I wish I had better advice for this topic.
It’s one thing when people pay a homeschooler those back-handed compliments.
“Oh, you must have your hands full.” Accompanied by a sickly-sweet smile.
“I could never do that.” Followed by, “I would kill my kids.”
“I wish I had time to homeschool my kids.” Oblivious to the financial and social sacrifices we make in order to have the time.
But there’s something even worse, even more insidious. See, I ran into an acquaintance the other day who is a professional and a mom. During the ‘catching up’ phase of the conversation she asked what I’m doing now. I told her I’m homeschooling my kids and her smile literally froze on her face (it’s cold outside, after all). She hurriedly changed the topic back to herself: her busy days, her troublesome clients, how she can never quite find the time to blah blah blah. Laughing with her, I concurred. YOU know, fellow homeschool parent, just how busy I am. Because you’re that busy. Because even though we don’t get paid for this job, we are at work 24/7. Our clients are just as demanding and we rarely get to leave them (not that we want to). When we finally go to bed, exhausted, we are thinking of all the things we didn’t quite find the time to do, and all the things we have to do tomorrow. We are Busy.
But this woman blew me off. A chuckle. A toss of the head. “Well,” she said in a supremely condescending tone, “I mean, I’m Really busy. I barely have time to look at my kids, let alone teach them anything.”
Lady, that’s your problem.
Is it guilt or jealousy that makes professional women automatically assume that a homemaker or homeschooler doesn’t have a real life with real tasks to do and real rewards and real schedules? Is it a true dislike of their homes and families that makes them cringe at the idea? Is it meanness?
I just don’t know. I try to put myself in other people’s shoes before I react to them; I really do. But after that conversation I prompted several more with other people and I noticed it every time–that refusal to believe I could really be Busy, that my life isn’t a bowl of cherries and donuts because I don’t have a paying job. I must just sit around all day watching (cringe) soap operas and eating bon-bons, the Peg Bundy of the 2010s. I’m not busy. I don’t even work.
So the worst back-handed compliment I’ve ever gotten is, “It must be so nice not to have to work every day.”
Are you kidding? It must be nice to get to leave your job behind and have entire weekends where you don’t have to do it. To take vacations that don’t incorporate major learning experiences into them. To get breaks.
That’s what I want to say. But I wouldn’t even mean it. Because I’ve had jobs. I had a career. And the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done is teach my kids.
Just, if you run into me on the street, please don’t belittle me. Please don’t act like I’m not busy just because no one sees fit to pay me for what I do. Please don’t assume I’m Peg Bundy. I don’t even have time to watch her reruns on TV, let alone BE her.
I left that woman on the street with a polite (perhaps frozen?) smile without even bothering to contradict her. Sometimes it’s just not worth it. I probably won’t see her again for another 5 years. Maybe I should have spoken up. Asked her to spend her next vacation at my house and see just how busy I am. Said something scathing about her lack of interaction with her precious littles. But as I walked away from her, I smiled. Because, busy as I am, I’m happy. Her? Not so much.
My only advice in the face of such ignorance is to keep that smile plastered on. Remember why you do this and how most days are blissful no matter how busy. Remember that your littles know they are what matters to you most. And remember… She really is busy. Her life is just as harried as yours. You be the compassionate one. Because it has to start somewhere, and it may as well start with us.
Has this ever happened to you? If so, how did you handle it? I’d love to hear about your experiences.