Ugly at the Beauty Salon

It's our regular 5 week visit to the hair salon. We're tag-teaming to make the night feel less long. I arrive first with the "littles" and my husband comes later with the big boys and at the end of it 6 heads are lighter of hair.

It's my turn and I sit at the chair and station of a long time friend. I've known her since before the birth of my "littles", probably 7 years now. We shared the same Catholic school and parish for a while and now she asks about homeschooling and I ask about the old school as she snips away, cutting layers.

It's the women at the station beside us, however and their conversation which brings a different cut. In our pauses in conversation and I am sure without knowing anything about me, (I am a stranger to them both) I hear them talking about homeschooling, stay at home mothers, a woman with 3 young children. I think I detect my sweet and always gracious friend smiling a bit uncomfortably and even though it's not stilted conversation, I feel like she's talking so I don't have to hear them. In her kindness, and perhaps as a warning flare shot over their heads, she asks if I let the kids have the day off the other snow day. No acknowledgement from that camp, they continue.

I'm not angry at their words, rather sad. We all harbor misconceptions of one sort or the other. I am sure I am guilty of some. Someone is surely sad over me and what I think...

These women beside me think that only if a mom is running OUT of the house to various co-ops, "not just one place but a different place for each subject" and enrolled in multiple sports or extra-curriculars is she meeting that concern for socializing her homeschooler....she says, from her side.

On my side I hear...Unless kids are with groups of other kids their exact same age and running here and there at a frenetic pace then they can not be evolving correctly for the working world. Really? Does my husband work with people all his same age? No. Is all the busyness of multiple commitments really good for our kids? Are peers their same age really the only suitable companions and even the ones that will bring out the best in them? Do their classmates have their best interests at heart?

And my bias wonders...Are the children she knows and approves of in her life close to their parents? or their siblings? Do they have time for family dinners all together? Are these kids attached to their electronic devices, detached from their family, eating alone and maybe experimenting with risky and adult behaviors that seem to be taking place earlier and earlier in schools? And there you have it...I've springboarded and jumped off into my own pool of perceptions.

From her side she says.....that she's seen some homeschoolers who are not socialized. Some that "aren't right." She says that she's the type that would go crazy if she didn't work. She could never do it (homeschooling) and she laughs. There's always a laugh after that line.

I hear, on my side.... that she thinks that weird kids or shy kids somehow don't exist in schools! Really? No weirdos or shy kids to ALSO be found in schools or any other microcosm of societal life?! Why would she go crazy being around her own kids, I wonder? What are they like? Sure, at some point even the saints drove their parents crazy but why wouldn't you want to be with your children? Why wouldn't you want to take the effort to guide your own flesh and blood into being the type of person that others would like to be around? Should be rewarding work indeed!

Every homeschooler starts their story off by saying that they didn't think they could do it. Surely there are days that they still find hard. But whose job doesn't have hard days...days when we doubt our abilities? And if everyone has one-of-those-days, then teachers must have them too! When they do they have to recommit, like anyone else, hunkering down and remotivating themself to recommit to the job. The main difference is that when a homeschool mom recommits to homeschooling, she does so because she also loves her children. No teacher can or will ever LOVE a child and commit to a child like a parent will.

And my bias wonders...if she really saying that she is unwilling to and "could never" serve her children/family and their needs ahead of hers? Could she really not find it in her to use the determination or consistency she brings to other areas of her life to overcome any obstacles she may perceive to her being able to homeschool? She needn't worry about feeling under-educated. Studies show that even parents with minimal personal education still homeschool children that test percentages above their public-schooled counterparts on standardized tests!

And in wondering how it could be said that "not everyone can homeschool" in light of the statistics on it's success and parents abilities to make sacrifices elsewhere in their lives I once again springboard and jump off into my own pool of perceptions and judgements.

Perhaps I feel saddest when, as my cut is finishing up and thankfully I'll be missing out on any more observations from their side she says.... (speaking of some other woman) "she has three little children and I've got wonder if she know what she's gotten into. I mean 3...and little. What was she thinkin'?"

On my side I hear....that she doesn't envy this woman. Really? I do. Sure when they're little and needier and there's multiple diapers it's challenging. But I miss that time...the cute, cuddly time that's gone in a flash. Everything they say is funny and they want to hug and kiss you and they look so precious when they sleep... and when they giggle... and when they raise their arms up to you. Someday when I am old I hope they surround me. Because my mother told me that you'll always regret not having more children -you'll never regret having them! My mother always craves us all to be together, she likes our company. My mother in law, who is an only child says she'd never wish that on a child and wishes she had siblings, especially now that her parents are gone...but she does have 4 sons who love her and are a part of her life.

And my bias wonders...the woman talking beside me, was her family life not so happy as mine? Why else would she so devalue motherhood? Did her mother somehow fail her? Did her sister ditch her at school because it was uncool to talk to someone in her grade. Is she projecting some hurt from her family of origin that makes it impossible for her to imagine someone else embracing the miracle of motherhood? Did she cut herself off to love?






Returning home I sit here to sort out my thoughts. The woman beside me spoke her thoughts. I'll never know why she has them. But my inbox tells me, via an email, that her opinions are a prevalent opinion of the world today. Natalie Portman's oscar acceptance speech is criticized because she references her impending motherhood as being her most important role and women...other women...find fault in that making cutting remarks!? Really?

In my sadness my words are unspoken, but written here...perhaps equally cutting. And I am not blind to the fact that my loving friend cutting my hair on my side is a working mother who sends her kids to school and they seem to be turning into fine young men and women, like my own...there is no snipping between us.

Somehow we share sides...swimmingly.

Jump in the pool...the water's fine.


Nadja said...

It's funny, Allison, but the last time I had to defend the Faith, it was while getting my hair cut.

I think that perhaps home educating is like what St. Paul says about celibacy...let those who can, do, as it is the more perfect thing. But not all can.

It is ridiculous, of course, for people to make disparaging comments about the opposing view. We walk only in our own shoes and the Lord wishes us to look to our own affairs and not judge others. It is difficult, though. I think it is impossible for humans to live without drawing comparisons. Everything in our existence is a matter of contrasts, and we naturally find our comfort zone at some spot in the midst of them.

On another note, I always feel a bit sorry for women who feel that more than two kids is too many. Here I am with six, and I am sorry not to have more. Whenever I have been told--and I am told almost weekly--"My, you have your hands full!" I always retort with, "Who wants empty hands?"

Unknown said...

Oh, I'm so sorry you had to sit through that conversation! Sometimes I see kids wandering around town after school and find myself thinking (and judging!) that people think my kids are weird? Really? These kids I see look more like social misfits, but again that is my judgement. Like most homeschool moms I often get the question/statement "I don't know how you do it", but wouldn't most parents clamor to send their child to an inexpensive school that boasts a 6 to 1 student/teacher ratio!!?

Jamie Jo said...

I'm so sorry you had to sit through that. How sad that they felt that need to be so rude and unthoughtful of other's feelings.

All we can do is pray for them, really.

All that matters is what God thinks. Not these women.

It still hurts.
We, as women, need to lift eachother up, not tear eachother down. I couldn't even finish the Natilie Portman article you linked to, I just felt sick.

Great post JMJ!

Allison said...

I don't regret hearing the conversation...and I was eavesdropping, shame on me! They didn't know that I was a homeschooler.

Maybe God gives us these occasions to process/strengthen our commitments and to show us how we can exhibit the same unattractive behaviors that we witness.


I am grateful to be at a place now where I see the intrinsic beauty of the sacrifice of motherhood.

Christine said...

Our world is hurting. Especially our country. This is why I blog because of beautiful moms like yourself.
I really think they just do not know.
I was once blind. Teen-age and early twenties were a really hard time for me. College almost killed any seed of faith I had. So much liberal junk thrown at me. I voted for Bill Clinton for petesakes. I think these women are trapped in the lies of our culture and society. Which is so sad.
Thanks for still lubbing me even though I do not home school. We live in a very catholic part of MN. Very nice town with good schools. We do not run with our kids. Supper every-single night together. Our faith is no. one. We are super weird that way even around here.
My sons got a hair cut also last me! When I picked him up from school there was this really really long piece I missed. Almost peed my pants laughing. My poor kids.

I think homeschooling is a very good thing. I see what you mamas do and it is awesome.

My whole family ...they think I am crazy staying home and having 5 kids. These are the people that SHOULD love me. I imagine the world thinks worse.

and on being an only child....that is stinks stinks stinks. I do have a sister that my dad adopted when he remarried. She is 11 yrs younger then me so I never really grew up with her. But she is still my sister. just in a different sort of way.

Ashley said...

Thank you. This was a brilliant, thought-provoking blog post. You displayed great charity in your comments of the other person and in your restraint in not jumping in to her discussion; it can be difficult to not feel attacked in such a situation.

With a little one on the way and due in late July, one toddler, a pre-schooler, a kindergartener, no dedicated homeschooling space and a house that will likely be undergoing a renovation come July, August and September (which is also the busiest time of year for birthdays, etc), I am feeling the fear of homeschooling next year. And I haven't done a great job of it this year, either. On top of it all, I am hearing from family members that I should put my boys in public school next year. It's hard not to let the voices of others creep in and change my own perceptions of myself, my abilities and "what's best for my children and family."

Thanks to the encouragement of a friend and my husband, I have spent the past two weeks renewed in my desire to homeschool. I have been working hard to establish us in a better routine and to make homeschooling a priority. It hasn't been easy, but I really don't want to send them to someone else next year.

Words like yours today have only bolstered my resolve. So, I thank you. God Bless you!


Suzie L. said...

I really appreciate the way you wrote your post ... what was 'said' and what you 'heard'.

Wow, I had no idea that Natalie Portman's acceptance speech had created such a stir. I didn't watch the Oscars, though. Hollywood is not void of people who value family and children, thank goodness their opinions are voiced on a larger platform ... even if only sparingly.

Jamie Carin and Claudio Romano said...

Allison what a beautiful and thought provoking post. You are in an inspiration and source for support and advice to new moms and homeschoolers like me.

PattyinCT said...

Love it! It brings me comfort to know that other Moms are out there encountering all of this worldliness. Keep all of these moms in your prayers.

Truth doesn't hurt. Ignorance hurts.

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