**This is an intensely personal post that reveals my spiritual worldview that fuels my motivation to overcome my conditioning and strive to parent consciously. I thought I would share my underlying beliefs that explain why I become so incensed about certain controversial pregnancy/parenting topics and why I push so hard for educated deliberate choices when it comes to our families.**
Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. -- Anonymous
The way that we view ourselves and our place in the world will dictate how we interact with the people and things in our environment. The choices we make for ourselves and our babies reflect our core beliefs about life and the kind of person we want our children to become: consciously or not. Seeing as children learn foremost by observing and imitating those in their environment, how we behave with others and with them will influence the way they think and act the strongest of all. That is why it is important to reflect about our underlying motivations to isolate the thought patterns and core values that affect the way we parent.
It may not be obviously apparent, but I have a strong spiritual base from which I parent from that was shaped from years of enquiry into different faiths and worldviews. I still enjoy studying different philosophies and exploring new scientific and psychological research that enrich my understanding about life. It evolves and grows the more I learn about our intricate universe, and this adaptation applies to the way I parent as well; adjusting based on what my son reveals to me of his needs and what I learn about compassionate parenting. It truly is a process, and it involves a lot of personal reflection and growth. It also requires working with my conditioning and changing the subconscious beliefs that deter me from parenting authentically and this is a challenge.
What Parenthood Entails
Foremost one has to decide what exactly parenthood entails and what our beliefs are when it comes to our responsibility as parents. This requires reflection on why we have chosen to become parents, if it was a conscious choice, or why we may believe people have children to begin with and explore those ideas.
For myself, I view parenthood as a sacred calling to investing in future generations for the betterment of our species. Being aware of many of the ills in our society that have affected me personally as a woman has motivated me to reflect on what inherent beliefs we are harboring and teaching our young that are detrimental to the positive growth of our culture. Based on my understanding about how thoughts/beliefs are shaped and where human behaviour stems from, childhood is the key to transforming negative attitudes that influence how we organise ourselves as a society. It is often said that one can measure the mettle of a person by how they treat those they feel are inferior to them. This concept applies wonderfully with how healthy societies are based on how they treat their women and children, who are often marginalised. It is obvious that we are coming from the worldview that women and children are unimportant, and I feel that by empowering both, we can heal many of our societal ills.
How parenting ties in all of this, is that we as parents have the unique opportunity to directly influence history by how we choose to raise our children. The lessons we teach our offspring by the kind of relationship we have with them effects how those children relate to their world and how they function within it. Gandhi was speaking an ultimate truth when he said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Which is why making conscious choices about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood is an important and sacred endeavor. It requires a deep level of self-reflection and personal growth in order to positively mentor another person. And so my approach to motherhood is very altruistic, as I realise the magnitude of the responsibility of changing the world in my own little way.
Due to this approach however, I become very incensed when I witness interactions between families that are unhealthy, as I am aware of how those small daily interactions influence a person’s psyche in the long run. I feel that children are valuable and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, like any other person, but I often notice the opposite due to traditional childrearing practices and this makes me incredibly sad. Women and children in my view are not property, and so should not be subjected to treatment that expresses this. The only life we own is our own and anything else is simply a relationship that must be nurtured. I feel that parenthood is a unique relationship, a stewardship even, of the life that our bodies create and are birthed through us. I don’t believe that those lives belong to us, anymore than my life belongs to anyone else, and so we as parents do not have any ‘right’ to treat our children in harmful ways simply because we are parents. We are responsible for our behaviour towards our children who are their own persons meriting compassionate and equal treatment.
The challenge for altruistic parents today is overcoming our programming about parental relationships and how childrearing should be approached. Research into the history of childcare practices throughout the ages will both astound and horrify most people. We have come a long way from performing infanticide and direct child abuse (although this is still present in smaller portions in our particular culture) but the residue of these views about children’s worth and rights are far from eliminated. Many of traditional childrearing practices make use of various forms of coercion, emotional manipulation, and punishment as a means of controlling children’s behaviour and although these practices have been proven to be detrimental to healthy development in research studies, they are still practiced prolifically. They are even present in our education systems which leads to many conscious parents to choose homeschooling if able, in order to avoid that kind of conditioning.
The problem lays in the lack of questioning of the practices that one was raised in. Exploring the possibility that the parents that we love could have inadvertently caused harm is uncomfortable. It also requires us to reflect on our own weaknesses/faults and find their root causes, which most people do not delve into even superficially as it means confronting our egos, a powerful force. There is nothing easy about personal growth as it means being honest with ourselves about all aspects of our personalities. What must be understood is that condemning our parents is not necessary in order to positively influence our own personal growth. Simply acknowledging the issues and choosing to behave differently with our families will do. The adage of ‘once I know better, I do better’ is a good motto to have. It makes no rational sense to continue to parent the way we were parented simply to assuage their egos about the choices they have made for us while under their care. Their regrets are for them to process, not for us to protect.
That being said, some do not even consider questioning the status quo (which is a conditioned attitude) because the desire to be accepted within the community is deeply ingrained. It is a survival mechanism. Even severally abused women and children will defend their oppressors vehemently because they become emotionally tied to them, despite the harmful treatment. It is all they know and understand. The depths of the psychological implications of this are beyond the scope of this post but looking into issues surrounding abuse give insight as to why parents carry on behaviours that are harmful simply because they were raised in it.
So for those who take notice and wish to change the way they parent their own children are faced with unique challenges, because they must pioneer behaviours that they have not cultivated themselves. There are many discussion online about some of the issues parents face when trying to move from traditional parenting behaviours to what is often referred to as ‘gentle parenting’ or ‘conscious parenting’. There are a myriad of books one can also purchase about different disciplining techniques based on various philosophies but wading through them without having a firm foundation of what one believes about what parenting means to them can be confusing to explore. To change something so deeply ingrained requires constant vigilance and personal re-evaluation, which is no easy feat. It is much simpler to not question anything or oneself and just live on automatic, even when interacting with our children. But how else is change to occur if someone does not make the effort? Every little bit counts and if we teach our children that personal growth is a worthy endeavor they will carry on the positive changes in their lives too, making our world a better place little by little too.
The Courage It Takes
Even before my husband and I decided to start a family, I had consciously chosen to confront myself ruthlessly in the way I was to interact with my family. I enjoy questioning the status quo and breaking barriers myself, as I find it thrilling rather than anxiety-producing like many others do. I am tenacious in my aspiration for a better environment and this determination helps me conquer my own fears around motherhood and seek to transform them into positive learning experiences. This attitude also motivates me to publicly advocate for healthier practices in maternity care and childrearing, and not only within my own family. I truly believe than everyone is capable of personal growth and I invite those who are brave enough to take the challenge to do so as well.
How do you approach parenthood? What shaped these beliefs? What are you aiming for in your parental relationships?