How do you work within the context of parenting with the concept of forgiving yourself? Some mothers have very carefree, sunny personalities and don’t dwell on things so much, but I know many mothers who are trying to be “the perfect mother”; feeling overwhelmed and then are mad at themselves when they don’t live up to their own self-imposed standards. When they are being authentic and real, they admit to me they find it hard to forgive themselves and their behavior. I especially see this as mothers try to change some parenting skill that was inherited from they way they were parented and they “slip-up”. I also see this quite a bit in homeschooling mothers; mothers who want to do more “of a Waldorf-inpsired homeschool” and are currently more unschooling than doing Waldorf or using some kind of a homeschooling “curriculum package” instead of creating their own lesson plans, or in mothers where life has derailed their current homeschooling plans. The opportunities to feel bad about oneself abounds!
For the past two years, I have made my inner work and parenting focus this simple phrase: “I will be easy with myself.” The Thanksgiving holidays heading into Advent into the 12 days of Christmas are always a meditative, contemplative drawing-in time for me, and this year I am also starting to work with the idea of “letting go” (more about that in a separate post), in addition to being easy with myself.
If you are feeling guilty about the way you have parented in the past, a situation that involved you not handling things they way you wanted to, if you are feeling guilty about the state of your homeschooling adventure at this point because other things in life are taking center stage at this moment; please take a deep breath.
Feeling guilty is not always undesirable – it can point out ways to change for the better at times. However, what I see in so many mothers is just feeling too guilty, all the time, over everything and anything. Please stop modeling this for your children, especially your daughters! Trust yourself, your intuition and trust in your authenticity. No, we cannot use this as an excuse for not doing what is right in our lives,our families and our homeschool, but we can decide that instead of dwelling on the negative things, instead of dwelling on the things in reality that did not meet our expectations or ideas, we can move forward and come up with positive solutions that will help everyone involved. We can look at enlisting help and changing what is going on within the family. We can look at using our own inner work to work with these feelings instead of unleashing them on our children and spouses. We can look and find the support of other mothers. We can also look at acceptance. My husband sometimes will say, “It just is what it is.” And sometimes that is just enough.
Take the time to examine your own beliefs – do you believe you should never say “no” to anyone, do you think a mother should be able to give of herself continuously and endlessly without any help from anyone else, do you feel everything must be done “perfectly” or it is not worth doing, do you feel your best is never good enough? Do you think you should be working within your home seven days a week without a break? Do you feel you are so busy with your family you have no time or place to connect to your own children, your own spouse and encouraging friends?
You live in your home with your family; you do not live FOR your home and your family. Think about what you need and how to get there! And be easy with yourself while you do it! Is your home a place of peace, and joy? (At least most of the time??!!) Or is it a place of stress and upset?
There is a wonderful book called, “The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood : Coping with Stress, Depression and Burn-out,” by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. In the epilogue of this book, she points out several things you can do to make things better for yourself and your family. The number one thing on her list is to focus on the things that are actually going well, and that if you can identify even just one strength, one thing that is going right, you can use that and build on that. She also talks about the need for self-care, the importance of eating well, getting to exercise and yes, even getting to relax. Are you doing this for yourself at all? She also talks about the need for mothers to laugh, and I so agree with this! So many of the mothers I meet just seem unhappy, sad, overwhelmed, depressed, and joy-less. Make a promise to yourself to start trying to bring humor and joy back into your life. Kendall-Tackett has lots of other things to suggest, such as ways to re-vitalize your sense of humor, and her important recommendation of finding support through a mothering mentor.
From a Waldorf perspective, I think working within your own inner work on your feelings, needs and expectation is vital. It is the most important part of your homeschooling experience with your children. If your homeschooling experience is joyless and not alive, your children will have difficulty not only in absorbing the material and learning, but also in seeing the joy within your homeschool! Barbara Dewey wrote a great article about this in her most recent newsletter, entitled, “Are Your Child’s Eyes Shining? Are Yours?” You can find it here: http://www.waldorfwithoutwalls.com/newsletter/44/
Vimala McClure writes in the neat little book, “The Tao of Motherhood,” the following: “A wise parent recognizes her failings and accepts what is. There is room in life for remorse, and for forgiveness. There is room in our heart for ourselves, and for one another.” Lovely words.
Mothers have been mothering since time began. What we do is the most important thing on earth, but more important than even doing everything right and trying to meet the impossible standard of providing “the perfect childhood” where there can be no such thing is to provide your children the model of what to do when the pieces don’t fit together or fall apart. Show them how one can focus on the strengths and be optimistic. Show them how one can say, “So glad that is over now!” Show them how to move on, make things right. Show them that parents can take care of themselves and be partners together and still have enough love and energy for everyone in the household because that is how families work.
Meditation, meditative rhythmical activity such as Tai Chi or yoga or even walking, prayer, taking a day of rest each week can all go a long way toward helping us to forgive ourselves for just being human. Be the best mother you can be, but accept and love yourself where you are in your journey and in your path.
Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.