The Value Of Respectful Parenting And Being A Stay At Home Parent

Along this parenting journey, I have had moments of doubt about my own value and self worth. Is my contribution to society enough? We are told we can have it all, to which I wholeheartedly agree. But when your ‘all’ looks like being a stay at home, homeschooling parent, the cheer squad kind of disappears. It is not very widely celebrated. It is more “you can have it all, but are you sure that is all you want?” It is less “Wow! That is amazing!” and more “Oh, I could never do that.” Over the last few years, I have worked hard on letting go of my need for external validation and dug deep to understand and honour my own understanding of success. It is a process, and a work in progress.

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A couple of years ago, I was chatting to one of my best friends over a glass of wine. She said to me, “you were so incredible at university. You got all of the offers and ‘things’ that people want. I am still waiting for all of the amazing things you are going to do.”

I sat with those words. I am still sitting with them a couple of years later. I didn’t take this as a negative comment at the time, and I don’t now either. I certainly know it wasn’t meant in a negative way. She believed in my ability to do amazing things as mother plus. Plus something else ‘more amazing.’ But what about mother, full stop? It made me think and reflect. Am I enough? Is this enough? As I unpack my need to please others, I am not trying to answer these questions in the context of anyone but myself, or to live up to the expectations of anyone but myself.

It has forced me to ask myself some questions. I have sat with uncomfortable feelings while I untangle how I feel about my role and my impact. It certainly looks different to the life I envisioned for myself as a new adult, thinking about where I would fit in the world. I never thought much about being a parent and it certainly wasn’t a goal that defined the vision I had of myself. To find myself here is as much of a surprise to my younger self as it is to anyone else. But while this path I have carved out might not always make sense to others, it is one that feels so significant and intentional for me.

Over the last couple of years this is what I have come to believe. My circle of influence in undoubtedly smaller than what I anticipated. Three bright eyed children. But my impact is more profound than I could have imagined.

What I am doing is amazing. Right now. How I spend my time is the sum of the incredible things I want to offer. I am striving and reflecting each day on my desire to reach my potential in this role I have chosen. This is the difference I was always meant to make. I haven’t lost myself in this life, but instead I have found a meaningful purpose. There is immense value in my purpose. I value myself and what I am doing.

I believe deeply in the incredible opportunity presented by respectful parenting.

“One generation full of deeply loving parents would change the brain of the next generation, and with that, the world.” Charles Raison

It is a revolution I buy in to and want to be a part of. I believe that healthy development is driven by love and connection, not shame and control. I believe that hurt people, hurt other people, and without conscious change, that cycle will never be broken. I believe that emotional guidance rooted in respect leads to emotionally intelligent and healthy people, and the world needs people like that.

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Children who are trusted to choose, grow into adults who are confident to make choices. Children who are given bodily autonomy, grow into adults confident in their ability to set and enforce personal boundaries and respect the boundaries of others. Children who experience empathy and natural consequences rather than arbitrary punishment, are intrinsically motivated to make choices based on a core value system rather than choices driven by fear. Children parented respectfully grow into resilient adults.  Children who are trusted grow into adults who trust themselves.

Without really knowing what they were doing, or having a name for what they were doing, my parents lay the foundations for my growth in respectful parenting. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch. It never is. But, I was heard. I was valued. I was supported. I was trusted. I was loved. And from that base, since having children of my own, I have grown. It has not only positively affected the way I am raising my own children, it has positively impacted all of my significant adult relationships. I have learnt that there is no person, anywhere, at any stage or age, who doesn’t benefit from being treated with respect and kindness.

My parents became the top of a pyramid, its base growing larger with each generation. There are no fractured relationships undermining its strength. And I can see, that with intention, I know how to build. Respect trickles from the top of the pyramid, the course of its flow grows stronger and more defined with every moment we choose trust, every moment we choose connection, every moment we choose empathy. As I watch my children forge relationships of their own, I am watching that pyramid grow larger still, respect touching all of those around them. It will continue to grow with my children’s children and their children, too. It is quiet, unsung work. But I see it. I value it.

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To those respectful parents struggling with their inherent value. To those who feel invisible. To those struggling to celebrate themselves. To be a respectful parent is radical. You are a grassroots change-maker. You are top of your own pyramid. Your work is discreet, but you are making a profound difference. The legacy of your respect and kindness will be generational. You are so important. You are enough.

Seasons

Today was tough and amazing. And then tough. And then amazing. And all that can be put down to my head space. Lucy over at Lulastic and the Hippyshake is doing an incredible series on Instagram at the moment tracking the moods of her menstrual cycle. She refers to each stage as a season. Sometimes it takes someone sharing their experience and their perception for you to recognise patterns in yourself that have long been there, but you never knew existed.

I am deep in a cold and blustery winter. It goes the same for me each time round. When I feel internal chaos, I desire external calm. I like things to be tidy. My typically extroverted personality cocoons and I turn inward. I like space. I like to get lost in my head. I want long baths. I want to write and write and write. None of these things are really compatible with sharing a small home with three children and being the only person on call. And this change in me is not typically embraced by those around me. Fun and vibrancy turns to quiet introspection. Enthusiastic yes-es turn more frequently into maybes and noes. Continue reading

The Unschooling Iceberg: What’s Beneath The Surface?

I have a confession. Our life is not how it appears. I have been thinking about this a lot and I want to clear up any confusion. If you check out my Instagram or any of the ‘Unschooling on Tuesday’ posts I write showing you a glimpse of what we get up to in a day, I think it is painting an inaccurate picture. There is a LOT that is left out. And I think it is the most important work.

You see, I truly believe that in a supportive environment, the learning takes care of itself. It is also simple to capture. A child reading a book or doing a science experiment or creating. Obviously, a lot is missed here too, but it is easy to get a quick picture and write a few sentences of your child excavating a fossil and for everyone to feel all warm and fuzzy and think, “oh when they are unschooling they do LEARN. They are MOTIVATED.”

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Respectful Parenting And Unschooling: The Experience Of A Non-Primary Caregiver

Families come in a lot of shapes and sizes. It isn’t always this way, but I know for a lot of families, making decisions about education and parenting styles isn’t unilateral. These decisions are often made jointly between parents or caregivers.

Our family is pretty uncomplicated. My husband and I live together in a happy partnership and the three children we share this adventure with are all ours, so the decisions made about our family are not subject to the opinions of any other party. But along the way we have decided upon an unconventional education route in unschooling and respectful parenting and getting on the same page has involved a lot of listening, reflecting, reading and talking.

This blog is written solely by me and therefore represents my views on our journey getting to this point. I thought it would be interesting to add another perspective, especially that of a non-primary caregiver. I interviewed my husband about his views on our experience, and his views on his own role in our family. Some of the questions were submitted by my readers on Instagram, so thank you!

First, some background on our family situation and my husband. While I do a small amount of consulting work in my field, my husband is the primary earner in our family. He works in a senior corporate role that can be stressful and involves long hours, but it is typically a traditional working week of Monday to Friday. He chooses to start early so he can be home in the evenings with us. He leaves the house before we wake at around 7am and is home by 7pm most days, often a bit earlier. He also travels regularly for work, but he tries to organise his work trips so they are also during the working week.

My husband followed a very standard education path of twelve years of school education and then many years of university after that. In fact, he spent ten years at university, culminating in a PhD. Both of his parents were teachers and he grew up in a very traditional and authoritarian household.

So, let’s get into it. Here is the transcript from our little chat in the car on our recent family holiday.

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How do you feel about where our family is at right now? Continue reading

Can Life With Children Be Peaceful and Happy?

I haven’t seen one of these for a while, but it popped up on social media the other day. You know the kind of thing – parenting is HARD. Kids are HARD. I hate my life and that is ok. Anyone who suggests their family life is otherwise is a big fat liar. Grin and bear it. It will end.

These posts used to make me feel sad. I don’t feel that anymore. Everyone is living their own reality. I just accept that that isn’t mine. Sure, I have frustrating moments. Bad days. Rough weeks. I need time to nourish myself and my adult relationships. But spending time with my children for me is a choice I have made and one that I enjoy. It isn’t time I wish away. I enjoy doing things with them. I like sharing experiences with them. They are great people.

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Unschooling On Tuesday

I have received a couple of emails in the last week asking for more of these posts so here we go. Another insight into our daily life.

Phew, things got off to a slow start today. I seem to be in high demand during the night at the moment, which is exhausting. We go through phases like this from time to time and as quickly as they start, they seem to end on their own. I try not to worry about it or over-analyse it and just go with the flow. Still, I am TIRED.

The kids all woke at a similar time and watched some tv while I organised everyone’s breakfast and had my coffee. My seven year old got bored quickly and wanted to go outside with his breakfast. My daughter followed. On the way outside we noticed that our last butterfly had emerged from its chrysalis which was very exciting. We moved it outside so that it could fly away when it was ready. We played and chatted for an hour or so. We played a lot of tag which they both love. My eight year old wasn’t ready to come outside and decided to finish his book instead.

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What If It Doesn’t Work?

What if it doesn’t work?

This question makes me uncomfortable. Probably not for the reasons you think. I’m not, in any way, uneasy about the future for my children. I guess I feel that there is a lot tied up in these words. What does ‘work’ mean in this instance? Turn out like you hoped? Learn everything you think is important? Be successful based on your definition of success? It is a big red flag for me. It’s all you, you, you. It tells me that we are looking at children from different perspectives.

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