All posts by Sahar

A True Measure of Good Parenting

I am extremely lucky to have four friends going through pregnancies around the same time as I did.  The five of us have a group chat in which we exchange everything from news to tips, from joy to tears.  I love this group of mine; while tips from parents with little to loads of experience has been precious, there is something about going through the same steps around the same time that is unique and irreplaceable.

The best part is that there is no judgement within this group.  We are extremely different women, be it our ages—there is a least a decade separating the youngest one of us from the oldest—or where we live—pretty much all continents are represented in one way or another.  We have different ways of doing things, but instead of pitting them one against the other, each person explains why they do something, and the other four glean insights they apply to their own parenting philosophy.

Did I mention how much I love this group?

But funny thing…  Despite the love and lack of judgement, I found myself a couple of times wondering if I was doing enough as a mother.  These four friends of mine are really impressive and I started at times feeling like I was lagging behind and if I should just forget about how I was going about parenting and adopt their tips and techniques.

I was wondering about this one day, when it suddenly a profound realisation hit me: we were all doing a great job because, at the end of the day, our five babies are developing regularly and such happy babies.  Each of the five littles ones are vibrant, laughing, joyful little bundles of energy.  Their smiles light up my screen throughout the day—and are proof that, despite the different ways we are doing it, we are all attaining the level, at the very least, of “good parent”.

All of us are putting our family first, making sure that all its members—our husbands, our babies, and ourselves—are thriving.  Isn’t that what being a wife, mother, and woman is all about?  And aren’t we all achieving it?

Our differences only have to do with culture, our character, our personal circumstances, and our personal preferences.  What I do would probably not be good for any of these ladies, and vice-versa.

It sounds very simple and, in the comfort of whatever sitting area you are reading this from, easy to agree with.  But in the day-to-day struggles that come with being a good spouse, parent, and person, these simple, basic, and fundamental realities are all too easy to forget: that while we all want what’s best for our children, what’s best for us and ours is not what’s best for everyone else, and vice-versa.

And so, supporting one another looks more like an exchange and exploration of ideas and making sure that they are reflecting the framework of our parenting philosophy.  There is a lot that can be done with any said philosophy, and instead of engaging in things like “Mommy Wars”, we should be oh-so-grateful that there is such a broad range of things that we can do to achieve the same purpose: the happiness of each member of our family.

From Rihanna to Mandy Moore: Slowing and Stripping Down to get to the Truth

Communication is something that, as a writer, I am constantly thinking about.  Misunderstandings abound even when the various skills that make quality communication possible are present—and it seems like, unfortunately, these skills are not as honed anymore as they used to be.

On top of that, it seems all the more difficult to convey a deeper meaning as a writer because of the competition for eyeballs currently raging on the internet.  Some of the advice that bloggers get in order to get more readers seems to completely defy the very purpose of why I started blogging in the first place.

In this post, uploaded back in September 2008 on this blog, I compared Rihanna’s version of the hit song “Umbrella” with the cover done by Mandy Moore (video to both embedded below).  I still can’t help but think that, although Rihanna’s version is catchier, Mandy Moores’ conveys the meaning much more skillfully.

In light of recent events related to the rapid dissemination of fake news and the related lack of fact checking, it seems all the more important to let go of the fun but distracting, Rihanna-like trappings and focus on the core message.  As a blogger and author, it means resisting the temptation of going down the path of attention-grabbing and stay true to the purpose why I started writing in the first place: to contribute to the betterment of the word, one post at a time.

Mandy Moore’s Umbrella Cover

Rihanna’s Original Version

{ Sahar’s Blog is all about being in a constant state of learning.  So it only made sense for me to go back to all my previous posts and see how my thoughts on certain topics have changed over the last nine years.  In this new, ongoing series of posts, I’ll be rereading some of my older posts and reflecting on the same topic in light of what I’ve learned since then.  It’s going to be very interesting to see how things have changed! }

It’s Not All About The Nausea: Pregnancy As a Transformative Experience { Guest Post }

{ This guest post was written by my childhood friend Esther }

Before finding out about my pregnancy, I had been speaking with friends a lot about the idea of transformation, something that should “manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly”, and should “affect both its inner life and external conditions.”

Pregnancy, the most literal human example of transformation I could experience, inspired a kind of search. By engaging meaningfully with the ever-changing circumstances of our lives, we give ourselves the opportunity to transform. As I clocked the seemingly endless Google searches about pregnancy and thought of my own rite of passage into motherhood, I yearned to read about the spiritual dynamics of this transformation.

I read about the role of “mother”, which I was about to assume, like a candidate for a job might scan the qualifications they would need to bring to it. This beautiful description of motherhood resonated with me: “O ye loving mothers, know ye that in God’s sight, the best of all ways to worship Him is to educate the children and train them in all the perfections of humankind; and no nobler deed than this can be imagined.” Like a candidate, I wondered how I might be cut out for training a new soul in all the perfections of humankind.

Another quote from the same source states: “Although the bestowal is great and the grace is glorious, yet capacity and readiness are requisite…we must develop capacity in order that the signs of the mercy of the Lord may be revealed in us.”

So I asked myself: how might that capacity be developed?

Clearly there are many material preparations necessary for welcoming a new person into our family, but it was less clear how to make space for the spiritual preparations. In my search, I read chronicles of pregnancy that shared the more internal truths. Among these were Louise Erdrich’s book A Blue Jay’s Dance: A Birth Year and Beth Ann Fennelly’s Great With Child: Letters to a Young Mother. Erdrich writes about the dual nature of birth, calling it a physical prayer: “Birth is intensely spiritual and physical all at once. The contractions do not stop. There is no giving up this physical prayer.” In order to become imbued with these new capacities required, sacrifice was in order, some kind of letting go, some kind of pain. This was a recurrent theme for me as I approached the due date.

In one of The Hidden Words, Bahá’u’lláh writes that we should hasten towards calamity, saying “My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy.” Early on in the pregnancy, I mused about death and about the nature of the pain and suffering that awaited both me and my child as they would enter this world. I wrote:

A good death. A good trial. Then you know. You know that God’s love is shown in a myriad ways. And that our love for Him is shown through our dedication to walking that stony path and slowly, gently, coaxing ourselves to love the very stones that pierce our feet. What are children but the very best of those stones? That allow us greater strength, perception and understanding? You are not something on my checklist, you are not something to show off or parade around. You are a soul that belongs only to God. You are not bounded or circumscribed by my limited understanding of life, you will go farther than me, you will be stronger than I. You are not a collection of blankets and toys and nappies and contraptions I don’t understand yet for bathing and entertaining you in future any more than I am the lines on my resume or the letters after my name. I never thought I was entitled to the miracle of your existence. And yet, souls enter and exit this world every moment of every day.

Erdrich describes labour beautifully, “thrown down, I rely on animal fierceness, swim back, surface, breathe, and try to stay open, willing. Staying open and willing is difficult. Very often in labor one must fight the instinct to resist pain and instead embrace it, move towards it, work with what hurts the most.” Another passage from The Hidden Words challenges us, “let it now be seen what your endeavours in the path of detachment will bring.”

There is something ominous and exciting about meeting our edge in this way. I wrote:

There is a sense of magic in this process. That something only grows because God wills it to. We move out of the way. We pull the veil from the incoming shaft of light, of life, we scratch at the grime that forms on our hearts. When I wonder and panic at my own limitedness, the smallness of my strength, I am forgetting this.

In The Seven Valleys, we read that the steed of the Valley of Love is pain. Many women describe being unable to recall the pain of labour. Beth Ann Fennelly describes it as having to do with the fact that “during hard labor, you go to a place beyond language. It isn’t so much that there are no good words to describe what you’re going through as there are no words. You’re a white wave in a white sea, without boundaries or cognition…we use the word ‘disembodied’ a lot, but truly it applies here because the body breaks free from the ego.”

After my son’s birth, I wrote the following:

There is no time, just light and dark, sleep and wake, a cycle and the feeling of being right in the very womb of life, a cave where miracles happen, where nothing goes as planned and the rolling rushing waves of pain cast the pearls of pure and goodly issue on the shores of life. And in giving in, we are made new. We are made new.

I’m curious to hear from others who (and I’m sure all of us have in some way!) have gone through moments that were particularly transformative. What were the material conditions and spiritual dynamics that allowed you to engage with that event or time? Is there a particular habit of prayer or creativity that allows you to reflect on this kind of process?

Based on an essay posted by Esther on Baha’i Blog.

Who Cares About What They Wear: Choosing Who To Vote For

A lot of important elections have been happening around the world lately, and, as many prepare to vote, it has come to my attention that we spend way too much time looking into things that do not matter at the expense of looking carefully into what does matter.

For example, I was reading about the presidential elections in the United States a couple of months ago, and the first bunch of articles I found had a significant number of paragraphs commenting on such things as the candidates’ outfits, their speaking style, and the way they carried themselves.

Granted, these things tell us a lot about an individual; however, they do not seem as important as the proportion of coverage they were given in the news.  There was little on their policies and approaches to various problems they would have to face should they be elected to the Oval Office, only the usual answers that seem to say a lot without really answering the question.

It makes me wonder…

How did we get here?

One reason I can think of is that we, as a society, have perhaps become so removed and uninvolved from the question of governance that we don’t know how to discuss these issues.  If this is the case, then we can’t fault candidates for not wasting their time and energy explaining their position on various topics and issues more thoroughly; it would be like working on a speech to a little baby for hours at a time when whatever words come out of your mouth will entertain it for hours on end.

Not convinced?  Well, just think about your reality and that of those around you.  Can you have an in-depth conversation about the issues facing your neighborhood, city, region, or country?  Can you describe their reality?  Can you explain why the reality is the way it is?  And can you trace a concrete way out?

If, like most of the people I interviewed for this post, you answered “no”, then neither you nor I can fault either the candidates or the news outlets for reporting the not discussing more in-depth these issues with us.

The way out is, in my opinion, for us to get involved in understanding our local reality and, when issues are identified, contributing to their resolution in a proactive way.  This will yield deeper and deeper understanding on the process of governance which in turn will help us gain an increasing understanding of the issues at hand on an increasingly larger scale.

Parenting Product Review: Solly Wrap

I strongly believe that, as consumers, every economic decision we make leave a moral trace behind it.  As a parent, I strongly believe that every purchase made for our children influences them from the very beginning of their lives, long before they understand the concept of “shopping”.

It hasn’t been easy or always possible to find items for our child that combined the ethical values we stand for, the budget we have, and the needs that emerged as we walked the path of parenthood, one step at a time.

Why a Baby Wrap

One of the items that was easy for us to identify as an essential was a baby wrap.  When reading about the relationship between a mother and the baby she carries in her womb as described in the Bahá’í Writings, my husband and I came to appreciate that the relationship is even closer than science leads us to believe: it is a deep, spiritual connection.  And because, in a way, the wrap would be giving our baby and I an extension of sorts of the closest physical bond we would ever share.

There are a lot of other reasons why a wrap is a good idea:

  • It promotes bonding between parent and baby;
  • It may help reduce postpartum depression;
  • It frees up your hands but not at the cost of leaving baby behind;
  • It helps calm fussy babies by making them feel safe and warm in a womb-like environment;

Using a wrap was good for both baby and I especially in the first weeks post-partum.  My little one would only be happy and relaxed when she was on me, and I felt the most happy when she was with me.  And so, wrapping her allowed me to go on walks, able to enjoy the beautiful Canadian summer and basking in the joy of having a baby.  Both having her on me and exercising so soon after delivery in the form of walks no doubt helped keep away any form of postpartum blues I might have potentially been at risk of.

Why a Solly Baby Wrap

The Solly Baby Wrap also has the added—but not exclusive, mind you—benefit of distributing baby’s weight evenly all over the carrier’s upper body, which means no extra pressure on the carrier’s shoulder or the baby’s joints and spine.  The fabric is it made of is far thinner than—but just as strong as—that other similar wraps are made of.  It makes a huge difference when it comes to comfort; be it winter or summer—but especially summer—it makes for a far more comfortable baby wearing experience.

Supporting Small Businesses

It’s short-sighted to claim that all big businesses are bad and that all small businesses are good.  It seems that, at this point in time, getting the things that we need for our baby and staying within budget requires balancing out purchasing items from both small and big businesses.

My husband and I do, however, have a soft spot for small businesses for many reasons, including:

  • Small businesses can be held accountable a lot more easily than big businesses, and many small outfits hold themselves accountable in away big ones—the consequences of whose decisions are so far removed from the decision-makers that they are easy to ignore—just can’t.
  • Small businesses usually remain more connected to the grassroots and usually give more than they take.
  • Shopping small businesses encourages the development of a broader variety of products; the better suited an item is to our needs, the less we will buy overall in search for the best product.

Buy Made in North America

Every other argument else aside, the environment is why I prefer, when possible, to shop for items made in North America.  On the one hand, the item has a lot less distance to travel.  On the other hand, the manufacturing industry here is regulated with standards far friendlier to the environment than those of other countries.  Granted, it means that items are usually more expensive, but it’s money well spent, in my mind.

Lenzing Modal Textile

The Solly Wrap is made of Lenzing Modal, something I hadn’t heard of until I was researching what wrap to purchase.  The fabric is manufactured in Los Angeles from Austrian beechwood trees (not sure if the pulp is imported from Austria, or if the trees are planted in California).  The fabric itself is lightweight yet strong, cool to the touch even in hot weather, gets softer with each wash, and can handle being dried in a conventional dryer on low heat.  And it seems that its carbon footprint is a lot less than most fabrics other wraps are made of (here and here).

Customer Support

Although I didn’t have much luck personally getting extra information or support from the Solly Baby team, they have really thought through how it could provide parents with the help that they might need as they try to master the art of wrapping their baby.  A series of well-shot tutorial videos make it crystal clear how to do just that.  The lookbook is chockful of gorgeous pictures of mothers carrying their babies; I have to admit that the reality is quite far from all those shots—I didn’t manage to feel anywhere near as polished, rested, well-dressed, clean, and well put together as the mothers in those shots do.  Maybe the Solly Baby team could provide support in that regard, too!

Verdict

For balancing eco-friendliness, usability, a relatively good point price, and just plain prettiness: recommend.

Eliminating Extreme Poverty: Possible Personal Contributions

I’ve been going through my older posts systematically in the last couple of weeks and taking the time to write an updated post on the many topics I touched upon since launching this blog in 2008.  It’s interesting to see how some things have really not changed in the last nine years, how some have completely changed, and how others still have morphed into something that straddles the line between the 2008 me and the 2017 me–like some thoughts on extreme poverty.

I had for one completely forgotten about Blog Action Day, something I was super enthusiastic about when I first started blogging but have, since then, stopped participating in.  It took me a little while to remember that it was a decision I took in order to blog more organically; in other words, rather than forcing out a post on a chosen topic, I preferred blogging about things that happened to me or around me, as an extension of the conversations I was having “in real life”.

I did, however, write one post as part of October 2008’s Blog Action Day about poverty that made me pause and think.  I could feel how, on the one hand, I had forced the post out of me, and on the other, how true it remains to what I still believe today: that eliminating poverty needs the full participation of every single person, and that addressing poverty’s root causes will help solve other issues as well.

In short, I had written that, while giving people money and food and donating to various organizations as Sun YouthRenaissance and The Old Brewery Mission does help, it doesn’t solve the causes of poverty, be it at the level of the structures of society or at the level of each person, both poor and not poor.

What about now?

These days, though, I am much more interested in what we can do at the grassroots to help alleviate poverty.  The first is an attitude change.  For example, a person living in poverty is still worthwhile, is still a dignified human being, and still has amazing capacities.  They don’t need us to “save” them, but they do need to be given the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.

I would like to give almost the same three suggestions that I gave nine years ago in this regard.  The first is to sponsor a child so that he or she can get an education. You can go through an organisation or find a school that accepts direct donations, such as Zambia’s Banani International Secondary School.  The second was to go for a period of service, however short it may be, to assist efforts at the grassroots to provide children with a solid education.  I would suggest, in 2017, that those who cannot offer such a period of service consider mentoring young ones right here at home.  The third suggestion was to contribute to microcredit schemes (more on the topic here and here).  The updated version of that advice would also include to buy, as much as possible, local.

Final thoughts

But ultimately, I think that the real, sustainable answer to poverty on a global scale is figuring out how to redistribute wealth in such a way that no one person is ever again to be found in abject poverty, no any one person is able to have so much money that they just don’t know what to do with it.  And while it might seem like a huge challenge that you and I, mere inhabitants with no international influence, cannot possibly address, our day-to-day choices will contribute to changing the patters in our society that contribute to the current massively unequal distribution of wealth.  It’s only a matter of taking our rightful place as protagonists of change.

{ Sahar’s Blog is all about being in a constant state of learning.  So it only made sense for me to go back to all my previous posts and see how my thoughts on certain topics have changed over the last nine years.  In this new, ongoing series of posts, I’ll be rereading some of my older posts and reflecting on the same topic in light of what I’ve learned since then.  It’s going to be very interesting to see how things have changed! }

Being a Mother – Or, Everything You Do Is Wrong, So You May As Well Do What Suits You { Guest Post }

{ This guest post was written by my lovely friend Emma }

When my son was born, I spent many hours sitting in one place feeding him, pinned to the bed or the couch. It was in these moments that I reached for my smartphone. I remember thinking how did my mother and women of that generation cope with the lack of mobility when they were feeding? What did they do to occupy themselves while they were stuck in a seated position for hours? I felt lucky to have my phone. I could read books on my Kindle app, I could watch videos, take pictures of my son and browse the internet.

Being a new mother, I browsed for hours about everything I had questions about. What I learned really quickly was to be picky about legitimate sources for answers, such as medical studies, accredited journals etc. vs. questions answered in a forum or other mothers’ opinions. While the latter answers had their place, they came from people whose children differed from mine, whose family situations differed from mine and some featured second hand medical or psychological opinions.

The Pitfalls of Online Forums

During what I read online both during my pregnancy and afterwards, I realised that parenting forums were making me extremely frustrated. I remember telling my husband that I had seen a post on a parenting forum asking what stairgate worked for a particular wall. The answers the poster received varied from actual specific answers to her question to comments like she shouldn’t restrict children with a gate. I kept saying, “she just wanted to know about the type of gate. She doesn’t care what you think about using the gate. That wasn’t her question.” Unfortunately, those type of comments to most questions asked tended to follow that direction and so forums were a no-go for me. If a specific answer in a specific forum came up during my general internet search, I would look at it, but not keep reading down the thread.

Contradictions Galore

So I focused on sources I was mostly happy with (not asking for a critique of the ones I’m posting in reference FYI) and looked for the answers to the questions I had. I realised then, that there was a lot of conflicting information out there from respectable sources about the benefits of one action or another.  Co-sleeping is bad, Co-sleeping is not bad. Crying it out is awful, Crying it out is fine. Your kid is smarter if they are breastfed, There is very little difference in intelligence between breastfed and bottlefed children.

Taking a Stand—For My Own Sanity

I decided then that when it came to making a decision about my child, I would decide what course of action I wished to take and then find the evidence to back me up. I laughed with a scientist friend of mine that when it came to any action you wanted to perform, you could find some kind of study to say it was fine.

I guess I have that type of personality that I want to know what I am doing is ‘right’ – but jeez, what is ‘right’ when it comes to parenting – so once I found a study confirming what I was doing, I was happy. And I realised that in the end there are a lot of respectable studies out there confirming one opinion, and a lot either disproving the original opinion or offering a differing version. As a parent, in my unique situation with my unique child I need to do what suits me and my child. And while a study may say X is correct and you need to do X for so many months, it just may not be practical for me, in my situation to put it into practise.

Final Thoughts

When I get advice from someone about parenting (which happens a lot, most of the time when I don’t ask for it or want it) I think to myself, who are they to give the advice? I know how that sounds, I didn’t mean, WHO are THEY to GIVE advice!! What I meant is, is the person giving advice on breastfeeding staying at home fulltime and not returning to work after six months?  Is the person giving advice on potty training 20 or 30 years removed from the process? Is the person giving advice on bedtimes getting home at 5 o’clock every day on the button? If they are, then their situation is different from mine, their family circumstances and children are different from mine. Their advice may not be useful practically to me. I’m not saying don’t ever get advice from people whose circumstances differ from yours. I am saying be aware of who is giving the advice and where they are coming from. Thinking about this makes me feel so much better. And I smile and resist the urge to punch the unwanted or unasked for advice giver. And I’m sure no matter how hard I looked for a study to back up that course of action it would be too hard to find!

Book Review: ‘Success with Stress’, by Jae Ellard

About the Author

After years in senior communication roles crafting content for executives, Jae collapsed from stress-related adrenal fatigue. This life-altering experience propelled her to research human behavior, neuroscience, mindfulness, and organizational relationship systems.

The Five Truths about Work-Life Balance by Jae Ellard on Sahar's BlogIn 2008, Jae founded Simple Intentions and developed the Mindful Life™ Program, which includes four group coaching workshops to generate reflection, awareness and action at the organizational and individual levels. Jae has taught the skill of awareness to thousands of employees at multinational corporations in more than 50 countries including China, Russia, India, Japan, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Germany, United Kingdom, Norway, and the United States.

Jae contributes to the Awareness at Work column for Mindful Magazine, the Healthy Living section on Huffington Post as well as the Simple Intentions blog. Jae has a master’s degree in Communication Management from Colorado State University and a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Communication from Metropolitan State College of Denver. She holds certificates in co-active coaching and organizational relationship systems coaching and is the author of seven books.

About the Book

Success with StressBelieve it or not, stress isn’t all bad; in fact, it’s an important part of the natural world. Stress helps us survive as a species – because of that we want the ability to be stressed. That said, being able to MANAGE STRESS WITH GREATER SUCCESS is the difference between surviving and THRIVING. Success with Stress explores five simple ideas to spark your personal power to change the level, duration, and frequency of the stress in your life. With workplace stress being linked to quality of life, health, and workplace morale, this is a must-read for any team looking to improve morale and individuals looking to improve their quality of life.

Book Review

The previous Jae Ellard book I reviewed, The Five Truths About Work-Life Balance, became (and still is) and notebook of sorts.  While I have only had Success With Stress for a week now and have yet to jot anything down, I know it’s going to become the same thing: an on-going tool that I will use for quite some time to come.

Yet again, despite being void of either a ton of pages (total page count: 85) or a wealth of words on each page (some count only three words!) or of the trappings ones usually associates with a book that needs studying—I’m thinking a thick book with lots of words and maybe even some tables and graphs, covered in colour-coded sticky notes with sections highlighted in different colours and a stack of notecards on the side—Ellard manages to engage readers in a deep study of the stress in their lives, in such a way that they can accept it as a positive thing and mould their way around it, skillfully, gracefully, and almost painlessly.

Because I have experience with her books, I was anticipating the self-explanatory statements, made with the assumption that the reader is not, as is most often the case, a passive recipient of wisdom, but rather an empowered protagonist in his or her own life.  Each of these statements serve as a beginning, tracing the broad direction of the road, but leaving to the reader the responsibility of figuring out its twists and turns.

If you are looking for a magical, quick-fix solution, then don’t bother.  But then again, you shouldn’t be looking for such a thing.  Rather, you should engage in a long-term, thoughtful process of reflection and action, and this book is a great coach of sorts in this regard.  And you will know that you are working well with this coach if your copy ends up covered in notes, preferably jotted at different times during different readings.

It feels like, after being encouraged to see stress as one of the many evils we have to conquer, we, as a North American society, are starting to realise that stress is a great tool—if we don’t overdo it and if we learn how to manage it.  We are also taking a big step back from the understanding that we are meant to be passive recipients and taking our place as active protagonists in our personal development.  Ellard’s Success With Stress, just like The Five Truths About Work-Life Balance, can come in as quite the handy companion in this regard.

More information is available on the Simple Intentions’ website and Facebook page; you can also reach out to the team on Twitter.

Thank you to iReads Book Tours for providing
a copy of this book for me to review!

When Your Voice Isn’t Deemed Good Enough

I run into a very interesting dilemma every couple of months or so.  It goes a little something like this.

I regularly update my media kit so that I have something at the ready for the various inquiries that come my way.  I have an Excel sheet in which every couple of months I chart my blog’s numbers.  And while the numbers are steadily increasing, they are by no means increasing in direct proportion to the amount of effort I put into my blog.

I hired someone to do an assessment of my blog; based on this person’s feedback, I would be able to take a step back and fix whatever it is that was holding my blog back.  This person is an amazing professional who was wonderfully candid with me.  The conclusion: my blog’s voice isn’t what people were looking for.  So either I would have to change my voice, or I would have to content myself with the numbers that I had.

It’s something that I had considered in the past.  I want to share thoughts and reflections on personal development and community building with others because I know there are many, many around the world who ask themselves the same questions.  Similarly, I want them to start sharing and exchanging their thoughts both in the comments section and by email (with me or with each other) to further these important conversations.  So maybe I should consider writing in a way that would trigger more interest in the masses.

Long time readers of Sahar’s Blog can probably pinpoint when I did these experiments—and how massively they failed.  Because ultimately, I spent so much time trying to speak with a certain voice I thought was appealing that I lost perspective on why I was blogging in the first place.

This isn’t a lesson that is only important for bloggers to learn.  Authenticity is something that we are early on encouraged to abandon as we pursue various unattainable goals or try to fit in.  But the more we pursue these objectives, the less we have time to nurture our true selves.  The biggest challenge, of course, is that in the heated, one-minded pursuit of material wealth, we forget about our spiritual well-being.

There is thankfully a way to achieve balance.  I haven’t quite figured it out, but I do now that I am more balanced today than I was a year ago, and I intend to continue trying to become increasingly balanced.  When it comes to blogging, I know that things have changed on my blog and will continue to change as I take the lessons from popular blogs and apply them to my own as long as they correspond to what I believe in.  So for example the idea of consistency in look and style (which translated in my case with simple headers styled in a specific way) and regularity (which translated into a clear editorial calendar) have helped me focus on the ultimate goal of my blog: to begin an online conversation on how we can improve our communities.  It also makes me quite excited to see where this blog will eventually go—and hope that I will not again be distracted by statistics.

Redefining Success as a Parent: Raising a Child is Not a Competitive Sport

The concept of success remains a broad, complex, and very subjective one–all the more so when it comes to assessing one’s parenting skills.  For example, I can define a successful parent as something you will consider completely unimportant.

But even if we don’t agree with a certain definition of success, some of them still generate in us behaviours indicating that we just might, after all, give it more weight that we’d like to admit.  When it comes to parenting, one that I am coming to understand is quite insidious is that of comparison.  Most people say that we shouldn’t compare children to each other, as each is unique and develops according to his or her own timeline.  And yet, most people will compare children to one another, and will act deferential to parents whose children they deem “more advanced”.

It feels like this confusion occurs more when things like ego and pride are involved.  It becomes even easier to become confused when we don’t really think profoundly about what we believe successful parenting is and don’t take the time to go though the mental exercise of figuring it out.  I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to do this; it is painful and exhausting to analyse our patterns of thought and behaviour, all the more so when one is exerting so much energy on raising one’s children.

Yet again, I do not have a straightforward answer.  I only have the current state of my thoughts to share with you, based on tons of conversations with individuals who have had children for years, thoughts that have not yet matured within my own personal experience as a parent.  For now, I think that, when it comes to successful parenting, there are two types: the ‘relative’ successes in our parenting  and the ‘overall’ success in our parenting.

To me, ‘relative’ success is when you are successful within a narrow niche.  You are, indeed, successful when you accomplish something for your child—but you are only successful in the niche of what you have accomplished.  When impressive enough, relative success seems to be often mistaken for ‘overall’ success.

‘Overall’ success has to do with fulfilling the purpose of our parenting.  I believe this purpose to be giving opportunities to our children to build on their inherent capacities to become spiritually empowered adults able to pursue their own personal spiritual and material development while contributing decisively to the spiritual and material progress of their community.

Being successful therefore means that our children will become the adults that they are meant to be–and not the adults we want them to be.  It can mean that we as parents can have all the relative success in the world and yet fail to achieve overall success.  We can also do nothing and achieve overall success because of factors external to us.

I wish I could say that having made this distinction helps me not fall into the trap of mistaking relative success for overall success.  Ha.  Quite the contrary!  It’s so easy to forget this distinction when living in a social environment that celebrates relative success to such an excess.

There are three relative successes in parenting that I feel oftentimes get confused for overall success.  The first is achieving milestones early; the second is teaching children to do what we want them to do; the third is encouraging or allowing behaviour limited to our understanding of gender (think of “boys will be boys” or “good girl” situations).

It feels like the number one factor that creates this confusion is the ego.  We want to prove to ourselves and to others that we are good parents, not satisfied with what our child naturally achieves but always wanting more.  And I feel that this contributes to mixing up education with teaching.

The big problem is that the ego is never happy.  It always wants more.  And if you feed it, it wants more and more, until your entire focus becomes feeding that insatiable little beast.  This makes us pressure our children beyond their capacity, pushing them into apathy.  However, if you don’t feed it, you might feel the discomfort of its hunger; but this hunger abates and the overall sense of well-being you will feel will make it well worth it. Managing one’s ego seems then to be very important in becoming truly successful parents, one in which we are educating our children in such a way that their inherent capacities can shine through rather than teaching them things that will make us feel better about ourselves.