Shame, Guilt, and Fear Are Not Parenting Strategies

Hello Friends!

I just returned from an empowering workshop in Orlando, FL (Waldorf Homeschooling Conference).  About 60 of us gathered to hear talks about Waldorf homeschooling.  I gave talks regarding the development of the 12-14 year old and planning grades 6-8; teaching math in grades 1-5, and the yearly rhythm of festivals. It was wonderful to see and work with Jean Miller of Waldorf-Inspired Learning, Kristie Burns of Earthschooling, Jodie Mesler of Home Music Making, and Donna Ashton of The Waldorf Connection.   I encourage you to go ahead and mark your calendars for next May (2018) as this conference will be back again!  There are also conferences coming up in Myrtle Beach, SC in August with Melisa Nielsen of Waldorf Essentials. and in Orlando in October with Donna Simmons of Christopherus.

One of the best things about traveling alone is getting to deeply think about things. One thing that came to my mind  is that going to in-person conferences can be so uplifting and fulfilling.  And this got me thinking about the times we don’t feel fulfilled; the times when depletion, burnout, and exhaustion are absolutely real.  One thing that parents sometimes talk to me about is wanting to be a different or “better” mother than what they are now during those times of complete depletion.

They know that  shame, guilt, and fear are not parenting strategies, but they can come out in those moments when we are so depleted and run down and really handling way too much for one human being.   We just desperately need SOMETHING to go smoothly instead of everything being a struggle!  Many women my age are not only handling businesses or jobs full time or part time, possibly homeschooling many children and many different grades and subjects, parenting older children who need to be driven lots of places (I think the year before teens start to drive themselves can be the busiest year!) and who may have medical needs, and also handling the house, cooking, and sometimes parents who are growing older and who need assistance from things ranging from little to large.  No wonder we are exhausted and depleted!

So the shame, guilt, and fear come out in our own frustration.  It isn’t really a “strategy” that anyone chooses.  But what to do about it in a sleep-deprived, anxious haze can be truly difficult because it may be that in that moment, even something so very small can just cause a flood of tears or a torrent of anger and verbage.  Something just has to give in order for us to be the relaxed and peaceful parent we want to be.

Sometimes getting to the root of things takes bigger changes than we want to admit to and take.  It takes courage to really acknowledge how something is not working, and how things really need to change to benefit what many mothers see as a “selfish” answer because they feel any major changes might benefit themselves but won’t everyone else be unhappy?  But, your changes and your happiness can only have a ripple effect upon your family!

Drastic changes might include taking on or getting rid of a job; homeschooling versus school; getting help with an elderly parent; moving; getting help in cleaning your house.  (And yes, I understand finances are often a major stress for homeschooling families and most of us can’t afford things like this.  I clean my own house too! LOL).  Small changes might include taking time off of homeschooling during periods of high stress; changing a schooling schedule to have a shorter summer break; changing the way you homeschool or using outside help or garnering MORE help from your children and family members.  In the home and for personal health, changes might include getting up earlier to exercise or prepare healthy food; it might include going to bed much earlier so the morning can start off on a better note.  It might include getting a health checkup to make sure there are no physical causes to being exhausted.  It might mean enlisting a family therapist, a parenting coach or learning mindfulness techniques. I don’t know what it would mean to you.  But I do know that changes to help yourself only can help your children.

Instead of parenting from shame, guilt, or fear, we can then parent from a place of openness and communication and a dialogue.  We then have the time to listen and we are not so depleted that we can respond from a calm place that reflects our true values.

Thinking deeply today about this.  I would love to hear your thoughts! Please no blaming, shaming, or scolding mothers in the comment section.  We are all here to help each other!  What would you say in person, in a supportive way,  to the completely exhausted and depleted mothers I have been meeting?


3 thoughts on “Shame, Guilt, and Fear Are Not Parenting Strategies

  1. as a homeschool mother of 3, two with special needs, (one of which requires hours of special medical dietary restriction meal prep) who was a single parent working both full time homeschooling, and juggling 15 cleaning gigs a week, and several side projects, who recently herniated her disc and got humble on learning to slow down…because i could’t walk for a month… i can say, i COMPLETELY resonate with what you just wrote here..because it was my lesson learned the hard way. Pick and choose what stays and goes…be willing to sacrifice programs for your entire families well being and your own mental sanity 😉 Life is too short to not learn to slow down and do what works for your body and mind. Admitting I couldn’t work a career I enjoyed if I was going to also homeschool my special needs children was difficult to admit, but necessary. I’m grateful you posted this so that other women may feel less shame about not being able to “DO IT ALL” Taking inventory of our joy and struggles is the single best step towards a more positive parenting experience.

  2. Wow, this is certainly the crux of the problem: How to give when you are depleted. I have a quote on my fridge that says: “Never give from the depths of your well, but from your overflow.” (Rumi) In Carrie’s post, I think she is asking how we get to the place of overflow – from peace and joy there is so much to give. But, we all come to parenting from so many distinct backgrounds and paths. Is there anyone who felt truly “whole” or “perfect” before they became parents? Unlikely! So, from Pema Chodron, we fail, fail, again, and (hopefully) fail better! Somewhere in Carrie’s deep well of wise advice, I picked up that it was more important that our children see us failing and picking up the pieces and working it out. Yup, I’d rather not lose my cool. Yup, I lose my cool anyways. Does that mean I sleepwalk around reacting instead of responding? Nope. Just keeps bringing me back to the brilliance of each new and unique moment that we all have to create something completely different from the last moment. Yup, we could sink in the swill of the last moment, or, pull up our socks, take a deep breath (or 10) and listen to Bobby McFerrin singing: “The 23rd Psalm” dedicated to his mother – if you need respite, or filling up of the well, highly recommended. And remember that: “The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.” (Eckhart Tolle) And in case that all doesn’t work, put up this sign for yourself: “Love me when I least deserve it, because that’s when I need it most.”

  3. Carrie, This is yet another post that speaks to my heart right now. I have a half written/saved blog post right now about guilt and regret (with a little shame and grief mixed in). I can’t seem to hit “publish” as I keep mulling over the words and how to express such vulnerable deep feelings and experiences. Perhaps it is something about this season of life many of us are in or the struggle for elusive balance and harmony when pulled in so many directions. Sometimes, when I am in the grump of it all, I remember Mary Oliver… “Tell me, what is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I surely don’t want to spend it in guilt and regret. Lots of love to you, me, and all homeschooling mamas.

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