Mommy Guilt, Homeschool Style

I think every mom comes in for her own fair share of guilt from time to time. Whether it’s because you completely forgot to brush someone’s teeth every morning for a week, or something more serious, like yelling at a child instead of patiently correcting him (not that I would ever do these things), there is always something that needs to be corrected. Sometimes mommy guilt is healthy. If you find yourself feeling guilty for the umpteenth time because you let your temper get out of hand, then you deserve to feel guilty until you get that behavior under control.

IMG_0054But what about all those little niggling things that moms are constantly feeling guilty about—the things that really don’t matter that much? All moms worry about things like not getting enough vegetables, or organic vegetables, or the right variety of vegetables. Incidentally, why are moms so hung up on vegetables? Do you know that 90% of the vegetables you think your children are eating are actually hidden in various planters and doggie tummies around the house? And yet, look at the healthy faces of your children!

So, whence the guilt? Most “mommy guilt” is imposed on us by the expectations of others. It’s certainly not that we’ve done something wrong or failed to meet our own standards. In fact, what we’re usually feeling when we think of “mommy guilt” isn’t real guilt at all, but fear of failure in meeting the expectations of friends and family or the latest scientific research. “Mommy guilt” is code for “fear of being judged”.

Homeschool moms, especially, seem to come in for an unfair share of mommy “guilt”. Not only do we worry about tooth-brushings and veggie-eating and imperfect parenting just like everyone else, the world sends us our own special kind of guilt. If our kids struggle with  math, it’s because they’re homeschooled. If they’re shy, it’s because they’re homeschooled. If they have bad handwriting, it’s because they’re homeschooled.

When the old man down the street quizzes your kid on geography, judges him more harshly than he ever would any other child (not that he would quiz any other child), and pronounces his opinion that you’re failing, you get the double guilt of not having stood up to the bully for your child and wondering if he’s correct. After all, you’re just a mom. Maybe you should leave this to the experts. (This has never happened to me, but I have heard horror stories. Call that scenario a composite.)

The constant scrutiny certainly isn’t helped any by the ever-present–statistically correct, but individually unfair–expectation that homeschooled students are brighter and better-educated than average. Often, even homeschooling advocates are unwittingly adding to the difficulties of lesser mortals by inflating expectations of academic success. For those of us with struggling learners, the guilt of not being the kind of mom that turns out A+ kids often comes, not from the world, but from fellow homeschoolers who will admit no weakness to outsiders, lest they lose an argument or two.

What do you do with all that guilt? Sometimes it would seem easier to hand our children over to the “experts” so the failure no longer seems so much like our own fault, wouldn’t it? The difficulties would almost certainly still be there, but at least the pressure would be off!

When I’m feeling that false guilt—usually around the time my seven year-old takes up a pencil for spelling or copywork—I try to focus, not on the expectations that the world and, sadly, other homeschoolers have set for me, but on the child in front of me. He needs me to care about his handwriting because I care about him, not because I’m worried about what my neighbor is going to think of my decision to homeschool when she gets her imperfectly lettered, handmade birthday card from him.

God gave me this child. He didn’t give him to my neighbor, or the media, or the “experts”, or even to other homeschoolers. I have to trust that he is going to enable me to do what He has called me to do—even when that calling is constantly being unfairly called into question by others.

Do you have homeschool mommy guilt? What do you do when the “guilt” starts to creep in?


Comments

  1. Oh. My. Goodness. I don’t think you could have hit any more nails on the head. Fantastic conclusion, Cindy, I love the way you give a solution that makes sense and offers hope: just focus on your child, not how people are going to judge you because of how you raise your child. Bravo! Applause!

  2. What a fabulous article … and yes, I am so guilty!

  3. Great post! I feel the mommy guilt on a pretty regular basis. Thanks for some great reminders!

  4. Mommy guilt…homeschool guilt…what’s that (excuse me while I duck and run for cover..) YES….but, thankful for grace and mercy and I see it in the hearts of my children daily when I ask them for it!

  5. Absolutely spot on! Thanks for the encouragement, I sure needed it.