Parenting as a spiritual path

Many people today are yearning for a greater sense of purpose in their lives and for a ‘spiritual’ path— a way to day by day become wiser, kinder, more patient and more compassionate.  For some, this thirst is for a wholly secular spiritual path— a foundation of meaning divorced from religion.  For others, this thirst sits comfortably alongside their religious faith.  If you feel this yearning, then you need look no further for a sense of purpose than your own child and you will find no better a spiritual path than parenting. Consider:

  • In becoming a parent, we find ourselves no longer living at the centre of our own lives.  This dramatic change often creates spiritual growth in and of itself but it is also something we can deliberately return to and develop further as a life-long spiritual practice.  Truly putting your child at the centre of your life simultaneously destroys both selfishness and false martyrdom.  Many a parent has found that their selfish desires are quickly put into proper perspective by their child’s needs.  Yet, in becoming a parent, we may also discover that our genuine needs have never been more important.  After all, we ourselves are vital to our child’s long-term wellbeing.
  • Our own children are uniquely posed to be perfect spiritual teachers — helping us to develop greater wisdom, patience, compassion and kindness.  On the one hand, it is easier show these qualities towards our own children than towards anyone else.  Yet, our children challenge us in demonstrating these qualities far more than anyone else, too!  This combination of assistance and challenge is an ideal environment for learning.
  • The overwhelming majority of people will become parents.  Every single person who has ever lived had parents.  Parenting, or some degree of care and attention from an adult, is necessary for a human baby to blossom into a fully-grown person.  The very stuff that makes us human—language, morality, self-understanding—requires parenting to develop.  In becoming a parent you have begun to contribute to an interconnected web of humanity, stretching far back into the distant past and far into the unknown future.
  • The wisdom, patience, kindness and compassion that we find, here and now, for our children will be carried deep in their hearts their whole lives.  It will be passed onto their children, and to their children’s children, having unknowable effects far into the distant future.  Your small acts of parental love repeated day by day may grow into a grand legacy.

Apply it to your life:

Do you find a sense of purpose in your role as a parent?  Is parenting a spiritual path for you — helping you to become wiser, kinder, more patient and more compassionate?

About Koa Whittingham

Dr Koa Whittingham is a clinical and developmental psychologist, a research fellow at the University of Queensland and the author of a new book for mothers called Becoming Mum.
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One Response to Parenting as a spiritual path

  1. Eva says:

    I’m teaching the 5 year old class at Church at the moment. I love seeing what they pick out as important or interesting. Their perspectives are uninhibited. And it’s a great chance to practise patience as I try to keep them somewhat on topic while still allowing them space to explore things and express themselves. To try and suit the level of discussion and length of a lesson segment to their attention span and needs takes me out of my comfort zone, but in a fun way.

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