(Photo above by Jessica West / Pexels)
Straining to hear your co-workers over curdling baby screams during a Zoom meeting. Responding to emails while putting your child to sleep in a sling. In a recent New York Times feature, “The Babies Have Entered the Chat,” Amy X. Wang writes, “Planning around naps, shelling out for nannies or yelling into the void—parents working from home all have ways of coping with the daily mayhem.” The struggle is real. Working from home with young children continues to stretch parents thin.
Though we may lose our cool for a moment or let an important task fall through the cracks, Buddhism teaches such things don’t define our parenting. Children can see through these small matters and see the heart of things—that their parents are trying their hardest to support them amid a difficult reality.
Though we may lose our cool for a moment or let an important task fall through the cracks, Buddhism teaches such things don’t define our parenting.
We all make mistakes
Coming in slightly late for pickup; pulling our hair out when things don’t go according to plan—we all make mistakes, but in the end, our children will remember our love and action over the long term. Daisaku Ikeda writes:
The love parents shower on young children will become sustenance for their whole lives. It’s fine just to be simple and honest. You may at times make mistakes, become overwhelmed, or lose your temper. What is most important, however, is to always make wholehearted effort. Children grow up watching their parents. It is not the parents’' words that children hear. No matter what wonderful things parents may say, if their words are not accompanied by action, children will never listen. Children’s lives will be determined by how parents live.
Happy Parents, Happy Kids, pp. 7-8
Communicating more as we get busier
As we get busier, it’s important to communicate more with our partners to keep things running. Daisaku Ikeda explains:
When both parents are busy, they need to be creative and wise in improving their communication. To be a practitioner of Buddhism does not mean to become someone special. It is to work as an excellent member of society and live sincerely as a good father and husband, as a good mother and wife. If we neglect the immediate reality of our homes and families, no matter what grand ideals we may talk about, our words will remain unpersuasive. It is important for both parents to make efforts to understand each other. For this reason, parents need to take little steps every day to show each other care and consideration.
Happy Parents, Happy Kids, p. 14
Small victories each day
Daisaku Ikeda once wrote this encouragement to a mother:
In other words, we tend to lose sight of the important things when we get swept up by our busy schedules. Since we’re human, we can’t expect to be in the best of moods every day. But if you can endure and make even a little effort, you have won as a mother.
Happy Parents, Happy Kids, p. 41
Staying upbeat makes a huge difference
Though we are jugging several tasks, we can chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo each day to prevent busy schedules from filling us with complaint and resentment. Daisaku Ikeda writes:
Don’t be overwhelmed by your busy schedule; never be defeated in spirit. You don’t need a lot of time to successfully raise your children. Even if you do have free time, if your heart isn’t into raising them, you won’t be able to reach them. People who allow their minds to be defeated by their busy schedules tend to complain. In this frame of mind, however, you will find whatever you do distasteful and will feel overwhelmed and overburdened. Your negative thoughts will accumulate and you will feel no joy, no matter how much you try. This will become a vicious cycle. On the other hand, if you nurture a positive attitude and conduct yourself with a sense of enjoyment, then your life will begin to move forward. … It is not how much time you have but your heart that matters most. Life is a constant struggle, but if you rise enthusiastically to each challenge, you will be able to display strength and ability beyond what you can imagine.
Happy Parents, Happy Kids, p. 43
Keep moving forward
Most of all, our Buddhist practices helps us move forward with a big heart regardless of what’s happening around us. Ikeda goes on to write:
It is important for parents to remain composed and unperturbed by small matters. Children can grow freely when parents have a rich and expansive state of life. Parents must not be impatient.
Happy Parents, Happy Kids, p. 26
Our deepest wish is for our children to grow up to be incredible human beings, but we don’t need to be perfect people to inspire them to do that. When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and remain undefeated by our daily ups and downs, our children will feel our hearts and care for their entire lives.
If you want to go read more, we recommend checking out Happy Parents, Happy Kids.