On Being Different

We do many things differently from other people. We are so different from almost anyone we know that we don’t identify ourselves as belonging to a single defined social group or a school of thought.

We homeschool, homebirth, and practice attachment parenting but, unlike many other people we know who follow a similar lifestyle, we hold Conservative views and support gun rights. On the other hand, we can’t fully relate to some Conservatives because we don’t support structured schooling, big government, and authoritarian control. We are Constitutional Conservatives with some Libertarian views, but we don’t believe that “anything goes” so, unlike many secular Libertarians, we stick to religious and moral guidelines. We are Jewish, but we don’t belong to any particular denomination. In addition, we are both entrepreneurs and run our businesses from home, which makes our family dynamics, lifestyle, schedule, and views on life even more different from the rest of the families we know.

We enjoy our lives very much, but maintaining our lifestyle and values is not always easy. It’s hard to have four active, closely spaced children. It’s hard to co-sleep with a baby, breastfeed on demand and wear the baby on you most of the time. It’s hard to homeschool. It’s hard to run your own business. It’s hard to maintain a diet without wheat and artificial ingredients. It’s even more difficult because we don’t have any family support. All we get from most people, including close relatives, is judgement, disapproval, and lack of understanding.

It’s easier to fit in and do what the majority does. If we had fewer children or if we sent our kids to school, we would have had a lot more free time. If we worried less about wheat, GMOs, and artificial ingredients, we could have dined out anywhere instead of spending time in the kitchen cooking from scratch. If we held day jobs, we would have had a more predictable income, taken a mortgage, bought a house, and lived just like everyone else. And we would have won our relatives’ approval.

Why we do it

We’re not trying to be different on purpose. Making life difficult for ourselves is not a goal in itself. We don’t seek fame, admiration, and acceptance. We’re not looking for validation and approval either.

We do it because this is what we believe in, whether it’s hard or not. We practice attachment parenting because we believe that it’s best for baby’s development and for mother-baby bonding. We homeschool and have more kids than average because we believe that it’s best for our children to have a big family where siblings are closely spaced and spend time together instead of being separated in classrooms (of course, there are plenty of other reasons why we homeschool). We work from home because, among other reasons, we want to be present in our children’s lives and want to set a good example of entrepreneurial working parents. I often think that, deep inside, we strive to give our kids the family we ourselves never had. And that’s a goal worth struggling for.

It doesn’t matter whether we do things the same way as the majority of people or differently. Our goal is not to go against the mainstream but to live according to our beliefs and to do things that are in our children’s best interest, and we are prepared to do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal.

This is not to say that convenience doesn’t matter to us. We would have someone babysit occasionally to give us a break. Sometimes I would take the baby out in a stroller instead of wearing him, so my back can rest. Convenience is fine, but the key is to ensure that convenience doesn’t make us sacrifice our values and standards and doesn’t cause long-term negative consequences for our children.

We didn’t enjoy much family support with our businesses or with our parenting and homeschooling, so we had a difficult start. We had no business connections, no family business ties, and no experience of running an enterprise, so we learned from scratch (and from each other) how to build our businesses from the ground up. We had no experience of living in a big family and taking care of younger siblings, so we had to learn how to manage our family, how to handle the babies, how to homeschool, how to organize our lives, how to cook. We are still learning, so it’s an ongoing process of exploration, innovation, and mutual support. Maintaining our lifestyle and values is not easy, but it’s fun and it makes us happy because this is what we believe in and we are not afraid of challenges, one of which is being different from everyone else we know.

Being genuine

Being different, first and foremost, means being capable of independent thought, regardless of whether or not it aligns with the mainstream opinion. You need to sincerely care about finding the truth. Whatever issue you are facing – sending kids to school vs. homeschooling, eating wheat and GMOs or not, supporting high taxes, gun control,  and big government or sticking to libertarian beliefs – the key is to stay true to yourself, to honestly evaluate all pros and cons, and to consider all counter-evidence with an open mind. Only then can you decide which way is right for you and your family.

I don’t think we’re doing anything out of the ordinary. Our ideas are not new and have not been invented by us. They are all part of nature and common sense. Homeschooling, homebirthing, breastfeeding on demand, attachment parenting, and natural diet have been around for thousands of years before the industrial revolution, mass production, and mass migration into cities took place some 100 years ago. Individual liberty, gun ownership, economic freedom are all classic concepts that have also been around since the beginning of history despite continuous attempts to infringe upon them. Perhaps, we stand out as unique only because our society is divided into social and political groups and combining these ideas in one family is not common nowadays. But I am certain that anyone who listens to common sense and digs deeper for information will share these ideas and will make most or all of the same decisions and conclusions that we have made. Even if not, then at least we could have enjoyed an informed discussion.

The Divergents

The problem is that most people are in denial or too insecure to diverge from the mainstream even if, had they done an objective research, they would have found it in their benefit to do so. Many people are too comfortable where they are and don’t want to grow, develop, and learn new ideas that may challenge their current viewpoints. They ignore counter-evidence even if it stares them in the face, because critical thinking may create discomfort, cause inconvenience, and expose their weaknesses and their fear of standing out.

That’s why, initially to my great surprise, I found that many relatives and friends tune out when I try to present them with evidence supporting our ideas and beliefs. We’ve been facing animosity and misunderstanding not because we are wrong (otherwise we would have welcomed an opportunity to have an informed discussion), but because we are different. For someone who is insecure and doesn’t have strong values and beliefs, meeting “divergents” is too intolerable and threatening because they present a challenge and make one question oneself. On the positive side, that means we’re doing something right.

If you have strong values and beliefs, if you are ready for high standards and expectations, if you seek truth with an open mind, if you are not afraid to reconsider your position when counter-evidence comes up, if you have a vision in life – then it’s fine to be different. It’s a hard and lonely path, but only those who dare to be different eventually come up with great inventions, discoveries, and ideas that improve their and other people’s lives. So don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in, even if it creates controversy. Eventually, being different is what makes one a true leader.