Sunday, 8 May 2011
In The Zone - thoughts from outside looking in
Am I outside your comfort zone?
Are you sitting comfortably?There has been much in the media this week about the happiness gene, a few tweets popping up about comfort zones and I had half started thinking about the economics of happiness so I have been thinking "how can you be happy if you are also supposed to be uncomfortable?"How does this relate to our parenting choices especially the outside the box options and I have concluded that it is not my comfort zone that is the defining parameter here but the more relevant question is:
Starting with birth, seems an obvious place to begin, it was the horror stories of friend's experiences in hospitals that were an initial catalyst to us seeking out alternatives and yes, when chatting to a mother I don't really know at the park I do brush it off with the forbidden "L" word and say "Well, I have been really lucky and had all three of my children at home, in the same room, with the same midwife, isn't that funny, don't hear that often etc etc" when they ask questions but if you read our 3 birth stories, especially the first one, the words: odds, statistics and probability feature regularly. This is text I wrote 6 and a half years ago and have not amended suggesting that leaving it to luck was the last thing on our minds. But this choice to go outside the normal consensus makes other people seem to feel uncomfortable and defend and justify their own choices in a way that often takes me by surprise In the early days being unable to join in with moaning about queues for antenatal appointments or share anecdotes about the filthy state of hospital toilets left me with little contribute to conversations and when I did speak I often felt I'd hurt someone's feelings or said the wrong thing even though my "Brave" choices were freely up for debate.
I have experienced the same phenomenon with feeding choices. It goes something like: "It is great that you are breastfeeding and we are so impressed you have stuck with it for so long but would it be okay if you didn't do it here?" or if I post up a breastfeeding in the news link on my facebook page there is the, almost inevitable, "My baby has grown just fine on cow & gate / aptamil / SMA" comment. As if my status constantly reads "There are no advantages to breastfeeding only disadvantages of formula feeding."Again in the park scenario mothers will often tell me that they "couldn't" breastfeed and, in my 6 years of parenting, I have only met one who outright told me that there was no way she would be entertaining that nonsense. Here again something about my behaviour seems to push people outside of their comfort zone. Is it because I don't moan about forgetting the steriliser or seem to lack any guilt or smile when I am breastfeeding? I really don't know.
Recently this has been happening with home educating too. Comments like "It is fabulous that you are home educating, you are so brave (argh!) my sister's brother's cousins did that so I do know about it" (I think that is the home ed equivalent of saying "Some of my best friends are black." But I may be wrong) anyway but could you not mention it so often or in front of XYZ as little Johnnie is unhappy at school and they would rather he didn't know about home ed or XYZ is having a tough time with little Billy as he cries every morning before school and it would upset her to see you so happy." Or, as happened to us at a family birthday gathering last year, there had, very obviously, been a pre-agreement that it would not be spoken about or discussed or even mentioned and whilst the other children were asked "What are you doing at school?" (is that the most imaginative conversation opener you have?) my children were totally overlooked and it was not mentioned at all! Like the stereotypical Mad Great Aunt Nora locked in the attic back in the Victorian era! It is a rare home ed forum that does not have at least one member who has lost touch with a close friend of family member due to difficulties in reconciling choices. People don't like being forced out of their comfort zone, I am increasingly coming to conclude that many humans want to spend time moaning about nits / awful teachers / inappropriate homework but anyone who has stepped outside of this framework and made a positive choice presents just too much of a challenge. What's worse than a wierdo? A happy wierdo. There is a fabulous post by the very popular "Just A Bald Man" entitled "Defending the Status Quo" which is worth a read here.
My own comfort zone I consider to have been through a process of evolution not revolution . As Baby Small says when he climbs on my lap for some side "Ooh nice and comfy." What is so wrong with being comfortable?