While reading a blog entry recently, I came across the term 'Mommy Mafia', which was a term I had yet to encounter considering the fact that my daughter is only 8 months old and I have only begun to try building bridges with other families for the purpose of play-dating.
So I searched this new term - 'Mommy Mafia' - and came across a comical but honest article on the CNN website. The article mentions that we have all (as Moms) judged other Moms on the way they parent and therefore have a little bit of the 'Mafia' in us, but that there is no way of truly knowing for sure if we are doing things 'right'.
I found that this article summarized how I have been feeling lately about parenting in general. I have made the comparison that parenting is kind of like driving. The number of accidents there are on the roads these days (and honestly - at least 90% of accidents were caused because SOMEONE wasn't paying enough attention) would indicate that there are not as many 'good' drivers out there as there are people who claim to be 'good' drivers... but almost no one admits to being a bad driver. Parenting is similar, but the stakes are much higher. We are vehemently defensive of our parenting choices, because the result of choosing the 'wrong' style might indicate that we are in some way failing our children. As desperately as I try to convince myself that all parenting styles are good in their own way, and that different children and different families require different types of parenting methods, of COURSE I believe that any methods I have currently chosen are the 'best', otherwise I would not have chosen them. However, like driving, when I look at the number of people out there who are rude, unmotivated, difficult, socially awkward, or worse, I realize the stakes are against me there too. The odds of me raising a child who does not fit the 'ideal' in my mind's eye is all too likely.
Does that mean the 'Mommy Mafia' problem is unchangeable? Not entirely. Although we all may feel defensive about our own parenting ideals, we do have to consider the fact that we all have different priorities when it comes to our children. We all want to encourage different things. Where my first priority might be to raise kind and respectful children, another parent's priority might be to raise intelligent and motivated children. The differing layout of our priorities will ultimately change the way we parent them. This is obviously one area where there are many 'right' answers.
Don't even get me started on the cliched statement that all children are different, but this is also a huge factor that will affect the outcome.
So with all of these things in mind (and the best way to combat this is probably to assume that we are all part of the problem), even though we will probably internally criticize another Mom's methods, we must choose to not let this affect how we treat them, or their children. On the other side of this, we should probably make an extra effort to really understand our own methods so that we can get behind them 100% and feel confident in them even in the face of differing opinions.
Step 1 in getting along with other parents?
After a recent Facebook post by a friend and homeschooling mom about a comment she had heard recently stating that home-schooled children are ‘weird’, I felt the need to voice my own uneducated opinion.
Although I’ll admit that I have had my share of experiences with ‘weird’ home-schooled kids, particularly in rural areas where it is easier for children to remain isolated from other people, I have also had an abundance of contact with ‘weird’ public schooled kids, and just as many home-schooled kids who had no defining characteristics that set them apart from their public schooled peers. From my observations, it was less the method of schooling that affected the child’s ability to socialize and more the amount of time each child spends cooped up in their rooms or basements away from other people aside from the time they spend schooling.
In response to my friend’s post, another friend suggested that home-schooled kids are ‘weird’ because they do not have the same pressure to conform that publicly schooled children have (in the ways of social behaviors this may be considered a necessary skill, while in the area of a child’s talents and interests it creates the possibility of repression). As a girl who was publicly schooled as a child, I recognize that my views and interests were shaped a lot by my peers in school. There were things that were considered ‘cool’ when it came to clothing, activities and even who you were friends with, and there were things that were ‘uncool’. To allow yourself to be labelled with something ‘uncool’ is opening yourself up to be ostracized and ridiculed, and maybe even to lose your friends. This is a scary thing for a child, and most will bend to this pressure to fit in. I admit that in a lot of ways, I altered who I was and what I might rather be doing out of fear. I wonder to this day what sort of person I might be, what I might be interested in and even what type of clothing I might buy, if I had not been brainwashed to care about what the general public would think of me. This is a curse that many home-schooled kids seem to be able to avoid.
I recently read the Wikipedia article on Homeschooling, and skimmed through some of the comments made in reference to research that has been done on home-schooled children recently. It basically stated that recently, home-schooled students had been found to perform better on standardized tests than their public-schooled peers. Another interesting point made was that the gaps between minorities and genders were much less prevalent in home-schooled students.
Might I suggest that a child’s ‘strangeness’ has nothing to do with how they are schooled, but rather how they are parented? These studies might also suggest that academic achievement also is not affected by the method of learning, but rather more to do with how invested a parent is in their child’s learning. For example, a parent who is wanting to teach their child at home is likely going to be more involved in their child’s learning and development. It stands to reason that a child who has invested parents is more likely to succeed than a child who is left alone. Any child who spends the majority of their days in their bedroom in front of a computer monitor is more likely to be socially awkward than a child who spends much of their free time outdoors playing with other children – regardless of whether their ‘at school’ time is spent in or out of the home.
One advantage of home-schooling is that it typically takes less time in a day than public-schooled children spend in school, and so they have more time available for ‘playing’, which seems to be something we are sadly getting increasingly too busy for.
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