The disappearing you – thriving through parenthood
Having children is the most wonderful gift and children are powerful soul mates. They bring us great teaching just by being them. Many people say that we choose our parents to help evolve our soul but since having my deep and intense son I know that he has taught me probably more than I have taught him! Being a parent can be all consuming but it’s also important to keep your own self whole in the process.
If you’re a parent you’ll know that the word ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ can act like a powerful magical command, making the person you used to be before your children arrived disappear in a flash, especially as these days so many parents are raising children alone or juggling that crucial role alongside a demanding job.
I always found it fascinating that the Ancient Roman Goddess Hestia, who ruled the hearth and home, had no actual temple. It’s almost as though there is a recognition that stretches back to antiquity that so much of what you do to create a safe and nurturing space and be good parents to your children can be invisible. So how can you keep balance in this process?
1/Your child actually learns a lot less from what you say and mostly from what you do, so in a way the person you continue you be acts as a model for how they will carry themselves as adults. As writer Joyce Maynard said, “It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself.” It isn’t easy to find a space to nurture your soul if you can barely find time to brush the toast crumbs out of your hair, but the danger in putting your dreams totally on the backburner is that they might just smoulder and turn into ash.
2/Learn to play life as a much longer game than the way you played it before your children arrived. Whether you want to finish a degree or just read a book from
cover to cover, it might take you four times as long if you’re trying to squeeze it in around parenting, but you can do it. Ten years time is coming anyhow, so you might as well carry on sowing the seeds that will give you something to harvest when it arrives, even if the rows are spaced further apart.
3/Understand that children are part of the whole. We can think that the evolution of our soul demands that we think lofty thoughts and do deeply spiritual things and feel that we’re losing our way if the routines we build to do that get disrupted by yet another reading of Thomas the Tank Engine, but it’s actually a process that embraces everything that happens every day. As author Dan Millman wrote, there are no ordinary moments, and Saint Teresa of Avila urged her nuns who were struggling with matters of faith to go into the kitchen and peel potatoes. Allow your experience of parenthood to be one of the things that transforms you. Find ways of doing it that means it actually deepens your relationship with yourself.
4/Reach out. Many indigenous cultures say that it takes a whole village to raise a
child. In our fragmented Western society, we might not have a handy group of elders who can help us watch the kids when we need someone, but you could be the one that starts the babysitting circle or school car pool amongst the people you do know. Community networks can plug gaps that families can’t and we can create our own tribes.
5/Stay mindful in your connection to yourself. Sometimes grabbing space can mean something as small as actually taking the time to notice what the water feels like when you have a shower, or remembering to taste the food that you’re otherwise tempted to bolt down whilst thinking of the next thing you have to get done. Racing through life in a perpetual state of being in one place and thinking about being in another cuts us off from our power and tricks us into thinking that there is no space in our lives for us, when really we have pushed out what was still ours to enjoy.
I love the poem by Kahlil Gibran on children. He’s actually talking about what we can give our children, but in order to do that we must avoid falling into the idea of building our whole identity from being a parent or thinking that living through our children is the soul business of our lives. Our role may be to give them ‘roots and wings’, but we don’t have to disappear and become invisible, like Hestia, in the process.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Loads of love,
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