I just read a phenomenal book, A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice, a memoir written by a single mom about her experience of parenting, being parented and navigating all of the above relationships and more…while using meditation as a tool to put all the pieces in place. Not only is her writing incredibly poetic but I don’t think many single parents would walk away from this book without some new insight about their own lives. The very close relationship the author, Christine Hale, has with her two children is nothing short of inspirational. I’m a little starstruck when I say Ms. Hale was so kind to answer a couple of questions from me (see below)! This is a special book that gets a permanent spot on my shelf. I’m excited to say it is going to cross paths with two of my readers as well because I’m able to give away two copies! See below for details…
Beck: Most of what I write about on my blog is how to keep single parenting as simple, beautiful and happy as possible. Can you share some thoughts on how different you think your single parenthood would have looked if it weren’t for your spirituality or meditation practice?
Christine Hale: That’s a great thing to offer your readers. The intention to do good and be kind–the choice we can make no matter our circumstances–is the basis of Buddhism, which is, as you know, the type of spiritual practice I’ve been involved in for about 20 years. I worked really diligently at “intention,” as described above. Whenever my children’s (or other people’s) behaviors or attitudes toward me upset or disappointed me, or I faced an emotional or psychological parenting issue where I felt I simply didn’t know what to do, I tried to examine my motivations. Was I being defensive? Controlling? Too sensitive? Or so concerned with having my children like me that I couldn’t enforce a boundary or correction that would ultimately benefit their development?
By making the time to do that kind of spiritual self-examination, I could often stop myself from over-reacting. The practice also gave me the mental space to consider the other person’s motivations and needs. For instance, a nine-year-old’s absolute refusal to tidy his bedroom, no matter what reward or consequence I set up, was that insubordination–disrespect for me–or individuation–a need to have his space his way? Seeing a range of possibilities let me (sometimes!) feel less embattled and more patient. Of course there are many techniques and faiths that help people be good parents. In my case, from my childhood on, I’d always wanted to be a good person and then a good parent, but discovering the Buddhist concept of “intention” gave me a method that made sense to me.
Beck: Do you have any words of wisdom for single parents going through the more difficult moments of the job?
Christine Hale: First, recognize that parenting is a difficult job, at least part of the time, and that you will fail to be perfect at it. There will be times that you feel miserable, or that your child says or does something that hurts you deeply, or that you find yourself helpless to prevent your child from having to endure a painful experience. Just because a given moment of parenting doesn’t feel good doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doing the wrong thing. All you can do is the best you can–have good intentions and act on them repeatedly–and accept that the outcome, over the years, will be a mix of the bitter and the sweet.
Second, for single parents, it’s so important to cultivate something in your life that feeds you. That builds a life for you outside your child or children, who will, after all, grow up and move on eventually. Recruit help with the parenting in whatever way you can–friends, relatives, babysitters–but since you are still probably going to be alone on the front line of parenting much of the time, you need to keep your strength up. So, identify at least one activity that is just for you, that leaves you feeling refreshed and balanced, and make time for it regularly. That’s not selfishness, it’s self-care, and it will enable you to be a better parent.
Good advice, right?! If you want to read more wisdom from Christine Hale, please comment below to be entered in a raffle for a free copy of A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice: A Memoir in Four Meditations.