Wednesday, November 28, 2012

learning from others: Mayim Bialik

First of all, I have to give credit to my friends: I only found out about her divorce because someone was defending co-sleeping. Nobody spent the whole day obsessing over this. But I would like to put in my two cents.

I have not watched "Blossom". I have seen 1-2 episodes of "Big Bang Theory". I don't do baby slings, co-sleeping, elimination communication, anti-vax. I do homeschool and I do believe that natural childbirth is a better way. However, when Mayim Bialik came to our community about a year ago, I heard some gushing which could not be easily ignored. Then she came in to a fundraiser for underprivileged moms. It was her and Ina May, and I really wanted to hear Ina May, so her speech was a cherry on top. I did not agree with most of the things she said.

What I heard about Mayim was that she works and how she does this very hands-on parenting. Being a stay-at-home mom, I know what it's like having kids around all the time. I also know that someone has to pick up all the boogers while one of the parents is out, so I assumed that she had a fleet of nannies carrying out all those intense, hands-on things. I was reassured that they do not use babysitters, which means that it is just them, two parents, doing all the dirty jobs. Except that one of these parents happens to have a very high-profile job, with long hours, routine time out of the house, interviews, book promotions. That means that her husband has been doing all the scut-work.

Attachment parenting is not to blame, but it is hard to do attachment parenting if the parent who preaches it the loudest happens to be the one who has the least time devoted to it. It reminds me of this woman who was a spokeswoman for housewives. She extolled the virtues of staying at home, and having no career and taking care of your family as your primary fulfillment. Well, she made herself a nice career traveling all over the country, speaking at conferences, while someone else took care of her house. It is ironic to be telling others what to do when you stop practicing what you preach.

What am I taking away from all of this?

My blog has been primarily chronicling our homeschooling days. As such, it defines me as a homeschooler. With that definition come certain expectations, both external and internal. Some expect my kids to be getting better education than what is available through school. Some expect me to be more in tune to my kids. Some expect me to be a sage teacher, aware of every nuance of child development and coming up with perfect programs to tap into the kids' strengths. Overall, there is an assumption that we have it all figured out. Then I dispense advice like some guru, and it all goes to my head...

But the reality changes all the time. What was good last month might not work any more. What was an advantage might end up being a throwback. The homeschooling philosophy as we practice it now is what works right now, but it might not be what will work down the road.

For those who asked me how long we are planning on homeschooling, I honestly answered: we are doing it this year, and we will decide about the next year when the time comes. This is my public declaration of ability to back-pedal, so to speak, and be able to choose what's best for my family instead of being stuck defined as a homeschooler. If the circumstances change, and my kids would be better in school, I will send them to school. Possible scenarios: job changes, health issues, extreme unhappiness.

I sort of hope that if Mayim had not written a book and locked herself as an attachment parenting advocate, she could have alleviated some of the burden of keeping up the image that her husband was feeling. It is hard to break the mold when you are defined so rigidly. And no level of attachment parenting can remove the trauma of divorce.

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