Parenthood as a Spiritual Journey

I believe our children are our teachers. No matter where we are on our spiritual path, having a child accelerates our personal growth and provides us with numerous avenues for self-discovery and life learning.

By Divorce Magazine
Updated: September 01, 2014
Parenting and Step-Families

Immediately after my son Jonah was born, I couldn't stand for him to leave my side.

On our first night together in the hospital, I slept with this small seven-pound wonder lying on a pillow on my sore belly (after twenty-four hours of laboring with a midwife, I ended up having a surprise C-section).

For the entire night, I kept my hand on his tiny heart -- wanting the intense connection I felt with him in the womb to never end. I think a part of me felt a little sad knowing that the journey of pregnancy was over and another one -- for which I felt totally unprepared -- was just beginning.

Something about feeling his tiny heartbeat against my palm stirred up a deep, primal connection to all the mothers and babies who had come before me. That first night with him was one of the most intense experiences I've had in my life. (Many of my close friends have shared that they didn't bond with their babies until they were older infants; I recognize and honor that the "mom meets baby" experience is vastly different for all of us.)

In those early months after my son was born, I rode a wave of emotions and had a strong sense that I would never view myself or my world the same way again.

Why are we here? I wondered. What is my relationship to God? Other questions such as what is my life purpose and how can I best express my calling? took on new meaning and a greater sense of urgency.

Parenting as a Spiritual Journey:
A Guided Journaling Exercise

Set aside some quiet time, light a candle, curl up in a blanket with a cup of tea, and take a moment to reflect on your own spiritual/personal growth since your child(ren) were born.

What are some of the gifts you've received from being a parent?

(1)
(2)
(3)

How have these insights or life lessons influenced how you live or approach life?

How has having a child affected how you view religion, spirituality or your relationship with a Higher Power?

How has becoming a parent affected the way you view yourself as a woman (or man)?

If you believe your children are your teachers, knowing what you do about their personalities, what do you think they are here to teach you?

How has becoming a parent affected your relationship with or how you view your mother and father?

How has your concept of love changed -- or expanded--since becoming a parent?

Take Action Challenge: Facilitating a Dialogue

Share the questions above with your partner. After each of you has finished the exercise, set up a date (this can be as simple as sharing smoothies after the kids go to bed one evening or a more elaborate evening out).

Discuss this article and take turns sharing your responses.

If you like, choose one or two action items that enhance your individual and family's spiritual growth that you both agree to follow through on (example: your partner wants to attend a weekend meditation retreat or you want to try out a new spiritual community you've been interested in visiting).

Consider hosting a supper circle with other parents who are also interested in discussing this theme. New parents in particular often find parenting gives them a lot of food for thought when it comes to exploring issues around spirituality.

My client Susan said that after having her second daughter, Emma, it became crystal clear that if she was going back to work, she needed to do something that was completely aligned with her values and enhanced her quality of life. She not only wanted to be a role model for her young daughters, she also wanted her time away from them to be meaningful and worthwhile.

At times I experienced such incredible joy looking at my child that I momentarily understood why some women felt compelled to do this again and again. Jonah makes me want to be a better person; he inspires me to want to challenge myself and grow on all levels -- professionally, spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. The light, love and strong sense of self that he exudes inspires me want to find and radiate that same love and light to others.

My good friend Elizabeth said that after having their son, Ian, she and her husband felt an immediate need to find and cultivate their relationship with a spiritual community. For them, having a baby spurred a desire to deepen and expand their own connection to Spirit.

These feelings are quite common with many couples after they have a child. Many parents also find the first year after their baby is born to be a time of great soul-searching and reflection on their own spiritual education and upbringing.

Some new parents who never stepped foot in a church are eager to find a community to join. Others, who had less than positive experiences with organized religion, look to nature and healing environments to help nurture their child's spirit.

Maya, mom to five-year-old twins, shares, "The other day my son Ethan very assuredly told me, 'Mom, I think we need to find a church to go to today. I have something I need to say to God, and Bode [his classmate] said if I want to talk to God, I have to go to church.'" What great opportunities our little ones offer us to help them explore not only their divine nature, but ours as well.

I believe our children are our teachers.

My friend Camille said it's as if her daughter, Elian, holds up a "metaphorical mirror" to her mom's face every day, whether she's in the mood for self-exploration or not! It seems whatever you need to work on to further your spiritual growth -- patience, compassion, self-love, gratitude, acceptance -- your child will make sure you have the opportunity to explore that part of yourself.

No matter where we are on our spiritual path, having a child accelerates our personal growth and provides us with numerous avenues for self-discovery and life learning.

The spiritual gifts I've received from motherhood have been profound. Some of them include:

  • An increased capacity to love. You often hear parents comment on how their understanding of love and ability to love becomes deeper. It's true.
  • A deeper sense of empathy and compassion for others. I remember looking at a gruff, tattoo-covered convenience store clerk one day and thinking, as Jonah cooed in his sling, this man is someone's baby boy.
  • Increased understanding and greater empathy for the challenges parents face. Now, more than ever, I am particularly aware of and more sensitive to the needs of single and low-income parents and parents of children with special needs.
  • Being able to live in the moment. Not all the time, but more easily! There is nothing that brings you to the present like a toddler who wants to stop every two feet to look at caterpillars or blades of grass. Or, a teenager who needs you now!
  • Reclaiming joy in life. It's not something that can just be experienced now and again -- it's something you can access every day if you choose. Just watch your baby's eyes light up when she sees you walk in the room or your older child's face fill with excitement about learning or seeing something new and undiscovered.
  • An ability to clearly see what's really important. What are your real priorities? What's essential, what would be "nice to do" and what needs to fall off your list or wait until later?
  • A clearer sense of what is right and wrong -- for my own moral compass. I remember visiting a museum when Jonah was three years old. As we paid for our admission, the woman behind the counter said, "Oh, two-year-olds are free." I started to move ahead and didn't think much of it, when I realized she was talking about my son. Feeling the "angel of ethics" on my shoulder, I plunked two dollars down on the counter. "Actually, he just turned three," I said, smiling. My sense of integrity took on a whole new level of meaning when I became my son's teacher.
  • Finding your voice. Find motivation by stating your child's needs to others (particularly if they're not able to speak yet). Many women claim they first found their voice after becoming mothers. Do you find it easier to speak your truth now than you did before having kids?

Spiritual self-care is essential to your overall well-being. It's essential to feeling centered, nurturing your essence, enhancing inner strength, living in integrity, trusting, experiencing a connection to a higher power, feeling a sense of purpose and finding meaning in your life.

Self-Renewal Tip of the Month: Going Inward

We live in a society where we are trained to rely heavily on external resources for answers. When, in fact, we each have within us a well of wisdom, insight and a knowingness about what is best for us in any circumstance (be it related to parenting, relationships, life direction or career).

Some people call this inner wisdom their intuition or Spirit. Regardless, the secret to accessing this built-in guidance is to carve out time to be still and alone.

It would be ideal to meditate on a regular basis, but if you're feeling crunched for time, start by having quiet moments in incremental doses. The next time your little one takes a nap or you have a morning or evening to yourself, take some deep breaths, light a candle and sit quietly. Let the day's challenges and excitement fall away. Close your eyes, take some deep breaths and just "be" for few minutes. Whether you call this prayer, mediation or just quiet time, realize it may take a while for all the chatter to fall away and for you to begin to tap into that expansive, peaceful feeling. That's okay. It takes practice. The more you do this, the more comfortable you'll get with it and the more easily you'll connect with that quiet inner voice. The sense of comfort and well-being you'll get from connecting with your Source is like no other.

The Power of Self-Care

As the mother of two children with special needs, I have learned the importance of putting on my oxygen mask before serving my children or anyone else. And for me, that means making time to get centered and quiet -- to simply breathe and be present in the moment. It is remembering who I am and why I am here. It is also about seeing the Divine within me and others, and knowing there are gifts to discover in all that life brings us. My precious sons remind me daily to slow down, to listen to the still, small voice inside of me that is our Source and tap into the wellspring found within all of us. I also realize that taking care of myself and my spiritual needs -- whether that's going for a walk in nature, meditating, praying, practicing yoga or being involved in a spiritual community -- helps me to be a better mother and partner.

-- Rhonda, mom to Bryan, six, and Dylan, three


Author/career and life balance coach, Renee Peterson Trudeau is president of Career Strategists and author of The Mother's Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life. Thousands of women around the U.S./Canada and beyond are starting/joining self-renewal circles based on The Mother's Guide. Learn more at www.reneetrudeau.com. Trudeau lives in Austin with her husband and five-year old son.

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By Divorce Magazine| February 28, 2008
Categories:  Children and Divorce

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