Over the past year or so I have become increasingly aware of the need that many Stay At Home Mothers (SAHMs) have for support and encouragement. Women on my discussion forum, women who consult with me, friends and neighbors..... I have been hearing over and over again how important it is not just that they themselves find support but that the whole concept of valuing being at home with one's children be validated. And this is not just about mothers with small children - those of us with older children and teens also know how incredibly important it is for someone (preferably mom or dad) to be there at home for them. Obviously, for those who choose to homeschool, this is part of the deal - but being there when the children are there is also invaluable for children who attend school. Being there when they get home. Being there in the evening. Being there on the weekends. Being there so they can get sick and be taken care of properly at home.
Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I have written a series called Early Years Rants which have attracted a lot of feedback. I have been warmed by the stories shared, heartened and encouraged by the urgings to speak out. And, of course, equally, I have been moved by those who find staying at home challenging (haven't we all at times?), who wonder what is best for their children or who have no choice but to work outside the home whilst acknowledging the vital role an at-home parent plays.
One of the most precious things for me about my on-line discussion forum is how I can bring my ideas to the women there and get their feedback. What I love most is that we have managed to create a space that is safe enough that members will voice concerns, criticisms and probing questions as well as express their approval and encouragement. Thus the feedback I get is incredibly useful!
And so when I threw out the idea of creating an organization which would have as its mission the support of SAHMs within the framework of Rudolf Steiner's ideas on child development, there was quite a lot of discussion. And there was even more discussion when I put out the name that I have been considering - the Madonna Cloak Project.
At the moment, this is the group's name. We had an extensive conversation on the forum about its pro's and con's. For the me, the most obvious con's have to do with it being off-putting to some women, that it might be received as being "too Christian" (or even "too Catholic"). There was also a bit of talk about it getting confused with Madonna the pop star!
I completely agree that the name could pose some problems - I was the one who both proposed its use and raised the questions of its limitations. But.... having lived with it for a couple of weeks, I have grown into the name to such at extent that it seems pretty impossible for the organization to have any other name. It IS the Madonna Cloak Project.
In Waldorf early years ed, there is talk of an etheric link that binds mother and child together for the first three years of the child's life. The mother gives of her life forces to her child. From an anthroposophical point of view, we know that the etheric sheath (sort of like the vital force spoken of in homeopathy and acupuncture) has to do with the growth forces as well as with the memory - this is part of the explanation of why mothers with young children often seem to have no ability to remember anything. The child, in his/her first seven years of life, needs to use his etheric forces to build up his physical body - if these life forces are turned toward intellectualism (ie early learning) they are no longer available for physical growth and problems can result (some more obvious than others). It seems that there is a special queslity in this link in these first three precious years - there is a link that is filled with the mother's warmth, love, compassion, care and guidance. This link is also similar to Joseph Chilton Pearce's "matrix".
Working with the image and reality of the Madonna's Cloak, we can focus for a minute on the Madonna, or Mary, Herself. Although there are other sacred female figures from many cultures (Isis and Kwan Yin come to mind), none has quite the same quality of Mary. Her Being and Her role as carrying the Christ impulse is of central importance for all of us, in the continuing development of humankind.
Her central role in Christianity is of great importance, obviously. But she also has an important role in Islam as the Mother of the Prophet Jesus. And in Judaism, we find her as Miriam (or Miryam), sister to Moses. Here we can find another expression of the Madonna's Cloak - Pharaoh's daughter takes the baby Moses out of the Nile and Miriam steps forward, offering to find a nurse for the baby. Miriam brings Moses' birth mother forward and he is raised by her - but under the guidance of Pharaoh's daughter. Thus Moses retains his link to the Hebrew people but also is brought into the Egyptian culture by these two mothers.
(I should add here that I heard Eugene Schwartz give a wonderful talk in Boulder CO a couple of years ago where he talked about the phenomena of adopted babies having two etheric links - that from their birth mother and that from their adopted mother. I thought this was fascinating - a research question for the Madonna Cloak Project!)
Another piece about the Madonna's Cloak of central importance for this new organization is that my sense is that the Cloak metamorphoses into the ensouled home, thus continuing to support and nurture the children, but in a way congruent with their later stages of development. The Madonna Cloak Project is not just focused on the early years - it is about the vital role a mother plays in ensouling her home throughout the years of her children's lives. A forum member helpfully suggested a further phrase to encapsulate this group - Heart of the Home. So it could be that the group becomes The Madonna Project: Heart of the Home.
And, of course, there's my passion and my relationship to this work which grows out of my own relationship to Mary. For me, this is something personal, though. MCP is NOT a religious organization. There will be people who have trouble with the name - some will be religious people, some might be atheists. To the former group, my sincere wish is that religious women who do not feel able to join the MCP are inspired by the MCP and create their own groups within their own faith which could have a sisterly relationship with MCP. To the latter group I say also, find the inspiration you can from the MCP and create your own groups if that is what works best for you as a SAHM.
Well, I could rattle on about this work all day long! I won't. Let me just put out a few of the core issues that will inform its work:
The Madonna Cloak Project exits to:
* Support and encourage Stay at Home Mothers
* Work to change the belief that childcare is as good as a mother's care and that older children don't need a parent primarily in the home
* Work to encourage change within Waldorf Early Years education away from including ever-younger children in their care and toward emphasis on mother/child classes
* Support the role of Motherhood as a full time vocation
* Support mothers who wish to be SAHMs but cannot do so
* Acknowledge that good in-home schildcare will always be necessary and encourage its select growth
The Madonna Cloak Project arises out of:
* Rudolf Steiner's indications on the development of children
* Further anthroposophical work based on the picture of the fourfold and threefold human being
* The wisdom and experience of Waldorf education as appropriate
* Inspiration from the Attachment Parenting Movement where appropriate
At the moment, I see the Madonna Cloak Project mainly existing as an on-line resource. Its website will be a place where people can find out about the need for mothers to ensoul their homes; what ensouling a home might be; where mothers can chat with one another and share their frustrations and their joy. It will be a place for shared resources, research, learning and inspiration.
When the time is right, I also see a MCP Leader program, loosely based on the way La Leche League functions. Obviously, LLL is a clearly defined one-issue organization (although its a rather fundamental issue!) and the MCP is much more complex. However, I can imagine that women who step forward to stand in this work could receive training from (initially) me and become MCP Leaders. The role of the Leaders could take a variety of forms - initiating group in their locale for SAHMs and their children; having SAHM adult-only support and/or study groups; offering telephone support to SAHMs.
One of the most important aspects of this work would be to make it accessible to all. I envision the website as being a free resource - I also envision free literature and other forms of support. No one should feel they cannot benefit from this work for financial reasons!
Which brings me to finances..... initially the group will be supported largely by Christopherus - but to make this viable, money will need to flow in. Once the website is up, I intend to have a page where the accounts can be visible to all - where people can see what the needs are and where their donations are used. There will be a subscription structure; donations will also be sought. Out-reach to low income families will be a priority - without funds it won't happen.
There's an awful lot more.... and it could also be that things don't take shape quite as I've outlined here. But I've already taken a few steps forward and feel incredibly energized by this work!
Want to help? You can donate money (we will need to pay to have the website hosted and to print the first round of flyers, brochures and literature). You can send me things to put on the website: I need Real Life Stories - how are you coping as a SAHM? How did you make this decision? What is life like? I need photos; I need material for the sections on Homelife; Homeschooling; Children at School; Transitioning from a Career to being a SAHM. I need feedback about experiences at Waldorf schools and with other forms of education. I don't want to start with an empty website!
And..... I will be doing a Christopherus/MCP tour of the Eastern part of the US in the month of June. My intention is to give a series of simple child-inclusive act ivies and not-so-child-inclusive talks, mainly promoting the MCP. I will also be available to do workshops for people with older children a la Christopherus work.
So get in touch - here on this blog or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know your thoughts as well as what you can offer! And keep an eye on this blog for further updates.