Raquel writes from Spain where she has been running an in-home day care service. I think it is wonderful that she is in a position to be able to help mothers think about the ways they parent and perhaps help empower some to make the decision to keep their little ones at home.
I want also to thank you for your encouragement, I think it has been digesting in me some of your ideas and I am doing once a week open-house at my home for moms and children in the afternoon, to establish bonds between the mothers who stay at home and help if possible in their decision so it is not being casted away because of the roaring stream of the society where I live.
When I started creating a family I did not know about homeschooling, and it has been a decision that is evolving and has changed many times. I started the baby journey with a background from my family and country that encouraged working mothers and leaving babies at nursery centers at three months, also letting them sleep in their cribs since the beginning and nursing also for about three months. It is really a disgrace from where I come from to co sleep with babies, nurse them sooo long and be in the house with them all day. Saying all that I have to say that little by little I changed my points of view from those just mentioned to almost opposite ones.
When my firstborn Maria was born I knew already that I would stay with her, at least the first year, and I would nurse her. We slept and nursed together like the nurses have shown me at the San Francisco hospital until she was 4 months and then I transferred her to a crib in another room. From then on I was very exhausted, not just for having had a colicky baby to start with but also because waking up twice or three times a night and going to another room to feed the baby while sitting in a rocking chair was really hard. At nine months I needed to make a change, and the only option that appear to me at that moment was to let the baby cry it out, so every night I would put her to her crib and wait for the cry to extinguish with my book of Dr Sears in my hands. It was very painful and it lasted longer, over two weeks for a duration of 45 minutes to an hour at night, and I am not counting what happened at nap times. It was during these times that I began searching for other answers: I discovered Montessori and magical child and Waldorf almost at the same time, and when Maria was one year old my inclination to the latter was felt. I just saw that the principles worked, and that what I was learning from Waldorf was helping us be better, for example going back to natural materials. I used to have those rooms with red and bright color plastic toys, and the bouncer while I made supper, and the TV Sesame Street on in the morning while I could put myself together in the bath for the day, and the sugary snacks for her and for me, especially again in the morning and late at night. I found first of all that there was somewhere where people dealt with kids in a reverent way, in a very gentle intelligent way, and I was really attracted to that. I think the fact that my child was difficult for me to be with gave me the opportunity to look beyond my horizon and discover new things, in Waldorf I found light.
The second baby slept in my bed all through her nursing time, but again I felt left of strength - this time later though - and at about 14 months I started again putting her in her crib and letting her cry. I was in Spain in those days and my family really helped me to align myself with that line of thought again: I even worked outside the home for about one month! I am grateful I did not continue and so more or less I kept breastfeeding my child and sleeping with her until one year and a half. By that time I also felt strong about being with both children at home and I spent beautiful days doing the rhythm that I liked: morning breakfast, getting ready to go to the park, outing at the park looking at nature and people and other kids, the little baby many times in the sling (ergo baby), coming back home for lunch, little nap time of one hour, snack and play time after that or going shopping along the streets of the city. coming back home for preparing supper and reading or playing more until bathtime, then after time to go to bed, usually before eight. I was able to go happily into this life pattern and I had most of the afternoons breaks while my husband took care of the kids and I would teach some students or get together with friends.
But for a while, and after moving to a very cold winter country, I felt desperately in need of putting the children to school, I could not go on with the day and stay mostly calm, but I was nervous with them and felt very bad to be yelling at them. so I did look at a school and finally enrolled them in a kindergarten. it took me just one week to be uplifted again and with strength to carry on being a stay at home mom! for the third baby I was able to have a homebirth, something I really wanted from the beginning but I did not had courage to do so. I also really made changes in my diet, going to organic foods and eliminating sugars. I was breastfeeding and co-sleeping and it had evolved in a more natural way this time for both of us. I used the sling again but not as much, I purposely tried to leave the baby more time on the floor, and I did not stay outdoors as much as in Spain. I also finally found the inner stage where I can be inside the house if I must to, a whole day or week, without going insane. and even though I enjoy the outdoors I find very comforting that if the need arises I can trust I will not go nuts inside with three little children. I think this is something that Waldorf has taught me, as I leave open space for play around the house while I do my chores, I keep in mind the rhythm of the day and if not the kids will remind me of it by their behavior!
When my older daughter was 4 3/4 we started her in a Waldorf kindergarten, first 4 days a week and then after a short time I also had to cut it. This time I decided to not withdraw completely and let her be for two days a week and see the effects. It was difficult to see every day she needed an hour or two after school before she was able to relate with us normally, she was angry and would cry or have non responsive times, until she was adjusted again to family life with her brother and sister. There was a lot of good things in the class, and we remember very warmly the teachers and the parents, and the other kids too, as we struggled through the year and learned a lot of things, but at the end I was left with a girl that was biting her nails, and was way older than before. This next year she stayed with us at home, and she has recovered her nails back! I feel it was necessary for her to stay with the whole group and as much as she also seeks for friends to play and teachers to imitate, I think there is a lot of wealth that she is learning with us. I am still debating whether it is better for us to homeschool or not, and again this is related to a very strong tradition of schooling children in my country, but on the other hand I have seen a lot of beneficial things coming to our life for the fact of trying something different, something that calls strongly to your soul, to your common sense.
I did travel a lot, not just physically, but mentally, the house and environment that my family was living in the beginning of having children is very different from the house we are living right now, and as the house is the extension of one's own body, I can assert that we have gone through a lot of changes, and many of them I can thank Waldorf and anthroposophy to be the motivators of that change, as much in the inside as in the outside, and I want to give special thanks to all those other moms or individuals that I have met on my journey, the ones that just for sharing their stories have made such terrific impact on my life, the ones that by example or by asking me questions have awakened questions on me, the ones that have gone the road hand by hand with us, with the laughter and the cries, and the ones that are to come; because there is a saying very present in my mind that says that life is full of hardships but if you have a friend half of the hardships disappear.