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.