Being consistent should not be a homeschool goal

Once or twice a week I send my editor a tirade about how much I hate Sheryl Sandberg’s idea that I should lean in.  I don’t want to lean in and I don’t want to hear her telling me why I made bad decisions and that’s why I’m not running corporate America. I’m not running corporate America because when I was leaning in, I had two full-time nannies for two years and I felt like the shittiest parent in the world.

Did I ever tell you that when I was doing my last startup with two guys in their 20s – because you should always do startups with guys in their 20s because they don’t care about anything except being a rip-roaring career success – they had girlfriends and the girlfriends would say, “Oh, God. I never want to have to deal with kids and a career the way Penelope is doing it.”

I’m still friends with both those girlfirends. Actually, they both married my co-founders. And if you asked me who the most influential women were to me when I was deciding to opt-out of start-up life, it would be those two women: Caitlin and Rebecca. Because I knew they were going to do their lives much better than I was doing it, and I wanted another try. I wanted to do it better.

So tonight I sent my editor – Did I tell you I have an editor? I have an editor because the only way I can write things like “I use 23-year old women as role models and I hate everyone” is if I have an editor saving me from myself.

So one thing he does is save me from publishing tirades about leaning-in every day of the week. Another thing he does is field my needy calls about how I am not writing enough or not doing enough or not thinking enough or whatever and I’m a terrible person.

Tonight I called him to tell him “Shut up. My tirade is different from all other tirades and we should not throw it in the garbage.”

He didn’t answer the phone. Instead, he texted me that he can’t talk because it’s bedtime for his kids.

So what? It was bedtime for my kids, too. I told my family I have to work, which I don’t. I have to come downstairs and write about all the shitty parents who are leaning in. And I have to tell you that I am opting out. But how can I say I’m opting out when I am working instead of tucking my kids in?

And I am writing a tirade about hating Sheryl Sandberg when I actually think she is a pleasure to watch succeed. She is brilliant and great. It’s just that I’d hate to be her kid. I’d hate to be my kid. It’s very hard to be consistent. I am not consistent. I even have an editor to keep me consistent and I’m not doing it.

I’m not sure there is value in being consistent, though.

The  Gray Matter column in the New York Times reports that there are concrete ways of thinking and philosophical ways of thinking. And it’s hard to be consistent if you go between the two. Also, the Journal of Personality reports that it’s difficult to maintain consistent thinking as our income changes.

I tell you this because it’s psychologically too challenging for most people to be consistent, so forget about being consistent when you try to homeschool. Just do your best and accept that you will have to change your mind.

But more importantly, it’s a boring life to always have everything lined up in your head just right. I don’t think it’s possible to be consistent as a homeschool parent. I think it’s too revolutionary still, and too complicated, and there is not good enough data about what makes a good homeschooler to know, really, what we are talking about.

There is an article in the Harvard Business Review, which I can’t find, about people who are pundits. Pundits are not right more than other people. They just give more opinions more than other people. Which is why I feel okay saying today that being inconsistent is part of being a homeschooler.

Maybe tomorrow I will change my mind.

18 replies
  1. Kirsten
    Kirsten says:

    The only consistency that matters in parenting is loving your kids for who they are. You do that. I’m sure most of your followers do, too. Everything flows from there.

    (I’m thinking the title of your next book should be “Lean Out.”)

  2. Karen
    Karen says:

    With all of the hullabaloo the past few weeks regarding Sandberg and her book, I’ve mostly felt sorry for her kids too. We’ll see what she has to say a couple of decades down the road when she comes to the stark realization that she missed out on their childhood and that she’ll never get those years back.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      I think that waiting for those who makes us feel small to fail is not very productive.

      My husband had a mom that climbed the ladder in the corporation and worked long hours. He’s not damaged by it. He loves his parents dearly. They have a good relationship.

      I am unsure what the secret ingredient is. It’s not like there was family available to watch the kids – there was daycare. My husband is so loving, cool headed, just all around emotionally healthy. I’ve asked him if he wishes his mom had been there more but he just doesn’t seem to be bothered by it.

      For some it’s going to workout just great. And yay! otherwise we’d have presidents, doctors, surgeons, military strategists, etc. at the expense of emotionally healthy children. But the fact that some families will carry on with these dynamics is great! Just don’t preach it as the ultimate way to do things right. Just like staying at home will drive someone nuts and make for a worse off child than one with loving caregivers and a peaceful environment.

      Maybe Sheryl will be successful at home and at work. Maybe she will raise kids like Chua; children that praise and take inspiration from the parents. I can’t be Sandberg and I can only offer my best to my kid. My best right now stems from work that isn’t so ambitious but I go home and sit on the porch in a big fluffy chair and hold him and we count cars go by.

      • barefootmommy
        barefootmommy says:

        Do you have kids of your own? Your husband may change his mind then. My husband was largely raised by others as well, and is also very well adjusted emotionally and cool headed. But once we had kids he realized how much he actually missed out on, and he tells me practically every day he is so thankful I can be at home with them 100% of the time.

  3. Mary
    Mary says:

    I feel where you are. I’m writing about it too right now, how I think I’ll just let my writing being a hobby (keep it a few minutes here and there and do full time when my kids are older) and be a total homeschooler instead to my kids – a professional mom. How parents should do it too, because it’s sad that kids don’t have the best – for us parents it’s only a season and a great break. I’m as happy this way. Maybe more, because we don’t have to think about another career much. Just when we need to vent or say something important. I think most of us could really use not being busy all the time to appreciate our life, our kids, what we have…

    Thanks for your articles they helped opting out. xo

    • barefootmommy
      barefootmommy says:

      Well said!! This is where I am right now – Professional Motherhood. And boy is it rewarding.

  4. Daniel Baskin
    Daniel Baskin says:

    As a teacher, if you want obedience, then you must be consistent. To be perfectly consistent, some questions cannot be addressed (by you or students).

    If you are willing to scarily sacrifice obedience in exchange for allowing questions, then you must be inconsistent, and you must adapt constantly when inconvenient answers arise from dangerous questions.

  5. karelys
    karelys says:

    I’ve heard and read reviews of these super famous parenting books that made a splash when they came out.

    I noticed that some would say “strict schedules! babies need strict schedules or you’ll ruin them!” while the others would scream that having strict schedules for babies/children is like torture and those parents hate their kids and should never have ventured into parenthood anyway and that doing things the tribal way is the only way to go.

    I got to think that whoever writes those ridiculous books is writing them from their own perspective and what makes sense and is good for them. Because a parent that really needs structure and predictability is going to die and be a horrible parent without it. And vice versa. So it makes sense to them to do that.

    Same with consistency. Or inconsistency.

    One of the biggest things that thwarted my view of life from a young age was to see my parents stand firm on a point of view or thought process that was dying out because new evidence was surfacing that said such viewpoint was wrong or no longer applied well to life. But they wanted so bad to be right otherwise everything that leaned on it or was built on it would falter, maybe crumble down.

    I doubt it. I think it’d be fine if they made themselves vulnerable to us and show us how they were working things out. How it was ok to not be consistent if you were consistent on certain specific things; like how they would love us unconditionally.

    When I went through my own crisis I had no idea that it was normal to one day make perfect sense out of a viewpoint (Lean In!!! don’t quit before you quit!) and then the next day be completely for the opposite (Whatever Cheryl! I don’t even want to be in Corporate America’s Hall of Fame!). I had no idea how to feel normal. I had no idea how to sit on it. So I freaked out.

    Same with my marriage.

    Until I figured that, whatever man! it’s totally normal.

    Some days I think it’s ok to fight in front of the kids so they will know it’s normal and that people work through it and come to an agreement. Also, that it’s NOT normal at all to have passionate opinions and fight totally calm and not call each other names or at least want to really bad.

    Then the next day I think that it’s a horrible idea because it creates an environment of stress and yadayada.

    I am 25 and I thought that by 25 I should have most of my head together and my opinions because if I would be a mom (I am) I should be able to pass things on to my kid. Because seriously! what about when he asks “Who made the world? Is grandma right? was it God?” my go-to answer will be “well what do you think?” and that’s probably going to be so confusing and irritating to the poor kid. Because I have no place to say since I haven’t fully made up my mind. I had at some point then I unmade it because I didn’t like it.

    At the very least he should learn that hey, it’s human to change your mind and if he gets comfortable with it he may be great at quitting what he must and forge ahead with what he needs to stick to so he can win. (Pretty much took that bit from The Dip.)

    • Heather Sanders
      Heather Sanders says:

      “I am 25 and I thought that by 25 I should have most of my head together and my opinions…”

      I’m 40 (almost 41) and…errm…no. Sometimes I think I’m out of my mind.

      I don’t think consistency is akin to not absorbing and modifying. People are dynamic and change is inevitable regardless of how we feel about it personally.

      What we called “discipline” when my kids were younger is not the same as what we call “discipline” now, but it is consistent.

      Maybe consistent is getting switched out with concrete?

      I feel like a buoy when it comes to parenting, homeschooling, etc…the idea is not to buck the tide, but to try to consistently stay atop it, while not losing my anchor.

  6. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    “I tell you this because it’s psychologically too challenging for most people to be consistent, so forget about being consistent when you try to homeschool. Just do your best and accept that you will have to change your mind.”

    Whether it’s homeschooling or anything else, to what degree can you be consistent when you’re learning new things every day and the world is constantly changing? If you’re worrying about being consistent then you’re probably worried about failing at anything and not trying out anything new. Consistency would start to look like assuming rigid and defensive positions in the face of change which is inevitable. I believe adaptability using what you know, which changes every day, should be the goal while doing it to the best of your ability.

  7. Titi
    Titi says:

    Great post.

    Being consistent in anything is hard if you are actively growing and changing. The key is figuring out a way to stay sane while understanding and dealing with being inconsistent. Your ranting is how you deal Penelope lol, so rant away!

    You talk about personalities a lot in your blogs. By definition personality is an individual’s unique and relatively consistent pattern of thinking, feeling and behaving. I’m sure you have had moments where you’ve done things that weren’t consistent with the ENTJ personality type, does that mean you are not an ENTJ, no.

    You know that you “lean-in” if you really wanted to but you’re not because you believe that homeschooling your kids is a stronger priority right now.

    So sometimes you will work more instead of tucking your kids in at night. Just because your actions may be inconsistent does that necessarily mean that your priorities are?

  8. Julie
    Julie says:

    I don’t want to lean in either. I never did, just thought I should. And then I thought I should want to want to lean in. But I got over that thankfully. I do feel for women who struggle with it though. It sounds really frustrating and difficult. It is just about conflicting demands/desires and trying to manage them. I would imagine the balance is going to be about moving back and forth between them and not finding some perfect, consistent, absolute division between the two though. And that would look like being inconsistent.

  9. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    So that’s the secret: an editor! Hmmmmm… I need to get me one of those! How can you put value on consistency in an ever changing, ever growing world? And like you said it’s boring! People go through different seasons, different moods, different experiences. I think teaching kids how to deal with those changes is important, but being consistent all the time has a tinge of arrogance.

  10. Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot
    Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot says:

    Love the post and comments. I agree about the need to change constantly so being inconsistent is good. The kids aren’t consistent either – one minute they can crawl, then they learn to walk and talk, first they adore you then they cross the street to avoid being seen with you.

  11. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    Another great post Penelope! I had two main thoughts while reading this post:
    1) I have always thought life was too complicated for consistency
    2) My parents’ inconsistency always drove me crazy

    Now I’m not sure what to think. :)

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