The Mini-Rant: Raising An Inconvenience?

Okay, I know I am grumpy.  I have been coming off of Congestion and Throw-Up-Food-Poisoning-Land and am Permanently Residing in Perpetual-No-Sleep-Babyland, but boy,  have I got a small rant to get off my chest today.  And this is not directed at the wonderful, thoughtful mothers who read this blog!  Thank you to all of you who are working so hard to do the best by your children; my hat is off to you all.

But here goes:

Why is it we act as if having children is such an inconvenience?  I have a friend, one of the consultants over at Christopherus (www.christopherushomeschool.org) who has a great quote from somewhere that goes along the lines of, “You are not raising an inconvenience; you are raising a human being.”

So far this week I have heard the most horrifying stories about mothers who feel essentially inconvenienced by their babies and small children.  Small baby not sleeping through the night?  Hire a small cadre of nurses to help you sleep-train that baby.  Don’t want to have your newborn baby dependent and attached on you?  Don’t breastfeed, and get a nanny for that small baby even though you stay-at-home full-time.     I have more cases, but I will stop there.  In all the cases I have heard the mothers made comments such that breastfeeding was inconvenient and that the baby’s sleep patterns needed to be adjusted because they did not want to be up during the night.

(By the way, the above situations are all composites of things I have heard from varying sources the past few months and do not represent any one situation or mother or family.) 

The point is this, though.  Mature love and parenting involves you putting your child’s welfare ahead of your ownI have said it before, and I will say it again: children are messy, noisy, learning, immature.  They don’t sleep like an adult, they don’t reason like an adult, they take a long time to mature and develop (and 7, 8, 9, 10 year-olds are still little!  So I am talking 21 years of growth and development!).  They get sick, they laugh and cry at the wrong times, they fall down, they fight with each other and with you. 

They are also wonderful.  They will show you a spiritual world that you may have forgotten existed.  They will say the funniest things.  No one will love you like a sweet child

Adjusting to having an infant can be challenging; it can be difficult.  I am very sympathetic to mothers needing support and help.  The choices we make in these early years set the foundation for discipline, for the school years, and later for the teenaged years.  It should make one stop and at least consider different choices rather than just decide on something because it is easiest.  You cannot take your “before children life” and just add children and stir.   Having children should change your life, don’t you think?

As mothers and fathers, it is our privilege and our responsibility to provide our children with a childhood they hopefully won’t have to recover fromNo matter what we do, our children will go their own way as they mature and grow in early adulthood.  But, it is our job to give them the footing to start.  It is our job to guide.  And I don’t know about you, but the development of my children’s  physical, emotional, academic and character is worth me being inconvenienced any day or night of the week!

This is why I encourage you all to have a vision, to have a plan, to find joy in the small tasks of being a homemaker, to have a sense of humor to take parenting seriously but not to take your child so seriously, and to think about how you make the most mindful decisions for the WHOLE family.  Being a great parent and a mature parent does not mean there are no boundaries between you and your child or that all of your needs should be put on hold.  It is also your job to show your children what a loving marriage looks like, how women need friends and how we all have different interests and needs outside of being a mother. 

But it does mean that raising your child should be a wonderful journey with the best intentions for your child in mind.  Even if it requires a bit of sacrifice.  The best things often do.

On that note – Live BIG and love your children!

Carrie

A Parenting Plan – Part Two

I wrote a little while back about creating a parenting plan for each of your children (you can see that post here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/30/a-parenting-plan/)

I have recently been meditating on those ideas.  I have also been envisioning in my mind what qualities are going to be important to my children when they become adults.  How can I work that into my parenting plan in tangible ways? 

What qualities are important to you?  How does the way you spend your time as a family reflect these qualities?  How do the boundaries in your home reflect these qualities?  For those of you with very small children under the age of 7, modeling is much louder than words and instruction at this point.  What are you modeling and how?

Here is a list of a few qualities that serve adults well; perhaps some of these will resonate with you:

  • Faith
  • Perseverance
  • Self-discipline and self-control
  • Integrity
  • Kindness
  • Love of others
  • Good manners
  • Courage
  • Compassion
  • Dependability
  • Honesty
  • Humility
  • Self-respect and respect for others
  • Contentment
  • Forgiveness of self and others
  • Gratitude
  • Patience

What does your list look like?  How are you working this into your parenting and into your homeschool?  What is most significant to you and to your family?

Much love,

Carrie

How Can I Love Staying At Home With My Children?

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!  I hope you had a wonderful day with your children and family! 

Mothering, and this process of becoming the designer and architect of your own family’s culture,  can be wonderful and joyous but also challenging and daunting.  Mothering can be like a yoga pose that one cannot get out of, and must stay in and stretch.  Mothering can become a catalyst for one to learn more about oneself, about one’s biography and history.  Mothering can be a catalyst for developing oneself further as a human being, and for nurturing the qualities of goodness in ourselves. 

One question that I have heard over the years and that recently came up in a comment,  is this idea or question of “How can I be happy in my mothering? How can I be happy with my children?”

I think this is a very valid question!  In our society, there are very few models for mothering.  Many of us have had mothers who were/are  either physically or emotionally unavailable, or who  modeled  mothering for us in ways we do not wish to repeat.  

Many mothers I meet are trying to juggle many different roles in their lives, and feeling frustrated.  They are working outside the home and thinking about their children and trying to juggle work and sick days and teething days, or they are with their children and thinking about their outside work and feeling as if they are not doing the best job in either world.  This  is a true challenge, especially in the US, where we do not have a paid maternity leave, and many mothers are back at work before their infants are twelve weeks of age.

To me, this question is actually  not a question of happiness or love, but a question of satisfactionAre you satisfied being home with your children and would you change that?  Most stay at home mothers I speak with talk about how they would not change that for anything, even on the “bad” days.  These mothers may not be joyously happy every minute of the  day, but will find moments within the day to be happy, moments to smile and laugh with their children, and they feel satisfied being home with their children.  Even on the sick days, the teething days, the days when there are sibling fights, there is this sense of satisfaction that they are the one dealing with it.  Every day at an outside job is typically not fabulous, and neither is every day at home, but is it satisfying to be there.

1.  One thing  that goes with satisfaction includes having unhurried time.  If you have unhurried time with small children instead of rushing about, you have the time to catch those cute moments, the funny moments, the silence of being together that I mentioned above and they often redeem the time when things are not going so well.  If you can be present you will be available to catch these moments.   So my first piece of advice in terms of how to be happy at home is to try not to wear so many hats so you can have this time.

Here is an example from my personal life: many of you know  I am a highly specialized physical therapist in neonatal feeding and development.  There are very few of us in the country, and it was hard for me to think of not treating patients and using those skills to help families who were so desperate.  Yet, there will always be patients and families.  My children are only here once.  That is the only shot I get with them.  Can you slow your own life down enough to really be present?    Here is a  post that speaks to this subject: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/22/how-do-i-take-off-one-of-these-hats/

Many mothers I know who seem most satisfied with being with their children are ones who have a profound connection to a sense of Higher Purpose in their mothering, that this is a calling.  This also requires unhurried time, to be able to sit and think and listen.  You can get this even with small children running about, usually by being present and in those moments outside when your wee one is digging in the sand box.    This attitude can take time to develop, and I hope some of the mothers who feel this way will leave a comment below to help other mothers. 

2.  The second thing that goes with satisfaction is having confidence.  If you know developmental stages and have a proper view of the infant, the toddler, the child at different points in the developmental cycle, it helps you weather the stormy periods in a satisfied and calm manner.  You feel calm, you handle things, you feel satisfied that you are handling the more challenging things.   You don’t feel so defeated and take it so personally when things do not go well.  There are still two parties involved in mothering – you and your child.  It is not all you and some children really are more sensitive than others, or more challenging than others.  Confidence grows with time, but I think one way to gain confidence is to read about developmental stages, about gentle discipline, about where you are and to come up with a “box of tools.”  What tools do you have?  What do you use?  Are you using what is effective?  Do you beat yourself up if you use a tool that is not effective, and what does that gain for you?  What is the payoff of beating yourself up and being negative?  Is it helpful, does it make your family life wonderful?  Sobering questions, but ones to ponder. 

The other arm of building confidence is to have a MOTHERING MENTOR.  Pick someone who has children that you like, whose children are older than yours, and ask her to be your mothering mentor.  The Internet is wonderful, but there is nothing like having real flesh and blood people who know you and your children and who can support you.  Every mother needs a friend that is encouraging and supportive.   It is always amazing to  me to see mothers being snide to each other instead of loving and supportive.  Those “back-handed” compliments have nothing to do with support!  Every mother is doing the best job that they can in the place that they are with the information that they have.   

For those of you without a mothering mentor or a special encouraging friend, make a list of the qualities of a friend you would love to have, and pray and meditate over that list.  You may be surprised whom you find in your life!

3.  The third thing that goes with satisfaction is feeling as if you are actually not just reacting to everything, but that you have some sort of overall vision and plan. That is why I encourage mothers all the time to think about a Family Mission Statement, to think about what the rhythm of the day might look like (because the rhythm is for YOU even if your small children don’t fall right into it!)  Think about having a menu plan, and when you will clean your house and when you will shop.  Think about how you will handle things that come up as far as guiding your child; if you know developmental stages anticipating these situations and thinking through them is easier;  talk to your mothering mentor about these situations. 

Also, what would be FUN for you with your children?  Do you make time to snuggle, play games, sing together, be outside in nature together, laugh, tell stories, read?  These are the things that build those happy moments rather then the end of the day with exhausted children who are crying through dinner because they really just need to get off to bed! 

4.  The fourth thing to add to your satisfaction is developing yourself and your own inner qualities.  Many mothers do this through a spiritual or religious life; some mothers find this through artistic work, through meditation or  through certain activities that they do.   Taking a bit of time every week to really ask yourself, “Where I am this week and what am I striving for?”  can be really helpful… That person that I was before I was a mother, am I still really that person or am I finding a footing in a new world and changing into being a new person with new and different interests?  Motherhood can be the catalyst to developing yourself further in ways you were not open to before; with different interests that were not there before motherhood.  However, this too, takes time.

Also, please remember to ask for help.  On Mother’s Day and every day, you deserve some time to just think.  Your spouse really does want to help you, tell him what you need.  Time to think will help you process your own growth and lead to increased satisfaction and joy in being home.   If your lack of joy in being with your children stems from a developmental stage that they are in or something going on with your spouse, there are so many posts about sibling fighting, challenges  in marriage and each developmental stage on this blog.  I encourage you to check them out and I hope you will find them helpful.

I hope you have found this encouraging. 

Many blessings and much love,

Carrie

Renewal: Staying Home

In this time of renewal between Easter and Ascension, in this time of planning for  Fall for many homeschooling mothers,  and in this time of evaluation for many parents as we all gear up for Summer (or Winter, if you are one of my dear Down Under readers!), I invite you to breathe and ask yourself this question:  How often am I going out of my home?

  • Is it every day and you have children under the age of seven?
  • Is your home and your homeschooling and your parenting where you would like it to be?
  • Could your time of lessons or classes or activities for your small  children be better spent elsewhere at this point? 

I understand if you are suffering from depression and really need that social connection and support of other mothers.  I really do understand if you are extremely outgoing like me and just get filled up by being with other mothers and other people…I really do understand!    I wrote a post about Social Isolation for Stay-At-Home mothers here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/24/social-isolation-for-stay-at-home-mothers/

But there has to be a balance, and if you are going out every day and if your under-seven child is involved in a plethora of activities, I just gently am nudging you to explore this.  Boundaries are important, and showing and modeling for your child how to set boundaries and maintain them is REALLY important as they grow up into a world that will most likely have even more blurred lines between personal and professional lives due to increased technology. 

I invite you to try to discern what really are  the most essential things in your life, and how the time you spend reflects what is most meaningful to you.  I am working on this right now, and it really is challenging me!

Particularly for the parents of very small under-aged five children, it is easy to get caught up in lessons, classes, and other things.  The ages under five (and under seven and yes, even under age nine!), to me, is an excellent place to experience an  unhurried concept of  time.   They will never have these days again!   There will be so many other years for classes, for lessons and for other activities and for rushing about on a schedule (which is different than the flowing rhythm of being at home).

Many mothers I speak with somehow feel their children will be “behind” if they don’t enroll in a number of things, and they point to things like elite Olympic athletes who start training at the age of four or something.  Actually, I like to point out that for a number of athletes, they started later or switched later from one sport to the sport that later became their Olympic sport.  I  also like to point out that if a four-year-old starts piano lessons, a seven or eight year old can typically catch up to where the four-year-old is in a matter of months because they are more mature and more coordinated.   There is something to be said for developmental maturity and neural pathways being mature and ready…. I am sure many with disagree on this point, but I guess what I am trying to say is that all is not lost if you take a summer and have nowhere to be or take your children’s under-seven years and be HOME.  That will probably provide a more lasting foundation  than any one-hour class that you are rushing your child and younger children and babies out the door for!

For homeschooling mothers, especially for mothers new to homeschooling, it is easy to think that one’s child should be involved in this and in that for “socialization” and for those things that just seem  harder to do at home.  Many times we tend to forget that home has its own advantages.

So, today, I am just giving you that gentle nudge to look into your heart as you plan for Fall. Think about how many days out of the home are necessary. If your children are small, it may not be what you think.  If your children are older, please do plan enough time to actually home school at home instead of trying to home school from your car.  Unhurried “digestion” of academic material is so important.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Renewal: Rhythm

So, we will be taking these forty days between Easter and Ascension as our time to discuss all things related to the renewal of your life and your family culture.  For today, I want to circle back around to rhythm.

I think many Waldorf homeschoolers are feeling this sense of renewal regarding rhythm!    Melisa Nielsen had a lovely post here about “Rhythm Or Routine”: http://waldorfjourney.typepad.com/a_journey_through_waldorf/2010/04/rhythm-or-routine.html .   Everything she says is right on!  I especially liked the part where Melisa talks about developing our own will enough to STAY HOME.  When you have children under the age of eight, it is important that you firmly entrench children in the home.  It is important that they learn how to create their own play and fun at home instead of relying on going, going, going, to stimulate themselves and to change their emotions.

In a family, there is a daily rhythm, a weekly rhythm, and a yearly rhythm.  This is there whether you create it or not, so I feel it is worth it to take an intentional look at these areas along with parenting.

The yearly rhythm is celebrated through the festivals of the year and is seen as a yearly process of in-breath and out-breath. How you implement this is up to you, I find it lovely to celebrate with the liturgical year of our church.

For a weekly rhythm, one must decide how many days a week one is going to go outside of your home/yard/neighborhood (because even if we stay home we still go outside for many hours a day!).  This is important for small children, to be home,  and it is also important in homeschooling once you reach the grades..  If you are interested in homeschooling, I would say it is very difficult, if not impossible,  to throw homeschooling on top of a completely chaotic flow of events to the day, and also on top of a chaotic house that is cluttered and dirty.  No, your home does not have to be perfect, we actually live in our houses because we are home!  However, keeping the house up and running is part of the rhythm to it all, and in order to do that, we have to be home.  We need to plan when to get groceries, what to cook,  when to do laundry, when to run errands,  so that not everything is completely last minute.  Therefore, it is never too early, nor too late,  to create a bit of an order or flow that suits your family life.

For a small child, the weekly rhythm includes what PRACTICAL work takes place when and planning on your part regarding HOW they may be included.  In cleaning, can they scrub the bathtub whilst taking a bath?  Can they manually grind a cup of flour to add to more flour to bake bread?  Can they use water to clean the sidewalk whilst you plant flowers? 

For a daily rhythm, this is where one needs to think about the flow of the day for times of in-breath and times of out-breath.  For example, when will rest and meal times will be, and when bedtimes and awake times will be?  If the baby needs a nap, will they sleep in a sling?  If you put them to sleep in a room, where will your older children be and what will they be doing?  When are the outside times and when is it time to tell a story?

But most importantly, how will you show reverence and the sacred parts of life throughout these rhythms of life?  When will there be singing and joy, when will there be silence, when will there be time to go outside and look at one small bug or bird and listen and feel the wind?  Reverence and gratitude is the thread that winds itself through all of these yearly, weekly, and daily rhythms. 

Many blessings during these forty days of renewal,

Carrie

Peaceful March: Simple Parenting

I think this is a wonderful month to have a “spring cleaning” of the mind for peaceful, simple parenting for the expansive Spring and Summer months that are coming.  What do I mean by that?

  • Look, really look at your children.  What developmental stage are they in?  What areas are they having a hard time with?  What could you do to help guide them?  What have you tried in this regard previously?  Don’t do that again if it didn’t work – you know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting different results!  Try to think outside the box! Get support, gain fresh and new ideas!
  • How am I doing with gentle discipline?  Am I falling into places I would rather not be? How can I change that? What is my plan?
  • What am I doing to protect and nourish my child’s twelve senses and movement?  How much are we getting outside?
  • How many hours of screens is my child seeing each week and can I cut that back, down, out completely?
  • How is my child eating?  Homemade nourishing foods?  See if you can refrain from buying processed foods for a week and really focus on whole, simple foods.  How many raw fruits and vegetables is my child eating?
  • How much sleep and rest is happening in the family?  Do we have a rhythm toward bedtime and rest times?
  • Am I happy with the number of things I, my spouse, my kids, our family is committed to?  Does it need to be less? Can you take a break this Spring?  Will the world come to an end if the kids take one season from sports off and you all hike together instead?
  • How are you doing with your spouse?  Do you really know him and where he is these days or is he last on the list at the end of the day?  What is going on these days at work?  What are his favorite things?  Does he feel loved and respected in his home?  Are you spending time together? 
  • How are you doing?  Are you feeling healthy and energized?  If not, what are you eating, are you exercising, are you getting enough sleep and rest?  What time are you going to bed?
  • What are you reading these days to increase your skills as a positive person, a positive mother, a homeschooling teacher or as a wife?  What artistic work are you doing each week to replenish your own soul?
  • Does your family have a mission statement?  If not, now would be a great time to write one.  If you have one, does it need updating?  There is a back post on this blog regarding family mission statements, actually there are several.  If you use the search engine, it should come up for you.
  • Finally, are you in connection with that Creator that is higher than yourself if that is in your belief system, or what are you doing to nourish your own spirituality, your own sense of reverence toward the world, your own sense of gratitude and love?

Take that sketch pad I suggested you keep around at the beginning of the month, those colored pencil and crayons and draw yourself a map of these areas and write down or draw your ideas for change!

Happy Spring Cleaning,

Carrie

Simple February: Hospitality in The Home

Hospitality is the art of  offering a “generous and cordial reception of guests” according to Webster’s dictionary.  Another definition of hospitality, according to Webster’s, is “offering a pleasant or sustaining environment”.  Hospitable can also allude to being open and receptive.

Making our homes a place of generosity, cordial reception is a wonderful goal.  Perhaps the best way to start this is to do so with our closest family members – our spouses and our children.

I feel my husband is worthy of my respect.  Do you respect your husband?  Do you respect the way he handles the children or are you always stepping in? Do you find fault with your husband frequently?

Can you start by making your home a place of hospitality for your husband?  Can you be cordial and generous with him?  How could you make your home a place of greater comfort for him?

Perhaps he needs some downtime when he walks in the door instead of being jumped on by children.  What could you do to facilitate that?

 Are you hospitable to your children?  Are most of your words to them commands or demands or nagging or yelling? 

Children under the age of 7 learn by imitation; they learn how to treat other people by watching how you treat your husband, how he treats you, and how you treat them.

That being said, treating a child kindly is not enough to make them always treat you back respectfully.  They are learning!  Remember to have appropriate expectations for their ages and to respect the fact that they are indeed learning.

Is your home place of comfort?  Are there things of beauty, things that bring joy into your eyes in your home?  These do not have to be expensive things; an old table worn by good meals, a single flower in a small vase are all wonderful.  What do you have of beauty?

Is your home a warm and  nourishing place where time slows down?

Finally,  what are you doing to be hospitable to yourself?  Are you expecting too much of yourself?  What is nourishing you these days?  Crafting, writing, having time to sit down and read all can be nourishing.  Do you have wonderful, close friends to love and share with?

Simple times,

Carrie