If you make any unusual lifestyle choices, I promise you’ll hear this remark. Sometimes, it’s made in a wistful way, as though the person wishes they could do whatever it is. As if they really mean, “Wow, that’s wonderful! I wish I could, but I don’t think I’m strong/clever/brave enough.” Other times, it’s merely criticism masked as a benign statement. Then, it really means, “That’s terrible! That makes you a bad person/parent. I could never do THAT!” On occasion, it means exactly what it sounds like. “Hmm, that’s interesting, but I couldn’t do it.”
We have, totally without weighing the opinions of those outside our home, made quite a few lifestyle choices that evoke, “Well, I couldn’t do that!” responses. Some of these choices I expected would shock a few people. Some of our choices, I expected to hack a few people off. Some choices, I expected to make a few people uncomfortable. Some, I expected would interest and draw in a few people. But, I never anticipated the continuous barrage of “I couldn’t do that”, which comes our way!
In response, I normally smile and say, “That’s okay, you don’t have to”. However, I find myself frequently wishing it wasn’t terrible manners to frown at the critics and say, “So far as I know, NO ONE EVER ASKED YOU TO!” However, I’m from Texas. If you make Texan women mad, we simply smile more sweetly and say, ‘bless your little heart’! (If you ever push a Texan woman past the point of ‘bless your poor little heart’, it’s time to run fast and don’t look back! 😉 )
Let me mention a few of our ‘off the wall’ choices. We have four children. We have primarily homeschooled our kids. We live on a farm 20 minutes from the nearest town. We raise meat animals. We usually butcher our own meat animals. We have a vegetable garden and grow organically. I can and preserve much of our food. These choices elicit passionate responses in many people. Passionate support, passionate criticism, even passionate confusion roll in the moment these topics arise.
Another apparently off the wall choice that really surprised me, is my job. I work in a very specialized pediatric ICU. When I tell someone what I do, I typically get one of two responses. Many people say something like, “Oh, bless you for doing that!”, which always welcome and lovely! Others lead with, “I don’t know how you do that! I couldn’t do it!” When referring to my job, “I couldn’t do it” has two possible meanings. First, let’s discuss the nice one. This really means, “Oh, that must be so difficult to see each day. I couldn’t do it, but I’m glad there are people who chose to.” Now, I get that a lot, and I truly appreciate the support.
However, there’s a whole other group! The second group’s “I couldn’t do it!” translates roughly to, “I couldn’t do that, because, I’m a kind and compassionate person. If you can stand to see sick children all the time and collect a paycheck for it, you must be a heartless callous cow!” Yes, this is rare, but I asked around work and the consensus is that into all our lives a little mean-spirited judgment must fall.
What I don’t understand is why people feel the need to weigh another’s choices against their own life. I homeschool, nurse, raise happy animals, eat meat from those animals, and do soapy water battle with squash bugs in the morning, because, those are the things that feel right, feed my passions, sustain me, and meet my family’s needs. However, I don’t believe my choices are a one-size-fits-all panacea for world peace or personal contentment. I believe everyone should live thoughtfully and according to their own conscience, not mine!
I’ve seen several articles recently on mom-shaming. I don’t get this at all! Breast, bottle, natural, medicated, C-section, V-back (vaginal after C-section), day care, nanny, stay at home mom (SAHM), pre-school, homeschool, public school, private school… My goodness, the decisions involved in parenting are never ending. I’ve been a stay at home mom, working mom, breast fed, bottle fed, medicated, C-section, V-backed, pre-schooled, public schooled, private schooled, homeschooled…the list goes on and on.
Out of four kids, I’ve made very few decisions that were the best fit for all of them. Each situation, each season of life, each child must be adapted to. Heck, I could totally mom-shame myself for choices I made early in my parenting ‘career’ or even recently! However, I choose to give myself the grace I hope to receive from my kids. (After all, they’re the ones those decisions really affect.)
I’ve been asked if I feel ‘more a mother’ to my V-back son than to my C-section children. Apparently, this is a question, because, I ‘actually gave birth to him’! For me, the time he was in and out of the birth canal pales when compared to the nine months I carried him, the feeling of his movements within me, and the twenty-one years I’ve loved and protected him. (As a side note, though I respect women who choose V-backs, I would not have made that choice. He was only a V-back, because, it was long enough ago that insurance could force it for financial reasons. Due to health concerns, I would have been more comfortable with another C-section.)
Please don’t misunderstand! I’m not hypersensitive. I enjoy asking and being asked questions about the how’s and why’s of life. The thing that makes me most frustrated isn’t even when someone is rude or judges our lifestyle. What really gets me is when people assume I’m judging them. If you’re eating neon Popsicles and drinking your sixth soda for the day, the nurse in me may be mentally assessing you for impending medical emergencies. If you’re eating a pre-boiled pre-peeled battery chicken egg, the ‘farmer’ in me
may will smugly envision my nice fresh golden-yolked eggs and possibly offer to sell you a dozen. But, I promise I’m not thinking, if you were better or smarter you’d get a few hens and switch to dandelion tea! For goodness sake, I only drink real leaded strong-enough-to-support-a-tap-dancer-on-the-surface tea, and I go through about a gallon a day. I also have a barely controlled Chick-fil-A addiction!
I know people who are appalled we eat meat at all. I know people who are appalled we butcher our own meat. I know people who are appalled if we buy meat at the store, rather than eating our own. I know people who think I live in fear of societal collapse, because I keep a stocked pantry. I know people who think we’re irresponsible, because we don’t grow all our own livestock feeds. I know people who are appalled we have four kids, rather than the prescribed 2.5. I know people who are appalled we used birth control and didn’t have as many kids as I could carry. I know people who think homescooling is child abuse, and I know people who think I failed as a mom when I sent my son to school for speech therapy. I know people who think breast feeding is nasty and dirty. I know people who think bottle feeding means you don’t love your child.
My point is, whatever important choices we make in life, someone will say, “I couldn’t do that!” and that’s okay. Some will admire us and wish they could. Some will censure us and take pride they can’t. Some will be interested and want to learn. Whatever their response, we just have to smile and say,
“That’s okay! You don’t have to…because, I can!”
(Then, widen our smiles and bless their little hearts if they were rude!)
Please, leave me a comment if you have time! I’d love to chat about your “I couldn’t do that” moments!
This post has been shared with our favororite blog hops and linky parties! They share tons of great information!