There are many reasons why people have kids. Some of these reasons are downright amazing, some of them are just absolutely terrible, and most of them lie somewhere in between these two extremes. Some of my friends have done it because it’s just the next logical step in their lives. Some of them did it because it has been a dream of theirs “since, like, forever”. One person I know did it because they wanted to keep the attention of their family on them when their sibling got married.
From what I understand of the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith, we are told to have a kid for many reasons—such as perpetuating the human race and bringing forth another soul to make mention of God—but that ultimately, we do it for the sake of God. Therefore, just like with everything else we do for the sake of God, we have to strive to be the best parents we can be.
At the same time, we are told that nothing happens if it isn’t the Will of God—in other words, however much we might try, our child may fall short of the efforts poured into his/her education. Therefore, just like with everything else in this world, we have to remain detached from the results of our efforts.
Detachment is a difficult thing to achieve in itself, what with the existence of the ego and the insistent self. Detachment with regards to our role as parents is even more difficult in a society where the worth of a parent as a person is tied to the actions of the child. If your child is not behaving, then you are immediately labelled as a bad parent.
How, then, can parents hope to achieve detachment while at the same time striving to give their best?
Pray Every Day
This seems to be the most basic way to balance our striving to be the best parents we can be and detachment from the results. Praying reminds us God’s Might and our relative nothingness. It reminds us time and again that we are raising children for His sake. It keeps us focused on the ultimate purpose of our own lives, which is to know God and appropriately worship him. And prayer is a great form of meditation that helps us control our emotions, because I’ve been told that our children will test us and push our boundaries like nothing else (sorry, Mom and Dad.)
Choose and Use Mantras
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: mantras work wonders. They can be used in our quest to fulfill new year goals, to manage our ego, and even to become a better person in general. And there are easy ways of surrounding yourself with your chosen mantras, so as to make sure you don’t forget them. The trick seems to be to choose one’s mantra wisely: it has to be memorable, relatively short, and meaningful to you. One of my friends chose lyrics of songs by her favorite singer-songwriter; another chose only lines from Rumi’s poems. Another one of my friends uses well-known marketing catch-phrases. None of these techniques work for me, but they are superbly efficient for each of them.
If you are looking for a specific mantra to start with, one that many of my friends use is the following quote: “Verily, I do this for God, the Lord of the heavens and earth, the Lord of all that is seen and unseen, the Lord of creation.” Some talented individual has written a catchy melody to sing this quote to, but I have yet to find a recording of it online. If you know where it can be found, please feel free to post the link in the comments below.
Why does this quote work? Because it’s straight to the point and uses simple words that embrace the entire meaning in a very short sentence. Choosing something of the same type and repeating it again and again while taking deep breaths does wonders. After a while, you will get to the point that just thinking of your mantra will slow your breath and calm you down.
Join a Support Group
When it comes to combining excellent parenting with detachment, the ideal support group would not include parents who know what that means—because no one really does. Rather, the ideal support group would be itself treading a path of reflection as its members seek to understand what it means to parent with excellence and detachment. I suggest that, if ever you are in a group with someone who claims to know it all, you take the suggestions and recommendations with a large grain of salt.
Take Care of Your Marriage
If your spouse is meant to be your eternal partner on the path to fulfilling your life’s purpose, then it is only logical that the stronger your bond with him/her, the better you will both be able to strive for excellence while learning to be detached. Furthermore, having a strong marriage means that you have a perfectly safe space within which you can consult with the one other person in the world who knows your situation as well as you do. So take the time to nurture and strengthen your marriage so that you will always have that safe and honest space where you can reflect on your experience and on your learning.
Oftentimes, service as a parent is seen as separate from service to the community. However, the two are intimately linked in many ways. For example, if raising a child is a form of service, serving within the community will inform our parenting—and of course, parenting will inform our service within the community.
We always have to be detached from the fruits of our service. We tend to be less emotionally involved in others forms of service than parenting. So learning to be detached in less emotionally complex situation within the community will be of great help in learning to be detached when it comes to parenting.
Any other ideas on how to achieve a balance between excellence and detachment in parenting? I would love to hear from you! Comment below or email me at saharsblog (at) gmail (dot) com.