I have a confession to make.
I wasn’t always a conscious parent and even now, years after being on a spiritual journey, I have to confess how unspiritual I can sometimes feel and behave around my children.
I believe for the modern woman today, true spiritual growth doesn’t happen in the remote mountain caves or in the religious temples, it happens right here in our homes. Nothing can test our ability to stay centered and present, like raising our children (and dealing with our parents, but that’s for another story).
When I birthed my children, I didn’t know that I signed up for the most difficult course in personal development, one that further led to my spiritual awakening.
My children are my greatest teachers.
They catalyzed the deepest love within me, expanding my capacity to give and to receive more love. But with that also came a tremendous opportunity to look at my darkest shadows and heal my own childhood wounds, and that part wasn’t always pretty.
Living in New York and having a highly demanding job added additional stress and anxiety to the mix. I often found myself thinking about my job, when I was with my kids and thinking about my kids, when I was at my job. That led me to a feeling of being inadequate at both. Or so did the judging voice in my head say.
On my self-inquiry journey, I realized that I couldn’t always trust that negative voice in my head. I realized that my anxiety came not from the lack of time or lack of knowledge on parenthood, but from the lack of self-awareness. I realized that I had to trust my intuition and my heart, both of which are more powerful than the limiting, outdated beliefs in my head. I realized that, despite my imperfections, I could find love and compassion towards myself.
I want to raise my children so they know they are inherently worthy of happiness and love, so they won’t jeopardize all the goodness that will come their way in the future. Because what I’ve seen in me, and many mothers I work with, is that the feeling of not being good enough is picked up early in life from the pressure that parents and society put on us. That feeling is subconsciously guiding our lives to seek validation and approval in other people and experiences, innately making us unhappy and unfulfilled.
I often hear parents say “I just want my kids to be happy”, yet at the same time they put high expectations on them to get good grades and excel in extra-curricular activities. I get that we live in an externally focused and achievement driven culture, but unless we realize that happiness is the internal job, albeit with any measurable outcomes, we won’t be able to fully embrace life and raise happy children.
I love this quote by James Baldwin: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them”. If we want our kids to have certain qualities, we have to embody them and lead by example.
I know that my story is the story of so many other moms, who are waking a path of self-healing and rediscovering who they are. Moms, who want their children’s lives to be better and more fulfilled, than the lives that they had.
And if I can give two pieces of advice to other moms, it would be these:
The first is to find a community of people who can help. I can’t stress enough the importance of having a tribe. I was lucky that my parents and my parents-in-law helped me raise my children. I am also grateful for such attentive and supportive school teachers, dance coaches, and sports coaches, who provided support and guidance to my children. Also having mom friends with kids of the same age, who we can share challenges and milestones with, who we can have play dates with and go on vacations together, not only help us take a breather to take care of ourselves but also instill the sense of community, teamwork, and belonging in our children.
The second is expanding our own awareness and investing in our own personal development, so that we don’t put on the weight of our own internal emotional issues and expectations on our children. Our children need to grow up knowing that they are loved for who they are, and not for how their achievements validate us, compensate for our insecurities and make us look good to others. To truly feel and embody that, we need to do our own internal work.
I am forever grateful to my kids for coming into my life, for awakening my deepest love, for helping me rediscover my authentic voice, and for keeping me in a great company to grow up along with them. Parenting truly has been, and will continue to be, a deeply spiritual practice.