The book is composed of articles that were published in a magazine called Spiritual Mothering Journal that circulated for 10 years in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Its topics are diverse – from more meditative pieces about the daily struggles and victories of motherhood to concrete step-by-step articles about sibling conflict resolution – and its contributors from around the world vary in their perspectives and writing styles (they are primarily, but not soley, Baha’i).
Rene Knight-Weiler writes, “what all these authors have in common is a love of children, a love of writing and a wealth of ability in both arenas. The wisdom they offer is not limited to one generation. It is timeless, just like parenthood itself.”1
In honour of Mother’s Day, Baha’i Blog explored the profound role of mothers as the primary educators of children. Abdu’l-Baha tells us:
O ye loving mothers, know ye that in God’s sight, the best of all ways to worship Him is to educate the children and train them in all the perfections of humankind; and no nobler deed than this can be imagined.2
Difficulties are a means to test out, to flex and to hone our spiritual muscles but until I became a parent, I hadn’t experienced such constant and never-ending opportunities to better myself. It’s a natural instinct to seek advice when facing a challenge and thankfully, this book about being a Baha’i parent is a great place to turn to. There are thousands of books available on the market to parents covering every subject from sleep training, gourmet baby recipes, discipline to language development but parenting books from a Baha’i perspective are fewer in number. In her Baha’i Blog post from 2013 called “What I Really Want for Mother’s Day”, Chelsea Lee Smith talked about how Baha’u’llah’s redefinition of motherhood stands in stark contrast to how the wider world perceives the occupation. Spiritual Mothering helps to explore some of the nitty-gritty of applying the teachings of Baha’u’llah to the daily tasks of educating a child.
The book is divided into 16 chapters such as “Believing in Our Children”, “Life in the Community”, “Marriage and Family Dynamics”, “Accustom Them to Hardship”, “Creating a Spiritual Atmosphere at Home”, and “The Power of Speech”. There is also a chapter entitled “From and For Fathers”, which I love because while the tile of the book singles out mothers, the book’s advice can be applicable to fathers too. Some of the specific topics covered by the articles include:
- becoming a non-critical parent,
- celebrating holy days,
- family traditions,
- reward and punishment,
- overcoming prejudice,
- family secrets,
- and foster children.
The book is richly varied because many contributors wrote it. Rene writes, “these essays are written with such honestly, openness, encouragement and willingness to share the reality of the struggle to align our family lives with Baha’u’llah’s teachings that readers cannot help but find comfort in them.”3
The down-to-earth tone of the book is such that you feel you are sitting in a living room filled with mothers who are offering their perspectives, explaining the difficulties they faced and the solutions they devised, all over warm mugs of tea and fresh baked cookies. Here is an example where Rose Motley Abbott writes about working to recognize the human dignity of her son:
…we have been putting the principle of human dignity into action in a positive way. Since Ben turned five, we have had him participate in family consultations. Since respecting the ideas of all participants is crucial to successful consultation, it provides a natural forum for us to behave with dignity, and show respect for each other. We have dealt with various family difficulties, such as TV watching and eating habits, and Ben’s contribution is valued in these sessions. […] We, as parents, are firm about solutions which are not acceptable but we usually come up with solutions we hadn’t considered prior to consultation. In addition, each time we have learned something about Ben’s thoughts and feelings, and he has accepted decisions he surely would have fought otherwise.4
There is also a great diversity in the concreteness of the articles; some are written with specific instructions, some are a compilation of advice, quotes and musings on a subject, and some are more philosophical prose. All are brief – which makes it a very easily digestible book when you only have a few precious minutes to read before you fall asleep.