Following on from my last blog which I wrote earlier today I want to help parents think through how they actually can mange to be at home all day with tiny children if they too believe that this is what is best for their littlies. And I need to say quite unequivocally - I completely understand and sympathize with those of you who see this as an unmanageable task or, whilst being determined to make it manageable, still find it draining, exhausting, frustrating and isolating. I know. I've been there. It was what prompted my family to move from intentional community to intentional community so we could have a life where we shared childcare with other adults, with people who, we hoped, had the same values as us.
So I am NOT saying this is easy. I do, however, think it is what is best for tiny children - to be at home with their mother (probably) for the bulk of days during those early years. I am not saying that no other adult should be involved - granny, dear friend, etc - wonderful. (And of course Dad-care is essential and wonderful - not what I'm talking about here at all!) Of course. But that is different than group care outside the child's home.
Which is the subject of the previous blog entry so I won't repeat myself here!
So now - how to do it?
Well, first I strongly suggest people read through my other early years and parenting blog entries here to get more of the background to all this and to ensure they really are on board. I differ significantly in this from many others in Waldorf early years - so going to, for instance, Rahima Baldwin's website, whilst a wonderful source of information, will also bring you the opinions of those who come from quite a different place. Once upon a time in Waldorf circles it was unthinkable for under 4's to attend nursery or similar - now it is heralded as a breakthrough to regularly, as a matter of course, have 3 year olds in Waldorf mixed age kindergartens.
Last year Helle Heckerman presented a workshop here in my town on her work with 3 year ods in Denmark - I was invited to give a presentation at the conference but declined, saying that actually I was against on principle of the idea of 3 year olds being out of the home - their home. Of course it might be needed by some parents - single parents, low income folks etc. And of course Waldorf in-home or even in-kindergarten care can be preferable to other options (though I would suggest a neighbor with one or two of her own children or similar or another adult in your home who will not be soon replaced as preferable). I ran a Waldorf early years program myself - I know all the arguments. But at the end of the day I saw children suffer because they were not at home with their mothers. And even at 5 I saw my own son suffer from the best Waldorf kindergarten situation one could possibly imagine. My younger son, when it was his turn for kindergarten, was fine.
Anyway... let's get to some nuts and bolts....
First off, do that reading and consider buying my Kindergarten book and Joyful Movement even if your children are younger than kindergarten age, just to get a feel for things - and to gain a lot of practical information and inspiration. Have a look at my series of audio downloads as well to help you navigate these early years at home. And consider joining my discussion forum (see the Christopherus homepage) to get lots of practical support and inspiration form other stay-at-home moms who have the same struggles and heartaches.
Then.... See if these tips help make life easier....
* Slow down - less is definitely more where little children (all children really) are concerned. Try to arrange your life so that you are home most days - if there is one thing which my clients tell me again and again it is that once they have cut back and prioritized being at home, even if everything else basically stayed the same, that life got easier.
* Think "child inclusive" not "child centered." Your task is to include your child in your healthy life around your home - not to be a playmate and "edu-tainer".
* Drive less, walk and bike more. Stretch those legs, long and short! Even if where you live is a must-drive place, park a ways away from your destination - even if it's only at the far end of the parking lot, so that you can walk. Look at all the blue cars. Watch the lady putting her shopping in her car. Say hello to the old man. Slow down and be human!!
* Likewise, try to be less goal orientated and more process orientated. Yes, you do need to actually get to the store, buy that food and get home - but why rush if there's nothing to do at home except desperately seek ways of avoiding the television? Spend 3 hours "buying food". Take a little walk. Sit on a stoop and watch people go by. Admire all the lovely colors and shapes the lettuces come in. Examine the bins in the bulk food area. Watch the check-out people help customers. Your goal is to buy food - but your process of buying food is even more important if you have little ones.
* When considering purchases - games, toys, books etc - for your child, try to remember the image of the happy three year old playing contentedly on the kitchen floor, with nothing more than a pot and a wooden spoon. This is not fantasy. Stimulation-craving children are usually (though certainly not always) created, not born (listen to my free talk on Therapeutic Waldorf for more on this - go to the audio downloads link above). Less is more!! Less books (gasp - heresy!!), less toys, less STUFF, less THINGS!
* Whilst imagining your child content with a cardboard box or a simple dolly, imagine yourself as the source of strength, of warm humor, of firm joyfulness, of PEACE that your child needs. You are not his friend, his pal, his playmate or his buddy. You are Mother (or Father). Find an image of Mother that speaks to you - Gaia or Mary or Fatima or similar - these Mother-figures did not flap, waver, fuss or whine. They got on with it and provided unending warmth and strength for those around them.
*Work on the breathing-in, breathing-out rhythm of your days. Think about the healthy heart - it beats faithfully for all our lives, now fast, now slow - but always, in health, rhythmically.