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To Raise A Child

I was engaged in a text exchange last night; on the menu was a recurring topic between me and an artist friend who, every so often, drops in to ask what else I am doing with my life aside from parenting.  He seems to think that mothering my two boys is, well, a betrayal of all my other talents.

Truth be told, I have other initiatives.  I have my PAGASA work, my writing, some things on the side I am trying to resurrect like the book business my partner and I have relegated to someone else for the nonce. Already I feel my plate is full. But that is beside the point. I am a mother, first and foremost, and I take that seriously.

Yes, mothering takes up most of my time and it was a conscious decision I made when I first encountered Steiner Education.  Until then, I was going the way of the others, which meant having a full-time nanny and pretty much being a woman of leisure and having my child for cuddle time and then going about my life as if barely touched by parenthood. But it didn’t happen that way.  I became a mother and stepped up to the role in full and committed consciousness.  Today, every decision I make involves my children.

The only time I am away from my boys is when they are in school or when they are with their father on weekends and some holidays–but this is just a physical parting. Every mother knows that we carry our children with us wherever we go. When they are in school I am still preparing the meals, planning ahead, thinking of their return and how our days will unfold.  My days are theirs.  I will not drive to Manila during the week for a meeting if I can help it.  I’ve done this a few times, but only as far as Makati and if the timing is such that I can have them with me for a few hours before I leave and then say goodbye properly, if I have help around that I feel confident leaving them with.  And only for a short time.  I rush back home and land happy that I am back where I need to be.

Parenting means being there.  This is what I keep learning.  Your presence–present presence–is what children need.  They need to see you and BE with you, observe how you go about your life, see how you navigate in the world.  For now, their world is your home and every minute you are with them is a moral grounding towards the future–if you carry this in your heart and work on yourself daily.  Parenthood cannot be designated.  There are no two ways about that.  The price the child and parent pay for that is higher than we can imagine.

In the course of this exchange, my friend said that my children come from a rich family which may mean that I shouldn’t worry about them and that I should have more time to do other things.  I replied that poverty and wealth have their share of problems.  Having too much without the moral grounding and the true richness of a well-lived inner life is a wound that festers and manifests as pathology in adulthood. Whether you are born rich, poor or somewhere in the middle, the conscious, active, loving and living presence of your parent in your life will make a difference.  It will help determine whether or not you are able to answer the authentic call of your destiny as a human being and meet it with courage, confidence and love.

Conscious parenting is the toughest and most noble job.  Raising a human being to be responsible, kind, spiritually active and engaged in society, compassionate and more, is a task like no other.  I feel that whatever other talent I have to share with the world will not compare if I cannot raise two human beings to the best of my abilities.  Motherhood is not a sideline;  it is the main event. Though I always engage in similar conversations with people–most of them childless–with full patience and openness, part of my heart always breaks at the realization of how people view parenting.  And isn’t that why women all over the world are so sorely conflicted about motherhood and career?  We are so often made to feel that what we do as mothers is irrelevant when, indeed, it is a most crucial human undertaking.

I know of women who stayed home with their children and then went back to work because they couldn’t handle what full-time parenthood truly demanded–where every square inch of you threatens to run away towards something else in the service of the needs of another human being.  It was easier for them to be away all day in a state of fondness and love for their children, but also in a state of disengagement from the active, real face of parenthood. Though I cannot make the same choice, I appreciate it because I have moments of nostalgia for the days of relative freedom. Indeed, mothering is the most difficult thing I have ever had to do because it engages me body, soul and spirit every moment of every day.  But I cannot shirk away from the responsibility.  I brought these children into the world and I intend to step up to everything that means, despite the sacrifices and the mistakes I continue to make daily.

Whatever other talents I have are used for my children and for others.  I continue to write and each time I do, my understanding of life deepens and I know that goes back to them as well.  They see how I am there for them despite the struggles, despite the many shards in my biography.  They see my striving. They know that I have my PAGASA work and have a sense of what it means.  So they see that I do work that is relevant in the world but never abandon my responsibilities as their parent.  I know what my priority is.  Always. I don’t want to be one of those great people that failed in the raising of their children.  I would fail in everything else, but not in my capacity as their parent.  That, to me, would be the ultimate betrayal of one of my deepest tasks as a human being in the world today.

Perhaps one day my boys will be the kind of husbands and fathers who will know how to honor a woman for everything she is and celebrate the fullness of her womanhood, supporting and loving her not just as their wife but as mother to their children, in full cognizance of what that means. If that day happens, the world will be totally changed. Their wives and daughters will be free to be everything they were born to be, no matter their choices. They will view every woman in their lives with more reverence and respect. They will not be able to use and abuse them, take them for granted, hurt them, the way so many other men in society do today. And that kind of change will ripple out, unfold and blossom with every generation, all from the seed of the choice to be a conscious and fully present mother today.

Every way I look at it, it is right.  I am where I need to be, doing what I need to be doing.  As I am their conscious mother today, I am also building the groundwork of what I will be in the future because I am trying to see the connectedness of everything in my biography.  I know that when they are older and I become naturally more free and able to physically leave the space of our home, none of this talent would have been wasted. It is all already there working beneath the surface.

Every conscious, hands-on mother should mother in full confidence and without regret. Every meal prepared by your hands is nourishment that goes beyond the body.  Every shirt you clean of mud, grime, paint, grass and all the crazy organic matter your children manage to accumulate on their clothing daily, becomes etheric armor for them. They are loved and they will never doubt that, no matter what else happens in the future. You were there and you made it so.  Being a full-time parent is a great service to society.  Never allow anyone to cast their doubt on that. Motherhood is not a waste of your talent but a true and noble use of it in the service of all humanity.

15 Comments

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  1. jose jay cruz / Sep 20 2008 6:12 pm

    panjee,
    thank you for articulating a universe unknown to most people like me. i am humbled and would like to extend my deepest respect for a mother like you

    J

  2. panjeetapales / Sep 20 2008 6:28 pm

    Thank you for the inspiration, Jay, and for helping me articulate what has long been in my heart waiting for just the right moment to make itself known.

  3. tet uy / Sep 21 2008 12:34 am

    “i am where i need to be”… it’s surprising and reassuring to hear another mother speak of the very same words i find myself using time and again. thank you for that affirmation, and may i add, “it is where i am supposed to be.”

  4. Millet / Sep 21 2008 9:59 am

    Hi Panjee,

    You brought tears to my eyes with this one. Thanks for raising the ‘mothering’ bar several notches higher. And because of you, I’m reassured I made the right choice…

    God bless you and your family always!!!

    Millet

  5. panjeetapales / Sep 22 2008 6:06 pm

    My pleasure, as always, Millet. We really need to articulate what mothering means today and make people realize that raising another human being–a life you brought into the world–is a most difficult and important job.

  6. jare / Sep 23 2008 11:28 pm

    i appreciate how you speak of motherhood. i am not a full-time mother though. i am a college instructor but i believe in conscious parenting. i also have mistakes but i always make an effort to be the best mother i can be to my son.

    thank you for the inspiration and salute to all the mothers who with their whole beings respond to this calling!

  7. Jenny Burns / Sep 26 2008 8:34 pm

    Hello from London. Thank you for this article. I sometimes feel so inept here, in the land of career women and “no-nonsense” parenting. I know a lot of women who do whatever it takes to revert back to their pre-baby lives, as soon as possible. Nowadays, women have to have it all. The perfect house, career, and baby. You have to be a “yummy mummy” to boot. The pressure is on! How and when did the world change so much, that simply being a mother isn’t worthy of esteem?

    Panj, your articles are a continuous source of comfort and reassurance. I’d be lost without them. You have made me so proud of being a mother, just a mother… x

  8. Russ / Sep 27 2008 10:37 am

    Your vision for your sons and how they can change the world by being the kind and compassionate men this world is desperately crying for is the burden as a father too. Thank you for expressing what my wife and I feel about our joyful calling and responsibility as parents. Russ & Megumi

  9. panjeetapales / Sep 28 2008 10:22 am

    Hey Jenny,

    No such thing as returning to a pre-baby life, right? Forward march is my motto. Today the dilemma is really choosing to be a full-time mother, fully aware of all the other possibilities out there because the world is changed, and then trying to find things that help you grow and remain relevant in the context of motherhood. I guess in the past full-time motherhood meant stagnation, but I think that’s because women didn’t approach it with full consciousness. It felt more like a life sentence. Thanks (and some days “no thanks”) to Steiner, we can do this now, which doesn’t make it easier.

    Mothers like you who strive daily make me feel proud, too. It’s much easier to be in an office! What we do is not easy, but I think we all know — no matter how badly the day or week goes — it’s really where we need to be.

  10. panjeetapales / Sep 28 2008 10:41 am

    Thank you, too, Russ. It’s always heartening to hear from conscious fathers. Regards to Megumi and the rest of the family.

  11. anne café / Aug 9 2010 10:27 pm

    I want to print this and hang it on my wall and read every day. I have not heard anyone who talks about motherhood in such a warm and responsible tone. And this is not a “that’s my style, this is the best choice” post. You are not trying to sound like the “perfect mother”. It is just the way it should be. So natural and humble. Your style is inspiring and guiding. I loved your blog and will keep on reading you.

  12. panjeetapales / Aug 10 2010 6:47 am

    Thank you, Anne, and thanks for seeing that I do not see myself as a perfect mother at all. We just do our best.

  13. Irene / Oct 2 2013 10:27 am

    Thank you, Panjee! WONDERFUL post, where again each word resonates here.

  14. Grace / Jan 6 2014 12:22 am

    Your blog has answered my doubt for myself as a mother and as a person. God bless to you & keep it up!

  15. Risaline / Apr 24 2014 12:33 am

    I thank God…i found your blog…:)

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