Quite suddenly, I stopped wanting to write on this blog. Partly, it was just a factor of being busy. One of our sons was to be confirmed in the Lutheran Church (which has more to do with a social ritual in the German countryside than a reflection of true belief). Another son was in the last stretches of a strenuous exam program ending high school. Life just seemed to need me there, rather than at the computer.
But, there was another reason. I realized I was grappling with the end of Phase Two in Motherlands. Phase One had been planning and collecting and designing. Phase Two had been going online and establishing Motherlands’ internet character, figuring out how to update it, and developing new platform links such as this WordPress blog. Motherlands went online last August, and after an initial cacophony of activity, became strong and stable. I soon realized, however, that the 6 to 8 hours a day I was spending on it meant everything else in our lives was neglected. Homework wasn’t getting done calmly, music instruments weren’t being practiced regularly, dinner wasn’t being prepared in a loving manner, bread wasn’t being baked, animals were not being exercised properly, the weeds were not being pulled, friends’ birthdays and life events weren’t being honored, my relationship with my husband was being relegated to a shadow partnership.
So, a few months in, I slowed down. I decided on a monthly, rather than daily, update and life got back to normal. I also benefitted from heartening conversations with bloggers – some who have become financially successful – about their phases and their experience. The main advice was: “love your topic, no matter its success, and persevere.”
Then I realized there was something else on the horizon that was bugging me. That was the response – or, rather, non-response – from friends of mine who I had thought would be right along beside me in contributing to Motherlands’ topics. Just as I was, they were parenting in a foreign country, they were well-educated, and they were thoughtful. There was the Algerian friend married to a German raising her son in Arabic and German. There were the American friends I had known since the birth of our oldest, married to German men, raising their children bilingually. There was my English friend raising her children in Italy. There was my Egyptian friend married to an American raising her children in California. There was the group of international school mothers from Mexico, India, Greece, Ireland, and Sweden who had participated in a Motherlands roundtable about bilingualism.To my surprise, very few of them had become regular forum contributors or commentators. A little source of light in me dimmed: If THEY – who seemingly had so much in common with me – didn’t use Motherlands, then maybe it wasn’t worth continuing. I took a closer look: Some of my friends don’t use the internet (unbelievable but true). Many are just WAY too busy and use the web only for email or research. Others say sharing personal stories on a forum (even when anonymous) is giving too much potential power to the web and this makes them highly uncomfortable. I see.
I have noticed that many business-oriented expatriate parents inhabit a special, privileged world. In this world, material goods (especially electronics) play a dominant role. Those with whom I’ve spoken rarely think comparatively and are often not interested in learning from other cultures. One woman took a cursory look at Motherlands and shrugged it off as ‘looks pretty, but too complicated for me’. I see. I also happen to know that she vacations on the Seychelles, pays for tutors for her failing son, drives a REALLY great car, and has a private Pilates instructor. What needs changing in that scenario, right? I agree. It is all wonderful except for the boy who looks shell-shocked whenever I see him.
Some friends criticized Motherlands as too one-sided – too many articles favoring breastfeeding, attachment parenting and natural childbirth. That’s a tough one. I interpret that to mean the articles trigger fears and insecurities in women who have not breastfed or birthed naturally. But, in good conscience I cannot write about the benefits of formula and cesareans. They are necessary emergency measures when all else fails, and thank God they exist. But the excessive rise in their popularity has to do with pharmaceutical, food industry, and malpractice insurance company profits. As my mother always said: “Follow the money”.
The sad thing is that so many women (and men) today have not been taught to trust themselves, and thus fall victim to these industries and even, dare I say it, NEED these interventions to parent at all.