Category Archives: Family

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.

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.

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!

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.

Helping My Husband (Not): How The Best Intentions Can Go Wrong

One of the things that bothers me to no end is how fathers are underappreciated.  I won’t ever forget how, despite his exhaustion and the emotional toll of worrying about his wife and baby, no one took care of my husband during our baby’s birth.  The most ironic part of this story is that because I knew no one was taking care of him, I was worried about him, and as we know, worrying has adverse effects on one’s physical well-being.

Now the interesting thing is that, however passionate I am as an individual about this topic, I still live in a society that breeds a certain indifference towards the capacity of fathers.  And this belief, which has molded and shaped the structures of our society, has also affected me.  This effect is, in my opinion, even more dangerous: because of my passion for the elevation of fatherhood to its full worth, I can and am often blinded by sometimes very subtle actions that are, in fact, breeding the same type of indifference but in a much more insidious way.

Now as all parents know, the first couple of months are particularly exhausting.  Night feeding, crap naps, witching hour, clinginess of a baby introduced to a brand-new world—a lot of demands are being made that are unique to this time period and uniquely tiring.  I saw the effect this had on my husband and decided that I would take care of him by taking on as much as I could of our baby’s care.

Oh, how this backfired.  In my drive to make sure my husband didn’t feel as exhausted as I did, I took away from him and our baby the precious opportunities that I have had to get to bond with her and get to know her.  And one of the underlying assumptions that kept me going was that men weren’t built to do this the way women are.  In other words, that men don’t have the capacity to go through these first few weeks like women do.

Woah.

Thankfully, I realised this early on and was able to address this underlying assumption.  I still take care of my husband as much as I can, but not by “hogging” our baby’s care.  Rather, taking care of my husband now includes giving him the time he craves to be with her.  This gave given the two of them precious time to bond and connect, and has given me the precious opportunity to sit back and watch their relationship blossom.

Enjoying the Reality Instead of Grieving the Fantasy of Parenthood

Every parent I know had a certain image of what life would be like with their children.  And every parent I have talked to tell me the same thing: that life with their children is not all like what they thought it would be.

What happens next is also really interesting and has got me thinking a lot about the importance of attitude and perspective.  Some parents end up disappointed in what their life is like, seeing the discrepancy between their plans and the reality of parenthood.  Other parents thought love every moment of it—even the worst parts of it that they could imagine.

It seems that the trick to being a happy parent—and to have a happy child—is to enjoy the good and the bad sides of parenting, to the point that the bad side of parenting becomes a source of joy in itself.  I put the question before a couple of parents and here are some of the ways that the difficult sides of parenthood became a source of joy for them.

Breastfeeding

There is definitely something beautiful about the concept of breasts being able to feed a little human being with exactly what he needs.  There is also something delightful and beautiful about holding your baby while you are feeding him in such an intimate, unique, and short-lived way.

But oh boy, can breastfeeding be messy!  Some mothers have told me tales of how their milk shoots in their babies faces or leaks all over while their baby struggles to latch on.  Other moms shared how gross they often feel what with milk always leaking through their bras and clothes.  Some mothers couldn’t get over the unsettling smell that seemed to follow them everywhere while they were breastfeeding.

Then again, as one mother said, if you laugh at it, it’s all becomes fun.  When her milk shoots in her baby’s face, she laughs, and the baby, taking his cue from her, learned to scrunch his face as she would open up her bra and would laugh when the milk would hit his face.  Another mother told me how she and her husband cataloged all the different ways she smelled because of the breastmilk, and how they would create fake perfume ads based on her “scent of the day”.  And all of them said that once their babies were weaned off, they really missed breastfeeding in all its messy, gross splendour.

Diapering

Diapering is another one of those moments that can be quite beautiful, a great opportunity for parents to bond and enjoy their baby.  But do I even need to mention all the things that can go wrong?

Again, laughing it off seems to be key.  One of my friends, realising that whatever she did, her baby boy was going to end up peeing at some point when not covered, put up a bullseye on the wall by the changing table and would give her son points based on how close he would get to its centre.  Another mom started cataloging the various colours and textures and would send updated to her close friends who, also mothers, started battling it out for the grossest poo of the day.  Each week, the winner of the grossest poo would be treated to coffee by the other women.

The most powerful “retake”, however, it to consider every bowel movement as a gift: the gift of knowing that your baby’s gastrointestinal system is doing fine and that you got another reminder that everything is OK.

Nighttime Feedings

Especially in the dead of winter, when the idea of getting out of a warm bed into the cool air of your bedroom, nighttime feedings can be quite difficult.  The exhaustion, the discomfort, the loneliness, the baby that won’t settle, the baby that bites because he falls asleep at the breast, the lolling head—there is a really long list of reasons why nighttime feeds are just so darn difficult.

Then again, most mothers agreed that despite it all, there is something incredibly peaceful and almost magical when it’s just them and their baby, without anyone or anything to come in between them.  One Mom told me that those moments were some of her most peaceful and restful ones, when all she had to do was watch her son eat.  Another one told me that’s when some of the most precious things happened—her baby’s first real smile, her baby’s first laugh, and the first time her baby was able to reach out and grab her finger without hesitation, to name a few.  Another one said that the nighttime feeds became her meditation time—at which point her mental health became a lot better and, consequently, so did her physical health.  So much so that when her husband suggested that he start getting up with her on weekends and holidays, she turned him down!

Conclusion

The consensus is that parenting is truly wonderful.  It’s an experience that transforms you as an individual and greatly enriches your marriage.  But it’s also tough, sometimes so tough some parents wonder how they will ever get through it.  It’s OK to not enjoy every moment, and it’s OK to acknowledge that some moments are tougher to enjoy—and make sure to laugh as much as you can.

But I think there is something else to remember: you should always enjoy every moment.  When you are single, enjoy every moment.  When you are dating, enjoy every moment.  The same for when you are engaged, married without children, married with one child, married with more than one child, and married with grown-up children.  These moments will all pass and only if we live them to the fullest will we not regret them.

Dealing with Parent Guilt: Some of the Best Advice I Got

Speaking of guilt: I’m a very avid advice seeker.  I mean, why not prevent things from happening by getting the advice to do just that, rather than fall into the same trap as others have?  And so, right after we got married, my husband and I started reaching out to our generous and loving friends who had children to ask them about their learnings and insights.  To each, we always asked: what is the one piece of advice you wish you could have given yourself?

My husband and I are also huge nerds; we have been following a couple of the major parenting blogs for quite some time now.  And the case of both our friends and of parent bloggers, one theme seems to rule them all: that of Parent Guilt.

I think any parent, however new, deals with this feeling pretty early on in their journey.  It seems inevitable, and it seems at times that Parent Guilt can even break a marriage long after the last child has long flown the nest.  It seemed to my husband and I that it was something that we had to deal with—and the sooner, the better.

We were lucky enough to get this brilliant piece of advice pretty early on during our own journey as parents, and our friend is kind enough to let me share it with readers.

Parent guilt has to be fought from the bottom up from the very beginning, which means, even before you’re pregnant, on a firm foundation of striving for excellence.

In other words:

  • Make sure that you are doing your best as soon as you decide you want children, and keep that up as much as you can. Compare yourself to only yourself; make sure you are doing a little bit better each day.  What better gift to give your child than that of your best self?
  • Don’t feel guilty about anything.   All.  Even the smallest thing can fester and become a big, gaping, emotional wound.

It sounds great, but in a world that seems to thrive on guilt, what does this process look like in a parents’ day-to-day life?

“Data,” our friend said without hesitation.  “Evidence-based guilt fighting.  You feel that you are a bad parent because of this one thing you did wrong?  Make a list of all the things you did right on the same day.  See which list is longer.  My bet is, the latter will be much, much, much longer.”

This is great advice not just for parents, but for anyone who deals with guilt.  Whatever you do, you will feel guilty if that’s the pattern of thought you choose to engage in.  So don’t let guilt in, even–or perhaps especially–with the small stuff.  It’s just not worth it.  Just think about it — do you remember the times your own mom zoned out in front of the TV, or all the times she was there playing right beside you?  My bet is you remember the latter more than the former.

From Nurturing to The Opposite: The Dark Forces that Take Mothers from One to the Other

This is a very difficult post to write, mostly because of the sensitivity of the topic at hand.  But please bear with me—I think it is an important topic that we, as members of a community, really need to deeply think about and, hopefully, be inspired to do something about.

There is something so horrific about mothers who kill their children.  It seems to illogical, so contrary to nature, that it can be understood why we tend to condemn these women.  If all mothers were to act in such a way, the human race would become extinct in a matter of years.

But the horrific nature of this act is what makes it so important for us to think about and reflect on.  What is it that drives a mother, who, biologically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, is driven to love and protect their offspring?

Think about it: the most natural, normal thing for a mother to do is to protect her young ones.  It is a very powerful drive that has yielded amazing stories of women performing incredible acts when their children were in danger.

Which really begs the vital question: what would drive a mother to commit such as act?  Whatever it may be, the negative force that counters the positive instinct to protect and nurture is a very powerful one.

My own mother told me stories about some of the difficulties of being a parent.  They include isolation and exhaustion and the pressure of being the perfect mother, wife, and homemaker despite it.  Not just that: we are meant to achieve all of this without the traditional family and community structures that used to support mothers.

When my close friends started becoming mothers, they told me of isolation and exhaustion, and also of the pressure to be the perfect mother, wife, and homemaker, and on top of that, of maintaining a career, an active social life, and making it all look good on social media.

Since I’ve become a mother myself, I have gained a taste of what the pressures society exerts on us can do to a mother.  Even when I was at my most exhausted, all I could think of sometimes, instead of sleeping because the baby is sleeping, is that I had to clean the house, clean myself, bake something, wash dishes, do chores, go out.  If all those things were done, then I would start thinking about exercising to lose weight, because I had been, at less than two weeks after giving birth, the target of comments about the way my stomach looks (despite the fact that I am quite slim and healthy-looking and that my weight and stomach are of absolutely no medical concern.)  If that was done, I would start thinking about my career, about working, writing, applying for jobs.

In other words, there always was, and still is, something pressuring me to do more, rather than sit back and take a deep breath, just enjoy motherhood, and just be.

If I didn’t have the support I have from my incredible husband; some measure of financial stability; the support of my amazing parents and lovely sisters; a healthy baby, a healthy husband, and a healthy body; a job that was on hold and waiting for me to pick up again; well, honestly, I can see why someone would be driven to commit the unthinkable.

Because it’s hard being a mom, and if we don’t give moms the support they need—which most of the time, we don’t—they will crack.

So instead of looking at moms who kills their children with the eyes of judgment, we should look at them with concern not for themselves and those like them.  Rather, we should look at them with concern for the state of the society they live in.  More importantly, we need to take a long, hard look at our own contribution to creating and maintaining a society the structures of which allow for the perfect storm of pressure to build on moms to such an extent that some would commit such horrible acts.

It can be very simple, and each one of us can do something right now about it.  When we see a mother, we should ask them how they are doing, instead of focusing only on the baby.  We should comment on everything they are doing right, rather on what they are doing wrong; we should do little acts of kindness for the ones we don’t know, like opening the door for them, making their baby smile, handing them that can of tomato sauce they are waiting for, letting them pass in front of us at the grocery store, helping them with the stroller.  For those mothers we know, we can also drop off food, visit them to say hi, pick up a little something for them from the store—a couple of apples, an orange, flowers—anything to make them feel loved and appreciated for the service they are providing humanity.  And for the mothers in our intimate circle of friends, we should go over to their place with our laptops and keep them company, watch their baby for half an hour while they linger under the shower head, make them food, hug them while they cry because they are so tired, and assure them that whatever they choose to do, they are wonderful and incredible.

We should also not forget about the fathers, who soldier on beside their wives and are allowed even less leeway when it comes to showing any change in their “productivity” after having a child.  They have to be strong, they have to be energetic, they have to keep exercising to keep that six pack, they have to not cry, they can’t admit to being tired, they can’t acknowledge that they are overwhelmed.

Thankfully, on an individual level, the conversations are changing, and more women and men are admitting to all of the above that applies to them.  It means that we have already taken an important step towards changing the discourse in our society on these topics; and hopefully, once the discourse reaches a tipping point, we can create a world in which no mother will ever get to the point of committing the unthinkable ever again.

Coherence: Answering The Needs of Baby, Daddy, And Mommy At The Same Time

I have been told and have read time and again that taking care of one’s children means taking care of one’s marriage, one’s spouse, oneself, and, of course, one’s children.  It makes sense theoretically, but in practice, it can be quite a challenge when there are only 24 hours in one day.

What would I give for Hermione’s Time-Turner…

Layering Needs

In lieu of that, I have come to greatly appreciate what I am referring to for now as the “layering” of needs.  In other words, how can we, as a family, layer our needs together and answer them with one common activity?

One prime example that has become a precious part of our daily routine is baby’s need for naps, and mommy and daddy’s need to pray, meditate, and read Sacred Writings.  Like all babies, ours need to unwind before she can settle into a restful nap.  And like so many babies, she loves music.

Her father and I love music as well, so we put together a simple nap-time routine that helps baby unwind and give mommy and daddy some time to close their eyes, listen to Sacred Writings, and meditate.

Our ‘Layered’ Naptime Routine

It sounds ominous, but our routine is amazingly simple.  We play the three videos below in the order I have embedded them, one of us holding the baby in our arms and cuddling her.  She usually babbles her way during the first one, but by the end of the second one, she is completely relaxed.  By the middle of the third, she is ready to be put down and she falls asleep, content and relaxed, shortly after its conclusion.

At the same time, her father and I have the time to reflect on the three quotes used in each of these videos of utmost importance to a life of service.  The first reads: “Unite and bind together the hearts, join in accord all the souls. Oh Lord! Make these faces radiant through the light of Thy oneness.”  While the main reason we love this song so much is that one of our dear friends put it together and another few dear friends feature in it, the quote seems so important to us in our efforts to build a vibrant community that we can’t reflect enough on it.

Similarly, the second video features a quote we find important to our efforts in becoming better individual members of our community.  It is from The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh and reads: “O son of Spirit!  My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting.”

And yes, it features another one of our friends.

Wrapping It All Up

Finally, the last video is of a live performance of a song of great significance to many Bahá’ís.  It also features a choir, which is quite uplifting and inspiring in itself.  In very short, the song is a request for Divine Help, something that we all need when working for the betterment of both our communities and ourselves.

There you have it; a daily routine that we repeat at least twice, if not thrice, which helps baby nap well and allows mommy and daddy to regularly reflect on their life’s purpose.

Now that’s what I call being efficient.

Teaching or Educating: What is the Difference, if there is any?

Someone asked me a really interesting question recently.  She asked me: are you teaching or educating a child?

My initial response made me look like a wide-eyed deer caught in the glare of oncoming headlights.  After a few clarifying questions though, I realised that her view is actually really thought-provoking, and thankfully she was OK with me sharing it here.

The way she defines teaching is as giving the child the information repeatedly until he absorbs it.  The way she defined education is as giving the child the opportunity to learn something, and the child repeats the same action until he absorbs.

My friend really felt that creating opportunities allowed for a parent to build on their children’s inherent capacities, and to eventually make up for their weaknesses.  For example, her son very early on started rolling around, but took his sweet time talking.  So, she provided him with a lot of safe space for him to roll around.  She indirectly encouraged the development of his vocabulary by naming the direction that he was rolling towards and the objects that would attract his attention.

Discipline, in each case, also looks very different.  My friend shared that discipline in the case of education is for the child to sit and follow instructions and absorb the information.  It’s something that isn’t inherent in young children.  In education, however, she felt that the inherent discipline that children have—to repeat, repeat, repeat, and repeat some more—is encouraged.

Now I have to admit that the only reason I kept listening to her was because of her own well-behaved, adventurous, curious, and hilarious children.  All three are between the ages of 5 and 12, and all three have this amazing combination of being mature children.  How was she able to raise these well-behaved children if she didn’t discipline them?

Because, she answered, they have it in them, and their father and I just brought it out. The couple always believed that each child is spiritual in nature and that a parents’ job is two-fold: to hone his inherent strengths, and to build on these strengths to develop more capacities.

My husband and I are still at the beginning of our own journey as parents, so we are focusing on what this means for babies.  My friend’s advice was simple.  Just like children, babies need a balance of both education and teaching.  There are some life-threatening things that you just have to teach your baby as soon as possible—sometimes using a physical reminder (ex: stairs are off-limits and here is a baby gate to remind you.)  But so many other things are opportunities for them to learn so much more than just an action.  My friend shared how letting her son to keep trying to reach for something on his own allowed him to develop perseverance and determination; letting her daughter to carefully examine things at her pace allowed her to develop focus and patience.

Is this going to work?  How well with it work?  And since nothing is formulaic, how will we have to adapt it to our baby?  We have no idea at the moment, and probably whatever idea we develop over the course of the next few weeks and months, well…  Let’s see how this is going to change over the next years, huh?

If you are a mom, I would love to hear about your experience of teaching versus educating!  Or even, if you think there is a difference between the two!  If you are a blogger and have written about this topic, please drop your link below with a small introduction on what you wrote about!