Tag Archives: Family Life

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.

The Real Meaning of Unity: Removing Obstacles to Fulfilling our True Purpose in Life

Quite unfortunately, community-building doesn’t just happen when a group of good-willed individuals come together. Not that good-will doesn’t help! But it’s not enough. All the good-will in the world cannot be properly channeled unless there is unity. If we think of the community-building process as rowing, it becomes clear that we can have a lot of very eager rowers, but unless they are rowing in the same direction and with the same tempo, the boat is not going to get very far, and might even tip over.

Seems pretty simple and obvious, no? And yet I am sure that you, too, in your day to day efforts to contribute positively to the building of your community, are faced with various obstacles to acquiring a depth of understanding of the concept of unity.

One such obstacle if the use of the concept of unity as a buzzword. Instead of delving into the meaning of the concept through constant action, consultation, reflection and study, we claim that a certain act does or does not contribute to unity. And while perhaps 50 years ago, this was all we had the capacity to do, I feel like we have evolved since then and can embark on a process of understanding the deeper meanings and implications of the concept of unity.

The main danger of buzzwords is that they lull us into a false sense of understanding, and thus keep us from putting in the effort to truly understand what the concept is about. Many people around me seem to think that unity is people getting along; that it implies not having difficult discussions to iron out misunderstanding; and, most dangerously in my opinion, that unity is limited to what the ego wants and needs.

How can we counter this seemingly natural urge to reduce deep concepts into buzzwords? It seems that part of the solution is to cling to the very purpose of our lives, that is, to know and to worship God. I somehow do not think that the unity within a family dedicated to criminal activities is quite the type of unity we are looking for…

If we go back to the analogy of rowing, if all the rowers cling to their purpose, that is, to get to the finish line, then reaching true unity will be easier than, say, if each rower clings to their understanding of how rowing should be done. So not only do we have to work to create unity, but we also have to be united in our understanding of unity!

In light of a previous blog post in which the idea of the family as a laboratory of sorts in which we can develop tools and skills useful to community-building was presented, this begs the question: what does unity in a family mean? If this understanding of unity is ego driven, fighting ensues, because each member of the family wants their version of unity to prevail. But if a family is united in serving God and humanity, it becomes a lot easier; each decision is focused on enabling service, enabling the family members to let go of their ego.

Perhaps this implies that the reason for which we bring up certain topics should not be to prove ourselves right and the other wrong. Rather, it means that we choose to consult about obstacles to the family’s service to God and humanity, and let go of personal preferences. This is, or course, a lot harder than it sounds, and involves a lot of time, energy and effort poured in consultation.

What could this look like in a community? Many spaces for reflection might have to be created so that the members of the community can consult on how they can build a community centered on God. But also, spaces might need to be created in which the members of the community strengthen their relationship with God, which helps them detach from their egos. This gives a whole new layer of meaning to reflection meetings and devotional meetings, doesn’t it?

First published on Sahar’s Blog on 19 January 2013.

From Governing One’s Family to Governing the World: Learning to Use the Vital Instrument of Consultation

Someone recently mentioned that there is no institution older than that of marriage, which really got me thinking. If this institution has been part of human society for millennia, why are we still so terrible at maintaining it, with divorce rates in North America so high? No wonder, then, that so many conversations revolve on this topic; nothing like a good old mystery to keep tongues wagging!

Then again, when we consider the stage that humanity is currently at, no wonder marriage and family life are also in such turmoil. As the fundamental unit of society, families are the microcosm within which we can learn and experiment with various skills, techniques, policies, procedures that can then be applied at the level of society. In light of the fact that humanity is striving to build, on top of a foundation of unity and equality, a new world order focused on knowing and worshiping God, it comes as little surprise that the family becomes a laboratory of sorts in which we can figure out with what tools, instruments and materials it can be cemented together.

For example, it’s easy to say on paper that a governing body should consult on all matters; but what does that look like? No one really knows, and it is overwhelming to overhaul an entire system of governance without having any idea what the final product looks like.

But what if, hand in hand with the realization that we need to govern using consultation as a key instrument, all those serving on governing bodies experimented with this concept in the safety and comfort of their own families? All the skills, capacities, insights and learning they would generate in a safe, manageable environment, could then be applied to the really large, overwhelming environment of national governance. And as this learning process continues, no doubt those in these positions of governance will be able to serve the people they represent even more efficiently, because they have learned, step by step, using their families as a learning ground, to use the powerful instrument that is consultation.

So the next time your parents call you to the den for a family consultation, just think about it: this seemingly tedious hour could be the very stepping stone needed to creating a new world order. Pretty insane, no?

Originally published on Sahar’s Blog
on 30 November 2012

Voicing Our Concern for Injustice: It Starts at the Very Foundation of Our Societies

If you are a long time reader of my blog, it will come as absolutely no surprise that I am a firm believer in the power of the individual to make a difference. And I believe in this power not only in the small or even medium things, but in the big things. One such big thing is justice.

The fact that there is no justice in so many (if not all) countries where the legal system is theoretically designed to bring about justice, reminds me of the fact that there can be no progress at the level of society if there is no progress at the level of the individual. This dual moral process works hand in hand; a just system can only be designed by just people, and just people flourish in a just system.

Justice is a complex issue which will take years, if not decades (hopefully not centuries) to figure out; this is why it is important that more and more individuals set their hearts and minds on understanding and practicing it in their day to day lives, so that their experiences will feed into a discourse on justice which will help fashion a system that is increasingly just.

It is incredibly exciting to see the increasing number of people are standing up for the cause of justice. One of my preferred examples is that of Pink Shirt Day, which started when two high school boys stood up to bullies who were mistreating a fellow male student for wearing pink by, quite simply, wearing pink themselves. Actually, they bought 50 pink tank tops and distributed them to everyone who would support them.

There are many, many other such examples. The most recent one unfortunately began quite horrifically with the brutal gang rape of a 23 year-old woman in Delhi last month. But what followed was very inspiring. This incident did not go unnoticed like so many rapes in that city do. Instead, thousands upon thousands have poured into the streets to protest. What a huge shift, one that is making my Indian friends so proud of their country these days – with reason!

While even more awareness is definitely needed, it’s not enough. It feels like we are reaching a tipping point, where everyone is going to agree that certain long standing injustices are not acceptable anymore. We that are already aware of these injustices have to take the next step, to start forging ahead on this path to creating a just society.

But, well…  What is this next step? There is so much injustice in the world that it is a little overwhelming at times, and easy to forget that we can make a difference. That’s why I have a feeling we should start at the simple level of person-to-person interactions. Are we being just to those we interact with in our day-to-day lives? And at the same time, are we being just to ourselves? If we learn to balance out in each of our relationships, an approach that is just towards both parties, these learnings will no doubt infuse every aspect of our lives.

Something a friend of mine recently told me was that she stood up for herself and others when treated unjustly, even if it is the smallest act of injustice, because she wants to live in such a world; she can’t hope for a just world if the her own, personal bubble is not being cleaned out of injustices.

Even in communities that spans the globe and are attempting to build a new, better world, because they are placed within the dross of the current world, injustice happens all the time. It comes as a big surprise to me that more members of these communities do not voice their concerns when they see unjust acts occurring. If we are not able to voice our concerns about acts of injustice perpetrated at the level of the grassroots, then do we have the moral authority to voice our concerns about acts of injustice perpetrated at any other level?

As mentioned previously, one can attempt to learn about such things in the smallest building block of society: the family. When a child sees a parent preferring one child over the others, however subtle this preference might be expressed, said child should consider, in a loving, respectful manner, consulting with their parent in an attempt to create a more just family environment. The next level is that of close friends, i.e. our chosen family. When a friend is actively shunning another friend, then it should be up to all the other common friends to voice their concern.

One of the main challenges in such an exercise is that it creates great discomfort that is immediately chalked up to disunity. We have to get over this misconception; consulting on how to create justice, however uncomfortable it might be, cannot cause disunity unless the ego infects the conversation. If all participants in such a consultation strive to keep their egos at bay as much as possible, the discomfort is merely part of growing pains. If a child were to stop growing every time it experienced growing pains, it wouldn’t grow much, would it!

This is not to say that we should just voice our concerns anywhere, anytime. There are other things to keep in mind, such as tact and wisdom. But most importantly of all, we should only voice our concern about injustice for the sake of the community, and not to soothe one’s ego. There is no doubt in my mind that humanity is at a stage where it can start having these discussions regularly, and achieve higher and higher levels of justice that it has never been able to achieve before.

First published on Sahar’s Blog on 5 January 2013.