How to avoid parental burnout
There are some similarities between the rising and setting sun, even though the former heralds the light of dawn and the latter precedes darkness to come. Unlike the fiery midday sun which is impossible to look at without damaging the delicate cells of the retina, light from the sun at dawn and dusk is pleasing and is easy on the eyes. Twilight hours fill us with a sense of peace, the mind is naturally quiet during that time of day. The energy in both the body and mind mimic the rising and setting sun. The mind follows a daily pattern just as the sun does. Upon waking up, a brief interlude of peace is followed by the “light” from our thoughts rapidly flooding the dark inner sky of the mind, peaking during the day and fading towards the evening and nighttime as we go to bed. In the body, life energy hits a zenith and dips to a nadir more gradually and one such cycle represents an individual’s lifetime. In infancy and childhood, it is the rising of life energy that is prominent and old age like the setting sun is characterized by the decline of that energy. In between, we go from dependency on our parents during childhood to us nurturing our own dependents during parenthood years. For the majority, parenthood comes about when we are hitting the peak of our working life and few can master the delicate dance of a working life and parenthood. Burnout in either, working or parental life, unfortunately, is common, and when it affects these two aspects of life at the same time it could be catastrophic for happiness in the family and by extension in the world.
As parents, we must manage two disparate energy streams. The energy of a child is unbridled and spontaneous while that of the adult mind is controlled and conditioned. A parent-child relationship is a dynamic evolution of these two energies and the key to success is in allowing these energies to coalesce and yet maintain their individuality. The mind of a child may be compared to a fast-moving stream, while that of an adult is like a meandering river.
Just as a stream can merge with and become one with a river, a child’s mind can more easily be molded to mirror that of an adult role model. However, like a river which cannot turn back and become a small stream, the adult mind which is set in its ways cannot be easily reshaped to become like that of a child. A parent-child relationship is a unique opportunity to blend the mind of an adult and a child. The resultant composite, ideally, should be better than the sum of both. This can only happen gradually over time and it cannot be forced just as a stream does not forcibly join the course of a river. Forcibly shaping a child’s mind can have repercussions that manifest later in the child’s life.
We cannot add significantly more to the inherent beauty of a child’s mind, but we can take it away. The mind of a child is pure and full of potential like the waters of a fresh mountain spring. Compared to a polluted river, drinking water from a mountain spring is safer. In the same vein, the warmth, love, and joy emanating from a child may have a curative effect on our mood and bodily health if we allow ourselves to be open to and freely merge with that youthful energy. Like a river which stores and transports pollutants that are discharged into it, adult minds are full of stored impressions many of which take on various shades of negativity. This prevents us from learning from the innocence and beauty of a child’s approach to life.
We cloud the mind of our children by projecting negativities which lurk in our mind. By subscribing to the regular newsletter of our negativities, we neither enjoy and appreciate the inner beauty of a child nor facilitate the realization of the potential of that nascent mind. It’s like the brightness of the rising sun shrouded by grey clouds. Growing up in the shadow of an adult’s negativities, children may turn out as adults struggling with clouds of doubt and distrust. As parents, we carry a very important responsibility not just to our families, but also towards the society and the world. Leaving behind money or objects isn’t as important as molding and shaping the living energy in our children. That’s the legacy tomorrow’s world depends on.
As parents, burnout is not an option, we only get one chance at raising our children. Like the early morning sun, the mind of a child does not have the power to burn us with anger, hatred, lust, jealousy, and greed. Giving out love, warmth, and smiles is what a child does best. Creative exploration comes naturally to a child, while any exploration done by an adult mind comes with the precondition of expectation. That robs freedom and creativity. We as adults are accustomed to expecting some return for whatever we do. Surreptitiously, expectation also wends its way into raising our children. We fail as parents when we don't accept how our children turn out. We accept whatever weather comes our way as we know fully well we cannot change the weather. Why can’t we have the same acceptance when it comes to our children?
Our acceptance is clouded by factors such as expectation, desire, impatience, anger etc. This leads to a burnout that parents feel. Children are like blank screens on which adults project their inner drawback. Since children are not conditioned from experience they go with the flow. They live in innocence and fearlessness and the energy of young minds is not squandered on sorting through a multitude of thoughts and separating them into bins of likes and dislikes. The mind is much like a laundromat. Every day, there is a fresh load of thoughts that are spun out of the mind which need sorting, folding, and putting away. Majority of the mind’s power is directed to this activity. Just as we may get a skin burn if we expose ourselves for prolonged periods to the harsh midday sun, continued exposure of our precious awareness to the mind’s power to discriminate between likes and dislikes burns our inner peace. If we don’t dirty our mind with negative feelings, there is no need to wash the mind. We can then be like children and freely enjoy the rising and setting of our energies daily in the mind and over a lifetime in the body.