Spirituality and Parenting















Last night I attended an excellent presentation about Spirituality and Parenting, hosted by Krista Tippett, host of the public radio show "On Being" (formerly, "Speaking of Faith"). Tippett’s guest was author and Buddhism guru Sylvia Boorstein (Happiness is an Inside Job). The conversation between these two women, both experienced parents, was refreshing and helpful. I bought tickets to the event to surprise my wife for Valentine’s Day—since we have a 10 month old son and both hold graduate degrees in theology and ministry I thought it was an appropriate gesture! She, too, found the discussion fruitful.

A spirituality of parenting is tough to pin down, but the perspective last night focused on maintaining equanimity in the chaotic and sometimes mundane life of parenting. Boorstein posited that spirituality in the life of a busy parent does not look the same as it does for someone who has time to meditate every morning. Sometimes a parent expresses spirituality by lovingly folding towels, in other words, doing something that those familiar with Ignatian Spirituality would appreciate—finding God in ALL things, especially in the stuff of our everyday lives.

One thought that occurred to me last night was that I could not recall much written about the topic of spirituality and parenting. Perhaps it is not in vogue right now, but there seems to be a “spirituality of” everything else from cooking to running to collecting stamps. There is even an “Idiot’s Guide” to spirituality, but very little written, at least as far as I know, about parenting in a spiritual context.

Interestingly, there are a slew of books written about finding the humor in parenting—from Bill Cosby to Andy Borowitz’s recent book, The Good Enough Baby: Settling for Little Miss Adequate. I suppose that focusing on humor and giving parents permission to laugh at themselves is a spiritual exercise—it could be exactly what the worn-down mother or father needs in those moments when it seems like all energy and patience is tapped out.

I would like to ask readers of this blog who are parents—how do you feed your spiritual life? Are there resources out there that could help faithful parents pursue a spiritual life in the midst of dirty diapers, teething rings and sleepless nights?

David Nantais
Detroit, MI


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Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 1 month ago
When my son was young I found a book by a woman who showed me the way to accept and treasure all the difficult things (like being up all night with a crying child) rather than fight them.  I want to say that the name of the book was "The Zen of Mothering", or something like that.  This was not a "how-to" book, like so many others out there, it was profoundly grounded in surrender and being in the Now.  I got it from Chinaberry Books, I think.
ed gleason
8 years 1 month ago
Susan Vogt just published 'Parenting Your Adult Child .Keeping the Faith and Sanity.' St Anthony Messenger Press. [$10+ at Amazon]
Susan is a 30 year Catholic family minister, consultant to USCCB family office. Just sent for our copy and want to read sanity part.     :o) 
Gregory Popcak
8 years 1 month ago
Many parents don't appreciate this, but the parenting methods you choose represent the most important catechetical program they  will ever employ.  More than what we say to our children, the way we interact with our children (relationship building activities, rituals and routines, discipline strategies, etc) communicates values, a worldview, and important ideas about the nature of healthy relationships.

Of course for the parents, there are ample opportunities for growth as well.  The New Yorker writer, Peter DeVries once said ''the miracle of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults.''  Similarly, Pope John Paul II called families ''communities of love'' in which parents and children get to practice all the virtues that enable them to live life as a gift (EV).

In my book, Parenting with Grace (2nd ed).  we explore the Catholic  spirituality of parenting extensively, in particular, examining how the  principles of the Theology of the Body apply to parent/child interactions and what living the virtues of self-donation, love, and responsibility in the home mean, practically speaking.

More than ever, it is possible for Catholics to experience family life, and in particular, parenting, as an actualizing enterprise for both themselves and their children.
Thomas Nolan
8 years 1 month ago
Here's a good link on this topic that is a resource for parents concerned about fostering the faith/justice development of their children: http://www.ipj-ppj.org/Families.htm
Chris Sullivan
8 years 1 month ago
It's hard as a busy parent to find time to quietly meditate but the Rosary works well for me.  One can recite it a decade at a time, when one has the time.  And meditating on the joys and trials of the parenting and life of Jesus and Mary can be very helpful.

God Bless
Bill Mazzella
8 years 1 month ago
Parenting in the faith works best when the child's outside world is similar to what is taught by parents. Without that a child can easily discount parents as being old fashioned or unreal. A good example is how right after Catholic grammar school where Mass is mandatory, the students by and large stop attending the liturgy. The parishes have been in trouble many years before the Vatican Council II and are still in trouble. The main reason in the US is that the parishes began as ethnic enclaves which fostered in breeding rather than a more basic faith. 

Having said that, if we teach our children the beatitudes we will be far ahead if we also practice them. 
Laura Fanucci
8 years 1 month ago
I blog about spirituality, theology and parenting at http://motheringspirit.wordpress.com/

I've written about some of the resources I've found helpful, including a book called Momfulness: Mothering with Mindfulness, Compassion, and Grace. Perhaps you've also seen that Krista Tippett did a whole Speaking of Faith show on Spirituality and Parenting? I mentioned it here: Toddlers, tempers and forgiveness.

On a related note, there has recently been a slew of theological books written about theology of childhood. Much of this work touches on parenting and spirituality as well. Check out the work of Bonnie Miller-McLemore if you're interested.
Kang Dole
8 years 1 month ago
I have a 7 month old. I can't really say that there has been much by way of spiritual sustenance out there for parents of little ones, and I do think that that's a lacuna, for it's a period when joy is balanced (at least balanced!) by exhaustion and frustration. Pubishers, pay attention and profit!

My situation is somewhat different, though, in that my baby was born with a life-threatening health probem. On one hand, days and nights of fear and MRIs and ICU-stays can tip one's perspective on faith and Gd into a maelstrom, and it's nobody's to say where things regarding that may come to rest. In those times you can really experience the decentering experience of praying to a power that you find yourself starting to hate.

On the other hand, I also experienced-for the first time, really-the substance can be found in hearing "I will pray for you" from people.
Bill Mazzella
8 years 1 month ago
My prayers are with you too, Abe.
8 years 1 month ago
I'd like to recommend Denise Roy's, My Monastery is a Minivan: Where the Daily is Divine and Routine Becomes Prayer (Loyola Press).   It contains a collection of reflections on spirituality and family life to which I can relate, time and again.  I am always grateful for pithy bits, that include humor.  My experience of parenting, now 7 years, has demanded that I constantly look for God in the silly, teeny-tiny things (an activity that flows well with my kids' own spirituality).  Like this morning, watching my daughter break up her waffle and share "communinion" with the whole family, including the bird . . . It got us all launched for a good day.  Thanks for getting this conversation started, Dave!


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