“The spiritual research of Rudolf Steiner led him to describe how we choose our parents, how we find a way to come from the spiritual world to the people we need to be our parents. Complex dynamic forces are at work to bring about such a connection. This view might help us look at our relationship with our parents in a new way.” – page 22.
Betty Staley goes on to compare and contrast the role and feelings of three generations of women who have struggled with the change in the societal role of woman.
The first group she looks at the mothers of women who are now 50 or so (or 50 or so when this book was published in 1997). She writes how these women experienced first-hand the changing roles of women in society and how confusing it was to know if being “only a housewife” was “to be admired or not.” Betty Staley also points out how hard it was for these women to sometimes watch their daughters “deny the value of motherhood (at least in the way they had defined it for most of their own adult life).
I actually know some women who are now in their 70s and 80s who have mixed feelings about the number of years they devoted solely to homemaking and raising children. Many re-entered the work force after their youngest child was in school. Betty Staley looks at this dilemma of returning to work from full-time homemaking and how the family must change and adapt to this situation.
The second group of women Betty Staley looks at is her own generation. She writes, “Mine is often a confused generation. We still had a sense it was important to be a mother, that family was a priority. Yet we also wanted careers…..So we tried all kinds of things: We celebrated motherhood, and downplayed its importance; we tried to put our careers first, or motherhood first. We tried it all, and it’s still not resolved.”
Amen, Betty. Amen. These are still the issues that I think so many of us in this generation are grappling with in one aspect or another even today.
I love being home, I love setting the tone in my home, the rhythm in my home, I love devoting myself to my children and my community and helping other mothers. Yet, the other day, I took the time to figure out that if we have another child, because of the likely age span of our children, I would not be completely done homeschooling until I am 57 years old. It wasn’t a terrible moment to realize this or anything, because I enjoy my life, but I have to admit it was kind of an odd thought. Many families evaluate homeschooling as a year-by-year, child-by child kind of decision; so certainly those of you sitting out there with a three year old do not need to freak out, but it really was an interesting thought to me for myself.
And then it suddenly came to me; it was not so much the homeschooling and being with my children for the next how many ever years, but it was the thought that I still need to be able to grow as an individual during this time so when those years are over myself is still there. My family is a huge part of me, but they are not all of me. I enjoy writing, I enjoy learning about Waldorf education in a homeschooling context, I enjoy helping mothers. For me, the next years have to have not only that homeschooling and family component but also that bit of me, even if it is just a few minutes for me each day. I also need a bit of time for my husband and I each day as I want us to grow together on this journey and not apart. Relationships take work.
Betty Staley mentions the third group of women she looked at was this generation, our generation. She says she has great admiration for this generation as they have seen it all. “They and their friends have experienced mothers who were too focused on their own lives to pay adequate attention to their children’s needs, they have experienced the chaos of divorce and the rootlessness of a generation which hardly knows what family is. They have experienced the courage and commitment of single parents trying to survive. They know more about the importance of independence and self-fulfillment. “
She goes on to say that this generation has more information, more facts and still has hope and many mothers of this generation are fighting for things such as improved child-care and health benefits, maternity benefits, help for nursing mothers, the involvement of dad in the lives of their children.
I personally don’t know as there is a perfect balance or trade-off in family life and parenting. I am not sure the we can “have it all” mentality is really productive and not just causing more burn-out and confusion among the mothers of our generation. On the other hand, the US lags behind almost every nation in terms of duration, payment and job security of maternity leave, and I believe women are often the best catalyst for change in our nation. And I personally do see the value of being involved in my community and in community-based organizations. I admire women who are doing things for these causes at the national level.
However, as a homeschooling mother, I think my biggest perspective on the whole home –or –work- or-issue- involvement issue is this: I see the quiet revolution we as stay-at-home, Waldorf homeschooling mothers are having.
I see Waldorf homeschooling mothers who are doing things by hand, who are remembering skills that are almost lost in the fast-paced United States, who are railing against the materialism of our society. I see mothers fighting against the miniaturization of small children into little adults (so very, very wrong, but you all hear me talk about that almost daily) and who are learning how to be calm and patient with their children while still setting limits.
I see mothers who are taking Rudolf Steiner’s educational philosophy and are making it work for their own families. I love knowing that there are other mothers who know there is a time and a place for teaching things that will nurture and speak to their child’s soul. I love knowing there are other mothers who realize the importance of the early years in education that build up to a rigorous academic education and how we really don’t have to “stuff” facts into our children’s brains when they are four, thinking that window will close forever.
There is only one educational method that looks at gratitude, love and later duty as we educate our children with human values. And that is Waldorf. There is only method that looks at reverence, goodness, beauty and truth. And that is Waldorf.
So, to all my fellow Waldorf homeschooling mothers, my hat is off to you. Let’s keep the quiet revolution going and change society one household at a time.