Tag Archives: infant care

A little More pondering on Anthroposophy and care of the Infant

credit: abutterflyemerges.com
credit: abutterflyemerges.com

To put my previous post into a bit more context, I thought it best to clarify just why this is so personal for me.

I was brought up in an anthroposophical home, by two anthroposophical parents. There are many positive qualities in myself that I attribute to the nurturing that I received at home. There is however a lasting impression that I have been left with in my life – one that emotions don’t count, or are secondary to intentions or spiritual goals/aspirations.

I found it very difficult reading about the Madonna Cloak that Joan Salter writes about in her book, the Incarnating Child. This thinking that the environment can play a protective role in the upbringing of a child and can essentially protect a child from mistakes the parents will make, makes me a bit nervous. I wholly believe in creating a loving, gentle and safe environment for babies and young children, and certainly do my best to do just that in my home. However to say that there is some sort of spiritual bond created between mother and baby that allows for the mother to respond in thought and not in action greatly distressed me. Babies need actions. They need the mothers physical body. I am quite sure that thoughts can be reality, but I am also quite sure that thinking how much you love your baby while the baby lies in another room alone is not the same as picking your baby up to snuggle and kiss it.

I know I was left to cry. I know that I did not breastfeed enough (although my mother did try with me and did pump for months – in 1977). I remember sucking on my dolls arms to get to sleep and my mother just replacing the arms when they got too damaged from the sucking. She never thought to ask herself why I was sucking my dolls arms so much or what I needed that I was not getting. Nothing in her anthroposophical environment would have told her there was anything to question. I was eating organic food, dressed in cotton and wool, sleeping on a sheepskin, playing with a doll she had made me. It was all as it should be.

To me it seems an injustice to babies to impose our reality on them with evidence (crying) that it is not working. It just seems so cruel to dismiss the cries of a baby as a fundamental approach to caring for that baby.

And my last thought for this morning on this issue.

I was talking with my father about searching out bio-dynmaically grown food as I am sure that it is superior in nutrition to organic food, as well as being more sustainable and earth friendly. (this is just a hunch mind you) Anyway, I was saying that I have no idea what the spiritual significance of biodynamic agriculture is, but practically it seems to care for the earth and encourage biodiversity and nutrient rich soil. My father responded that in his experience the spiritual is made evident in the physical, so if it is working in the physical, you can find the spiritual there too. Which took me in my mind back to the issue of breastfeeding. If it makes sense physically (nutritionally and immune system development wise) and it makes sense emotionally (as long as it is working for both mother and child) it cannot be a spiritual truth that it has to stop. At least not to the way I am thinking.

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Is there a better or worse way to be a parent?

This is bothering me.

Why am I so convinced that I am making a good decision to stay at home with my child (and children to come)? What bothers me is that by feeling like I am making a good decision, by implication the decision to put my child in care and go back to work is a poor decision. And I am not comfortable thinking that parents who put their children in care are essentially poor parents. I know it is not true from observation. Not easy, but not true. So why have I made my decision to stay at home?

1. I was not wildly happy in my previous job. I was working long and very intense hours in hand rehabilitation for a very poor salary and lets say a less than supportive work environment (not getting time to go to the loo happened regularly, as did not having time to eat – there are complicated reasons). I love the professional challenge of treating patients along side some very talented hand surgeons. I loved making a difference in the lives of patients committed to rehabilitation. I loved finding a niche where I could make a real difference in the lives of the people I treated. I enjoyed the status of working in a prestigious hospital. I *hated* sitting in traffic 1 hour each way and being out of my home for 10-13 hours¬† day for a wage that barely covered our mortgage repayments. I hated not having the time or energy to look after myself or make a nurturing home…. I hated living off fast (healthy) food and coffee.

2. Not having a huge motivation to go back to work I allowed myself the fantasy of staying at home. My position was being kept for a year, so I decided to take it as it comes.

3. I read and read and read and kept coming back to the idea that children thrive at home at least until the age of 1 1/2, and 3 being an age I kept getting to.  Could I allow myself the priviledge of 3 years at home with my child? Was that not WAY too indulgent?

The word ‘thrive’ became important to me. It also guided me in my choice to sleep share with DS. But does that mean that parents who are in a position where they have to choose between being at home and going back to work, mean that they aren’t allowing their children to thrive? I am not comfortbale with the answer no.

I remember just after graduating from university I was talking with a cousin who grew up with a SAHM all her childhood. Both her and her mum were getting a bit snotty with me about a woman’s place being at home and this cousin’s aspirations being to have a home cooked meal on the table every day. This seemed so confining to me, not to mention demeaning. I was firmly defending a woman’s right to go back to work. I saw it that if I was going to be miserable at home I would not be a very good mother and my child would be better off in care while I go out and work and then come home with the renewed passion to be a mother. I still think like this – but for the most part in my present situation I see going back to work as being a serious trigger to *not coping*.

This question became more pressing in my mind today as I explored the possibility of becoming a La Leche League leader. In order to do so I am required to agree with the philosophy – part of which is that the mother is the preferred care provider

In the early years the baby has an intense need to be with his mother which is as basic as his need for food.

And while this is my experience, I am hesitant to apply this to all babies and all mothers. I am inclined to think that a baby requires a sensitive and nurturing care provider at all times and that the mother is defeinitly a most natural choice as she is breastfeeding. But other people can also meet the babies needs without mum being 100% the port of call. It is so much pressure on a mum to be 100% there for her child (children) and feel like only she can offer the required care. I do not think this is the way children are meant to be brought up. It is crazy making. And yet women (myself included for now) are making this choice. In my optimal world I would able to be with my child or at least in their vicinity while I got on with the tasks of daily living. I would have friends and family around who shared my values and who were an affirming part of my experience as a mother. My children would know me as mother and have many adults and other children as part of their growing up experience.

This sadly is very far from my reality. DH is my support, and my LLL meetings. I have just recently said good bye to the one friend I had who shared the parenting values that I do….. I am a bit sad.

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