also not proud. If we share only the successes, and not the struggles, we leave those around us wondering, “What’s wrong with me?”
As a blogger, it is a fine line to walk. I’ve learned a lot over my eighteen years as a mother and thirteen years as a homeschooler, and I do have ideas to share! But at the same time, I don’t want to give the impression that everything is so easy for me, or that I always have it together. Much of what I have learned has been born through struggle and prayer! My hope for this blog is that no one would ever come away discouraged at thinking, “Wow… she has ten kids and has it all together… what’s wrong with me when I struggle with two?”
I want readers to come here and know: “Wow… she’s actually not that patient or organized at all! If there’s hope for her, then there absolutely is hope for me!”
I don’t want to be at all about self-glory. I want to point to God who is working amazing things in my home and family in spite of my weaknesses.
Dear friends, please take the risk and be real.
Yes – you may get burned sometimes. Certain people may lose some respect for you when they find out that (gasp!) you aren’t perfect.
But the others? Those other admittedly weak, imperfect people? They will be encouraged to know that they are not alone. They will see your life and have hope for their own. They will be grateful for your transparency. You may even discover one of those rare gems – a lifelong friend.
Openness, encouragement, prayer… we need this from each other, friends. My hope is that you’ll take that risk and be real.