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?