I wrote this yesterday on a Buddhist bulletin board where a young mother was suffering with the overwhelming nature of having a baby boy she adored. I kind of liked it, so I think I'll save it here:
First of all, welcome. I hope you find something useful here.
When my daughter -- first of three kids -- was born, I was
panic-stricken: How the hell was I supposed to do things 'right?!' I
didn't know, but I knew I wanted to do the absolute best for her ... and
didn't have a clue. At the time, my sister with two kids of her own
reassured me a little. "Adam," she said in a mock psycho-babble tone of
voice, "you can read every book that was ever written about
child-rearing or you don't have to read any of them. Either way, you
won't know shit."
Her advice, after quite a lot of experience, was right on target.
Every moment is new. And the required attention is exhausting. Not only
is there the birth itself, but there is a terrible corner that has been
turned ... suddenly, the subtle or gross self-centeredness with which I
had been living was shattered. Guess what -- I wasn't the center of the
universe! I'm only half joking about this. It's a pretty severe change.
Since most of us survived our parents' ineptness, it's a good guess that
you and your boy will too.
For my money, trying to divert yourself from current circumstances
is not the best route. Sure, get out to a movie or dinner if you can,
but don't take on some zippy new project. Buddhism means coping with
what is in front of our noses right...now. It does not mean stuffing our
mind's mouth with a lot of 'Buddhist' cotton candy.
First: The first rule of parenting is this: All parents will fail.
Not "some," not "maybe" -- all parents will fail. And since this is
true, it's time to slow down and take it easy on yourself.
Second: Find small escape routes. Get someone to watch the baby and
jump in a warm bubble bath. Wine, tea and aromatic candles are optional.
For 20 minutes ... bliss out.
Third: Go outside. This is one of the simplest and most effective
tools I know for bringing the blues into perspective. No, it doesn't get
rid of them ... but a wide sky can help to mitigate things.
Fourth: The baby will win. You will not win. Get used to it. Just
because the baby will win does not mean you have lost. It just means the
baby has won. My brother-in-law once told me that when his son was a
baby, he was determined to get up every time the baby cried in the
night. My brother-in-law was a Type A, I-can-do-everything-and-more kind
of guy. But he had a full-time job, so getting up each time the baby
cried was a challenge. He did it for about a week until one night, in
the middle of the night, he heard the baby cry, got out of bed ... and
passed out. The baby had won.
Fifth: The best thing you can do for your baby is to take care of
yourself. This is harder than it sounds. Do it anyway. You have to see
what you need and then find ways to fulfill those needs irrespective of
the I've-got-to-be-perfect chattering mind. If Ben&Jerry's is what
you need, do Ben&Jerry's. If A, B, C, D, E ... is what you need,
then seek those things out in your heart and nourish them as best you
may. Not perfectly of course (see rule number 4) but as best you may.
Sixth: When it comes to Buddhism, all I can tell you is what my Zen
Buddhist teacher told me after my daughter was born. He was a Japanese
man, the abbot of a monastery, and was given (like a lot of Japanese
people) to an immodest use of understatement. After my daughter was born
he told me TWICE (which is the equivalent of a Marine Corps drill
instructor screaming in your ear), "Take care of your family." Never
mind the scriptures and the imagined realms of something called
"enlightenment" ... just take care of your family. My teacher had no
children, but he too knew ... the baby will win. And further, Buddhism
has to do with the here and now, not some hymn-singing 'there' or
'then.' If you want to make a little meditation or reading part of your
escape-route agenda, fine. But remember, the baby will win. Why? Because
the baby is now and Buddhism concerns itself from muzzle to butt plate
with what is now.
Just slow down and take good care of yourself. This IS Buddhism.
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