Child & Family

Caring for the young child . . . nurturing the family in our modern times. Bernadette Raichle


The Archetypal Home.

Parenting is the most important task in society and one which we enter into less than well prepared. This is not a criticism but a fact.
The family, we could describe as a community – most likely the smallest we know but never-the-less, a community. A community simply means a group of individuals who share something in common and what happens in the community of the family is reflected directly on the society we live in. How our children are cared for and raised within this family community will dictate the society we are to become.
Research and experience is showing that this rather simple equation is declaring itself on a daily base.
Today, family life, culture, community, call it what you will, is at risk . . . a greater risk than ever before. The archetypal home, that universal symbol of all that is ‘good’ is in danger of being lost.
In the past children grew up with their grandparents just around the corner. Mostly women were ‘at home’ mothers, caring for the family, filling the home with life, with heart.
As the saying goes, home is where the heart is and the heart of the home was the mother. It was she who created the ‘feeling’ of home. Time was given to homemaking, to ‘making’ the home.

Homemaking was time consuming and whilst we all acknowledge the home aids of today and take them for granted, it was that element of giving . . . of time . . . which filled the house and created a home, ensouling the environment,  so much so that this created a living atmosphere that was tangible and one which children of yesteryear were enfolded with. Walking into a space that has been filled with human activity is quite different to walking into a space that is empty of life-filled doing, it is just that, an empty space.

This enlivened quality that filled the home, supporting the healthy development of growing children, provided an invisible sheath that warmed and fed the body soul and spirit.
It is this quality that could be called ‘the heart’ of the home which elevates the house into a home and which defines the role of the homemaker that perhaps is missing in the life of the home today.

Manfred Schmidt-Brabant author of ‘The Spiritual Task of the Homemaker,’ describes the home as an organism. He speaks about the ‘tone’ of the environment which is created or in his words ‘established’ by one’s philosophy of life, the elements of culture, the questions of knowledge, art and religious life as well as how human relationships are handled and adds, “only with spirituality in a household is the organism complete.”

The home was not only a place of nurture, it was the centre of life and learning for the family.

Today and over the last 25 years or so women have undergone a change of consciousness and while creating a home is still considered important, have sought paths that take them away from the homemaking task, and into the world.
What used to be a full time role for the homemaker is now but ‘one’ of the roles the woman assumes today.

Today, women have choices in what role they will play and choosing to be a mother does not necessarily mean she will be a home mother.

The mother of today accepts and indeed expects that she is able to combine roles – that of mother and wife or partner, along with whichever role that takes her out into the world.
The term ‘homemaker’ is most probably not one that modern woman want to be associated with. It has perhaps a quality of the past that women feel they have left behind. One is led to ponder the question of what else has been left behind.

The family constitution today can be a varied one. It used to be what was referred to as the nuclear family of mother, father and child(ren). Then came the single parent family.
In NZ, in Maori culture, the child is often given into the care of the grandparents to raise.
Today there are blended families of same sex couples raising children and sometimes this may include access by the other biological parent.

While the constitution of the family has vastly broadened and changed, the fundamental needs (of children) have not. The developing human being needs access to and nurturing from both the male and the female as each has something unique to offer that the other cannot in the roles of care-giving and parenting.

Who is the homemaker in today’s modern family? This vital role needs to be taken hold of in the life of the family, for without this defining role of homemaking, the home will become just a house that happens to be lived in by a family. The sheath of soul warmth and nurturing will cease to exist and this will and perhaps is already impacting on society’s children.
Children will grow and develop with a view of humanity which is less than balanced.
We need to ask the question, what does the modern, busy family need today? How do we care for the young child and nurture the Family in these modern times?

How can the family be supported in a way which will enhance the home and the life of the child within it ?

In today’s world, the place of the home and its relevance to life in general has become something
of an issue.  We could assume, in the past, that a good home was most people’s background, however this is not the case today. Sadly, the home comes in all modes of being. The ‘sanctity’ of the home has been broken. The art of parenting needs to be acknowledged as such and re-enlivened through homemaking for the sake of our children.
Working with the Environmental Sheaths.

The need to return to archetypal family values, to create a secure and solid home base is fundamental to a healthy society but the modern family needs support in order to re-develop this.
The archetypal home brought strengthening life forces through a penetrated embuing by the homemaker, through a well- cared for physical environment, a consistency of rhythm, a sound life of values and an awareness of our spiritual origins. These strengthening sheaths  (I refer to them as environmental sheaths) are in the main missing today leaving the young child depleted and often unable to sustain a truly healthy sense of well being which quite naturally affects the whole ‘being’ of the child.
Just as the human being has four members or ‘bodies’ which we refer to as the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body and the ego or the ‘I’ body, so too can we see these realms in our  environment. This may be our place of work, the day nursery, kindergarten or it may be the home.
When these realms are well-prepared and thoroughly penetrated, strengthening life forces surround the human being in that environment in a way that is similar to the qualities that were an integral element of the archetypal home. It is these strengthening forces that our young children need today helping to mitigate all that lives as counter forces in the world we live in.

The pace of life today is speedy . . . and we are led to believe this is normal – normal that we live each day in a sea of underlying stress. The word stress has become an accepted integral component of our every day language. The stress however, exists in us, in the most part unconsciously.

Support of the family is not as it was in the past, with grandparents and other relations near by. We are more mobile and find ourselves living elsewhere to what used to be our natural support systems.

The rush that has become a normal part of family life, at least in my experience of working with young children and their families, has pushed aside the rhythmical aspect of the home and therefore what surrounds children in our modern world.  Consequently our children are carried by this almost constant whirl of rush and stress generated by busy parents. For the sake of the children something has to change!
Today we need rhythm more than ever before. In the past we lived with natural rhythms and this was not so long ago. Our own mothers will share a picture of a much more rhythmical existence.

Children are constantly being asked to ‘fit’ into an existence of ‘being’ that is both unsupportive and which warps their very sense of well being as well as ‘awakening’ them to the world prematurely.

Being a parent today is not easy and while society has changed and the pace of life quickened we need to be reminded that the needs of our young children have not changed.

‘Being’ the Example.
We need to ask the question how are modern parents supported in their role of caring for the young child.  Where are the role-models? Who provides the ‘example’ for the family?

In my experience, parents do not wish to be told what they should do and how they should do it. This I believe is an old form which does not fit today.
What they will respond to is a partnership whereby they feel the interest of another, without judgement and without expectation.
Becoming a parent is life changing – it can turn our lives up-side down . . . it causes us to have to have to change. We do not suddenly become parents but rather we are on a journey of ‘becoming’ of evolving and for some, this journey may be a long and difficult one.

To support the care of the young child in these modern times has to mean that we care for and support the community of family.

When I began Awhina in 1995 it was to provide a therapeutic environment , providing all day care to infants and very young children. However something transpired that I had not foreseen, that of role-model providing the example to the modern family caught up in the busyness of the modern day treadmill.
These parents began to take from Awhina, practices and care management that they experienced working – through their own children.

This I believe begs the question, how do I support the family in the light of the child in my care? Is my professional practice acknowledging the family of today or am I working out of a kindergarten / early childhood working mode from the past.
Do I acknowledge that parents are well-intentioned,  even when they falter in trying to achieve a simple suggestion by engaging with a warm interest, particularly when both parents may be working, or do I stand in judgement and then wonder why nothing changes.

When we, the adult, caregiver, educator or kindergarten teacher are warmly interested in the life of the families who come to us, an inner gesture of respect, of love can and will pass over to the child.

This, we refer to as the ‘inner work’ of the adult and directly relates to the work of the ‘co-worker’, educator or kindergarten teacher on a deeper level. In this way we are ‘communing’ with the world of ‘spirit’ acknowledging that all that we do could not be entered into without this spiritual guidance.

Being interested, showing interest has a ‘warming’ quality which requires our constant attention. How we greet one another, with an objective love and trust in the other, in particular at the beginning of the new day will not only reflect the atmosphere of the environment but will naturally impact on the children in our care as well as the family standing beside the child.

The work within an anthroposophical early childhood realm has everything to do with our ongoing outer professional development along side our inner spiritual journey. When our inner work is entered into with a trusting gesture of honesty then our outer work will more and more find a rightful gesture for the child.

We will then begin to meet the parent where they are and cease to expect that they meet us where we stand. Through this ‘understanding’ the parent will experience the warming interest being shown which will allow for a ‘different’ response.
This will bring us a step closer to truly caring for the young child in these modern times.

We are not the child’s parent, however in thorough consciousness and an inner striving, we endeavour to interweave with the soul environment of the home to broaden and strengthen the
emotional life as well as the physical life of the child.

References used: -Homemaking as a Social Art – Veronica van Duin
-The Spiritual Task of the Homemaker – Manfred Schmidt-Brabant
-Caring for the Life – Forces of the Young Child –  Renate Long Breipohl
-The First Seven Years – Edmond Schoorel
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