The pressure begins very early—the prenatal mommy wars are some of the worst. When I was pregnant with our second child, several of our friends were expecting babies around the same time. We enjoyed sharing our pregnancies together and cheered and encouraged each other through bouts of morning sickness, miscarriage scares, bed rest, and false alarms.
We also obsessed together over diet, exercise, prenatal vitamins, and the decision about breastfeeding. I admit that I felt pressure and decided to breastfeed because the rest of my friends all planned to do it and I didn’t want to be the “bad mom” who started her kid out on the bottle. It ended up being a bad decision for a number of reasons. I’m not anti-breastfeeding and I certainly do recognize the wonderful health benefits, but for our family, it was the wrong decision and we went through weeks of misery because I let the opinions of my friends weigh too heavily in my decision-making process. I failed to remember: I am the parent, I know what’s best for my child.
When the time came for our son to begin kindergarten and we decided to try homeschooling, one friend exclaimed, “But what about the prom?” Terrible mother that I am, I hadn’t even given it a thought (he was only 5 years old!).
That was a make-or-break moment for me in our homeschooling journey and in the development of our parenting philosophy. Back in 1996 homeschoolers weren’t “out” to the extent they are today. Especially in the early years, we faced many questions about our decision to homeschool. Some friends were genuinely curious and asked innocent questions. Others expressed serious concern that our children would be social misfits. Every homeschooler (parents and kids alike) deals with a zillion questions about the “S” word—socialization.
While it’s always good and important to seek advice before making important decisions, your friends’ priorities may be different from those of your family. With major parenting decisions it’s important to zoom out and look at the big picture. A complex array of values, preferences, and beliefs form your family’s unique ethos and determine your choices and priorities, and even your best-intentioned friends may not share those priorities. The “prom question” actually helped us to think through the long-term consequences of homeschooling and cemented our decision to continue. Once you make your decision, own it and remember: You’re the parents and you’re capable of making the best decisions for your kids.
[As it turned out, our son who never went to school attended two proms his senior year and our son who attended public school for his final two years of high school didn’t go to the prom.]